Review: SMASH UP

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Smash Up is probably my favorite tabletop game. The gameplay is simple and every game is different. The idea is that you take two decks of geeky factions such as Kaiju, Pirates, Ninjas, Princesses, Kittens, and many based on TV shows and movies with different names than their copyrighted counterpart, you shuffle the two decks together, and you’re good to go.

Setup

As mentioned above, the first thing each player does is choose their factions. There are three ways to do this. First, you can let everyone choose both of their factions. Second, you can have everyone pick a random faction and then choose their second. Finally, there’s the completely random method. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses, but I find the second option is probably the most fair. Once everyone has their decks shuffled you pull out the bases. Place a number of bases equal to the number of players plus one face up on the table with enough room to allow people to play cards around each base. Now that the bases are out, each player draws their opening hand of 5 cards and then the game can begin.

Gameplay

In Smash Up, there are Minions, Actions, and Bases. You will draw Minions and Actions every turn and those are the cards that you will be constantly playing on your turn. You are allowed to play one Minion and one Action per turn unless abilities say otherwise. Each Minion will have a power number in one corner and many of them will also have abilities that help you do things such as play additional Minions or Actions, or maybe you can boost other Minions to give you an edge, etc. Actions typically don’t have power numbers (although newer expansions have started changing that) but they allow you to use several abilities similar to Minions.

 Examples of minions from the base set

Examples of minions from the base set

Now we get to Bases. These are how you score points and ultimately win the game. Each base has a breakpoint and most of them have special abilities that influence the way you play the game. Minions and very few Actions add points to a Base and if that number of points surpasses the breakpoint, you score the base and people get points based on how well they did there. First person to 15 points wins.

 Examples of bases

Examples of bases

So, how is every game different? The main way is that people will typically have different factions everytime you play. You may use Dinosaurs and Zombies today, but tomorrow, you could end up with Mystic Horses and Changerbots (Transformers). Another way is the Bases. Different Bases award different point values and feature different abilities that can be used to help or hinder you. These are two of the ways that help keep this game from getting stale and boring.

The factions are the best part of this game. Each one has a unique strategy and the art is amazing. Not to mention, it’s a lot of fun to pair up Kittens with Ignobles (aka Game of Thrones) or Zombies working with Teddy Bears (an extremely deadly combination). The guys over at AEG usually pump out two expansions per year with each one having 4 new factions. They even have the fans vote for the factions in one of the yearly expansions. This is definitely a game where the factions make it and while the base game is fun, the game gets infinitely more fun the more expansions you have.

I will warn that not all combinations work equally which can lead to the game feeling unbalanced, but that’s why I recommend only doing a completely random draft with experienced players. I’ve played some games where someone’s deck didn’t mesh well and they got left in the dust by everyone else. This problem is easily remedied by allowing all players to pick at least one of their decks. If a random faction is picked, it should be the first so that there can be some strategy involved.

Verdict

Smash Up is a fantastic game that even some kids can pick up on a basic level. There is a tiny amount of luck (it is a card game after all), but it is mostly a strategic card game that lets you combine fandoms and geeky things. I highly recommend this game to all my friends that love tabletop games.

If you don't want to drop $20 on the tabletop version, there is an app for it on iOS and Android as well as a digital version for Steam. I have not tried the digital versions of this game, so I cannot rate them at this time.