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Player #: 2-4
Time: 30-45 Minutes
Game Type: Card Flopper/Variable Strategy
Gamer Type: Gateway to Expert
If you are like me, then you have times when you are setting up a gaming session and some people are late (gamers are notoriously late). In these cases, it is great to have a quick game sitting around you can play to keep everyone busy. Most of the time, you have to sacrifice re-playability for speed. There are not a lot of good, high strategy games on the market for under an hour. AEG’s (Alderac Entertainment Group) Smash Up is definitely one of the good games where you do not have to settle for repetition in order to get a fast game.
Smash Up is a faction-based game, where two groups are forced to work together for the common good. There is not a lot of backstory about why the factions are fighting. This lets the players create the story of why wizards are working with pirates or robots have teamed up with dinosaurs. Regardless, of the reason, what you know is that you have to conquer enough base cards to get enough points to win, and to do that you need to play your cards right, literally. The story builds as you play and it can move from comical to serious as the game moves on. 6 of 10 for story
The artwork for Smashup is phenomenal. Each faction has its own style to how the cards are designed, but there is a common stylistic thread that runs through all of the factions in the base game. The incredible artwork really draws players into the game. Likewise, the box is a small-medium size, which allows you to store it with your other games – or with the expansions, of which there are many. Overall, this gives a great feel to an arena-style card flopper. (Please note that it is not a true arena game as the battles are not direct but are managed). 8.5 of 10
So how does this legendary game work? Smash Up is based on the concept that you pick two decks from the 8 and combine them for your team. With 8 decks in the core set, you have a number of possibilities for combinations. However, when you start adding expansions, you start getting the re-playability style of Dominion or other quick deck builders.
Each faction is unique in its methodology. Pirates steal stuff and move stuff around. Ninjas hide and strike to take points from opponents. Zombies bring in some discard pile manipulation, making them more powerful as the game goes on. Robots replicate, which can make them a challenging opponent. Dinosaurs are pure power; their motto is the bigger the better. Wizards let you manipulate the deck, bringing the cards up you need when you need them. Tricksters mess with your opponent, bringing frustration to an art form. Finally, aliens change the battlefield – changing the planning of the game each round. As you add expansion, you get more mechanics, but for the base game, you have a solid 9 of 10.
Like the aliens screw with the game mechanics, this game messes with the strategy rating system. Depending on which factions that you have, your strategy can be limited or can be very diverse. If you draw, say, robots and dinosaurs, your game is offense all the way. If you draw wizards and tricksters/aliens then engine building can set you up for a massive turn. Ninjas, pirates, and zombies all bring some rush to the game. After all of this defense is a hard strategy to bring to the table, but – astonishingly – Smash Up brings this too. Depending on the cards you draw, your specific deck could be from 3-6 in the strategy category (until you add expansions). However, the game overall earns an 8 of 10 as all strategy methodologies are represented well.
Novelty & Overall
Smash Up is not a “new to the market game” as are most of the games we review here. While its expansions are constantly coming out, Smash Up has been around the block for a while. Why Smash Up is not normally discussed with Catan, Ticket To Ride, or Powergrid as a gateway game, I will never understand. This game has all the features that make for a good gateway game: easy rules, simple goals, and a mechanics system that allows new players to play with pro’s (random deck draws rather than draft). It also should be listed with legendary games like Dominion, MTG, and Mysterium as group games for advanced groups. Smash Up was a genre leader in the mixed deck principle; it deserves its place in the pantheon of legendary games. 9 of 10 for novelty (when it came out).
With an overall score of 40.5, Smash Up should be on every shelf. This is a leading game for the tournament that NRN is thinking of setting up for 2022 (Fall). Smash Up is a quick game that anyone can play, even if people are a little under the target age of the game; it is good clean fun, and teaches strategy. Deck builders can be intimidating, which is why gateway card floppers like Smash Up are so important to the market. AEG keeps producing content for this game, but unlike MTG, you do not have to be a millionaire to have all the cards – just a hundredaire. This is a great game and I hope you will take a look at it for your collection.