It’s a double feature! I told you to prepare for extra geekiness while I was off work! Following on from discussing one of my absolute favourites of the board gaming world, I’m going to bring to you a little feature on a more recent acquisition, Smash Up!
I feel like I could get into trouble for sounding snooty or elitist when I talk about games sometimes. It’s never my intent, but it just kinda happens, because I refer to games like Runebound or Arkham Horror as “serious games”, implying that other stuff just isn’t serious enough for me. Nothing could be further from the truth! To some extent or other, I love all games – it’s not always about the bits on the table or the cards in my hand, it’s about getting together with friends and having a whole ton of fun. But I also play games for escapism, and sometimes I want a depth of involvement that can’t be obtained from anything but a four hour trek through the wilds of Terrinoth or the streets of Arkham. But as much as I would call myself a “serious gamer”, I don’t mean that in terms of a serious attitude to gaming, sat at the table with a poker-straight face all through the game. Games are about having fun, and even my four-hour escapist fight against the Dragon Lords fulfills that! But all of this apart, some games are light, easy to play, and are an absolute riot to play, and Smash Up is one of the best of this category!
The basic premise is simple. At the start of the game, you pick two factions from a fabulous array of classic archetypes such as zombies, aliens, ninjas, pirates, etc. You shuffle the two decks to form your draw deck, and you draw five cards. The game also has one of my favourite methods of determining first player – rather than the usual roll-off or “pick randomly”, the person who woke up earliest that day goes first! Awesome! The object of the game is to score 15 victory points, which you gain by smashing up a procession of bases. Base cards are fought over between the players by playing minion cards at them: each base can only take so much smashing, and when the total minion strength matches the base’s breaking point, the person with the most strength there wins that base (some bases give the runners-up victory points as well). As well as minions, you can also play event cards, which can alter the gameplay in various ways.
In the above picture, my alien ninjas are currently counting 9 strength, against the Mushroom Kingdom’s breaking point of 20. When there is a total of 20 strength at this base, if I have the most minion-strength there I will score 5 victory points, and any runners-up will score 3 and 2 respectively. You can also see that minions have special abilities, usually allowing you to shift minions around to foul up your opponents’ strategies.
My opponent – playing the steampunk killer plants – is stretched between two bases, playing the long game… urgh, I don’t mean to sound like some sort of tactician or something. There is no hint of derogation intended here – this game is fast, fun and simple, and that’s all there is to it! You can take a tactical view and try to work out where best to play minions and whatnot, but to be honest, the game itself almost fights against such a manner. AEG have made the entire thing so utterly tongue-in-cheek that it laughs at itself. The rules booklet is, itself, hilarious to read through. The fact that the expansions are called “Awesome Level 9000” and “The Obligatory Cthulhu Set” are further proof that you aren’t supposed to take this game seriously! If ever there was a game so completely designed to have you in hysterics at the game table (or, indeed, rolling around on the floor), it’s this one.
I was chuckling a bit too much when taking that photo above. I mean – alien ninjas! Steampunk killer plants! It’s all just entirely too whimsical – and I love it for it!
There’s not a lot else to say about the game, really. It’s just really, really fun, and definitely one of those games that will lighten the day after something gruelling like Horus Heresy or something. It’s pretty cheap to pick up on amazon, too, so you should really investigate! To persuade you further, here’s Wil Wheaton playing the game on his awesome show, Tabletop. Enjoy!