Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Board games: Smash Up

Smash Up is a relatively new card game I got to play last weekend.  Requires 2-4 players (preferably 3-4), takes about an hour, depending how long people spend thinking about moves.

There are 8 factions of cards to choose from (indicated by the little drawing on the bottom right corner): robots, ninjas, pirates, wizards, dinosaurs, aliens, tricksters, and zombies.  To start the game, each player picks two factions, and shuffles them together to create his or her custom deck: for example, I played zombie robots.  Each faction has certain strengths and a certain theme to the game play which mean they're best played in slightly different ways.  Faction cards may be either Minions, or Actions.

In addition to the faction decks, there are bases.  The goal of the game is to gain victory points, which you obtain primarily by capturing bases (there are a couple cards that can directly award a point here and there too, but they seem rare).  Four bases are randomly chosen and laid out to start the game.  Each base has a strength number that indicates how much power is required to capture it (top left) as well as three point values indicating how many victory points are awarded when it's captured.  The first number is what the person who contributed the most points to the capture gets, the second and third numbers go to the second and third contributors.  As shown in the examples below, the first place is USUALLY the most points, but not necessarily always.  Each base also has text describing its specific special properties.

Play progresses as each player in turn can play minions or actions against a base.  You get to play one minion and one action each turn, unless the cards or the base tell you to do otherwise (which they often do).  Each minion has a certain amount of power points associated with it.  Once the sum of the minions' power equals is enough to capture the base, the cards are totaled up to determine which player won the base (whoever has most power there) and who got which victory points, then the base is removed from play and a new one replaces it.

First player to reach 15 victory points wins the game.  Simple!  But the fact your deck is different every time depending which factions you pick makes each game very variable.  We found some faction combinations felt better than others (Ninjas and Tricksters seemed a little too similar in function to combine well for example) but both games we played were extremely close in score which indicates it's surprisingly well balanced considering all the multiple variations possible.  I really liked the fun factions, the simple rules, and the many variations that combining the two factions can create in each game.

More good news: there's already an expansion planned adding 4 new factions, and the original box has plenty of extra space leaving lots of room for those expansions!

1 comment:

  1. I haven't tried that one, though it's piqued my interest.

    I have Tooth N'Nail: Factions, and in it you each play a faction, all animal based. There's dinosaurs, vultures, rodents, the pride, and I forget what else.

    There's also alternate/variant rules that come with it, for mixing/drafting together a couple factions into one deck, and playing that way.

    It's not quite the funky combos of aliens and pirates and such, but the abilities the factions have seem to really make sense for them. This is game isn't balanced down to a T every faction vs. every faction, they didn't want it so balanced the factions felt the same. Some factions will do a little better against others, and some worse. So much of it, though, is making the most of what they do, whichever angle(s) of that faction's playstyle you want to use to your advantage.

    My husband was the Enrodenta the other day, and when it was over, it felt like (in a good way, heh, if one can say that about rats) like I had been overrun and overwhelmed by the Enrodenta.

    Anyway, the two games are rather different, but the notions of mixing the factions up are there in both games. I thought I'd mention it!