One popular pastime for the geek world is arguing over what groups  would win in a fight (also the subject of the tv show Deadliest Warrior).  The card game Smash Up from Alderac Entertainment Games tackles this issue -- sort of -- as factions slug it out for control of bases.
Gameplay is, at first glance, simple.  Each player takes control of two factions (in the core game, these are Ninjas, Pirates, Zombies, Dinosaurs (with lasers!), Martians, Robots, Tricksters, and Wizards), mixes the cards for them together, and draws five cards.  Several bases (equal to to the number of players plus one) are in play.  Each base has a Breakpoint (how many points are needed to score the base) and victory point values (three, usually from highest to lowers); some bases also have a special ability.  Players can play one minion on a base, one action, or a minion and an action.  After a player finished playing cards, all bases are checked.  If the value of all minions (and modifiers) on a base matches or exceeds the Breakpoint, the base scores.  The player with the most points in minions gets the first victory point number, the second-most points gets the second value, and the third gets the last value; players can also play any card with a Special ability.  If any player has 15 or more points after scoring, they win!  Otherwise all cards on the base are discarded, a new base takes its place, the player draws 2 cards (and discards down to 10 if they have 10 or more), and the next player goes.

But Smash Up goes beyond simple "play and check" mechanics.  A lot of cards give you more plays (like a minion that lets you play another minion, and that new minion may let you play another card, and so on), and it's not uncommon for someone to go through most of the cards in their hand each turn.  In addition, the different factions feel and play like their namesakes: Ninjas are great at playing surprises from their hand, Dinosaurs are big, Zombies can play minions from the "dead" discard pile, Pirates can sail from base to base, and so on.  In addition, factions working together usually give their benefits to their allies, creating even more possibilities.  Since they all have their own strengths, players can do as well making their own fun combinations (my Plan 9 from Outer Space group was made of Martians and Zombies) as fretting over what works best together.  And Smash Up has a lot of humor, from the over-the-top instructions to cards like the zombie Tenacious Z or the Trickster's "Flame Trap" with an exploding cereal box that has a leprechaun on it.

Smash Up doesn't have any deep strategy or heavy thinking.  It does have a lot of gleeful celebration of its geeky groups, and there are plenty of ways of playing to reach victory.  Smash Up is very easy to teach, fairly quick to play, and a blast for all!

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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