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Subject: Smash Up - Is like Sharknado - down to the basics review rss

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Tiago Perretto
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Thinking about my next move.
So, if my only options are these, then I shall...

About Smash Up:

1) What is it?
Smash Up is a card game in which the player mix two thematic decks to form her own play deck, composed of two different themes, like Zombie Pirates, or Dinosaurs Wizards, for instance.

The goal is use the unusual dual to destroy bases and gather points by doing this. The gameplay for Smash Up is really straightforward: the basic is, in a regular turn, to play a minion and play an action. Yes, all cards have some effect when played, even minions, but the cards are clear enough to leave little doubts about the use of them.

Smash Up truly pits players against each other, as even though there are several bases open to add minions to, naturally players will try to hinder others and get ahead in every point, be by simply taking some opportunity points when adding a single minion to a base, or to flat out destroy or move the minions of someone else, completely changing their objectives and perspectives.

While it is possible to prepare some later plays and build some skeleton of strategy, there is little control in Smash Up, as there are so many things that can happen in the other players turns that try to predict what will is simply foolish. The gameplay, therefore, is much more tatical in nature: just do the best you can with the cards you have in hand and considering the state of the game right now.

Overall, Smash Up is a game with a low bar entry: simply mix two decks together and start playing, with very little to teach before the game gets going - the cards will contain the needed information for during play. There is fun to be had playing, but the game can run for too long considering the chaos and tatical gameplay - it would work best as a 30 minute game, not a 50 to 1 hour (and maybe more), and this can hurt deeply its chances of returning to the table often.

2) How do you play?
Mix two decks. In her turn the player plays: one minion and one action, in the order she chooses. Apply the effects of them.

Check to see if in one or more bases the strength of the minions reached the limit - in this case, the base is destroyed and points are awarded to the players accordingly to what is printed in the base.

If one or more players got to 15 points or more, the game is over. The player with the most points will be the winner!

3) Which are the decisions made during play?
What cards to play. These are usually in consideration with the game state:
- what bases are in play;
- what is the strength the other players - and you - have in each base;
- what are the points of each player.

That is because you will need to pick a base to add a minion to, and the effect of it can have a greater effect in one more than in other, or the minion in a certain place will allow the use of a nasty action, or is simply a matter of adding strength to be in first/second/third when a base is destroyed and points are awarded - the same is valid for actions, but these are, usually, one shot type of use, while minions remain on play until the base they are in is destroyed. Therefore, the use of actions are even more tatical than minions - still, the decision of which to use and when are mostly an easy affair to decide.

4) What are the good things in the game?
- Easy to teach and very quick to start playing;
- Highly interactive;
- The different bases and possible mixes make for a good amount of replay value.

5) Which are the bad news?
- Language dependant - almost all cards contain important text;
- Play can run for too long;
- Can suffer from bash the leader;
- Has lots of take that cards;
- Chaotic.

6) How do you feel while playing?
Like living in the mind of a very imaginative 10 year old kid.

Smash Up is a design that would leave me frothing from the mouth when I was a pre-teen and I would dedicate months of my life to it, until, well, the next thing that would call for my young and fleeting devotion. Now it just got some smiles when talking out loud about "Ninjas Zombies" and "Aliens Wizards" and, after 1 hour, constants looks to the clock while hoping the game would end soon - but with all the killing of minions and changes of places, it would probably take at least 15 more minutes.

While the gameplay for Smash Up has some merits, it stays in second place to the luck of the draw and the reigning chaos. It is surprising that the factions are balanced, as the end scores usually shows, even though some do go better together than with others, but the margin is low enough for be lost in our also low quality play.

In the end I simply don't see a good enough reason to return to Smash Up with any sort of consistency. It works well for what it is intended to, but it fails to have resonance with me, both in the fun department and in gameplay, as either seems hollow to me, with many better options out there.


Image credit: AEGTodd

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