One of the games that I've been eagerly wanting to get my hands on this year is Smash Up.
Smash Up is a "shufflebuilding"game. What this means is that you select two factions at the start of the game, and then you build your deck by shuffling them together. During the game, you will be using the minions and actions of your new deck to attempt to break different "bases". Each turn, you are allowed to play one action and one minion (in either order). The minions are played on bases, and at the end of a turn, if a base has a certain amount of power (from minions) around it, the base "breaks", and players score points based on if they were first, second, or third in power. Then, all of these minions and the base are discarded, a new base is drawn, and the next player takes their turn. Oh - you also draw two cards at the end of your turn. That's basically all of the rules. You play until someone gets 15 points.
The first, and most obvious, pro for Smash Up is the theme. This is a game about Aliens, Dinosaurs, Ninjas, Pirates, Robots, Wizards, Tricksters (Fairies and such), and Zombies. When you play this game in public, people want to play it without knowing anything about the game. The theme is cool. The only thing that instantly comes to mind that is missing is Dragons. (I consider them different from Dinosaurs - after all, everyone knows that Dragons breathe fire, and Dinosaurs don't. Maybe if Dinosaurs could breathe fire, they would still be around. And really, stinkin' scary!) I also think it would be amusing if Chuck Norris was given his own faction. But that would probably cost a lot of licensing fees. You could also do a professional wrestlers faction (and probably use made up people). Either way, there are a lot of new factions that they could add to Smash Up to make it fresh and add replayability. Yet, one of the other things that I like about the factions that they already have is that they all play differently. Instead of simply going for theme and making eight decks that work exactly the same but have different art, they made a game where each faction has definite abilities that you need to capitalize on in order to win.
|All of the different factions!|
My third pro to Smash Up is that the actual game is fun. Why did this not make it until third? Well, because the other two pros are really, really strong! But, there is quite a bit of depth to figuring out which base to attack, when to attack it, whether it's better to kill your opponents minions (or leave them there to help break the base), when to play action cards that help you instead of ones that hurt your opponent. There are really a lot of strategic choices to the game. And, each combination of factions will give you a variation of these choices. For example, with the Aliens, I played the game completely opposite of how my wife played them. When I played as the Aliens, I played one of my minions that gave me a Victory Point when it entered play. Then, I regularly used my other cards to beam him back into my hand so that I could play him over and over and keep scoring more victory points. When she played the Aliens, she beamed up everyone else's minions whenever they came and threatened the bases that she was attempting to break. Two completely opposite ways of playing the exact same cards - and both work well!
But, with all that Smash Up does right, there are some cons that need to be mentioned. First, the game is very text heavy. Or, more specifically, it is very text heavy for what kind of game it is. Smash Up is (I believe) a non-gamer friendly, easy to learn, fast and easy to play game. It can appeal to people beyond just gamers because of it's theme, and it is an easy way for them to play games and have fun. Yet, with this, most every card that they will draw will do something different that they will have to read (and understand). So will every base. And every card that everyone else plays. Once you have played the game a few times, this really won't be an issue anymore. However, every time that you teach the game to someone new, you will immediately see what I am talking about - the game begins with a lot of sitting there and reading. It just seems that the amount of text just doesn't fit the style of game.
|Now how much power is at each base??|
Finally - there's no score markers. Really? Do you think that I have dice just laying around that I can use for this purpose? (Ok, stupid question - but that doesn't mean I remember to bring them with me.)
Overall, I give Smash Up an 8.5/10. I enjoy the game, and I intend to continue playing it. I am also eager to see what new factions they release in the upcoming months and years. And, whereas I won't be playing Smash Up on a weekly basis, I look forward to getting to pull it out and teach it to new people and watch as they enjoy getting to throw Ninjas and Dinosaurs together to see what happens.
If you like Smash Up, then you might also want to check out 7 Wonders, Flash Duel, and Revolver. Or, if you want to check out some more opinions on Smash Up, I'd recommend checking out this Smash Up Review on I Slay the Dragon, or another Smash Up Review by Games With Two.
I would like to thank AEG Games for providing me with a review copy of Smash Up.