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Smash Up

This post was last updated on November 25th, 2023

Smash Up article cover image

Smash Up is a board game with whom I grew up.
I have been playing board games since I was very young, but it’s only when I discovered Smash Up, and a few others, that this hobby became more consistent in my life.

It was autumn 2013, I was in my local comics store and this game was kind of on everyone’s mouth at that time. Therefore we decided to try that out and the outcome was incredible!
The idea of picking up 2 completely different factions, smashing them up to create a unique deck and go on a mission to destroy bases was the most simple idea ever, but at the same time almost revolutionary for us.

My first pick was Dinosaurs-Ninjas. It was a disaster, due to my bad management of Ninjas’ cards.
But from that day we kept playing Smash Up every couple of weeks and it became one of the favourite board games in my group of friends.

To keep the game always fresh and not let the boredom kicking in, we also started buying every new pack of the Smash Up expansions. Something that I highly recommend to anyone!
FYI playing Smash Up in Italy really sucked. We had to wait for ages before the expansions were translated, so from “It’s Your Fault” we bought them in English.

As of today, in 2021, I play Smash Up with those friends very rarely, mostly because I moved abroad and I see them every 4-5 months. But when I come back home and we organize a game night, Smash Up is always there waiting for us.

I hope to have aroused your curiosity about this board game. If so, keep reading!


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How To Play Smash Up

Smash up is a “shufflebuilding” board game where players create their own army by combining 2 factions, in order to crash enemy bases and be the first to reach 15 victory points (VP).
If you always wished to see Dinosaurs and Zombies fighting against each other or controlling an army of Wizards and Robots, this is the game for you!

Set up

Each player creates their army by choosing 2 different factions.
A simple way to determine each player’s combination is to place all factions in the centre and, after deciding who will go first, following a clockwise order each player will pick 1 faction; once everybody has their first choice, the last one will now be the first to choose their second choice.

An alternative way of choosing the factions is to randomize the whole process by turning the factions’ cards face down and let the fate choose for you.

Once each player has decided, the bases of all the chosen factions are gathered and shuffled: the base deck is now created.
Draw as many bases as the number of players plus one; place them in the centre of the table with enough space between one another, so that there’s room to play cards around them.
Throughout the game, the number of bases on the table will always be the same as once a base explodes it will be replaced by a new one.

Now it’s time for each player to create their own deck by shuffling the chosen factions. Then draw the first 5 cards from the top, these will be the players’ first hand at the start of the game. In the unlucky event that one player hasn’t drawn any minions, he/she will have to reveal all the cards, shuffle them again in the deck and draw another 5 cards.
This rule can only be applied once per game by each player.

Turns

Once determined which player will start (you can use your preferred method), the others will follow in clockwise order.

During each turn, one minion and/or one action (or neither) from the player’s hand can be played in any order; It’s not mandatory to play both types of cards.
If one of these cards triggers an extra minion and/or action, that can be used at any time and in any order (even before the minion/action that the player has in his/her hand).
“Play an extra minion/action” is always optional, even if there’s no “you may”.

Minions can be placed on whichever Base; some might have abilities and each time a minion is played there, that ability takes place.

At the end of the turn, each player draws 2 cards.
No more than 10 cards are allowed on each players’ hand, if this happens that player needs to discard down to 10 cards. This doesn’t occur if a player draws cards in other players’ turn.

Score Bases

A Base is ready to crash when the total power on that base is higher or equal to its breakpoint during the player’s turn; this includes the total power of each players’ cards placed on that base (either minion or other cards).

Once a Base “explode”, all cards (minions and actions) on the scoring Base go to the discard pile simultaneously and a new Base is drawn.

There might be some card abilities that activate when the Base is scoring or after this step.

In Smash Up all these terminologies are very important as they define when an ability can be triggered. Read carefully! 😉

A player must have at least one minion on the Base (even if they have a 0 total power) to be eligible to receive victory points, which are awarded based on their rank.
The victory points (VP) are awarded based on the total power of the minions that each player has placed there.
These points are determined by the numbers shown on the Base, from left to right according to their rank (only the first 3 players are awarded).

The first player that reaches 15 VPs is the winner!


Factions Overview

Smash up board game - Aliens

ALIENS: the core mechanic of this faction revolves around the ability to return other players’ minions to their hands. They also have a very unique minion, Invader, which gives you 1 VP every time is played. Pair Aliens with the right faction and you can’t lose!
Cards examples:

  • Abduction
    Return a minion to its owner’s hand. Play an extra minion.
  • Invader
    Power 3 – Gain 1 VP.

Suggested pairings base game: Zombies, Robots, Tricksters and Ninjas.
Suggested pairings expansions: Star Roamers, Shapeshifters, Time Travelers and Killer Plants.


