— is that a… zombie leprechaun? You barely have time to process what you’re seeing before a flying saucer streaks through the sky. It hovers above the valley and beams down an army of… Ninjas?
Jeremiah & Kara Clark
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)
Designer: Paul Peterson
Artist: Dave Allsop
Artist: Bruno Balixa
Artist: Francisco Rico Torres
Game Type: Hand Management
Game Type: Take That
Initial Year of Release: 2012
Age Range: 12+
Expected Playtime: 45 min
Number of Players: 2-4
Theme and What is it?
After a long trek you’ve finally reached your destination; the top of this mountain, overlooking a quiet valley. Movement below catches your eye. You squint and see a tiny creature clawing its way out of the ground. It’s humanoid in form, but incredibly small.
When it’s finally unearthed, It brushes dirt from its green suit coat with a mangled, rotting hand. Wait, a second — is that a… zombie leprechaun? You barely have time to process what you’re seeing before a flying saucer streaks through the sky. It hovers above the valley and beams down an army of… Ninjas?
What on earth is going on here? You watch as the strangest battle you’ve ever seen unfolds before you. The leprechaun bites and scratches at the pegged-leg of what appears to be a robot pirate, while a dinosaur in a pointy hat waves a sparkling wand at a group of alien ninjas.
Smash up is a “take that” combat style card game full of quirky combinations. Players are in charge of leading a bizarre group of minions into battle against their opponents. Do you want to send an army of Robot Zombies to fight against some Leprechaun Ninjas? Or maybe you’ll create a conflagration of magically gifted Wizard-Dinos! The possibilities are *endless!
*For those of you who are math-savvy, you already know that there are actually only 28 combinations with the base game. But did you know that with expansion decks the possibilities reach almost 2,800 different combinations? It’s still not “endless” but it’s pretty close!
As mentioned above, Smash Up is a “take that” combat style card game. Mechanically the game is super simple: Players choose two faction decks and shuffle them together to form their uniquely bizarre battle deck. Each player draws a hand of five cards. On their turn, a player can play one minion card and one action card, resolving any effects written on them.
Minions are played on a “Base” card. Each base has a special rule and a “breakpoint” which is the amount of minion power that must be present on the base in order for it to score. When it scores, each player counts up their minion power. The players with the most, second-most, and third-most power get victory points. Once someone has earned 15 victory points, the game ends.
The heart of Smash Up comes from discovering how the different factions work together. Dinosaur Tricksters (Leprechauns) for instance, team up to create an annoyingly ruthless group of monsters. But pair Dinosaurs up with Zombies and what you get isn’t a merciless killing machine, but an endless swarm of unstoppable undead Dinos.
Some combinations fit together perfectly, complimenting each other’s strengths as they dominate their opponents. Other combinations have good intentions but ultimately fail to work well together. So much of the fun to be had is in experimenting with new combinations and discovering favorites along the way.
Smash Up was one of the first modern designer games I had ever played, and I chose “wizard pirates” which ended up being a terrible combination! I didn’t understand what was going on, my minions were weak, and my actions seemed useless. Jeremiah really liked it though, so we played it again and that’s when I discovered the cold-blooded combination of Dinosaur Tricksters. I absolutely destroyed my opponent and had a blast in doing so.
Because I had picked a poor combination during my first play, I really didn’t enjoy the game. In fact, if Jeremiah hadn’t liked it so much we probably wouldn’t have ever played it again. My advice to players new to Smash Up is to play it several times with different combinations. Really explore the different factions and don’t be afraid to accidentally put together a bad combination. Games only take 45 minutes, and you can try something else next time.
My advice to experienced players playing with newbies is to help the new players choose their decks. If they choose two decks by themselves that you think would go well together, that’s great! If they choose decks that you know will do poorly, mention it to them and suggest some alternatives. This could help them have a better experience overall.
Game Build Quality
Smash Up comes with cards and point chips. That’s literally all there is (besides the rulebook). The point chips come in ones and fives, which is great because it makes it easy to keep track of how many points everyone has at any time during the game. The point chips are also thick enough to be easily picked up off the table.
The cards aren’t linen-finished, but they still shuffle nicely and hold up surprisingly well over time. One thing that I really appreciate is that the box insert has enough card slots for the base game as well as a couple expansions. I thought that was a really nice thing for the designers to include, because if you like the game, you’re definitely going to get expansions.
The artwork in Smash Up is every bit as unique and humorous as the game itself. Whenever we get a new expansion, the first thing I like to do is look through all the new cards because the illustrations and minion names are so clever and fun to look at.
The cards are divided into two halves – a top and a bottom half. The upper half features the main picture and the title of the card, as well as the power value of each minion. The bottom half shows the card ability.
One really nice touch is that each faction has a unique bottom-half background behind the ability, as well as a faction-specific symbol in the bottom right corner. This makes it really easy for players to separate their two decks at the end of the game. The text on the cards is large enough to easily read and describes the exact ability of each card which helps gameplay putter right along.
Smash Up is such an interesting game with so many unique factions, and nearly endless replayability. It’s so exciting to mash up two different factions (like grannies and werewolves if you have some expansions) and watch them play off of each other. There’s a palpable tension at the table when a base gets close to scoring– you just hope it holds out long enough to make it to your turn so you can play another minion on it and pull into first place. You will cheer when you pull off an amazing combo that helps you obliterate your opponent’s minions and beef up your own. Then you’ll groan with jealous admiration as your opponent does the same to you!
This is a pretty cutthroat game. Your opponents will destroy your minions, and mess up your plans. This is definitely something to keep in mind if you don’t care for combative games. We generally don’t care for mean games, but there’s something about this one that we just love.
Gameplay moves quickly and the mechanics are simple. Still, there’s quite a bit of strategy involved as you try to combo your cards off of each other to squeeze everything you can out of your turn. Each game only takes 30-45 minutes, and usually you’ve had so much fun that you’ll want to go for another round!
Age Range & Weight
The manufacturer recommended age for Smash Up is 14+, though I could see younger players also enjoying the game. The minion and action abilities are literally spelled out on each card, which helps players to know exactly what each minion and action does.
The trickiest part of the game is picking two complimenting decks in the beginning to form your battle deck and using your cards well to maximize each of your turns. Sometimes play will bog down as a player tries to decide what to do, but the fact that players are limited to one action and one minion each turn helps to mitigate this analysis paralysis.
Smash Up is a massive amount of fun and replayability crammed into a small, streamlined package. The rules are easy to learn and understand; the theme is super unique, and games only take about 45 minutes. For anyone looking for a quick combat card game, definitely consider Smash Up!
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