By Lex "Gaz the Dungeonmaster" Ansems on March 18, 2015
Which ones are cooler, pirates or ninja's, robots or dinosaurs, plants or zombies. This discussion has gone on forever and ever on the internet, but what if you combine them. Pirate ninja's, plant zombies and my personal favorite, the coolest one of them all: ROBOT DINOSAURS! Combining factions is really great and makes for powerful and fun combinations. I mean, zombie bear cavalry sounds like one of the best things ever, right? But is it?! Well, let's find out by playing a game of Smash Up!
Smash up is a card game in which you "build" a deck by combining 2 factions. Every faction has a 20 card premade deck so you'll eventually end up with a deck of 40 cards. Choosing the factions is about the extent of the building involved in this game. There are no collectable card, every game contains the same cards which makes it really balanced, and it does not feature a pay to win system, like other deck building games (Yes, I am looking at you, Magic the Gathering).
Now that you have built your deck, it is time to play the game. Depending on the amount of players there are a number of location cards that you need to conquer, in order to win the game. Every card in this game does something! Take the minions, for example. They are the back bone of your army, and help you conquer the locations. You can play action cards to boost your minions' stats (Power armored zombies FTW) , or to affect the locations or even the other players.
The core game has 8 factions, and every expansion gives you 4 more factions that are all compatible with each other. With the latest expansion, Pretty Pretty Smash Up, we have the best expansion EVER! The CATS faction is the best, and just imagine: Robot cats, Ninja cats, Cat dinosaurs, the possibilities are endless.
The game comes in a big box that can hold 18 decks so it's built for expansions. If you want to buy all the expansion sets out there, I can heartily recommend getting the BIG GEEKY BOX. It's a special edition box that can hold every the card in the game, has well designed PLASTIC spacers ( OMG I LOVE WHEN THEY MAKE THING OUT OF PLASTIC) and a special geek faction with cards like Will Wheaton and Felicia Day.
The art of the game is good, not mind-blowing awesome, but just really good. the cards are well designed and sturdy enough to go a long way without being sleeved or laminated. The Core Box and Big Geeky Box are extremely well made, and designed with expansion sets in mind.
Now for the bad part! I have two things that really stand out. First thing is simple: the theme of the game. It isn't all that solid. Combining factions and cool cards are great, but that's about it! The game itself is just about adding numbers and playing actions. But to be honest, most deck-building/card games have this same minor flaw.
My second boggle is the Cthulhu expansion. While Cthulhu generally counts as a good thing, it gives Smash Up an extra game-mechanic that ONLY works well with the Cthulhu factions, more specifically: the Madness cards. You either recieve them from or give them to other players. They give you negative points, but you can use them to draw cards. BUT... one part of the Cthulhu faction focuses on removing these cards from your deck, so if you don't get any Madness cards, then this part of your faction becomes utterly useless. Another faction focuses on giving the Madness cards to other players, but if the other players don't have a way of removing them (and bear in mind that only Cthulhu factions can actually remove them), then you'll flood there deck which kind of ruins the fun.
Smash Up is a great, light deck-"building" game that is easy to teach and fast to play. The art is good, the game is fun, and combining factions just for enjoyment or creating power combinations bring a certain kind of depth to the game. The expansion sets give Smash up more replay value, by increasing the number of factions to choose from. Just the core game itself is fun, but the fun wears out after a short while. It's the expansions that make it all worthwhile! So, in the end, my advice would be: go big or go home. Believe me, just buy it, play it and enjoy!
Alderac Entertainment Group
Designer: Paul Peterson
Players: 2 - 4 players, ages 12 & up
Playtime: approx. 45 minutes