Paul Peterson’s Smash Up is a great deck building game published by Alderac Entertainment Group. This game involves each player picking two factions, and then mashing them together to try and create the winning combination and using them to score the most points. Players use their minions and actions to try and overthrow the base tiles and claim as many points as possible.
The base game comes with 8 factions, and each player must pick two of them. So this would mean a 4 player maximum with the base game and a whopping 28 possible deck combinations with the base game alone. This grows immensely if any expansion sets are added to the mix.
How To Play Smash Up!
Smash Up! is a fast paced card game where played mash together different “factions” to try and create a deck of cards that will net them the most victory points. With nearly endless possibilities for different faction combinations this game has some serious replay value.
The goal of this game, like many others, is to collect the most victory points. These are gained by scoring bases by overwhelming them with your minions and abilities. Whenever a base is overwhelmed with minions, it is scored and players gain points depending how much power they have on the base.
Setting Up the Game
The setup of this game can take a bit of time with all the shuffling, but will be well worth it and will become much quicker after players are used to it.
First is where players get to choose their factions. The way this is done is players roll a die or determine randomly who gets to go first. They pick 1 faction, and then the next player clockwise picks their faction. This continues until every player has one faction. After that the last player who picked gets to pick their second faction, and then turn goes in reverse order with each player getting their second faction and completing their deck. Now every must shuffle their factions together to randomize the order within their respective decks. Each player then draws 5 cards to make up their starting hand.
- If a player draws a hand with no minions they can opt to “mulligan”. They reveal their hand, discard it, and draw 5 new cards. This can only be done once per player per game.
After this the base deck is formed. This is done by combining all the bases from sets that are being used. So if no factions were chosen out of a specific expansion, the bases from that expansion shouldn’t be included either. Then shuffle the base deck and place it face down somewhere everyone can reach it. Once they are shuffled draw bases equal to the number of players plus one. So if there is 4 players playing, 5 bases would be drawn. Then place those bases face up on the board, those will be the starting bases.
Some expansions will require a few extra steps during setup. Such as shuffling the loot deck for the Munchkin expansion, or getting out the Madness cards for the Cthulhu expansion. This will all be detailed within the rules of that specific expansion.
Now just to determine who will be going first… All the different rule books to the different expansions give different criteria for who should be starting off the game. Such as “Whoever woke up the earliest this morning” or “Whoever had a birthday most recently”. It’s up to the players to choose which of these they want to go with, or if they don’t want to decide there’s always the tried and true method of rolling a die and letting the highest roller go first. From there turn order is clockwise.
Turns happen in three phases. The “Start Turn” phase, the “Play Cards” phase and the “Score Bases” phase.
Start Turn Phase
This phase is simple. Any thing that is meant to happen at the start of your turn happens here. If there’s no “start of turn” effects, this phase is simply skipped.
Start of turn effects can be found on a lot of specific cards, abilities and effects. They should state if this is the case.
Play Cards Phase
This is the real meat and potatoes of the gameplay. Where players will be playing their minions and actions to try and gain advantages and garner those sweet Victory Points. During any players Play Cards Phase they are allowed to play one minion and/or one action. Unless they play cards that allow them to play more minions and actions. It’s important to note that playing cards that allow you to play extra actions and minions do not stockpile, meaning they must be used this turn or are lost.
Using an Action
At the start of each Play Cards phase players are allowed to use one action card. These come in a large variety from buffing your minions, effecting bases, drawing cards, even allowing you to play more actions/minions on your turn. When playing an action it must be shown to all other players and then discarded (unless the card itself says otherwise, or is attached to a minion/base).
Placing a Minion
Whenever a player wants to play a minion they must choose which base on the board to play it on and then place it there, making sure to keep it separate from the opponents minions. Make sure to read the card and see if it has any effects that will activate as soon as it’s played.
Talents are abilities that belong to specific minions. They can be used once a turn and effect the game in a variety of ways.
