Imagine a world in which every nerd trope came to life and then battled for world supremacy. Aliens are zapping ninjas, while pirates fight dinosaurs. Technology meets magic when clever robots battle perhaps even more clever wizards. Zombies, why don't you just stay dead? And you Tricksters, stop being so... tricky (trickish?)! As if that scenario weren't awesome enough in and of itself, now try imagining a world where two of those teamed up together to defeat their opponents. Aliens are teleporting in pirates, while ninjas ride dinosaurs into battle. Imagine no more, because you have just entered the world of Smash Up.
Smash Up is a deck-building card battler game, where 2 to 4 players take two of the aforementioned factions' decks and shuffle them together, creating a team up nerds can only dream of. You want Zombie Ninjas? Done. You want Robot Pirates? Say no more. You want the Aliens to return the Dinosaurs, you know, the ones they kidnapped from the Cretaceous Period? It's all here in this game.
Once a deck is built, players take it in turns to play minions from their hand on bases or to play actions that mess with their opponent's or their own cards. Each minion has Power, and once enough Power is present on a base, the base will "break" and points will be scored based on how much Power each player has present at the base. The first one to score 15 points wins.
And that's it. Review over.
Oh, you're still here? Alright... I guess I can talk a bit more...
Scoring 15 points may sound easy, but basically every card has some sort of text on it that messes with the game in some way. And all of the special abilities are unique and highly suited to a particular faction's deck. Ninjas, for example, have many cards and minions that allow them to sneak in just at the last minute and snatch victory from their opponents. Zombies keep coming back out of the discard pile to flood bases with minions you thought were long gone. Robots excel at laying down huge combos of minions at a time, while Wizards are masters of getting to play more cards than is normally allowed. Each deck has a specific strategy involved, and they all combine with each other beautifully. Robot Wizards, for example, would be able to take advantage of the Robot's ability to lay down a lot of minions at once. Couple that with the Wizard's ability to gain more actions and you've got a combo that will be throwing cards like a spastic magician.
As you can imagine, the deck's minions and abilities are all perfectly themed. Pirate minions have names like First Mate and Buccaneer, while Aliens are of course armed with their infamous Probe. I'll leave you to guess what kind it is. And the artwork on each card is absolutely phenomenal. Sometimes I forget to play just because I'm staring at the gorgeous hand I have in front of me. Oh, and also because of how gorgeous the cards in that hand are as well. I use a lot of lotion to make my hands so gorgeous. I mean, just look at these cards!
LOOK AT THEM MORE!
You've stopped looking at them... sigh...
This game is easy enough to pick up, though it helps to have someone who has played once before when it comes to breaking bases, as they can get pretty crowded sometimes, and the exact timing of when a base scores versus when you have to stop playing on it can confuse a newcomer. Also, and I don't think I need to say this but this is the internet, four year olds could be reading this blog, you need a comprehension of basic math and the ability to not short circuit your brain when confronted with a bunch of numbers that need adding up. It may sound strange to say, but the Power of minions tends to fluctuate. This minion gets +2 power for every other minion, and this one gets +1 Power when it is the opponent's turn, and this minion gets +7 Power when Tom plays it because he's the best and maybe that last card doesn't exist, but you get the point.
Last, I want to bring up one more thing about this game that I love, and it is a highly underrated aspect of games nowadays unfortunately. I remember once when I looked forward to reading the instruction manual of a video game almost as much as playing the game itself. Instruction manuals used to tell us more than just the rules of the game. They added something to the experience, whether it was humor, a bit of extra story or flavor, or more beautiful artwork to oggle. Smash Up's instruction book is all these things. It is extremely well written, with an eye for comedy wherever possible, yet it explains everything in enough detail to, like a warm blanket, cover it but not smother it.
While this review glows like the eye of an IRS agent at tax time, I do have one gripe with the game, and that is a lack of scorekeeping apparatus. What, Smash Up? You're throwing all these numbers at us to add up, his Power, her Power, this that and the other thing? And now we've got to remember how many points we have? How dare you! Thankfully, this can be solved by an app that is available. Or pennies. Or your fingers and one set of toes. Or just your fingers for those of you who are mutants.
14/15 Victory Points. Would probe this game again.