DINOSAURS: primitive beasts with technological lasers? I want them now! The power of this faction is their strength… quite the opposite actually, the strength of this faction is their power! Yes, very simple gameplay mechanic, power, power and power.
Cards examples:

  • King Rex
    Power 7 – (no ability)
  • Augmentation
    One minion gains +4 power until the end of your turn.

Suggested pairings base game: Tricksters, Ninjas, Wizards and Zombies.
Suggested pairings expansions: Dragons, Star Roamers, Bear Cavalry, Musketeers and Cyborg Apes.


Smash up board game - Ninja

NINJAS: they are specialized in sneaking around, hidden in their shadow, and then appearing at the last second before a base scores. They also have minions able to destroy other players’ ones.
Cards examples:

  • Shinobi
    Power 3 – Special: Before a base scores, you may play this minion there. You can only use one Shinobi’s ability per base.
  • Ninja Master
    Power 5 – You may destroy a minion on this base.

Suggested pairings base game: Robots, Pirates, Zombies and Tricksters.
Suggested pairings expansions: Werewolves, Bear Cavalry, Star Roamers and Super Spies.


PIRATES: this faction’s core mechanic is moving their minions from base to base and destroying opponents’ weak minions. In certain cases, their minions can move to another base instead of going to the discard pile.
Cards examples:

  • Broadside
    Destroy all of one player’s minions of power 2 or less on a base where you have a minion
  • First Mate
    Power 2 – Special: After this base is scored, you may move this minion to another base instead of the discard pile.

Suggested pairings base game: Robots, Zombies and Tricksters.
Suggested pairings expansions: Steampunks, Bear Cavalry, Killer Plants, Dragons and Fairies.


Smash up board game - Robots

ROBOTS: this faction focuses on playing multiple minions on the same turn, allowing you to create long concatenations that, most of the time, end with breaking a base.
Cards examples:

  • Microbot Fixer
    Power 1 – If this is the first minion you played this turn, you may play an extra minion. Ongoing: Each of your Microbots gains +1 power.
  • Microbot Alpha
    Power 1 – Ongoing: Gains +1 power for each of your other Microbots. All of your minions are considered Microbots.

Suggested pairings base game: Zombies, Wizards and Tricksters.
Suggested pairings expansions: Innsmouth, Mythic Horses, Rock Stars, Itty Critters and Magical Girls.


TRICKSTERS: perfect faction if you want to be hated by the opponents. As the name says, Tricksters are experts at sabotaging others players with annoying restrictions.
Cards examples:

  • Leprechaun
    Power 5 – Ongoing: After another player plays a minion here with less power than this minion’s power, destroy it (resolve its ability first)
  • Block the Path
    Play on a base and name a faction. Ongoing: Minions of that faction cannot be played here.

Suggested pairings base game: Aliens, Robots, Zombies and Pirates.
Suggested pairings expansions: Elder Things, Vampires, Kitty Cats, Truckers, and Sharks.


Smash up board game - Wizards

WIZARDS: Wizards are specialized in drawing lots of extra cards and playing multiple actions per turn.
Cards examples:

  • Archmage
    Power 4 – Ongoing: You may play an extra action on each of your turns.
  • Mystic Studies
    Draw two cards.

Suggested pairings base game: Zombies, Tricksters, Robots and Dinosaurs.
Suggested pairings expansions: Time Travelers, Kaiju, Mythic Greeks, Cyborg Apes and Mythic Horses.


ZOMBIES: these undeads are incredibly powerful because their core mechanic revolves around reviving minions from their discard pile, which acts basically like a second hand. Destroying their minions won’t stop them!
Cards examples:

  • Grave Digger
    Power 4 – You may place a minion from your discard pile into your hand.
  • They’re Coming To Get You
    Play on a base. Ongoing: On your turn, you may play a minion here from your discard pile instead of from your hand.

Suggested pairings base game: any faction of the base game.
Suggested pairings expansions: Mythic Horses, Ghosts, Samurai, Elder Things and Luchadors.



Conclusion

Smash Up is a fantastic board game that could easily become one of your favourites if you’re into card games.

It involves a little bit of warm-up if it’s the first time you play a faction, but the learning curve is not too steep.
It’s also quite easy to teach to kids, which makes it a good game for families.

With 8 unique factions and 28 possible pairings, the value of the box is very high. You’ll be able to play a lot of matches without feeling bored. It’s incredible the work AEG has put into creating a unique playstyle for each faction!

When you tried all the combinations you could think about getting some of the Smash Up expansions; There are tons of new factions available at a reasonable price!
This game box comes with space for 9 additional factions, so it won’t be difficult to store some of the additional ones you might buy.

Watch out though, buying those expansions will quickly become addictive.

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Smash Up
  • Takes about an hour to play
  • “Shufflebuilding” card game
  • Shufflebuilding card game

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