Smash up is the first card game I’m reviewing on this site.
I don’t remember the last card game I played. It was probably poker at lunch breaks as a sixth-form student. I think every teenager goes through a phase of playing poker.
So I didn’t know what to expect from Smash Up, other than it looked like fun on all the reviews I read and play-throughs I watched on YouTube.
The premise of Smash Up is fairly basic (but don’t let that fool you). The basic set contains eight factions – pirates, zombies, robots, dinosaurs, ninjas, tricksters, wizards, aliens. You randomly pick two factions (zombie dinosaurs, ninja aliens etc) and battle your fellow players for control of ‘base’ cards.
Because you pick factions at random, its very rare that any two games are ever the same. My wife and I have our own rule that if we draw two factions we’ve recently played, we can draw again. Part of the fun is learning what benefits each faction has, and trying out the combinations, so that rule works for us.
Once you’ve chosen your factions, you shuffle them together to create your deck. You then draw a number of base cards. The aim of the game is to ‘break’ base cards and score the available victory points. The first player to 15 victory points wins the game. Your deck will have minion cards and action cards in it.
Each base card has a break point, for instance 25. This figure is reached as minions are placed on it. Minions have power points allocated them, indicated on the cards. So you might have a base card with a break score of 25. You place a minion with a power level of three, your opponent then places a power four and so on. Once you reach 25 points the base is scored.
Each base card has three large numbers – victory points – across the centre, for instance 2, 2 and 1. The player with the most minions on the base wins the first number (2), the second place player the second number (2) and the third place player the third number (1). Scoring a base also triggers events which often need to be taken into account when deciding if you really want to be the player that breaks a particular base. It’s sometimes better to come second.
The fun part of the game comes with the various powers the different factions have – so zombies can ‘resurrect’ cards from your discard pile, dinosaurs have high power points, a pirate minion card might allow you to destroy an opponents minion or ‘sail’ a group of minions from one base onto another and so on.
The action cards also offer a variety of opportunities, e.g. to draw two cards, make a minion indestructible etc.
One thing I’ve found in these reviews is that it’s often a shame to try and break down a genuinely exciting card game in a few paragraphs summarising the rules. If I was to forget explaining the rules for a moment and focus on the gameplay, I’d say that this is a great game.
It’s fun to try new combinations of factions each time, and there is plenty of opportunity for strategy. Do you dump as many minions on one base in the hope that you’ll break it before your opponent, or do you spread them over a number of bases to assist you later in the game?
Playing with the pirate faction offers opportunities like sailing as many minions as you like onto another base – this can ensure you have more power points on a base just as its about to break. And so on.
I’ve heard it said that Smash Up is unlikely to stand the test of time, and ten years from now are we going to be interested in playing with zombie ninja cards? But to me this is one of the strengths of the game – there are already a number of expansions available which add new factions to your set and I’m looking forward to trying some of these – the latest is out this month and adds a number of classic monsters. This will be on my Christmas list if my wife or friends are reading.
The box supplied with the game is huge, and your cards really rattle around in there. But this is to allow plenty of space for future expansions which is a great idea. It’s also not particularly expensive. One thing lacking? A way to score victory points. It’s the aim of the game and there’s not even a notepad, which is a shame.
Finally, the artwork is great. Each card is worth taking time to study. I particularly like the fifties-style alien cards.
But is it good for two players?
As with many of my games, I’ve only ever played with two players. My wife and I love this, and often turn to it when we’ve got a spare 30 minutes. It’s different every time, and this makes for a high level of re-playability (is that even a real word?).
Okay the box might be huge, but there’s nothing stopping you taking the cards out and packing them in your suitcase for a trip to a Spanish island in the Mediterranean (for example) and setting up on the beach or the balcony (for instance).
This is going to be one we keep going back to.
Watch the Tabletop team play through a game here.
See the game’s official page here.