Published on November 6th, 2013 | by Gregg Miller
Post-Ironic Pop Culture Crossover: The Game!
Gregg Explains: Smash Up!
Smash Up! is a game made by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG). The base game comes with a set group of factions: Aliens, Tricksters, Pirates, Ninjas, Wizards, Dinosaurs, Robots, and Zombies. Each faction has their own mechanical theme. Unlike many other collectable card games, you’re not building your deck from a vast collection. Instead, each player selects two factions, and shuffles them together into one deck.
A set of base cards are shuffled, then revealed, each worth varying amounts of victory points. Some bases may have additional rules dictating perks for “busting” the base, or what may and may not happen when contesting the base. Each base has a strength score, that when exceeded by the total amount of strength generated from minions from all players, determine if the base scores.
Each player’s turn breaks down into being able to play one minion card at any base, and playing one action card from their hand. As soon as a base has enough strength from minions to “bust” the base, all scoring mechanics can take place, points are awarded, then a replacement base is then added to the list.
If you are familiar with collectable or trading card games, you will know that there are a few mechanics common to many of them. One mechanic that helps in power balance and ease of player comprehension is something I call the “faction mechanic”. For example, Mountain-based Red magic in Magic: the Gathering tends to be unblockable, direct damage, where as Plains-based White magic tends to be defensive and healing oriented. Smash Up! uses this sort of faction mechanic in an interesting fashion.
The Alien faction has a lot of card removal and return-to-hand mechanics. Ninjas have a lot of misdirection where you can exchange one card for another or unexpectedly add additional cards into play. Pirates have a lot of mobility, allowing the player to move between bases. Tricksters tend to break, ignore, or bend the normal rules, without a unified faction mechanic. Wizards are able to draw extra cards involving the Action type cards. Robots seem to echo what Wizards do, but with the Minion type cards. Dinosaurs can bring in the large strength numbers, but seem to only do so on their own turn. Zombies have a lot of small horde and return-to-play strategies.
Smash Up! is an incredibly interesting game. With the various combinations of mixed factions, you can build quite a few formidable decks. Some combinations are more powerful than others, but that imbalance is also part of the game. An interesting side rule Matt “The Favorite” suggested is to make a player’s turn consist of two card plays of any type, instead of the normal one minion card and one action card turn. This rule helps in case you have a run of just one card type or series of cards that can’t be played, and it keeps the game moving forward.
The expansions to the base game have some rather fun titles, and they each add several factions. Awesome Level 9000 adds Ghosts, Killer Plants, Steam Punks, and Bear Cavalry. The Obligatory Cthulhu Set brings Cthulu Cultists, Elder Things, Innsmouth, and Miskatonic University.