Scoring Bases Phase
After the Play Cards Phase comes the last phase of a players turn, the Scoring Bases Phase. In this phase the player should count the total power on each base by adding up the power of each minion on it. If that power is higher or equal to that bases breakpoint, it is destroyed. First thing that will happen is any scoring abilities will be triggered, such as specific cards or effects that tell you to play before scoring.
Then the base is scored and players who have minions on the base are ranked based on how much power they have on the base. The player with the most, wins VPs equal to the number on the left. The player with the second most wins VPs equal to the number in the middle. The player with the third most wins VPs equal to the number on the right.
Ending the Game
After each turn, if any player has more than 15 VP and no player has tied them, they win the game.
Smash Up! Strategy
Due to the multiple different ways to play this game there is a lot of powerful factions. First and foremost the most important thing you can do is choose two factions that really work well together. Try to grab ones that work well with each other instead of two individually good factions. For example a faction that move enemies around and one that spawns enemies on a single space, would work very well together.
The one thing you need to keep in mind is the main goal of the game; Victory Points. You want to make sure you end up with the most Victory Points, so make sure when you are scoring a base you are not also giving a lot of points to the player in first place. For example if the player is about to take a base, and they are also in last place, that would be a good one to score because the player in last place isn’t typically the one to worry about and you’d rather them have points than the player(s) ahead of you.
Lastly the best thing you can do is just play the game. Learn the factions, which are powerful, which require good synergy, and what they all do. Knowing how other factions intend on winning will make it much easier to counter them and boost yourself. Plus taking a good look at the bases will give you an idea of which ones are worth taking and which simply aren’t worth the trouble.
As for specific factions that will help you win, Robots or Zombies are always powerful. If you can’t grab them or any other powerful solo factions, try to use ones that will help each other out. If you’re playing a faction that relies on a few specific cards, consider adding a faction that makes those cards come up faster or can retrieve them from the discard pile once played.
Smash Up is easily one of the best games on the market today in terms of replay value. Especially if you have any of the expansions. The large number of faction combinations and different strategies are what keep this game interesting.
On the flip side, some of the factions can feel pretty underwhelming and some can seem pretty powerful. This is largely because it’ll take some time to understand the game well enough to know how to counter specific powerful factions. For example some factions like Robots can feel very powerful and others like Innsmouth can feel very under-powered. But this can be countered by finding factions that work well with the lower powered ones and factions that counter the stronger ones.
When compared to other deck building games this one can often feel a bit lighter. There’s a bit more randomization than a lot of card games. Although the strategy can get pretty deep sometimes , often you just gotta draw the right cards. Which isn’t always a bad thing. The game itself is very well suited to multiple different groups of people. Kids love the gameplay and fun art style, and the more serious adult crowd can really dive into the finer strategies.
Smash Up! Expansions
The popularity of this game has garnered a lot of interesting expansions throughout the year, with many more in the works and even some promotional factions.
Awesome Level 9000
Awesome Level 9000 is the first of many Smash Up expansions. This one adds four new interesting and powerful factions. Bear Cavalry, Ghosts, Steampunk and Killer Plants.
- Bear Cavalry is exactly how it sounds, people riding bears. They lay down big creatures and move them around the board.
- Ghosts are well.. ghosts. They win by messing with hand sizes and benefiting when their player doesn’t have many cards themselves.
- Steampunk benefits from salvaging what they can out of bases and the discard pile.
- Killer plants slowly grow if left alone and quickly become too big to handle.
The Obligatory Cthulhu Expansion
In true modern board game fashion, there has to be a Cthulhu expansion. This set has 4 very unique factions, all of which revolve around the H.P. Lovecraft mythos. This also includes a number of “Madness” cards that subtract victory points but also have some special benefits with specific Cthulhu factions. The four new factions are Elderthings, Innsmouth, Minions of Cthulhu and Miskatonic University.
- The Elderthings are the big evil Lovecraftian monsters. They win with a combination of giant creatures and forcing the opponents to draw madness cards.
- Innsmouth are the curious people from a small fishing village. There are many of them but they are weak, but they will quickly overwhelm the oppont when they band together.
- Minions of Cthulhu are the devoted cultists that are hellbent in summoning their lord, Cthulhu. They’re quick to play actions, dig through the discard pile, and drive themselves mad.
