smash up box

Smash Up is Total Awesomeness!

Got Smash Up and the Awesome Level 9000 expansion for Christmas.  Wow.  Definitely enjoy playing this game.

For those of you not familiar with the game, here is a brief overview:

  • Players combine two different 20 card faction decks to make a personal deck to draw cards from.
  • There are only two types of cards, Minions (which have a point value) and Actions.
  • On each turn, a player may play one Minion and one Action, in any order.  Players do not have to play either card type.
  • Each card has a special rule that grants it some type of special power, such as playing extra Minions or destroying opponent Minions.
  • The goal of the game is to score the most points by breaking down bases, which have a threshold value. To break a base, simply put enough Minions on it (by point value) to equal or exceed its threshold value.

The basic rules are really quite simple and that is one of the great things about this game; anyone will be able to pick it up and understand the mechanics.  However, there is definite strategy involved in pwning your opponents.My first game consisted of four players.  The deck combinations were:
Zombie Ninjas
Trickster Wizards
Robot Dinosaurs
Alien Pirates

Robot Dinosaurs won, but Trickster Wizards were not far behind.  All four players enjoyed the game and everyone understood the rules easily enough.  Most of the card text did not require any debate about what the text meant or made us pour over the rulebook (or the interwebs) looking for clarification.  And most importantly, no one pouted because they didn’t fully understand the special rules before committing to an action.  For me and my gaming group, this is a win.

smash upA few comments from the group:
No victory point tokens.  This was one of the very first things that was mentioned about the game and someone made a comment about why something like that wasn’t brought up during play testing.  Another comment was made about how it was probably to save money on production costs.  It seems like it is too much trouble to use pen and paper to keep track of scores these days.  We’ve grown too accustom for things doing it for us and/or having cardboard bits that make it easier and more visually appealing.  We used a simple score keeper app on my phone to keep track of victory points.

Turns can take a while.  I find this to be true of any game that is strategy based and I don’t mind the wait.  Some people, on the other hand, have ADHD and can’t sit still doing nothing for too long before they start banging their head on the game table.  And honestly, I find that turns are only lengthy on someone’s first play through.  But I can’t fault anyone for actually wanting to read their cards and put some thought into how things might play out.  Personally, I think that there is enough interaction between players on each turn, with opponent Minions being destroyed and point values on bases changing, that downtime isn’t an issue.  For the most part, players actively want to pay attention to what is happening when it isn’t their turn as there can be a vast amount of change from one person’s turn to the next.

The second game I played was a two player game and we used the expansion.  Bazinga!  We should have used the expansion with the first game, but we typically like to play at least one vanilla version of a game first before adding expansions.  In the case of Smash Up, however, we didn’t know exactly what the expansion contained, and its contents are more than just a typical expansion.  The first thing I noticed, as if some magic force listened in on our first Smash Up experience, was that victory point tokens were included.  Nice.  Scratch one potential issue off the list.

The second and perhaps more awesome thing about the expansion, besides the fact that it is actually an expansion, is that it includes new cards for all of the bases from the core game.  That is right, 100% of the bases in the core game get an upgrade with the Awesome Level 9000 expansion.  And this takes care of an issue that was only jokingly brought up: card readability.  One of the players joked, “At least we’re not playing with my mom or she’d be like this the entire game”, to which the player bent over the table and basically stuck her nose on a card, pointing out that the text on base cards is small and difficult to read.  Well, the expansion takes care of that.  Once the expansion is acquired, all of the core base cards can be chucked out the window (or recycled).  The expansion includes all of the core base cards with larger, easier to read text.  Bonus.

These two things alone make the Awesome Level 9000 expansion actually awesome and truly worth it.  But, let’s not forget that it actually is an expansion.  It comes with four new faction decks: Steampunks, Ghosts, Killer Plants, and Bear Riders.  Da Bears.

The cost of this game, including the expansion, is a no brainer.  It is fun, easy to play, and because of the different deck combinations available, provides a level of replayability that doesn’t get stale.

To recap:

The simple rule set is appreciated and refreshing, almost rewarding in a way.  It allowed a group four people who have never played the game before to quickly jump in and get going.  Seriously, reading the rule book and setting up the game did not take long at all.  I also got Rune Wars for Christmas and I’m still trying to plow through that rulebook.  But hey, at least Rune Wars has some images and defined sections to break up the flow and make not seem like a chore.  I mean it could be worse, it could look like the rules from Warlord.  I gave up on trying to read that black and white folded up extra small print rule sheet and started cutting myself instead.

But back to Smash Up.  Definitely worth the price of admission.  This is a game that your gaming group or family will want to play over and over.

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