One of the surprise success stories from Gen Con was AEG’s Smash Up. A non-collectible card game, Smash Up lets you grab a deck of ninjas and a deck of dinosaurs, shuffle them together and compete to control all the bases. Or maybe you want to go with robots and zombies. Or wizards and aliens. You can pick a different combo every game.
AEG brought more copies of Smash Up to Gen Con then they’d ever brought for any game before, and they’d sold out by Friday afternoon. The game’s very reasonable $30 retail price certainly helps move units — there are no complex components or board, just 176 cards. They’re high-quality, nicely illustrated cards, to be sure. The game’s official release should come in September.
Game play was straightforward and fun. You pick two of the faction decks and shuffle them together. Your opponents do the same. A trio of base cards are laid out, and players take turns playing minions onto the bases and playing action cards. Once the total power of the minions on a certain base hits a threshold, the base is collected and scored based on who had the most powerful minions there.
From that simple premise, there seems to be a lot of strategic depth. Each faction has a set of tendencies and capabilities — if you’re looking for a rough analog, they seem to mirror the abilities of the different colors in Magic: the Gathering. Some factions are good at drawing extra cards, some have bigger minions, some are good at pulling cards out of your discard pile. Minions can be destroyed or moved from one base to another. With the game state in constant flux, you’ll have to adapt your tactics to the factions you’re playing and the ones being used against you.
AEG is already planning an expansion with new factions in December or January. One nice thing about the game box is that it’s big enough to hold extra cards from upcoming expansions in a sturdy plastic tray.
Smash Up looks like a great choice for family game night or casual gaming with beer and pretzels, but it looks deep enough that more serious gamers will get a lot out of it too.