Who'd have guessed that a common trait of horror monsters was +1 tokens?  This is a pretty common thread in Monster Smash, the latest expansion for the Smash Up card game.

Monster Smash introduces four monstrous new factions, and three of them rely heavily on getting +1 tokens.  Vampires can destroy minions -- their own or those of other players -- to get their +1 tokens.  Giant Ants often start with +1 tokens, and many cards let them not only get more, but also share them with other minions.  And the Mad Scientists put out a *lot* of these tokens, from Igor giving one when he's destroyed or discarded to the Uberserum, which gives a minion a +1 counter at the start of each turn and keeps it from being destroyed!  The exceptions to this token tendency are Werewolves, which rely more on brute strength and, reflecting the boost from the moon, often get bonuses that last until the end of the turn.

So, how do these new factions work in the game?  Pretty well, it turns out.  Each faction's ability certainly feels like the abilities the monsters would have, reflected as well in the art and the names.  While there are numerous good cards, Monster Smash doesn't power up the new ones so much that it will always beat the other sets.  (Remember when I mentioned how good the Uberserum was?  It was so good, a rival kept stealing it from the Mad Scientists and using it on his own minions.)  And there's plenty of humor in the cards: a Vampire with a skull-shaped alarm clock, Werewolf cards "Chew Toy" and "Let the Dog Out," and, possibly because of the Killer Queen card, all of the Giant Ants' actions are named after Queen songs.

Monster Smash doesn't change the rules for Smash Up, but it does what an expansion should: add variety, options, and humor to the game without unbalancing it.  These factions are a welcome addition -- especially with Halloween coming!

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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