This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Number of Players: 2-4
Time: 45 Minutes
Game Type: Shufflebuilding
Gamer Type: Causal/Competition
SmashUp is one of my guilty pleasure games. This is an engine-building game at its finest so, it is really in my wheelhouse. Shufflebuilding games are fun because you can have the variety of deck-builders and TCGs without having the time investment to get the game up and running. The Marvel Edition of Smash-Up (a collaboration by AEG and USAopoly) brings your favorite Marvel characters to life in the Smash Up Universe. Not only can you bring together unlikely alliances from the Marvel Universe, but you can also combine with other sets to make interesting combinations. (Wizards in the Spiderverse anyone?)
This game is a port, which means it brings the universe of Marvel into the world of Smashup. With this, there are some slight “terminological” modifications that you need to be aware of. Minions in this case are now called characters (which can be a little confusing when you mix decks). Modifiers are therefore modified to expand the meaning of the card to meet this change. “Move” and “transfer” from other games have been combined into “move” so if you are looking for “transfers” for card actions, you will just look for “move” now. Other than that, we see the Marvel Characters being brought into an already great game system earns a solid 6 out of 10 on the storyline.
When it comes to artwork, SmashUp and Marvel are a match made in heaven. SmashUp already was known for amazing comic book art and when you add real comic book characters, it’s perfection. Add to that the brilliance of all the smashup boxes being the same size, and you have a wonderful game, not just for the mind but for the eyes as well. (8.5 of 10 for art).
Unfortunately, this expansion does not change the mechanics of the game much. That means that in the “truest” sense of the word, this is simply an expansion of the game with new characters. While this is not bad, it would have been nice to see a new mechanic to deal with some of the different classes to mix up the game. That being said, the current mechanics do mix well with one another. Having pirates team up with the Avengers can lead to some interesting “Steal and Deal” gameplay. While playing this as a stand-alone will play similar to the base game, when you combine it with the base game and other expansion the mechanics (which still work well together) it really shows why this is an excellent game (5 of 10 for mechanics).
Where SmashUp Marvel came up a little short in mechanics, it is still paving the way with strategy. Introducing eight new factions (Avengers, Hydra, the Kree, Masters of Evil, S.H.I.E.L.D., the Sinister Six, the Spider-Verse, and The Ultimates). Each of these groups brings monster playstyle variation to the base game and allows players to master new skill sets. This brings new introductions in rush, defense, offense, and, of course, engine building. Whether you are playing this as a stand-alone or advancing the game to play with any of the other expansions, you are going to find new challenges as you enter into the game. 9 of 10.
I like Marvel. I like SmashUp. The combination seems to be a match made in heaven. So often ports of a game do not line up well. While I would like to see more mechanical changes (even with the new cards, there was not a lot of movement here), the way that the two universes were integrated was amazing for a port game. Normally ports do not score well, but this is an exception, not just because I like the mix but because AEG and USAopoly made sure that the game was well designed when they launched it. Expansions can be tiresome, but this expansion is definitely something that makes you say “How did I ever play without this?” (8 of 10).
With a total score of 36.5, this game holds its own with base games across the card flopper universe. However, this is an expansion. The question has to be whether it adds to the SmashUp universe. Does it add to the story? Yes. Does it compliment the art? Yes. Does it expand the mechanics? Not really. Does it build the strategy? Not just yes, but hell yes. Is it novel? It is a port. So, as a base game, SmashUp Marvel is a top-tier card flopper. As an expansion, it basically gets a B+, with the only real knock being lack of mechanical expansion. To be fair, in this area, many players will argue that the team themes are mechanical changes – but if we count them as mechanical changes, then it would counterbalance by bringing down the strategy score, so it is a wash.
Therefore, should you buy the game if you do not have any SmashUp? Yes, this is a great game that anyone can play with quick set-up, clean-up, and gameplay. Should you buy it if you have the base game? If you like Marvel, then yes, buy the game. If you like having more options, then yes, buy the game. I really do not see any downside to having this in your collection. The combinations of abilities with other expansions are exciting, and we did not find anything that was too broken, but there are those hidden combos you can look for when you mix multiple sets. Overall, this is a great game, I recommend it for personal play and competition play. The multitude of expansions allows for more variations across the board.
Dr. Christopher Smithmyer is a writer for NRN, the Vice President of International Affairs at Brav Online Conflict Management, and an Adjunct Professor of MBA Business at Doane University. He is also part of the founding team at BlackWalletLTD, one of the leaders in stable coin 2.0 ecosystem maintenance. Dr. Smithmyer’s focus is international business and finance, along with reviews of board games, weapons platforms, and survival items.