Wow, two Smash Up expansion reviews in two weeks? After a months-long hiatus?
What can that mean?
It means that I’ve been combining new expansions while playing them for review.
What, did you think I meant global annihilation or something like that?
Let’s save that for the Nightly News.
Anyway, this will probably be the last one for a while as with all of the social distancing going on, I won’t be playing the other new expansions I have anytime soon.
But one day, they will return.
With all the viciousness of King Rex.
Anyway, today I’m going to be talking about the Monster Smash expansion. This is an expansion of, well, monsters and their ilk.
Thus, the set is already much more thematic than the Awesome Level 9000 set.
The Monster Smash set came out in 2014 from Alderac Entertainment Group and designer Paul Peterson (though many other AEG stalwarts contribute as well) and it’s an interesting set of factions.
As with previous expansion reviews, I’m not going to go over how to play Smash Up. You can go to the original review for that one.
Here are the four factions we’ll be covering today.
In addition to the monstrous theme, there is another commonality with all four of these factions: they concentrate on increasing power (three of them with +1 power counters and one just temporarily for the most part).
Let’s start with the Giant Ants since they are scurrying all over the place and I can start stomping them out once I’m done.
Get away!!! Don’t make me get the Raid can out!
Artist: Marcel Stobinski
Here’s a bit of trivia for you (from the Smash Up wiki): Killer Queen and every Action in the Giant Ant faction is named after a Queen song.
Whose insane idea was that????
Anyway, the Giant Ants faction love adding +1 counters to their minions, and then moving them around so you can be a bit more flexible with them.
As you can see, the Killer Queen has a very interesting talent, placing a +1 counter on any minion played on its base *and* onto Killer Queen herself.
Then “A Kind of Magic” lets you redistribute your +1 counters as you wish. Want to make all of your minions immune from that card that destroys any minion at power 2 or below?
Just spread the +1 counters so that all of your minions are at least 3 power.
The Worker is just there to house +1 counters until you can move them elsewhere. That’s an ingenious way to essentially play a 2-power minion but have everything be adjustable.
Given the number of +1 tokens that the Giant Ants generate, We Will Rock You could be a devastating punch to break a base, if you have enough minions there (or enough power counters though this card wants more minions, not fewer).
I love how the Giant Ants just spread these counters willy-nilly too.
I would have to say this faction is probably my favourite in the Monster Smash expansion. They’re just so chaotic and I love the ability to move all of the counters around.
Keep in mind that having a +1 power counter on a card isn’t the same as having +1 power. So Giant Ants don’t really do anything extra special with factions that just increase minion power.
But put them with one of the other (non-Werewolf) factions from Monster Smash and you can have a rollicking good time.
The artwork on the cards is also very good. It really brings to mind those old giant ant monster movies from the old days.
Well done, everybody!
Artist: Prosper Tipaldi
The Mad Scientists also like their +1 power counters, but for different reasons. I still think they would be a killer combination with the Giant Ants, though.
Mad Scientists place +1 counters on minions, but then they often get to spend them in order to do something very cool.
“The Monster” (not pictured) lets you remove a +1 counter from it in order to play another minion (scavenging it for parts?). Other cards let you take +1 counters off a minion in order to destroy another minion, or maybe even destroy a minion and put +1 counters equal to its power onto other minions.
Igor (pictured above) has been clarified so that it’s any time he goes to the discard pile, you get to put a +1 counter on a minion. That applies even if he’s just going to the discard pile because his base scored.
I love how Uberserum has the minion get a +1 counter each turn and it makes the minion immune from being destroyed. If you start that minion slow, you can build up quite the strength (in one game, I think I got up to +5).
(My + key is getting worn out)
I love the manipulation of power counters with the Mad Scientists.
Angry Mob (“Choose one of your minions. Place any number of cards from your hand on the bottom of your deck. For each card you placed there, place a +1 power counter on that minion.”) would go well with the Ghost faction, letting you discard a bunch of cards to make your minions more powerful. The act of discarding may also make your ghosts more powerful.
It’s a win-win!
The only thing I don’t like about the Mad Scientist faction is the artwork. I’m not sure if Prosper Tipaldi has done other Smash Up artwork or not, but this faction really does not appeal to my eye. It’s a bit too blocky and plain.
But maybe that’s just me!
Artist: Francisco Rico Torres
The Vampires also love putting out +1 counters, though that’s always in relation to destroying minions (they’re vampires, of course).
