Review: Smash Up
I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering how ninjas, pirates, zombies, wizards, robots, dinosaurs, goblins, and aliens can all manage to fit within the same game and that it actually make some sort of sense. Well, it doesn’t but that’s the best part. Smash Up is a new “shufflebuilding” game from AEG for 2-4 players that’s all about crazy craziness. The game made a lot of buzz at Gencon last year but I’m just now getting around to checking it out, so I’m here today to give you the low down on this kick ass colorful (in every sense of the word) little game that’s all about screwing over your friends.
So What, I’ve seen This Before In Other Games!
Now, I know that the concept of a game where such high amounts of anachronism and absurd improbability come into play isn’t exactly a new idea, but the way Smash Up pulls it off is actually quite fresh. The thing that is truly special about Smash Up isn’t all of the wackiness or mixing of things that don’t belong, it’s that it does all of this more simply than I’ve seen any other game attempt to do it. Smash Up is accessible, fast, and most importantly fun.
How It Works
Smash Up is something I honestly didn’t think I would like at first. After all I do think ninjas are lame (There’s some comment thread bait for you!) so naturally any game containing them couldn’t possibly entertain me. Right? Also my opinion of deckbuilders started out a rather pallid one back when I had first played Thunderstone, though it did improve once I got a chance to check out Thunderstone Advance. It actually has been further improving lately since we’ve been playing quite a bit of Advance in 5 player groups lately. Anyway that is besides the point, what I’m trying to get to here is that this crazy “shufflebuilding” mechanic that Smash Up uses is quite fun.
The concept of shufflebuilding is that you build a deck right off the bat before the game even begins instead of each player starting with the same tiny pile of cards and meticulously acquiring new cards. Each player picks two factions in a draft-style selection round and then combines them, effectively making each player control something to the tune of “Ninja Zombies” or “Pirate Wizards”. WHO DOESN’T WANT TO SAY “PIRATE WIZARDS” on a regular basis? C’mon!
Anyway, this results in the action to start flowing immediately – on turn 1 you and the rest of the players will be making decisions and heading toward scoring victory points. To add to the shuffle-ness depending on the makeup of your deck you might be discarding a lot, or making other players discard a lot. When a player’s deck runs dry they just shuffle it back up and start drawing again. There’s also a lot of cards that will allow you to shuffle your deck too, and since each faction has its own flavor it makes for lots and lots of powerful combos and strategies as you play.
What It Is (Loads of Fun), What It Isn’t (For 2 Players)
The game is simple, first person to get to 15 victory points is the winner, which is done by sending your minions to the bases in play and by playing actions to either compliment them or mess with your opponents. Each base has point values for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place which are awarded when the base scores by having its target number reached by all the minions on it (explained in my video). Although Smash Up uses the term “Victory Points” I wouldn’t say it’s a euro game or even “eruo-like” for that matter.
Throughout the game ninjas will be ‘ninja-ing’ points away from you, pirates blasting all of your minions to hell, and aliens replacing themselves with your cards. The robots multiply, the zombies just keep coming back, and the dinosaurs gang up on you while the tricksters set traps and the wizards generally screw you over. Check out my full video review for all of my thoughts on the game and a chance to see all of the cards up close.
In closing I’ll warn you that Smash Up isn’t too great with 2 players, if your game nights usually only consist of a single friend to play with you might want to avoid picking this one up. Other than that, you have no excuses! Check out my video and ratings below for the full review. Also know that there’s already an expansion due this March that includes Ghosts, Steampunk, Killer Plants, and Bear Cavalry. Yes you heard that right – BEAR. CAVALRY. Thanks for reading/watching!
Update: Great scoring card / VP tracker for Smash Up from a reddit commenter. The game doesn’t come with any way to track your victory points so I was just using a 20 sided die before this was brought to my attention!
Players: 2-4 Ages: 12+ (I’d say 8+) Setup Time: <2 min Play Time: ~45min-1hour Price: $24
Production Values: Great quality card stock, box has plenty of room for expansions, fantastic and vivid artwork that fits the wacky theme perfectly.
- Quick to play, usually finished within an hour.
- Fun and light, the game doesn’t take itself seriously at all.
- Rules are extremely simple which makes learning a breeze. Might even attract non-gamers!
- The game just isn’t that fun with 2 players, I’d recommend avoiding getting if it you typically only have one other person to play with.