Smash Up is a card-based strategy game that is incredible. If you’re a fan of strategy, this is a very handy boardgame to have lying around. Smash Up answers the age-old question of which is better; Robots or Ninjas? Pirates or Aliens? In fact it one-ups this idea and answers the much more pressing question- who is better: Robot Ninjas, or Alien Pirates? Smash Up is composed of decks of cards that represent a ‘faction’, like aliens or zombies. Each deck does something particular thing well- for example Aliens beam up other creatures, Zombies have a bad habit of coming back from the dead, and Ninjas jump in when you least expect them. You combine two of these decks to battle it out with your friends.
The base game of Smash Up comes with eight different factions; zombies, pirates, aliens, dinosaurs, magicians, tricksters, ninjas and robots. Each faction plays very differently, and each faction pairing that you will be playing with also will be different. Zombie-ninjas play very differently from Ninja-dinosaurs. This means that there is a staggering amount of variety found in the box. No two games I have played- and I have played an obscene amount of this game- has been the same.
Smash Up is also deceptively simple to learn. Each deck contains two types of cards- minions and actions. In a turn, you play one minion and one action, and apply the effects of the minion/action. Your objective is to get victory points by blowing up bases with your minions. It is an easy premise to learn, but can be hard to master and to help hinder yourself on the way there are many, many cards your opponents can play that will absolutely ruin your plans.
The main strategy to master Smash Up is finding and exploiting card synergy. For example, Robots have cards that power-up low-cost minions, and one of the expansions has a deck with ONLY low cost minions. Using your cards’ often unique powers, you can power up your other faction if you find the right combination of cards. In fact quite often you can combo together four or five cards to swing a base to your favour. There have been innumerable ‘oh my god how did you do that’ moments. It’s a fantastic feeling knowing exactly how you can juuuuuust squeeze by, beating your opponent one or two points. The games are fairly quick- around 20 minutes to complete a game and I’ve found it no problem to chain together two or three rounds.
Smash Up is really really easy to pick up. I’ve found that the basic concepts are really quick to convey- play a minion, then play an action. New players can pick it up in a few turns, and good players of the game can dominate. While there is an element of luck (as there is with any deck building game), strategy certainly dictates who wins and who loses. There are certainly transferable skills and thinking processes from other card games into Smash Up. Chances are if you’re good at card games like Magic the Gathering, or Android Netrunner, you’ll also shine in Smash Up.
It is also great game for ruining your friends’ day. There are so many ways you can throw wrenches in your opponent’s plan- in fact there are entire factions devoted to throwing wrenches into your opponents plan and it can often lead to hilarious moments. You will have moments where you will read, and reread cards’ descriptions, create the perfect plan to kill your friends minion, and move all your minions to base to blow it up, and then your friend does exactly that, and messes your day up.
The only problem with Smash up that comes up every now and then, is that with so many cards sometimes an overpowering (or underwhelming) combo of factions come along. For example, we have found that the Aliens faction, and the Zombies faction found in the base game is unbelievably powerful together. However with the insane amount of variance, this problem comes up on rarely, and is normally resolved pretty quickly (either 2 players team up and dominate the powerful player, or he crushes you pretty quickly).
If you’re into Smash Up, there are also a tonne of expansions available. Being a smash-up lover, I have all of them (except the newest Munchkin/Smash-Up expansion/combination). I’ll go in to details about each one in a later review, but most of them are pretty solid, and a fairly good injection into the game. Most of them add 4 different factions, and a new mechanic into the game- but I will go into them in more detail later.
There’s not much else to say about Smash Up. If you like reading cards, and creating plans on the fly, it’s definitely for you. It has an excellent balance between luck, strategy, and being a bit of a dick to your friends. It’s simple to learn, quick to play, and there is a tonne of replay-ability involved. And with a cheap price tag, there is no reason not to pick up Smash Up if you see it going for a at your game store/online.
Smash Up can be played between 2-4 people. It plays with 2 people in about 20 minutes, but allow 45 minutes to an hour if you are going for 4 (or more if you want) people. It’s pretty popular, so it should be at most franchises, and most probably at independent stores. Expect to pay around $35-50 for it, and around the same for the expansions.