Some (like Dinner Date) let you destroy a minion and put a +1 counter on the minion and others just benefit from minions being destroyed.
Fledgling Vampire, of course, is slightly different in that it’s based on power and not destruction. If it’s played on a base where everybody else is stronger, it gets a slight bit stronger too.
The good thing about the Vampires is that most of the “put a +1 power counter on this minion” abilities don’t really care where the destruction happened. Only Dinner Date (where you’re putting the +1 counter on first before the destruction) refers to a specific base, which makes them a little less limited.
While there is some extra minion play in some of the cards, there’s not a lot. It sounds like most of them are designed to get some cannon fodder out there for the other Vampires (which is kind of why the Vampires are so hard to play in Blood Bowl: Team Manager). While they get a lot of +1 markers out for minion destruction, they don’t have a lot of minion destruction of their own.
Thankfully, you don’t have to be the one destroying the minion to get the benefit. However, that makes the Vampires terrible in a 2-player game (I don’t like 2-player Smash Up anyway), as you’re the only one who will be destroying minions to get the effect.
Overall, I think the Vampires are an ok faction, though nowhere near my favourite. They’re too dependent on other factions (and even players sometimes!).
Funnily enough, they have their own card that works well with the Ghosts (Cull the Weak: Choose your minion. Discard any number of minion cards from your hand. For each minion discarded, place a +1 power counter on that minion) but that’s the only one.
Torres artwork on the Vampires is not my favourite either, though it doesn’t go into active dislike like it does with the Mad Scientists. I love the Opportunist card and its Nosferatu.
A very middle of the road faction that I don’t mind playing but wouldn’t actively choose to do so.
Artist: Alex Stone
Finally, we get to the Werewolves.
The Werewolves are the only Monster Smash faction that doesn’t do anything with +1 power counters (so maybe my + key will get a break?)
Instead, they are masters of temporary strength boosting (which I assume is because they turn into humans when they’re not rampaging around). Many of the cards will give you bonus strength until the end of the turn.
Or there’s the Marking Territory base action, which makes it so that if you are the most powerful there at the start of your turn, the base’s break point drops to zero.
I’m not quite sure how that works out well for the Werewolves when so many of their cards don’t get that “until the end of turn” strength bonus until after the start of the turn.
It confuses me somewhat.
However, there are some pretty good other cards (not pictured) that work well.
Leader of the Pack is an action that you can place on your super-strong minions. If it’s the strongest minion at that base, it lets you play an extra action.
Chew Toy lets you destroy a minion that has less power than one of your minions at its base (one of the few “destroy” cards the Werewolves have).
What the Werewolves ability does, considering the number of them who have “talents” that let you temporarily increase minions’ strength, is let you lie low with 2-3 minions on a base, and then suddenly burst forth with another +2-3 strength right when you want it to.
They really are humans lying in wait to kill us all.
Werewolves are probably my least favourite faction in Monster Smash, though part of that may be because I don’t really use them effectively. That temporary power boost is something that you really have to strategize around. Otherwise, you’ll be playing a lot of minions where you will be saying “this gets +2 until the end of the turn..that gives me 4 power there, ok, your turn” a lot.
The artwork is also kind of iffy in my opinion. It has a nice, moody dark look, but it just doesn’t grab me.
How about the bases?
As with most Smash Up bases, they give everybody the power of something that faction already does.
Castle Blood gives everybody the Fledgling Vampire ability, with a bit of a twist. You only have to be weaker than one other player, not the weakest in total.
That’s pretty cool.
The Egg Chamber really makes the Ants powerful, but even the Mad Scientists and Vampires will benefit from it as well. (Poor Werewolves)
I do like the Standing Stones base because it’s different than most. It doesn’t do a Werewolf schtick.
Instead, it lets you use one of your minion’s Talent twice! Make sure the minions you have there have Talents or it’s pretty useless, though.
Overall, I’d have to say that Monster Smash is one of the weaker expansions that I’ve played with, though two of the four factions are extremely fun.
I would say that the Giant Ants are one of the funnest factions out there just because of the +1 counter frenzy.
If you’re getting all of the Smash Up expansions, then you should definitely get this one. It is, yes, a Smash Up expansion.
However, for me it’s one of the lesser ones.
Now I have to go see to my + key, because…oh crap.
RIP + key.
(This review was written after playing with these factions 3 times)
Other Smash Up Reviews: