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Subject: Smash Up - Another hit with the family! rss

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Bill Hartman
United States
Roseville
California
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I finally caved and purchased this game yesterday while visiting my favorite comic shop in State College (Comic Swap). While their game selection is extremely small, they are a very nice group of people running the place, and I like to support them here and there with purchases larger than the typical 4 dollar comic.

I went in to Comic Swap on Sunday to get my daughter's special orders of Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony comics, and saw a copy of Smash Up still sitting on the shelf for 29.99. I had seen it for about a month or so prior, and remembered being somewhat interested in the kickstarter campaign but never supported it. I figured, what the heck. My wife likes card games that are fun, have just a smidgen of strategy but not too complex. (Our last favorite purchase (also recently) was Crazy Creatures of Dr. Gloom.)

We sat down for a moment at the neighboring Dunkin Donuts, and I read through the rules and opened the cards.

Immediately, my daughter falls in love with the crazy factions represented in the base game for Smash-Up. My wife (and myself, to be perfectly honest), saw the practically empty box and thought, "Is that it!?!?!". I sorted the cards, noting that afterwards the sorted factions and base cards did at least take up one entire side of the box, but it still felt like the box was way bigger than it needed to be. It's very light. I could say it was only 30 bucks, but it DID feel like the game was slightly overpriced (even if just by 5 bucks or so) for what it contained. But, at least the box is big enough to hold about 2 expansions it seems.

I liked the artwork, my daughter as well. We packed it up, and figured we would play it when we got home. Being a bit late, however, we decided to have a "learning game" first this morning, and then play it with the wife after dinner.

This morning, my daughter finished all her chores in record time, so she could play the game (Even being late getting up). She chose Zombies and Dinosaurs. I chose Aliens and Tricksters. Being that she WAS up before me, she got to go first...

Now, I had to help her about 2 times, just in as much as telling her maybe she should re-read a card, and think about whether she should play it now or keep it. That is all the help I gave her.

By the time we were to get ready to leave for her school, I had taken one base (for 5 VP), and she was just about to score on a base that had 2 VP (but awarded 1 extra VP For every 5 power she had on the base). Being that she was the only one on the base, at 27 power, she would have taken 5 extra VP. I played an action card prior, however, that took away the base's ability. So the game ended (prematurely) with a score of 5-2, in my favor. She played combos and other cards to boost her power above the 25 needed to take the base (thanks to her Dinosaur and Zombie Lord cards). Very smart play on her part (she's 7 1/2 years old).

She wanted to keep playing, but I told her we had no more time and she had to go to school. Now she is thinking of strategies and combos, and looked over the expansion details and is excited for that. It's nice to see her THAT excited over a game. She wants the killer plants BADLY...lol.

I'm sure this game will go over great with my wife as well, as it is right up her alley. It MAY even be enough for the game group that I am a part of, but we'll see. They didn't take to Cutthroat Caverns too well, and I expected that one to be a hit with them (all experienced gamers). But as a family game, Smash-Up is certainly a hit.

Pros: Not TOO expensive for the base set.
Interesting combinations that can be made between factions.
Each faction has their own thematic style of play.
Quick and easy setup and teardown.
Box is large enough to hold 2 expansions.

Cons: Box insert also allowed all of the cards to fly around everywhere when the box was tilted.
As is, the factions could become stale after a handful of plays with 3-4 players.
There definitely could be a weaker player, if stuck with factions that don't mesh well together.


OVERALL: The pros really do outweight the cons. The expansions, if priced 12-15 bucks, should really add a lot to the game and keep it interesting. This one will certainly see repeated play in my house.
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Sean Boyll
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I've only been able to play a partial game with my 8 year old and one full game with a friend. The amount of card interaction was much higher than I expected and it caused the game to take longer than it should. I'm also afraid that such high card interaction could make it too complicated for my daughter at this time.

