Smash Up is an expandable card game for two to four players. It is not a deck building game, but it is close -- it is somewhat akin to Munchkin or Boss Monster.
Each player takes a 'mash up' of two factions -- the factions include ninjas, Martians, wizards, robots, and others -- and attempt to conquer as many bases as possible. The basic mechanic is very straightforward: on your turn you play a minion on the base of your choice, and one action that affects the movement, power, or use of minions. Once the power of the minions on the base is greater than the base's power the base scores, and the player with the most powerful group of minions on the base gets the most points. The complicated bit is in the varying abilities of the minions, the interaction between the actions, and the occasional base effects. Gameplay is not too taxing to follow, but it does require that that you enjoy recalculating card interactions constantly.
To give a brief description of a fairly average play, a player might play a level 4 Buccaneer on a base (perhaps on the Ninja Dojo, a modest level 18 base). This is a respectable minion, as few minions have more than 4 base power. Moreover, it has the special ability that if it would be destroyed, it is moved to another base instead. The player, being wily, might then play the action of Powder Keg on the Buccaneer, which will blow up him along with all other minions currently on the base -- and using his special power, the Buccaneer ships off to another base. If this player is lucky enough to be the Zombie-Pirates, they may also have the option of reactivating a Tenacious Z (power of 2) from their discard pile as a free action, giving them the option of adding it to the Buccaneer, for a total power level of 6 on the base of choice.
This was a good move, but not a particularly complex one. The base's ability did not come into play, no bases scored, and no other players interfered with the play. The other players were inconvenienced, but revenge will be swift.
Gameplay is best with 3-4 players. I have found that even people who are dubious about card games of this sort tend to like Smash Up, although only if they are fairly comfortable with slightly chaotic gameplay. Perhaps the greatest downside to this game is that the cards are occasionally ambiguous in how they are applied in some situations; gameplay will be less stressful if the players are comfortable with debating and there is a assigned arbiter to resolve disagreements. This is not a good game to play with people who tend to take a long time planning out turns.
The core set is good fun, but there are a number of expansions that are worth exploring -- and it's not too hard to make your own bases or even factions if you want to have a bit more influence over the chaos levels. The official expansions are:
- Core Set: Ninjas, Wizards, Zombies, Robots, Martians, Tricksters, Pirates, and Dinosaurs.
- Awesome Level 9000: Killer plants, Ghosts, Steampunks, and Bear Cavalry.
- The Obligatory Cthulhu Set: Cultists, Elder Things, Innsmouth, and Miskatonic University.
- Science Fiction Double Feature : Time Travelers, Cyborg Apes, Super Spies, and Shapeshifters
- The Big Geeky Box: A bigger storage box and a new faction, The Geeks.
- Monster Smash: Vampires, Mad Scientists, Giant Ants, and Werewolves.
- Pretty Pretty Smash Up: Fairies, Mythic Horses, Kitty Cats, and Princesses.
- Munchkin Smashup: introduces treasure and monsters as separate game mechanics, and includes the factions Warriors, Clerics, Mages, Rogues, Orcs, Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings.
- Coming Spring 2016: Smash Up: It’s Your Fault!: Sharks, Superheroes, Greek Myth, and Dragons.
If this sounds interesting, you should check out the game website or Board Game Geek, and, if you are already a fan and are into DIY, you may want to look at some player created factions.