Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Smash Up, by Paul Peterson

In the past few nights I hung out with friends, they whipped out a game that I was not acclimated with: Smash-Up. Up until recently I wasn't able to play a full game with them to conclusion, however when I decided to spent a day with them, they asked me to pick up two expansions before arriving for them: Awesome Level 9000 and The Obligatory Cthulhu Set.

So being the relative newbie of the trio, I agreed to play the base game with the Awesome Level 9000 expansion with each of us taking one faction from the expansion set and one faction from the core set.

But I am getting ahead of myself...

What is Smash-Up?

Well, Smash Up is a "shufflebuilding" game with the following premise:
Take the twenty-card decks of two factions, shuffle them into a forty-card deck, then compete to smash more Bases than your opponents! Each faction brings a different game mechanism into play – pirates move cards, zombies bring cards back from the discard pile, dinosaurs have huge power – and every combination of factions brings a different play experience.
The factions that can be found in the base game include:
- Pirates
- Ninja
- Zombies
- Robots
- Dinosaurs
- Wizards
- Tricksters
- Aliens

Some of the above factions enforce movement of other players' cards or of themselves. Some factions have strong action / abilities, while others twist the nature of game play to their advantage... the list goes on.

From the experience of my friends, favored pairings include:
- Robots + Zombies
- Tricksters + Ninjas

I can't really explain how they work so well except it was virtual poetry in motion or as a friend of mine would say: "there are some factions that just synergize well with others". However, I would take that a step further and say that how a pairing works is also dependent on the game style of the player.

Each player is allowed to place one minion on a base and play one action. Minions can score points towards "activating" a base. Each based as a point value attached and once reached would distribute "victory points" to the players in first, second and third place.

However there are some minions and actions that when played would allow the player to play additional minions and actions. Thus allowing the player to rack up points on a base.

When playing the various minions or actions there are a few key terms to keep in mind:
  • Affect: cards that are affected have been moved, returned, destroyed or has an action attached
  • Destroy: when a card is destroyed the destroyed card goes into the owner's discard pile.
  • Move: this allows you to move a card from one base to another
  • Ongoing: these abilities are continuous for whatever long the card is in play
  • Special: these cards' abilities are played at a particular time or in a particular way and as thus should be kept an eye on
Since the win condition is to reach 15 "victory points", a quick glance of bases shows point values anywhere between zero (0) and five (5) points... 

The 22 is minimum point value needed for the base to be
activated and players could score. The 5 - 3 - 2 indicates
the victory points distributed to players with the
first -  second - third most minion points on the base.
Scoring on the bases is dependent on the point value of the total minions a player has on the base once the total points of the base has been achieved.


Then take a look at the 

What I noticed is that with multiple bases in play and players attempting to score as quickly as possible among all bases, strategy is key here. Some players focus on one base at a time, others spread their minions across all bases.

Some bases have special abilities that occur during game play, others have abilities that affect future movement of minions on other bases.

It is definitely key to not only understand the cards in your hand, but also the bases on the table in order to maximize usage.

Between myself and my friends there is a lot of hardcore counter attacking between us. If one player were to block another player... we were almost certain that the gesture would be made in kind down the road. 

There is also a bit of strategy involved, when looking at one's hand and finding ways to maximize the abilities of the cards, or perhaps choosing to pass one turn in hopes of having a better hand next time.

This was a very fun game and one that I'll definitely poke at my friends to play again since they own the game and I do not (yet). When added with the expansions - in our case the Awesome Level 9000 - there was more variety and depth involved and game styles changed a little when we attempted to use a new faction with an old faction.

Some pairings were hits, some were misses, and some would work but the cards just weren't coming. Case in point: The first round I played Wizards and Steampunks and did rather well... the next round my friend chose Steampunks with another faction, but found that he wasn't getting the cards that I was getting when I first played. So a lot of that was luck of the draw.

Easy to learn, and fun to play... this I would definitely consider adding into my game closet despite my friends already owning a copy of the game.

Marianya is in the running for a spot in the "jack of all trades" club. By day she is an electrical engineer, by night the sky's the limit. You can find her on Twitter at @marianya or learn more about her at her website: Dancing Through the Universe.

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