- Miskatonic University are the students studying the occult. They play and manipulate Madness to gain various advantages.
Science Fiction Double Feature
For all the sci-fi nerds out there, this is the expansion you should be buying. This set has 4 brand new factions all based off of science fiction premises. The four new factions are Shape Shifters, Time Travellers, Cyborg Apes and Super Spies.
- Shape Shifters are people that can take the form of others. They succeed through destroying other minions and copying their abilities.
- Time Travellers are about as complicated and wacky as you’d expect. They cycle cards into their own deck to use later, as well as replaying actions and minions.
- Cyborg Apes are Apes that have found themselves some new robotic limbs. They boost other minions by playing actions on them that boost their power or grant them abilities.
- Super Spies are some futuristic well equipped saboteurs. Their gameplan is to sabotage their opponents decks and hands as well as going behind enemy lines and sneaking into bases.
The third official expansion focuses on classic movie monsters. This set introduces the ability to use the alternate use of VP tokens as +1 counters, which opens some new possibilities and strategies. There is four new factions in this expansion: Giant Ants, Mad Scientists, Vampires and Werewolves.
- Giant Ants are exactly what they sound like. Ants that are way bigger than they should be. This deck focuses on the use of +1 counters to turn their quick weak minions into powerful ones.
- Mad Scientists are the crazed people who spend their MD’s making new and exciting monsters. They manipulate +1 counters to boost their minions and destroy others.
- Vampires are the bloodsucking villains of the night. They win by draining the life out of enemy minions to gain power.
- Werewolves are the strong and unpredictable. They gain short power bursts where they can overwhelm the opponents, and gain even more power for destroying minions.
Pretty Pretty Smash Up
If ugly monsters and beasts aren’t really your thing, why not visit the other end of the spectrum with the Pretty Pretty Smash Up expansion? This set includes 4 new oddly-nice factions: Princesses, Fairies, Kitty Cats and Mythic Horses.
- Princesses are the spoiled yet powerful royalty of the land. They win through having some very strong minions and a lot of supporting actions and effects.
- Fairies are the little winged buddies here to spread magic and pixie dust. They primarily deal with effects and talents to weaken other minions.
- Kitty Cats are just as cute and cuddly as you’d guess. Despite their adorable demeanor they take control of and destroy the enemies.
- Mythic Horses are all the unicorns and magical beasts. They succeed through the power of friendship! By gaining strong effects when paired together.
Smash Up: Munchkin
If mashing up different factions wasn’t enough, try mashing different games entirely. This Smash Up expansion is by far the biggest and most expansive, combining Smash Up with another popular card game Munchkin. If there’s only one expansion you plan on buying in your lifetime, it should be this one. It boasts 8 new factions which allows it to be it’s own standalone game or add-on. Plus unique treasure and monster cards like the original Munchkin game.
- Clerics are the healers of the game. They revive cards from the discard pile while preventing others from ending up there.
- Dwarves are the little hoarders. They prosper by gaining as much treasure as they can and using it to their advantage.
- Elves are sneaky yet smart. They try to help other players and help themselves in the process.
- Halflings are the short faction with an unhealthy obsession with minions. They draw as many minions as they can and generally just stir things up.
- Mages are the powerful magic wielders. They use their powerful spells for a variety of different game changing effects.
- Orcs are the big dumb power houses. They win by simply beating up the opponents with sheer strength.
- Thieves are the clever narcissists of the world. They win by stealing other players cards and actions, as well as gaining treasures and Victory Points.
- Warriors are straight forward attackers. They simply want to play enough power worth of minions to break up the bases.
It’s Your Fault!
This is truly an expansion for the people. What sets this one apart is they let the community vote on which factions got to be included in this set, resulting in a fantastic array of 5 brand new factions. Dragons, Mythic Greeks, Sharks, Super Heroes and Tornados.
- Dragons are giant and powerful beasts. They break down bases while laying impressive minions.
- Mythic Greeks are the ancient heroes of Greek folklore. They win by utilizing their very powerful and godly actions.
