Smash Up – 7GPPs
Designers – Paul Peterson
Number of Players – 2 to 4
Publisher – AEG
Straight to the Point – Simple mechanics, plenty of variability and a B-Movie monsters theme make a tidy ‘filler’ style game.
Ever wondered who would win in a fight between zombies and ninjas? Would mecha-dinos be a good pairing with pirates? Would wizards get on with aliens? In Smash Up, now you can find out!
Smash Up is the “shuffle building” game, where players pick two factions (each with their own twenty card mini-deck), shuffle them together and play! Each deck consists of Minions and Actions, with players being allowed to play one of each during their own turn. Sounds simple? Truth be told, it is, but every card generally includes some wacky rules text that either breaks these rules, letting you play additional Actions and Minions, or generally interfering with the other players.
Along with the mini-decks is a stack of Bases, themed on the 8 factions in the mini-decks. During the course of the game, a number of these Bases are revealed to the players. These Bases feature a target number in the top left corner and 3 larger numbers across the middle, plus occasionally some additional rules text. The target number is key here; every time a player plays a Minion, they have to assign it to one of these Locations. Each Minion has an attack value in their top corner; every Minion assigned to a Location (yours and your opponents) contributes their attack value to smashing the base their assigned to.
Once the total attack of all Minions on a base exceeds the target number on the Base, the Base is smashed! Players then score based on who had the highest total attack value amongst their Minions. Remember those three BIG numbers across the middle of the Base? The player with the highest attack value on the Base when it’s smashed scores points equal to the first BIG number; the player with second highest attack value scores the second, and the third highest player the third BIG number. Play carries on this way until a player reaches 15 points and wins the game! This type of scoring lends great strategy to gameplay, since players need to decide ’Do I play a Minion here to snaffle a couple of points or get in early in this other Base and aim to the top score?’
What makes this game so much fun is the variety and thought that’s gone into each faction. The Zombies tend to pull cards from the player’s discard pile (the Graveyard!), the Ninjas sneak in from nowhere and disrupt the other players, and the mecha-dinos are just massive with high attack values on their minions. With 8 different factions to pick from (or for the hardcore, random selection!), a plethora of combinations are possible, keeping the game fresh and giving immense replay value. However, one thing I found was that certain combinations tend to be more effective than others; zombies and robots for example both feature low attack Minions with a variety of ways of putting multiple Minions into play in a single turn. This demonstrates a possible lack of balancing during the game’s development.
Another little niggle I found was the ‘usefulness’ of some of the cards. Despite having a faction that drew loads extra , I found I had a fistful of cards which couldn’t seem to compete with the hands other people were slamming down. That said, this is a card game, and to build a card game, the designer has to include a gamut of power levels to prevent any single faction becoming dominant. Who knows, in a future game, that card I always wrote off could be the perfect solution to some alien/mecha-dino combo!
The artwork is, despite the zany theme, gorgeous! The box pops like the poster for some crazy B-movie (the Time Travelling Zombie Pirate Robots from Spaaaacceee!), and the card art looks detailed and colourful. The card stock is decent quality, but I would definitely recommend getting some cards sleeves to keep them in mint condition; with all the shuffling involved in this game, wear and tear is inevitable.
Playtime is short, making Smash Up the ideal warm up for a longer board gaming session, or a light filler between games. Player down time is variable depending in the combinations of factions amongst the players, but is generally quite low so people don’t sit around twiddling their thumbs for too long waiting for their next turn.
So a clever card game with tons of variety and surprising depth of strategy. Just remember; it is a card game, so do prepare to be screwed over by not drawing your best cards before your opponents!