Players: 2-4 Ages: 14+ Play Time: 45 mins
Being a huge fan of Disney and card games, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review Smash Up! Disney Edition, a collaborative effort from AEG and USAopoly, designed by Paul Peterson. I was completely new to the Smash Up game so was excited by the premise and dived right in.
So, Smash Up is marketed as a shuffle building game (of total awesomeness). What this means is that in the box players are provided with a number of pre-constructed 1/2 decks based on different themes. In this case the themes are Disney movies. Each player selects two of these decks or factions and combines them, shuffling them together to build their deck for the game. Hence 'shufflebuilding'. This means your team could comprise any combination of characters from two of the following: Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Big Hero 6, Frozen, Lion King, Mulan, Nightmare Before Christmas, and Wreak it Ralph. Each deck has its own strength or play style, such as heavily offensive or deck milling. It's entirely up to you which combination you use. Whether you choose two complementary skills that compound each other, or very different ones to be more balanced. The rule book even has some recommendations on this subject.
So once you have shufflebuilt your factions, it's time to have a good old fashioned Smash Up. Well, more or less. Players don't directly target each other excessively in this game, so play tends to be friendly competition more than all out war. Players compete to gain influence over territory, which is also themed from the movies and have their own unique effects on the gameplay. A nice touch to the rules is that only the locations of the factions in play are used, which keeps things more thematic to the individual playthrough.
A player's deck will comprise of character and action cards. Generally speaking, the characters are deployed to locations where their presence will add influence/control. Whereas actions are mostly one time effects, such as enhancing a character or searching your deck for specific cards. Each turn, a player may play one of each type of card if they choose to do so. Each location has a value that is the amount of influence required to control it. This value is cumulative rather than individual. Thus a value of 23 is reached when played cards on the location meet this total. This makes it much more tactical than if it were simply first person to accumulate 23 on the location. Points are gained when a location/base is fully controlled by the players. When this happens, the player with the most influence receives the most points, the second gets a little less, then the third and finally the fourth gets nothing. The aim of the game is to be the first player to score 15 points.
The number of bases in play is set at the number of players plus one. While this gives all players plenty of space in the opening rounds it can feel slightly under competitive at times. Why fight over a space when there is enough to go around? Well there are some reasons why you are encouraged to do battle. Not all locations are equal, the first prize points range from 3 – 5 and they have their own effects on gameplay as well. However, there is no reason why you couldn't try house ruling fewer locations in play for a more cut-throat variant.
So, what do we make of Smash Up: Disney Edition? Smash Up is a fairly simple game at heart. However, the intricacies of the rules can take some getting used to, especially some of the terminology. The rulebook for this game is not terrible and thankfully has most of the clarifications and special rules individually addressed. That being said, I would definitely consider this a game easier learnt from a player than the rulebook.
Overall, given the complexity of the rules and game play style, I feel that an age rating of 14+ is about right, especially given the approximate game length of 45 minutes. While this is a fun game, I would probably not recommend it for fans of light/sweet and simple games due to the amount of in game terminology and subtlety of certain rules. This game is a medium weight game that has a bit of a learning curve to master. Once there, however, you can have a lot of fun playing with Disney favourites old and new. Especially, if the group are all Disney fanatics spouting quotes and breaking into song every few minutes.
The production of the game components is up next. The artwork is spot on, but that's hardly surprising given that it mirrors the movies that the decks are based on. However, the card stock is relatively flimsy and will benefit from good quality card sleeves if you are going to play frequently. Luckily, the box will accommodate sleeves. Actually, the box will accommodate a lot more than the base game provides. It is easily large enough to hold 10 more half decks. But despite this, it doesn't give you a specific space to store your tokens. This means there is a lot of empty space crying out for expansions. or a game box that is drastically oversized/under filled. However, having been released summer 2022 (over a year ago) there's no news of expansions on the horizon. This is such a shame given that there are so many Disney films to draw from (59 in the classics collection alone).
So is Smash Up: Disney Edition totally awesome? Honestly, no. But it certainly is good fun when shared with the right crowd. I don't know how the original Smash Up and its many expansions compare. If you are a Disney fan with a knack for rules and enjoy a bit of strategy, then this may be the game for you. However, for me this Disney edition lacked the simplicity and satisfaction that I look for in a card game. That being said, though, the epic theme and enjoyable game still bring home a touch of the Disney magic at a 4/6 on the DOALG dice rating.