- Sharks are uhh.. you know what sharks are. They feast on smaller minions to gain power.
- Super Heroes are what every comic book lover has dreamed of being since they were 6. This faction thrives through low power minions who can soon become much stronger.
- Tornados are naturally occurring whirls of wind. They simply move everything around the board. What else would a tornado do?
Cease and Desist
This set brings a number of factions that look oddly familiar. But don’t worry the box promises that they are totally unique and not at all loosely covered up versions of characters they like from Movies and TV Shows. This one includes 4 new factions; Astroknights, Changerbots, Ignobles and Star Roamers.
Astroknights are a group of galactic mercenaries. They win by drawing as many cards as possible to boost their power.
Changerbots are bots that can turn into vehicles. Their plan is for their minions to switch between power and useful abilities.
Ignobles are a group of wholly untrustworthy knights. They utilize the curious strategy of giving away their own minions for big benefits.
Star Roamers are a rag-tag group of galactic explorers. They use multiple cards together to manipulate the playing field and boost your minions.
What Were We Thinking?
This strange expansion seems to have no rhyme or reason. It’s simply four new factions, all with completely different style and strategies. For sure one of the most unique sets created to date. The four new factions are Teddy Bears, Explorers, Grannies and Rock Stars.
- Teddy Bears are cute, cuddly and deadly. They win by sneaking into bases and weakening their opposition.
- Explorers are a group of passionate adventurers. They succeed by knowing what’s coming and being able to place their minions on bases first.
- Grannies are the seemingly harmless old ladies. They are able to manipulate their own deck to achieve the perfect plays.
- Rock Stars are young and eccentric musicians. They gather on bases with high break points to take big rewards.
Big In Japan
For the lovers of Japanese culture there’s always the Big In Japan expansion. This set is sort of a nod to the major cultural influences that came from Japan in the past. In total there are 4 new factions in this set; Itty Critters, Kaiju, Magical Girls and Mega Troopers.
- Itty Critters are the adorable little creatures of the world. The idea of this deck is to overwhelm the opponents with a huge amount of tiny minions.
- Kaiju are the giant monsters that threaten Tokyo. They gain power through base actions and also wreak having on other players cards.
- Magical Girls are the wide eyed teens equipped with magic powers. They win by having multiple minions on the same spaces that boost each other.
- Mega Troopers are the ultimate fighting team bent on destroying evil. They have a good amount of special abilities that help them destroy minions and bases.
In addition to all the great expansions that exist for this game, there’s also a lot of smaller single faction or multi-faction promotions available.
The Big Geeky Box
This promo set is for those who deeply love this game. It includes all the factions of the base game with a much bigger and better organized box that will actually fit multiple expansions in it. Plus it comes with it’s own new faction, the Geeks!
Geeks are a bunch of nerds who love to keep things neat. They use their big brains to disrupt other peoples turns and ruin their plans.
All Star Event Kit
This event box is a little hard to get your hands on as it’s often only given to retailers for special promos. It features one new faction, the All-Stars who represent the 1996 original monster mash up, Space Jam.
This single Sheep faction was given away to those who completed the 2017 Smash Up Survey. They copy players actions as well as movie minions around with ease.
Upcoming Expansions and Promos
With great consistency AED has been releasing tons of smash up expansions and promos multiple times a year, with no signs of slowing down. Some of the upcoming titles include…
That 70’s Expansion
Due for release in the Spring of 2018, this expansion is all about 70s tropes. So for those 70s action movie fans out there this set is not to be missed. The factions to be included are Disco Dancers, Kung-Fu fighters, Truckers and Vigilantes.
The Bigger Geekier Box
Expected in June of 2018, this set is a followup to the previous “Big Geeky Box”. This re-release includes not only everything in the Big Geeky Box but also include the All-Stars faction and a full comprehensive rule-book that covers every set released.
Oops, You Did It Again
Much like the previous “It’s Your Fault!” expansion this one delivers a bunch of new factions based on popular vote-in. Hopefully it delivers the same home-run quality as the previous. This one is due for launch sometime in the Fall of 2018.