Smash Up Card Game Review
Smash Up is a 2-4 player card game designed and created by Paul Peterson, and published by Alederac Entertainment Group (AEG). Since it’s release a few years ago, Paul and AEG have been steadily releasing numerous expansions for the game, to a point where AEG decided to release a special large box to hold all the expansion that had been coming out! I’ve played Smash Up Munchkin in the past, but this look at Smash Up was my first go with the original game. How does it play? It is worth a purchase? We will explore that and more, so let’s get started! Who’s ready to dive in to Smash Up?!
How it Plays
In Smash Up, the goal is to earn 15 victory points by playing your cards on a number of basis, attempting to complete them, and scoring points. Each player will choose 2 factions – 8 come in the base game – of 20 cards each, and will shuffle them together. This is the players deck from which he will draw cards. After every player has created their 2 faction deck of 40 cards total, bases will be played on the table equal to the number of players, plus 1. Therefore, in a 2 player game, 3 bases would be played on the table.
On a players turn, they will be allowed to play one minion card and one action card from their hand. There are situations where special abilities or actions will allow players to do more than these initial play options, but the general rule of thumb is one minion and one action. Minions are placed on bases in hopes of destroying the base, and earning points.
Bases have a destruction number in the top corner, points for scoring in the middle, and sometimes a special ability along the bottom. To score the points in the middle, players will play their minion cards (see above) – think of these as attack cards, as you are attacking the destruction number – on a base in an attempt to exceed the bases destruction number (top left hand corner). At the end of a players turn, all the bases will be surveyed, and those with more power points than base points will be scored.
When handing out points at the end of a turn, base cards are scored from left to right. Using the image below as a reference, whoever has the most power points on that base receives 5 points, the second most receives 3, and the third most receives 2. In a 4 player game, if all players had cards on this base, whoever has the least power points would not earn any victory points.
Many base cards will have a special instruction on the bottom. In the example above, whoever received 5 points for ‘winning’ the base would be required to discard their entire hand, and draw 5 new cards. These extra events can have a huge impact on the game, so be sure to read them before placing your cards on a base.
If you have an affinity for card games, and enjoy the randomness of drawing from a deck, then Smash Up by Paul Peterson is a game you must own. There are no drafting elements here, which is a misnomer I’ve seen floating around the Internet. Once you’ve picked your two factions and shuffled them together, there is no choosing cards – you get what you are dealt. In a 4 player game with just the base set, this can be problematic from time-to-time, as I do have a faction preference for personal strategy. My wife shares the same strategy, so we often end up fighting over who gets which factions. The process of picking your factions is defined in the rules, so there is structure to who gets to pick, and when. But a few play throughs of the game have taught be one thing: you’ll want the expansions.
That being said, Smash Up is still a great experience as a standalone title. Even when I didn’t get the factions I wanted, I was still able to pull out victories by being smart with the cards I had been dealt. In any good game, their are pros and cons to everything you do, so being strategic and aware of what is going on around you is key to victory. The better you are at staying focused, the better your chances of winning.
AEG was kind enough to supply us one expansion to use alongside our review. Adding in Smash Up Monsters didn’t really change the way the game was played, but provided more options and combinations for myself and others to use. As you can imagine, not every faction is created equal. Some are great at destroying other players cards, while others allow you to frequently reintroduce discarded characters back into the game and into your hand. Smash Up is definitely a game you’ll want to play more than once, as you familiarize yourself with the different factions. Although it is possible for a new player at the gable to pull out a victory, the advantage definitely goes to long time players, as it does in most games.
That fact, however, points to one important thing: Smash Up is not won on pure, damn luck; rather, it is strategic thinking and smart card placement that will get you to your 15 victory points. The more you play and the more familiar you become with the different factions, the more strategy will play a roll. Personally, my preference was to randomly assign factions as it made the game a bit more unpredictable for everyone else, but in a room of veteran players and numerous factions to pick from – assuming you have multiple expansions – this is a game of strategy, not luck.
I’ve spent the last week wondering what Paul Peterson and AEG did wrong when releasing Smash Up, and I can’t put my finger on it. As a card game, the major downside is that it takes up a lot of room, so a large playing area is a must. The more people you add into the game, the more area you will need. In fact, a 4 person game of Smash Up could potentially take up more room than your average board game, so that is saying a lot. Still, it’s a simple concept that can be learned in less than 10 minutes, and that accessibility will make it one of our go-to titles when playing with friends on board game night. Regardless of your skill level with card and board game, you cannot go wrong with Smash Up!