If you’re reading this review, you probably already know what Smash Up is. And if you’ve got the Smash Up Geeky Box like me, you’ll know that this franchise is a cash cow that isn’t going away any time soon. Then again, AEG have a habit of this… *cough* Love Letter *cough*!
The Big Geeky box contains so much spare room, that you just know that factions are going to keep coming out and hopefully improve the game each time.
Smash Up has had several expansions already and some have been better than others, but I was keen to get the newest addition purely by name and front cover alone. I mean it’s called Pretty Pretty for crying out loud, that alone suggests that hilarity may ensue. This is only strengthened when you see the front cover, noticing a ridiculously cute kitten and a unicorn in the mix. Now having checked to make sure you’re not suffering from any mental instability, you can safely delve in.
You could argue maybe that this expansion was more intended for girls, but when you’re talking about a game in which a myriad of different races beat the living snot out of each other. You quickly discard this presumption and think to yourself that the concept of Pretty Kitten Dinosaurs and Werewolf Princesses is too insane to pass up. So is this expansion a must have or just one you can grab if you like?
Designer: Paul Peterson
# of Players: 2-4
Play Time: 45 Minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: 390 / 7.00 (base game)
Realism Isn’t In AEG’s Vocabulary
Smash Up is a fast paced card game where each player mixes two decks, each from a range of vastly different factions into one combo deck. From this mashed up deck, they seek to amass victory points by taking over base locations, using the minions and special abilities of the factions they chose.
The whole crux of Smash Up is the wealth of strange and amusing combinations of factions that can be created. Leave all concepts of what constitutes realism behind, as you could be walking into battle with Dinosaur Ninjas, Robot Pirates, Zombie Wizards, you name it…!! Players will play cards to hinder their opponents, while also boosting their own minions to capture bases which require a specified amount of “power” to break. It’s a quick, frantic game that despite having extremely simple rules, offers a fair amount of tactical depth. Making it an ideal quickie for gamers.
Pretty Pretty is the newest expansion to the mix and its theme sticks to very girly orientated factions (Fairies, Mythic Horses, Cute Kittens and Princesses), which when you start thinking about the previous factions available, offers endless amusing ways to build decks. But of course you probably already know the gist of what I’m saying, so let’s get into what you’re really here for, the factions themselves!
But They’re Just So CUUUUUUUUTE!!!
Let’s start with the Fairies, which play in a similar manner to the Trickers from the base game, although these little pixies are more friendly about it. My first test of this expansion actually combined both of those factions and it worked very well. Fairies like to mess around with actions, but usually across their own minions rather than your opponents. Cards such as Leaf Armour can be transferred across minions and one fairy can even steal attachments from other minions, leading to some interesting combos. I wouldn’t say the Fairies were the most amusing faction around, but they’re definitely versatile. Being able to shift actions around can be a game changer and a lot of their cards give a choice out of two options, so you’re less restricted in what you do.
The Mythic Horses are mostly a parody of My Little Pony and these creatures never like to be apart from each other. Quite literally!! Their abilities all key off being together in one bunch, so spreading them over multiple bases doesn’t really work for these guys. However my god, when you put them all in one base, they become very nasty and if you want to couple them with a faction like the Robots or Zombies, you’re just hitting troll territory. They might sound a bit overpowered from that description, but remember, there are plenty of actions out there that can attach to bases making life difficult for the resident minions, so don’t get carried away.
Kitty Cats are getting chosen pretty much every time I say to people “hey let’s test this expansion out”. I mean let’s face it, who doesn’t want to see what Kitty Dinosaurs can do? There’s a lot of amusing pictures here which play on internet memes relating to cats in the past. I’m sure you can think of at least two or three right now that fit the bill and chances are they are in this deck. The Cats like to take control of other minions temporarily which sounds cool, but requires good timing because ideally you want to be doing this, either to use a cool ability or more often to swing the power total your way when a base is captured. They also like disposable minions because many times they can destroy one of their own to gain additional benefit. On that note, I’m going to have to try Kitty Cat Zombies next game. . . . .
The Princesses are the strangest race out of the set, and I don’t mean by who/what they are, but by the way their deck works. Most decks have a structured layout in terms of minions and actions. Here you only get six minions in total, all with a power rating of 5. That’s unique to this faction and on top of that they all have very powerful abilities. I said a minute ago that the Cats and Horses like disposable/cheap minions, well not the Princesses. They all want the best they can get and as such, you want to bring out the big guns and move to where they are most needed. Being of such high power, a lot of effects that affect minions won’t work on them.
Learning To Play Nice???
The expansions to Smash Up are listed as “standalone” games, as you could get two players and simply combine the decks for that. However, I have yet to meet anyone who has done this. I can only imagine you would do this if you were testing the game out, but the base set is probably cheaper for what you get in the box anyway, so you might as well get that. Also, if you’ve got the Geeky Box, you’ll be pleased to know that this expansion includes those really cool glossy dividers for each faction. So another reason why getting this on its own to begin with isn’t the best idea.
Additionally, unlike some other sets, the races here are a little too similar in their “cutesy” theme, if that makes sense to get the full enjoyment out of them, when mixed together with each other. Pretty Pretty is an expansion that strongly favours combining these factions with previous sets to get the best deal in chaos and amusement.
The expansions for this game have been getting better and better in my opinion. The first one was ok at best and I was a little disappointed with the Cthulhu one, but since then we’ve had Science Fiction which was good, Monster Smash which was very good and now Pretty Pretty which I think is excellent.
Smash Up is about the humour of mixing up these races and you can’t deny that these factions create some hilarious combos by name alone. They are always getting picked when I’m showing the game off to people now, especially with the Kittens which steal the show with their cuteness.
I wouldn’t recommend it as a stand-alone game, if you’re getting this you’ve already got Smash Up, pure and simple. The factions don’t have the same level of craziness with each other as they do with earlier ones. But if you’ve got the base game and/or the Geeky Box, this should be the first one you take a look at.
You Will Like This Game If:
- You want some hilarious combos – they’ll get chosen by name alone.
- You enjoy the base game and want some new factions.
- You play with female or younger players often, they will gravitate to these.
You Will Not Like This Game If:
- You’re got every expansion to date and you feel you’re done now.
- The “cutesy” nature of the expansion doesn’t appeal to you.
- You buy it on its own – the factions don’t entertain as much with each other.
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I'm known as The Broken Meeple, a blog, podcast and YouTube channel devoted to board and card games. I live in Portsmouth, UK, working as a Chartered Tax Advisor and I enjoy playing games of many genres and varieties with as many people as possible.