By Nicholas Leeman
With the Marvel Universe constantly expanding, it seems only appropriate that we take a closer look at The Op and AEG’s recently-released Smash Up game featuring eight Marvel factions and sixteen new locations. Paul Peterson returns for this installment guaranteed to interest both new fans of the films and the comic book diehards who’ve been on board since Captain America first picked up his shield in 1941.
This newest iteration of Smash Up stays true to the roots, making it fully compatible with previous sets. There’s some new language in the rulebook, aiming to clarify some concepts such as replacing the previous “minion” with the less-diminutive “character,” and making anything “played on” a base or character now a “modifier.” Clarity is king in tabletop, and these changes are massively welcome.
The eight new factions inside include the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., the Ultimates, and Spider-Verse (eeeeeeee!!!) on the side of the good, and fighting against them for both profit and global domination are the Masters of Evil, Hydra, the Kree, and the Sinister Six. While thematically, you’d think choosing two sets from one side is the right choice, it’s Smash Up, so there are no rules- You want to team up Spider-Verse with the Sinister Six? You do you. Got some headcanon for why the Avengers might want to ally with the Kree? Let’s see it. Also keep in mind that you don’t need the Bigger Geekier Box to play with factions from another set. If you think I don’t have an amazing story for why the Masters of Evil have summoned the Elder Things, well… just you wait.
For those of you new to Smashing things (Hulk need not apply), let me explain how this box works on the table. You and up to three of your friends pick two factions from the entire pantheon. Shuffle each of those 20 card sets together to form a 40 card deck, and then deal out bases equal to the number of players in the game, plus one. Those will go face up in the middle of the table. Draw the top five cards off your shuffled deck, and if you have the luck of Doc Ock with no characters in your hand, reveal your cards, draw five new ones, and then shuffle your first hand back into the deck.
The object of Smash Up is to secure at least 15 victory points, listed in giant, unmissable numbers on the base cards. On your turn, you’ll play up to one character and one action from your hand. Characters get played directly to a base of your choice, actions are played to the table, but might modify a base or a character. Carry out the ability listed on the card, and when you’re done, you’ll want to check to see if a base can be scored.
Characters have a power listed in the upper left hand corner, and at the end of each turn, you’ll check to see if the total power of characters (with any modifications) matches or exceeds the Breakpoint of the base they’re at. If it does, that base will score this turn. The first thing to do is check all the abilities of characters, modifiers, and the base itself. Often these will have triggers that will happen when a base is about to be scored that open up opportunities for players to perform some shenanigans. Once all abilities are done, award VPs in token form according to the base card to the players with the most, second-most, and third-most power. After that, all cards go back to their respective players’ discard piles, and the base card goes to the base discard pile. Replace that base with a new one, and check to see if any other bases should be scored. If not, then the active player will draw two cards from their deck into your hand and pass the turn.
I can’t get enough of the Spider-Verse, so I was completely psyched to see Miles and Spider-Gwen in this box. Each of these factions introduces some cool new playstyles to try out as well- the rapidly reproducing Hydra can snowball out of control if not handled correctly, and the Ultimates of Captain Marvel, Spectrum, and America Chavez provide lightning-fast response to any new threat on the table. If seeing a new take on old comic favorites is your jam, Smash Up: Marvel is a can’t-miss purchase. Smash Up: Marvel is for 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, and is available now from your local game store or online at Theop.games online store! Share your game night with us by tagging @theopgames or using #theopgames in your game night photos and videos for a chance to be featured on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!