The card interaction does make the factions feel very unique. I'm hopeful the game speeds up with more plays.
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The Compulsive Completist
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You are a cruel man. Your poor kid had to run off to school and think about dinosaurs, zombies, aliens, robots, pirates, ninjas, tricksters, and wizards all day. I hope you realize she got nothing accomplished at school.
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Bill Hartman
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SPBTooL wrote:
I've only been able to play a partial game with my 8 year old and one full game with a friend. The amount of card interaction was much higher than I expected and it caused the game to take longer than it should. I'm also afraid that such high card interaction could make it too complicated for my daughter at this time.

The card interaction does make the factions feel very unique. I'm hopeful the game speeds up with more plays.


We just finished another game. My daughter DID comment just a bit about "How much longer will this be?".

At that point, we were almost all tied - Me with 10, Wife with 9, Kid with 9.

My wife was going for a 5 point base with Trickster Aliens. I worked my butt off with my Ninja Dinosaurs to stop her. Daughter was busy going for a 4 point base all by herself. In the end, I was able to pull off the 5 point base and take it from my wife and win. Wife would have won it on her next turn otherwise (she would have played the alien that gave her +1 VP, then claimed first place on the base).

I should note, that the first half of the game was almost all wife and daughter. I was soooo far behind. I scored points thanks to my Shinobi and Ninja Actions that allowed me to play a minion while a base scored. That got me points, because I was kind of shafted with a full hand of 9 actions and 1 minion for the early game. It seemed like after the first turn, I couldn't play much of anything. So for those people who have complained there seems to be no way to come back from a huge deficit, it CAN be done... with smart card play and a little luck. That is part of what I love about this game so far. The card interactions are great, and there are so many options.

So tense, so close! Took about an hour and a half I would guess, with the kid being a bit slower tonight and the wife just learning the game.
 
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Victor Aldridge
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Terre Haute
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Two small additions -

First, your game play time will increase as you get more familiar with some of the more wordy cards. The first game or two with any one faction has an unexpected amount of "what does that do?"

Second, you had time to ponder the price before having played, but time and again running demos at GenCon with people who had played before learning the price, they were shocked at how low the price was (and I'm sure that's part of what led to such a quick sellout of the game).

Yes, the empty box seems...empty, but in today's market I'd expect to be charged $40-45 for a similar game of similar quality. I truly believe it's a steal for all that it is.

There is a limited amount of playability - there are, after all, 28 different combinations of factions with the base set, but this is also a game MADE for expansions (even the box was, as you noted). One additional thought - some people picked up two copies allowing more diversity in a game by having more than one person share the same faction.
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Bill Hartman
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Yeah, I didn't mean the price as a big negative. Was just the initial shock of opening the box and thinking, wow... that's empty...lol.

We are strictly going by drafting rules, so as to avoid myself or my wife just picking the best combos we can. That alone should keep the replayability going for us for quite some time, in that scenario.

My game group is one of more experienced gamers, and I would suspect they may enjoy it but tire of it quicker (or get upset if we draft and they can't pick their best combo... one of our group is a huge rules memorizer/strategizer and if he can't work out a way from the start to whoop everyone, he isn't interested. I'm not so much into that playstyle).

I agree about the expansions, definitely made for them, and will keep benefiting from them if they keep the new factions fresh and unique like they feel in the initial box. I liked how my Ninjas could smoke bomb and "hide" minions, jump onto a base right before it scored. But I also liked the tricksters, and how they could mess with people's plans quite often (as my wife did, once she started to "Get" the game and her cards). And my wife really liked Terraforming, as did I. She giggled with glee when she used it to stop our daughter from scoring on a base, and changed it to one that would benefit her instead...lol.

One thing I really REALLY like, is how the bases also add an extra layer. They don't just sit there to be conquered, most of them (Except the jungle oasis, I Believe) have some kind of ability that either triggers on something being played, start of a/all players turn, or at scoring. That adds such a welcome extra layer of strategy to what you play and where. Wife really liked that once she got to grips with her own faction combos, and started paying attention to bases.

