Thursday, 20 June 2013

House of Cards: Smash Up

For the first one of these reviews I thought I’d look at a game new to my circle of gamers, and one that’s quite a new release.
Smash Up is a game that allows you to take some of the greatest factions from fiction and have them battle against each other. The core set comes with eight factions:
Each of which has 20 cards in a deck; players choose two of these decks and shuffle them together to make their combined faction, who are now ready for battle. This makes for some great combinations; Pirate Wizards, Zombie Ninja’s, you get the idea.

Each faction has its own distinct flavour: Zombies can come back from the discard pile. Wizards draw more cards than the other races.
Ninjas strike when you least expect.
Robots bring more robots to the fight.
Tricksters steal and disrupt.
Dinosaurs are heavy hitters.
Aliens mess with other people stuff.
Pirates roam about the board.

This means that while choosing your faction for its awesome theme there is also benefit to choosing your faction for complimentary rules.
Citizen Williams is one of our founding members and a passionate board game player, he's been writing a Blog (A Murder of Ravens) for 3 years now, focusing on Warhammer 40,000 and Malifaux. 
Main Systems:

Malifaux: Arcanists, Guild



Faction decks contain two types of cards, minions and actions.
Minions are your troops and are how you can take over locations and score, most have an extra ability linked with their faction theme.
Action cards re usually one shots or continuous affects you can play on minions’ or location cards to change their effect, give them a new effect or sometimes just plain destroy them.
In addition to the 8 faction decks, Smash Up also contains sixteen "base" cards bases form the board Smash Up is played on and are the locations your new forces are fighting over.

Each base has a score in the top left corner called a breaking point. This is how much power (from minions) it can take before it is destroyed. Upon its destruction a base generates points, the highest number to the player with the most power, second for second and so on.
Some bases also have special effects which are written on the card most of these are what to do with minions placed there, or what happens to minions once the bases i destroyed. Upon a bases destruction most of the time all minions on that bases are discarded.

The game itself is very simple to play. Once they have chosen their two factions, players draw a number of base cards equal to the number of players plus one. So for a four person game you deal out five bases.
Players then take their turns. On their turn, a player may play one minion and one action in any order they wish. Some minions or actions allow you to play more cards which is allowed as cards text always trumps the rulebook. A player then checks to see if any of the bases are at breaking point, if so score that base, if not the player draws two cards and play passes round.

The first player to reach 15 victory points is the winner. It couldn’t be simpler. The more in depth rules are on the cards themselves but everything is clearly explains and just in case the rulebook comes with a clarification of each key word and which one takes precedence in a tie.
In addition to the core eight factions the Smash Up expansion; Awesome Level 9000” adds four more.

Bear Cavalry who hit hard and chase you down.
Steampunks who build on bases to keep them strong.
Killer plants which grow the longer they’re alive.
Ghosts who get stronger the fewer cards you have.

The small box expansion also comes with new look base cards that are easier to read, and eight additional bases, themed to the four new races.

Also in the expansion is a sheet of victory point tokens which helps immeasurably with scoring as previously players had to rely on pen and paper.
Over all I love the simplicity of the game, its fast to set up and play but gives you a feeling of a more complex card game like MTG. The combination of the 8 (12) factions is vast especially if you have multiple copies of the decks. There are more expansions planned with a Cthulhu themed set hitting shelves in September.

So my final rating:

Fun - 8
Fast pace and frantic the whole game can be over in 25 minutes or a couple of hours staying exciting most of the time. Longer games do drag on a little but hopefully new factions will fix the late game.

Ease of learning – 7
This score would be higher but it takes new player a while reading their hand each turn.

Portability – 7
Both the core game and expansion fit in the original box with slots to spare still, and the box its self would easily fit in most bags or even the front pocket of a miniatures case.

Mechanics – 9
A delightful take on deck building I keep coming up with new ways to use factions together and how to cover some weaknesses in heavy factions like the dinosaurs with the wizards high card drawing, while not as in depth as CCG’s or LCG’s it got great scope.

Cost - 7
Coming in at around the £20 mark is a little pricey for a card game, but its well made and very robust, so it can surviv without sleeving. The expansion is pricey at around £12 but isn't necessary to play. As a cheaper option the expansion pack also works as a two player version of the game.

Total: 38/50

I hope you enjoyed this article, feel free to leave any questions or comments below or contact me at

1 comment:

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