Review: Smash Up

Game Name: Smash Up Published Year: 2012
Game Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) Player Scale: 2 – 4
Game Designer: Paul Peterson Run Time: 45 mins

Play Through One

If a Mash-Up is to take elements of two or more pre-existing pieces of music and combine them to make a new song, then Smash-Up is the same but for a card game just more aggressive, the “good” aggressive: where an “attack” really just means putting a card down on the table.  In this game, you will not take on the role of Dinosaurs, or Pirates, or Wizards, or even Ninjas.  You’ll take on two of them.  If you’ve ever wanted a game where Zombie-Dinosaurs take on Ninja-Pirates whilst Trickster-Aliens run amok, Smash-Up is that game.

Faction Decks

The base game comes with eight factions, each with their own twenty-card deck; players will pick two decks, and they will “shufflebuild” a new Smashed-Up deck to play with.  As you would probably believe, each faction plays very differently, so the combinations of your shufflebuilt deck vary quite considerably.  Ninjas are understandably very sneaky, Wizards are great at pulling extra cards and playing bonus actions, Zombies turn the discard pile into basically a reserve hand (as in a hand of cards, not an actual zombie hand, that’s gross).

Play Through Two

Whatever your shufflebuilt deck, cards are either Minions or Actions.  On their turn, a player can play up to one of each, in any order.  Minions are assigned to a base and are used to eventually score you points, but on the turn they are played they may also provide an attack or an extra bonus.  Actions, vary between each of the factions and can be anything from (Wizards) Summoning a card from your deck, or (Ninjas) have Hidden…Ninjas, which allow surprise Minions to appear just before a Base is Scored and so on.

The aim of the game is to be the first to acquire fifteen points, this is accomplished by Smashing Bases (yes, there is more smashing in this game than a mash-up of an old Harry Enfield & Paul Whitehouse comedy sketch and the Incredible Hulk).  A base is smashed when the combined value of all the Minions, from all players, reaches or exceeds the Base’s strength. At this point the Base is scored with the player with the highest value of Minions scoring the first place prize, second place gets, well they get second place, down to third place.  Coming in first doesn’t always bag you the most points though, so careful timing and planning are key in this game.  That is the game: simple, straightforward and fun.

As I’ve said the game comes with eight factions, and the combining of these does mean there is a fair amount of replayability in the box before you consider getting any of the numerous expansions; however, some factions ‘work’ better together than others, and some don’t work well together at all in my experience.  As a twist on the deck builder mechanic, luck plays a fair part into which two cards are drawn each turn, I occasionally find my ten cards max hand filled primarily with actions, that I don’t really want there.  Actions or abilities to pillage your discard pile (zombies I’m looking at you) or your deck (Wizards!) do then feel like they have a distinct advantage here.

The artwork provided by Dave Allsop et al is brilliantly cartoony, and if I’m honest – was the reason I plucked it from the game shelf.  This game looks brilliant, it is just a few cards, but the art on each card along with the accompanying text is great, and really works to add to the chaotic fun theme (that even the least geeky person at the table will be very familiar with). Somewhat unusually I’m going to mention the rule book which is likewise kept very much in the crazy, friendly fun style, it is written in a personable manner, giving a feeling of someone teaching you how to play rather than a dry read through.  The box is very light on components, it is just a deck of cards, which for some is enough, for others (myself included); there is a desire for something extra in the form of Base Mats (as seen in the play through photo).  It would be nice if AEG would release these officially, but in the meantime, you can download and print them from BGG you’ll be able to fit the five needed for the base game on one sheet of A3 card (I use artists mount board, anything around 150 gsm is pretty decent)Loaded Bases

This is a very fun game, it is light in strategy and with very slick rules making it easy to teach and engage with.  It is a game of direct conflict though, where players will really race and stuff each other over to score bases and win; that out-and-out aggressive play may not be everyone’s cup of tea – especially when one’s ability to engage in that conflict is governed by a random deck of cards.

Smash Up is a very light, straight forward fun game with fantastic artwork and tongue firmly in cheek.  Don’t expect to be thinking and planning your strategies while this box is on the shelf, or ever being overwhelmed by choices when playing, but when it comes down you are sure to have a good laugh stickin’ it to those pesky Trickster Dinosaurs!


2 thoughts on “Review: Smash Up

  1. Nice review of a game I enjoyed far more than my wife did, which meant it just never got to the table. While we eventually moved on from the game this year, I am excited that an app for the game is coming sometime this year so I can still play this one.


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