Nov 142012

Take two decks of cards. Smash them together via shuffling. Blow up places with your mad super powers. The one who blows up stuff the best wins the game. That’s Smash Up. It’s a cute little card game that’s all about taking broad genre stereotypes, pairing them up, and then wrecking havoc. It’s fun stuff.

And no, this isn’t a Japanese game. I just used the Japanese cover because it’s cool.

The game’s simple and straight-forward. You pick two decks of twenty cards. Each deck’s theme is based around a lot of those tropes people like to argue about online. You can have those mortal enemies, Pirates and Ninjas, team up together. You can have Dinosaurs fighting alongside Harry Potter-like Wizards. You can combined the Robot and Zombie apocalypses into a single deck. Maybe you’re favorite movies are Mars Attacks and Leprechaun in the Hood, so you can have the Martians and Gnomes gang up. So yeah, all those inane arguments you’ve heard online have coalesced into a single card game, and you can determine who kicks the most ass.

You pick two of these decks. You shuffle them together. You draw a hand of five cards. Each turn, you play one Minion card and one Action card. At the end of your turn you draw two more cards.

The meat of the game comes from what happens when you play those two cards per turn. The Minions are used to attack “Bases.” These Bases are various locations you’d expect these factions to come from. There’s a mall similar to the one from Dawn of the Dead. There’s a Martian home world. There’s a Mushroom Kingdom for the Gnomes and a Caribbean port for the Pirates. Each of these bases have a “break point.” Once the total Power of all of the Minions attacking each base equals or exceeds the Bases break point, the base is destroyed. The dude who has the most Power from his Minions gets first place and so on down to third place. Each of these players gets a certain amount of points, with first place usually getting the most points. So yeah, break Bases, get points, whoever hits 15 points first wins.

What makes all of this tricky are the Action cards and the powers each Minion possesses. Most Minions have some sort of power. Most of these trigger when the Minion is played. Maybe you have a Pirate or Ninja who kills another Minion of a certain Power level or lower, representing that Minion blasting or ninja staring someone else. Maybe you have a Robot that allows you to play an additional Minion, since it’s a self-replicating robot of doom. Other Minions have abilities that trigger in other ways. A lot of the Gnomes have “fuck you” abilities that hurt anyone who messes with them, like forcing an opponent to discard random cards if the affect those Minions.

The Action cards work in a similar way, giving you an extra cool power to use each turn without playing a Minion, and these Actions tend to play up the themes of each faction. Dinosaurs tend to pump their raw Power since they’re big fucking dinosaurs with lasers and power armor. Wizards are all about gaining extra cards and playing extra cards to represent summoning magic and the like. Pirates kill stuff and move from base to base, to represent their boats sailing around. Ninjas kill stuff and allow you to switch out cards, representing diversionary tricks. Martians have a lot of things that mess around with opponents’ Minions (killing, placing back in your hand, placing on the bottom of a deck) to mimic abductions and death rays. Zombies are all about recursion, bringing the dead back from their discard pile. Gnomes can lay traps on Bases, like boxes of Unlucky Charms that’ll kill the next Minion to be played on that base. Robots have very few Action cards, and instead have lots of small Minions that allow you to play extra Minions depending on the circumstances.

Yeah, this is very much a “take that” sort of game. You’re trying to get points by breaking Bases, but half the fun is screwing over your opponents by playing to your factions strengths. If you’re a Ninja, you can play a Disguise card, revealing that your Gremlin was actually a Kunoichi in disguise, and she kills your opponent’s Pirate King. You break a Base and you came in third place, but since you’re a Pirate you had a card in your hand that let your Pirates sail away to rape and pillage another Base, allowing you to get first place there in addition to getting the points for third place on the previous Base. Someone managed to kill your T-Rex, but he’s actually a ZOMBIE T-Rex since you had a Zombie card that allows you to bring back a dead card in your discard pile.

This is the sort of game where I don’t really care if I win or lose so long as I get to pull off some ridiculous story combo. Those are my favorite sorts of games, especially when they have laser dinos. Laser. Dinos.

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