So far, we have played all factions at least once each except Pirates (haven't been chosen once yet, but I'm sure they will soon enough). There hasn't been too much of a "What does that do" question, except for when my wife played a card (action card on a base that I Believe removed an effect/action from a minion) and wanted to know if it was usable for removing poison, and it seemed like it should. We aren't too much of sticklers for rules lawyering though, if it feels right, we go with it (and I spend a lot of time perusing the forums, faqs and rules to get a grip on it first). I don't think our playtime will increase by much, if at all. 90 minutes was just right for the game, I could see it reducing actually once everyone is more familiar with the cards and base abilities. The second game we played took about the same amount of time, and I think we are going to play another round of it tonight (either that or Legendary).

I'm hoping to try out Ninja Robots next time, as I think that might be a nice combo as well. But my wife and daughter both seem to know what I'm thinking, and stop me from drafting what I initially want...lol.
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Sean Boyll
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Played another 2 player game yesterday and I'm starting to think the the game will play better with more than 2.

This game was against my 16yo. He was playing Dino-Pirates while I was Alien-Ninja. The Ninja-Alien combo is not a fun one to go up against. Every time he would do something I would just send it back to his hand or kill it. There were several times on both sides where we were able to clear many the other's minions off of a base with a single action. This game lasted over 1.5 hours.

If this was a three player game the total minion wipes would not have slowed the game down as much. There would have been a 3rd player on some of those bases to keep the power a little higher afterward. I'm going to get this on the table in a 3 player game this Friday.
 
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Bill Hartman
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It is definitely a different dynamic 2 player, but I think the 2 player game then will benefit in the long term when both players are more familiar with the factions and what combos work best (Since you have more choice).

In the 3-4 player games, the choices are more restrictive (especially with drafting), and makes for a bit more "chaos" and inherent balance I think. We are 3 1/2 games in, hope to play a few games this weekend.
 
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Bryan Stout
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Thanks for the review. I've only had a chance for a partial game with 2 of my daughters, and I'm looking for the chance to play it for real.


I'm puzzled by those who say it has "limited playability" until the expansions come out, as if the novelty of new factions is the only source of interest. It looks to me like there is a lot of room for the exploration of tactical possibilities, and for the pleasures of the implementation of that expertise once it has been acquired.
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Bill Hartman
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Since I play this primarily with my family right now, we play 1-2 games a night, maybe 2-3 nights a week. This game will last us a VERY Long time before we really start wishing there were more expansions, and the first expansion is right around the corner practically (March).

I also have an update regarding sleeves:

I used Ultra Pro 66mm x 91mm and they fit the cards perfectly. Also everything just fits back in the tray, and fills up the one side nicely. No more sliding cards when the box is set on it's side (which was a problem with unsleeved cards in the tray).

Using the clear ones, I just put the Ultra Pro hologram on the back of the cards, so it wouldn't interfere with anything. Cheapest way to go via local purchase (1.85 per 50 pack) and I was able to support a very small card shop in town instead of ordering online.

Still room for another set of 20 base cards and 8 more factions. Box definitely looks more full and feels heavier now...lol.

Edit: The thicker Ultra Pros were great on the cards. So much better than the "penny sleeves", which I used on "Legendary". Gonna eventually re-sleeve Legendary with the 66x91 Ultra pro quality sleeves. They really do fit nice in the Smash Up insert, and shuffle and handle well.

Edit 2: Played this with my Friday Night game group and they really enjoyed it. I figured as much, as they like direct interaction games and feeling like their choices matter. This game has worked for everyone, and that really surprised me with the family especially, as there is a good bit to pay attention too / follow in the game. This is by far the biggest "hit" over the past year from my game purchases, and I see this as being one of the true gems in my collection.
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