Smash Up! is one of those awesome games that can be expanded seemingly forever and not break down. Each player chooses two factions, often very different or bizarre and “smashes them together,” which creates your forces for a particular game. So you can have Ninjas and Pirates or Ghosts and Zombies or Time Travelers and Giant Radioactive Ants, with each combination having its own unique synergy (some better than others). This unique mechanic means that every new faction offers dozens of new combinations to explore and with 4 (or more) in each expansion, well you can do the math.
Speaking of math, the thing I like most about this game is that each expansion is like a mini-version of the game itself and can be played alone. With 4 factions per expansion, that gives you twelve possible combinations just in that box. Not bad for $20! Oh hey, watch the game played here on our very own TableTop:
The question becomes, what expansion to buy? We’re going to assume you already bought the “Big Geeky Box” expansion, because it only has one faction and that’s the one with playable versions of Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day. It also has convenient storage. But which of the standard non-storage boxed expansions should you grab? Here’s three we like, and why.
PRETTY PRETTY SMASH UP
If you think an army of zombie pirates is unstoppable, just wait until you face off against fairy princesses. That’s right, this expansion contains some of the most adorable factions yet with everything from a My Little Pony ripoff to internet cats (D’awwwww). The art is just right with a combination of creepy and adorable, and of course you have a whole spate of inside jokes and references. The Fairies, the Mythic Horses, and the Princesses factions are all very strong and fun to play, However, the Kitty Cats faction is a little more challenging.
COOLEST FACTION: Mythic Horses. This faction is designed to have your minions working together (“friendship is magic,” after all), but is also just has some raw strength and dynamic cards all on its own. Almost every card you play will power up based on the number of minions at a location so smash this up with another minion heavy faction. It’s not the strongest combination available but I always find it fun to play Mythic Horses with Innsmouth from the Cthulhu expansion. Hilarious!
IT’S YOUR FAULT
You have to grab this most recent expansion for a number of reasons. First off, it’s entirely based around factions voted on by fans. So all the factions here are literally the gaming community’s fault. Second, it has a secret bonus faction, which means you get five factions for the price of four. That’s 20 combinations just in this box! All FIVE factions (Sharks, Mythic Greeks, Dragons, Superheroes, and Tornadoes) are pretty strong, although you’ll need to choose the right pairing for Superheroes to get the maximum effects. Greeks are an odd faction that tend to do well however you pair them, that is until you put them in with one of the action-heavy factions like Wizards… and then you’ll never go back.
COOLEST FACTION: (spoiler alert) Tornadoes. The secret faction in this set (called a “shark delivery system” on the box) is the latest in a long line of movement-focused factions but probably the first that really makes it work. It’s not the strongest faction ever printed, but if you play smart you can always have your minions where they need to be on every turn because almost any card you play will give you some ability to shift minions from base to base. The game clearly wants you to pair these with Sharks (gotta love a Sharknado), but that’s just one of many factions that enjoy being at the right place at the right time. Dinosaurs or Cyber Apes are fun here, as are factions that offer area control abilities.
AWESOME LEVEL 9000
While our other two favorites were some of the latest expansions, this is one of the earliest. With factions like Steampunks, Ghosts, Killer Plants, and Bear Cavalry, it has a lot of variety to add to your set and it also was the first to introduce victory point tracking tokens. This expansion also comes with reprints of all the core set bases, which are significantly more readable than the ones that came in the original box. Think of this like a patch for the base game. The Steampunks and Bear Cavalry are the real standouts here, with the Plants being just ok and Ghosts a sort of gimmick factions that’s hard to play. Still, this is worth it for the Bear Cavalry alone, which is not only an amazing faction but have fantastic art that’s great for luring in new players.
COOLEST FACTION: Bear Cavalry. The bears are a favorite of casual and hardcore players alike with some very good sustainability and enemy minion control. Paired with a faction that moves your minions and the opponents you can really make a lot of this faction. The Tornadoes mentioned above are a great pairing, as are odd factions like the Shape Shifters or Geeks, to really play around with their abilities.
It’s actually pretty impossible to accurately rank factions in Smash Up! which might be part of the game’s brilliance. How you play and your level of skill will have a big effect on what factions play best for you. Generally, the expansions work the same way. Each box should have something for players of all styles and levels. Here are a few honorable mentions…
The Obligatory Cthulhu Set: This is a fun expansion with a lot of great factions (and Innsmouth, which I’ve only ever made work with Mythic Horses) but it’s included Madness mechanic is too much for some casual players. Personally, I like adding complexity to my games but I couldn’t see fit to put this on our top 3.
Monster Smash: This set is one of my personal favorites but doesn’t seem to have that powerful resonance for a lot of the game’s extended community. Mad Scientists, Werewolves, and Vampires are all fun but maybe they are missing that odd twist Smash Up! is so famous for. This set does contain my favorite faction, Giant Ants, but that might just be a personal taste thing. If you’ve never see the movie “Them!” (1954) I highly recommend the movie and the faction.
Cease and Desist: The latest expansion, due out soon, will have parodies of Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and Transformers. This is me putting $20 bucks aside right now.
What are you favorite factions? Pitch us your favorite combinations! Are you looking forward to the Cease and Desist expansion? Smash up your opinions into useful comments now.
Image Credits Alderac Games