‘Smash Up’ Gets ‘Pretty Pretty’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Pretty Pretty Smash Up Cover

Just because you love smashing things up doesn’t mean you have to be ugly about it, right? The most recent Smash Up set (released last month) is Pretty Pretty Smash Up, and it’s full of sparkles.

At a glance: Pretty Pretty Smash Up can be played on its own for 2 players, ages 14 and up, takes about 45 minutes to play, and retails for $19.99. When combined with other Smash Up sets, it accommodates up to 4 players. Despite the manufacturer’s “14 and up” label, I’ve played it with younger kids (my daughters are 8 and 11) and haven’t had much trouble, though younger players may need some assistance keeping track of all the ongoing effects.

Pretty Pretty Smash Up Components
Pretty Pretty Smash Up components. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Components

  • 80 Minion/Action cards
  • 8 Base cards
  • 4 Divider cards
  • VP tokens

The new factions in Pretty Pretty Smash Up are Fairies, Princesses, Magical Ponies, and Kittens. The new bases correspond to the four new factions, though of course as with any of the Smash Up sets, you can mix them up however you like. The victory point tokens come in denominations of 1 and 5, and have flowers and hearts on them.

Pretty Pretty Smash Up bases
8 new bases, two per faction. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The divider cards are really nice oversized plastic cards designed for the Big Geeky Box, but if you don’t have that, they don’t really work with the original Smash Up box or smaller expansion boxes. I actually keep all of my sets so far in the original box, doubling up the factions two to a slot, and I’ve got room for a few more, but that means these little expansion boxes are really proliferating.

How to play

Since I’ve already explained how the game works in a previous review, I’ll just give you a quick rundown of the new factions. The one thing that’s new since my previous write-up is the Talents (which I believe were introduced in the Science Fiction Double Feature set). Some cards have Talents, which are abilities that can be used once per turn as long as that card is in play.

Pretty Pretty Smash Up kittens
I can haz kittez? Yes, yes you can. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Kitty Cats mostly take over other minions through the power of cuteness and internet memes. Many of the kitty minions will allow you to have temporary control of another minion until the end of your turn–maybe just enough to swing the score in your favor. There’s a “Hang in There” action card inspired by the famous kitten poster, plus a “Can Has Cheeseburger?” card.

Pretty Pretty Smash Up Fairies
Fairies are tiny, but tricksy. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Fairies have a lot of powers that let you manipulate actions and minions. Some let you move actions around, or affect the power levels of your own and other players’ minions. I’d say the Fairies aren’t quite as funny, but they’re effective.

Pretty Pretty Smash Up ponies
Unicorns, ponies, and other mythic equines. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Mythic Horses include lots of magical equines: unicorn, pegasus, even a hippocampus. This one has a whole lot of references: the artwork for “Super Future Space Armor Power” is reminiscent of Robot Unicorn Attack, and of course there’s a friendly pink pony named “Pinkie.” These cards are all about togetherness–you get bonuses for having multiple minions at the same location. My favorite cards are the “power” cards like “Friendship Power,” which shows two happy ponies galloping along… trampling a werewolf as they go.

Pretty Pretty Smash Up princesses
The Princesses are fewer but powerful. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Finally, there are the Princesses. In most factions, the minions have a range of strengths, with only one minion of strength 5. However, all of the Princesses are strength 5. There aren’t as many of them, though, so instead you get a lot of action cards. Princesses like to order people around, and lots of your abilities affect what other players can do. Favorite card title: “Direct to DVD Sequel” (which lets you shuffle a minion from your discard pile back into your deck).

The Verdict

To be honest, Smash Up isn’t my favorite game, but it’s still a lot of fun if you like some humor in your games. The Pretty Pretty expansion is a fun one, and it’s particularly fun to have the sparkly factions mixed in with things like zombies and pirates and robots. My daughters have enjoyed Smash Up before now, but this set particularly caught their attention.

The game has a heavy luck element to it, and with so many factions it’s hard to know how well-balanced everything is. I know some combinations seem to work much better than others, but it can also be a matter of knowing how to best use the combinations you have. Still, I would say that in general I don’t play Smash Up for the strategic element so much as the experience of attacking bases with Steampunk Unicorns.

If you’re already a fan of Smash Up, then you’ll probably want to add Pretty Pretty to your collection anyway. If you’ve never tried Smash Up, you can start with any of the small sets if you want to try it as a two-player game, and then add in some others if you like it. The Pretty Pretty set is a favorite at my house, and whether you’re a brony or you only like unicorns ironically, there’s probably something in this set for you.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this game.

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