Tag Archives: Smash Up

Breakout – Smash Up review

Everywhere you look there’s deckbuilding games coming out of the walls. They’re all over the place and seemingly every company has either got one (or more) out or has one on the way. AEG, no stranger to deckbuilders themselves thanks to the rather splendid Thunderstone, have noticed this and are now dipping their toe in a slightly different stretch of water – something called “shufflebuilding”. It’s quick. It’s dirty. It’s Smash Up.

The premise is simple; score points by dominating various bases by playing Minions and Actions from your hand of cards – once a base’s defence level has been equalled or surpassed by the total power of the Minions attached to it, you work out who scores what. Decks are created by taking two different factions from the available eight, each of which is made up of twenty cards and represents a different and much beloved internet trope. Shuffle your now forty-card deck and you’ve got your tools of destruction which could be Robot Ninjas, Zombie Dinosaurs or something else equally curious.

Three Minions, all ready to start smashing stuff up.

Each faction attempts to reflect their “real world” powers through their cards – Zombies, for example, have an annoying tendancy of being retrieved from the discard pile, while the Aliens destroy everything that moves as they attempt to dominate everything. However, a faction’s abilities aren’t limited just to its brethren – Trickster Zombies will be able to resurrect leprechauns as well as the undead – and here’s where one of the fun bits of Smash Up comes in. Working out the combinations and seeing who works best with who, as well as which matches you utterly hate, will take you plenty of time. With so much potential for expansion – and you know there will be more Smash Up soon. Just look at the box with all of its tantalisingly empty slots craving more decks – it feels like the game is already here to stay.

Gameplay couldn’t be simpler – initially, anyway. Every turn allows you to play a card of each kind from your hand, Minion and Action, then draw two more from your stack. Run out of cards and you shuffle the discard pile, ready to begin again. The trick comes in to using the many abilities that you’ll find on the cards. That basic “play a couple of cards” rule can soon mutate into something a lot bigger as you manage to chain together card after card, laying out more and more and more. You’ll destroy opposition Minions, remove ongoing enemy Actions and – with a bit of decent play – soon wonder where the hell all your cards went.

Another thing to consider is that each Base also has its own ability that will encourage players to approach it in different ways. Some are simple enough – whoever has the largest presence scores the highest, for example. Some are trickier, such as the Mall where Victory Points are handed out for every Minion present instead of rewarding whoever is in control (and it’s particularly lucrative if you’ve got lots of low value creatures to get rid of). Others are just plain mean, invoking destruction aplenty and offering lots of opportunity for screwage if you don’t pay attention.

Once the number in the top left (the Defence) has been equalled or bettered, it’s time to score. The most dominant would get five points, next three, third two… the lowly fourth player will get nowt!

Once someone hits the magic fifteen points, everything’s over – then it’s time to separate the decks and fire it up all over again, because that’s the kind of game this is. Like I said earlier, it’s quick and dirty fun that shouldn’t to be taken too seriously and is filled with utter glorious ridiculousness. Even novice players will get into it in next to no time, though it does take a while to get your head around the huge array of powers you’ll find yourself holding at the start of each turn. Give it a couple of games and things start to click, then the fun really starts as everyone throws themselves into being as confrontational as possible.

It’s pretty obvious that I really do enjoy this game, but there’s one major thing missing: there’s no way to keep track of how much you’ve scored. Sure, this doesn’t matter if you’re a proper nerd who has a pot of glass beads to keep a tally (ahem) but not everyone is as organised (or tragic) as that. Once a base is scored, the card is discarded and you have to scribble down who gained what. It feels like a bit of an oversight – when you’re throwing cards out all over the place, it can be very easy to forget exactly how much you’ve scored and if you’re playing this with kids (a perfect audience for Smash Up) there’s always the chance that they’ll be… well, less than truthful. Perhaps there’s a chance there’ll be tokens or cards in the upcoming expansion, but for now make sure you’ve at least got a pencil and paper handy.

Also, sadly, it doesn’t feel as much fun if you’re only playing with two. I’m the kind of person who normally loves the whole “beating up on the other player” shtick, but for some reason, Smash Up just doesn’t feel the same as when you’re facing off against two or three other people. Perhaps it’s the fact that you get more of a sense of satisfaction when you’re smacking more people down, but yeah… with two, I’m not really feeling it.

Aside from those minor issues, Smash Up is pretty damn good. It’s also very well produced for a simple card game – excellent card stock with great artwork throughout – and the rules are so straightforward it can be explained in minutes. Those who suffer from Analysis Paralysis may not be the best opponents to sit down against as they’ll invariably spend every turn attempting to work out their optimal play, but if you’re looking for a fun and light gameplay experience mixed in with some properly nasty moments, this is certainly one to seek out – just make sure you’ve got at least three people sitting around the table!

Smash Up was designed by Paul Peterson and should be available from your local game store now. Between two and four can play and games will take between thirty and forty-five minutes. It’s published by AEG and will set you back around £24, but you can pick it up from Gameslore for £18.99.

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It’s the (second) most wonderful time of the year…

Oh yes indeed – GenCon is nearly here! The USA’s best board games show is approaching once again, kicking off this Thursday for four days of gaming in Indianapolis, Indiana. Once again it’ll be stacked with the usual pile of new releases and exclusive previews as pretty much every major American publisher will be present along with plenty of the larger European names – but what are the big titles people are looking forward to?

Libertalia from Marabunta / Asmodee is one that I think will probably be under many people’s radars but I have a feeling it’s going to end up being one of the year’s best releases. A role selection game at heart with up to six players acting as pirate captains on their way to retirement and looking for a final hurrah, it’s a sneaky extravaganza of treasure hunting and back stabbing with a great level of player interaction. I’ve already managed to get my hands on a copy so expect a review in the very near future. Also, if you get a copy early enough, you’ll get metal doubloons! Who wouldn’t want it?!

Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar by CGE was available to play in early prototype form at the UK Games Expo, but it looks like a near finished version should be at GenCon. It’s a worker placement extravaganza with a really interesting mechanism where cogs turn and interact with each other on the board. Stay on the board too long and your guys could well end up a wasted placing as they move past the resources that you’re aiming for. CGE’s games are always beautifully produced so you know this will be incredible to behold – there’s no other company out there who I’d trust to make such an involved and creative board concept.

Fantasy Flight will be there with wheelbarrows filled with stuff, of course, but the new versions of Merchant of Venus and Netrunner are both due for release at the show. Early reports say that these two remakes are amazing, managing to capture the brilliance of the original games while giving them a shiny makeover, though MoV will include the rules to play both the old and new versions. Netrunner’s asymmetric gameplay has long been a favourite of mine and I can’t wait to get my hands on this modernised version to see how it compares to Richard Garfield’s classic. Also, there’s the small matter of a little game called X-Wing finally seeing the light of day…

Village, the Kennerspiel des Jahres winner for 2012, has been picked up by Tasty Minstrel Games and looks like it’ll be this year’s go to game for those who want to scratch their Euro itch. Players need to find fame and fortune for their family members in order to keep their name immortalised in the village’s chronicles – make the right moves and your legacy will live on. Screw it up and your future generations will fade into obscurity. It’s a very clever worker placement game and probably the only one I know where death is used to limit a character’s time. This will only be available in very limited amounts – apparently there’ll only be fifty at the show – so if you want a copy, head to TMG’s booth early.

AEG’s Tempest line is also due for its first public viewing at the show with the initial three games in the series getting a release. Courtier, Dominare and Mercante all promise very different playing experiences but the interesting element will be seeing how the public react to the storybuilding aspects of the world. As characters change, further games in the series will reflect these developments – for example, should the story necessitate that a major role needs to be wiped out, later games will reference back to whatever happened. We’re not looking at a Risk Legacy effort here where every person’s game will be different as time goes on; AEG will run the story along the lines of their Legend of the Five Rings property, controlling it from their end with input from players and designers. This could prove a very interesting experiment…

AEG also have the light-as-a-feather but very entertaining Smash Up ready for release at GenCon. The world’s first shufflebuilding game sees players combine two twenty card decks (ninjas with robots, pirates with aliens, that kind of thing) and utilise their joint powers to take over bases in order to score points. It’s a very quick little game but has a surprising level of depth to it as you try and work out which sets work particularly well against your opponents’ selections. I think this one will do pretty well at the show, especially as it clocks in well under that magical 45 minute mark for playtime.

Of course, one of the best things about any gaming convention is the discovery of those releases from smaller companies. 5th Street Games will be showing off their rather splendid Farmageddon while Asmadi should have copies of their very limited Origins hit FlowerFall available too. The new Enhanced Edition of Sentinels of the Multiverse will be selling at the Greater Than Games booth, while Leviathans, the steampunky miniatures air-combat game that I’ve been waiting since the beginning of time for, is finally due – albeit in very limited numbers. Last of all, Morels from Two Lanterns Games will definitely be available and it looks utterly lovely.

Oh yeah. One final thing.

I’m very excited about is the fact that my new game, Pocket Universe, will be on show at the Game Salute booth. I’m finding it very nerve-wracking that it’s being shown at all but it’s even worse when you consider that I’m not actually going to be there. You may well have tried it out yourself by downloading the files from the site (there’s been a few, honest!) but that version is light years away from the one you’ll be able to check out at GenCon. While it’s still in prototype format, the gameplay is 99.99% finished – I’m considering tweaking maybe one or two very tiny elements – so why not have a look at it yourself? Just ask one of the GS team at the Sneak Peeks booth (#2035) and tell them I sent you.

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Episode 43 – Salutempest

Yes, it’s a terrible title. They can’t all be magically awesome.

Anyway! Episode 43 is here, where I get to (virtually) meet up with a couple of the industry’s good guys. First, Todd Rowland (who has been on before) comes along to discuss the new Tempest project from AEG. Tempest, a world in which designers are invited to make whatever game they like using provided assets and stuff, launches in October at Essen with three games – Dominare, Mercante and Courtier – with many more to hopefully follow. Imagine having the ability to create a prototype where the art and templates have already been built for you, then letting your imagination go wild: that’s Tempest. After that, I’m joined by Game Salute’s very own Dan Yarrington. In a pretty candid discussion, we talk about Kickstarter (of course) and what GS are attempting to do with their Springboard Seal of Quality, as well as get into the meat of what’s happening in the industry today.

Et maintenant, les links du jour:

Direct download: http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/7s9a3j/LMD_Episode43.mp3

Serpent Stones on Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/springboard/serpent-stones?ref=live

Alien Frontiers iPad: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/clevermojogames/alien-frontiers-for-ipad?ref=live (Be quick, it ends on July 15!)

AEG’s Tempest Designer Resource site: http://www.alderac.com/tempest/designer-resource/ (VERY cool indeed)

Game Salute: http://gamesalute.com/home/

And last but not least… the Little Metal Dog Show’s 2012 pledge drive! Help get the show to Essen and keep us online for another year! http://www.indiegogo.com/LMDS2012?a=703837

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