Saturday, May 11, 2013

RAWR HULK SMASH - Smash Up Review

Smash Up
  • Designed by Paul Peterson
  • Published by AEG
  • For 2-4 players (I prefer 3 or 4, but it works with 2) ages 10 and up.
  • Playtime is 45-60 minutes.  More people lead to slightly longer games, but the difference isn't that noticeable.
Combine two completely different decks of creatures (Ninjas, Aliens, Dinosaurs, Pirates, Zombies, Wizards, Tricksters, or Microbots)  in order to take over bases.  

Sample Faction Cards
(Image provided by the publisher)
On your turn, you may play 1 minion and 1 action from your hand.  Minions are played to bases, and they all have a strength value, which is used to determine if a base is "smashed."  Actions affect something in play, either a one time ability, or through lasting effects on minions or bases.  Minions are added to bases until the base's breakpoint is reached.  At that point, whoever has the highest minion strength receives 1st place points, second highest gets 2nd place points, and third gets 3rd.  The first player to get to 15 total points wins the game.

There is a great deal of interaction is Smash Up.  Many minions mess with the best laid plans of others.  The same goes for actions.  Some decks are more interactive than others, but every deck has the ability to mess with other players in some way.

Game in progress
Smash Up has a cool theme concept, and it carries it through reasonably well.  The different decks tend to behave in ways you'd expect from them.  For example, the Ninjas are very stealthy with some minions being able to join a base right before it scores.  The Aliens have a lot of cards that send other minions back to their owner's hand or deck.  All of these ideas make sense, but I feel like the theme could be more immersive.

One of the best game
storage boxes
Biggest complaint of Smash Up is that there is no way to keep score, so players have to use pen and paper, dice, or some form of counter.  Now, this isn't a huge drawback, but it is something that the game should have included from the start.  (Note that the expansion comes with victory point counters, so AEG did recognize and fix the problem.)  The cards are great, they shuffle easily.  All the artwork is fantastic and definitely enhances the theme.  Another complaint is that the game doesn't really have an easy way to organize all the minions on all the different bases.  In a 4 player game, there are 5 bases, potentially each with 4 different players' minions.  That's 25 piles of cards, which gets busy.
2 Sample bases

Learning Curve
Smash Up is fairly straight forward to learn, but it's not the most intuitive game to play well.  There is a fair bit of strategy when it comes to when and where to play minions.  Some of the actions have odd interactions so it really take a play or two to get some of these things down.

I've played it 8 times in the past 6 months and I'm enjoying it.  I'm not playing super often, but it still finds table time every so often.  If you play every game with 4 players, you use all the decks, so that could get old fast.  I've played all the decks at this point, but I haven't played every combination, or even seen every combination.  Each deck combination really does feel different, and presents unique challenges.

Why I like Smash Up
Discard and draw deck
It's a fun and random game.  There's a lot of variety with the different decks, and a lot of back and forth.  The game strikes a good balance between messing with people but not destroying all their plans.  There's a natural balance built in because players will start ganging up against whoever is ahead.

Why I don't like Smash Up
The game can often take longer than I feel it should.  It's not that the end drags on, it's more that the start of the game takes a long time, then some bases score, then it takes a long time for more to score.  This is probably still a feature of new players, but it's a pattern I'm seeing repeatedly, and it makes me a little weary.

I like Smash Up but I don't love it.  I enjoy playing it, but it's probably never going to be in my Top 42.  It has a lot of room for expansions, which is great for variety, but it can also result in a power creep.  I'm not planning on getting rid of Smash Up any time soon, but it wouldn't surprise me if I got rid of it at some point.

Would it be a good game for Tabletop?
I think it could be interesting on Tabletop, but I don't know that it would be a big enough hit.  There's intrigue in the game, and several moments of tension, but a lot of the game is played in the heads of the players, which is why Dominion will never be on Tabletop.

Want to buy the game? Here's a link to Amazon, and you'll help support BoBG.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April 2013 Recap

Another 30 days and a new month.

April was a mixed bag of gaming.
I played 21 games in 30 days, hence falling behind, but I figured this would happen.    That brings the YTD total to 111/365.  I played 3 games for the first time this year, which brings me up to 44/100.  I also got to play with 2 new people, bringing that count to 28/50.  I'm confident that all of those numbers will be going up in May.

Just a quick list of what I actually played in April.

5 Times

  • X-Wing

4 Times
  • Cosmic Encounter
  • King of Tokyo
1 Time
  • Aton
  • Eclipse
  • Fleet
  • For Sale
  • Jaipur
  • No Thanks
  • Smash Up
  • Star Trek: Fleet Captains
  • Survive: Escape From Atlantis

I acquired no new games in April. I did pick up the wonder pack for 7 Wonders, but I haven't had a chance to play it yet.  There are some things on my radar, but I think I'm waiting for Gencon releases to get anything new.

Looking ahead to May, my gaming should see a slight uptick.  Game group on Mondays should be going stronger since summer is starting to hit.  I've been invited to a biweekly game night on Fridays, so that will be great to meet new people.  My sister is graduating college, so she'll be around for games more often, which is great for family time.

Until next time, thanks for reading.