Learning how to play Smash Up is something you are going to want to do. This fantastic combat strategy card game from 2012 with super-rich characters and thematics is beloved by all and is still played by tons of people. Many new factions have come since that certainly enhance gameplay, but you are going to be just fine with the initial base game. This is how to play Smash Up. The combat is very PG so suited for the whole family. It is cartoonish, from fantasy characters, and it is about taking over bases not hurting others. This is how to play Smash Up board game.

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Smash Up is a fight for 2 – 4 players. Your goal is nothing short of total global domination! Use your minions to crush enemy bases. While Smash up is a combat strategy game, the main hook is that you are “smashing up” two completely different “factions”. You could have Wizards with Ninjas or Pirates with Zombies or Aliens with Dinosaurs, the combinations and synergist effects are endless. Many new factions have come since that certainly enhance gameplay, but you are going to be just fine with the initial base game.


Time Needed: approx 15 to 30 minutes

This is a step by step guide for how to play Smash Up the popular card combat strategy board game. Additional notions and special rules can be found below the list. These will be referenced for your convenience.

1. SETUP | Put Out Stacks of Each Faction
To kick off how to play Smash Up get out the folks you are going to play with. On the table in the middle of everyone put out stacks of cards for each individual “faction”. The faction symbol is in the bottom right of the card, everything that matches should go in a stack and there should be eight stacks (base game, more have been added).

2. SETUP | Players Draft Factions
To play, each player needs to “smash up” two factions (wizards and samurai for example) and this is done by taking turns picking from what is available. This is the wheel draft which means if you pick first in the first round, you will pick last in the second. If you are third to go, you are going to get pick #3 and pick #4. Factions have different synergistic effects by working together, so keep that all in mind when picking.

3. SETUP | Players Shuffle Decks and Draw
After drafting the two unique factions, players shuffle those two stacks together to make one individual deck. This is their deck for the game, it sits in front of them and will provide their cards for the game. Each player draws 5 cards to start with.

4. SETUP | Put out Base Cards
Separate from the yellow-backed faction cards are the blue-backed “base” cards. These are the things with three numbers that players attack to get victory points. Shuffle up the deck and put out cards equal to the number of players plus one in the center of the table. Put the remainders face down off to the side. Once a base goes down, you will need to replace it with a new one. This is the last how to play Smash Up step for setup.

5. GAMEPLAY | Turn Structure
You will need to decide who goes first. That player then takes an entire turn with a few different phases. Pretty much nothing you do will happen outside of your turn. After that turn is complete, it passes to the player to the left and that person will take a full turn, and so on.

6.GAMEPLAY | Turn Phase 1 – Trigged abilities
Some cards have abilities that trigger at the beginning of the turn. No secret here, all the cards out will say if they trigger something or not. Just let this happen. This is an important step in how to play Smash Up so pay close attention.

7. GAMEPLAY | Turn Phase 2 – Play Cards
There are two types of cards, Minions which are people and creatures, and Actions which do special things. Minions are placed on a base of your choice, while Actions can be all sorts of things but the card will spell it out. You can play up to one of each type during your turn (so none, only one of either or one of each). This can be done in any order you want.

8. GAMEPLAY | Turn Phase 3 – Scoring Bases
After playing cards, check if any bases are ready to score. This happens if the total power of all the minions (number in top left corner) is equal to or greater than the “breaking point” of the base (number in top left corner of base). When this happens, whoever has the most power there gets the 1st place number (far left), second-most gets the middle and least gets the lowest far-right number. You have to have at least one power there to qualify and ties result in splitting points.

9. GAMEPLAY | Turn Phase 4 – Draw 2 New Cards
During this phase, you draw two new cards from your deck. You can have a max of ten cards in your hand, if you go over, choose what to discard to go down to ten.

10. GAMEPLAY | Turn Phase 5 – Final Ability Resolution
Just like the beginning of the turn phase where some abilities may trigger, the end of turn has that as well. If any active card says something happens at the end of the turn, let that happen here.

11. WINNING | First to 15 Victory Points
Turns keep going until someone collects 15 victory points. Once someone has hit the 15 point threshold, at the end of that player’s turn, whoever has the most points wins (it is probably that player but things can happen). There are some nuances but learning how to play Smash Up is generally easy.



ALIENS: Aliens love to mess with people, and they love to mess with other players even more. From bouncing minions back to player’s hands, to replacing bases in play, aliens are out to have a great time, at any planet’s expense.

DINOSAURS: If there’s one thing dinosaurs know how to do… actually, with a brain the size of a walnut, they don’t really know how to do anything. But they are big. And someone gave them lasers.

NINJAS: If you can see a ninja, chances are you’re already dead. Most of what the faction does is sneaky, happens fast, and at the last second. So look out for that.

PIRATES: You know what’s better than roving in the high seas? Roving anywhere you want. Pirates buckle their swashes in every port, and you’ll walk the plank if you don’t like it.

ROBOTS: Captains of industry built the robots, and then the robots took over and made the process even more efficient! Now they can churn out more little, highly specialized bots than their enemies can handle. Oh, and a few massive ones as well.

TRICKSTERS: Stealing things, stopping things, starting things, hiding your keys in the morning, collecting underpants for profit… for years, you’ve thought of these little people as pests. Now they’ve turned up as pesticide.

WIZARDS: Presto! Wizards conjure what they need with actions galore. They just keep pulling things out of their hats, so watch their hands. Or their hats… or that big portal to another reality they just opened in your kitchen.

ZOMBIES: They are coming to get you. It is hard to keep a good walker down. Zombies just keep coming back, and sometimes they come in waves. Sending zombies to the discard pile is a futile effort because they will be back.


AFFECT: A card is affected if it is moved, returned, destroyed, has an action attached.

DESTROY: When a card says to destroy another card, put the destroyed card in its owner’s discard pile.

DISCARD: When a card gets discarded, it goes to the discard pile of the player whose deck it came from, no matter who played or controlled it.

EXTRA: Normally, you can play one minion and one action each turn. A card that lets you play an extra minion or action lets you play an additional card of that type during the turn. You don’t have to play the extra card right away, unless the extra card was gained by a special ability.

MOVE: This lets you move a card from one location to another. Moving a card does not count as playing it. Minion abilities do not happen when you move a card.

ONGOING: Most abilities happen and then they’re over, or else they end at the end of the turn. Ongoing abilities are active for as long as they are around.

PLAY: You play a card when it’s one of the free cards you get in phase 2, or any time an ability specifically says that you’re playing it. A card’s ability happens when you play it. When cards are moved, placed or returned, they are not being played and their abilities don’t happen.

RETURN: This means that a card goes back where it came from. When a card returns from a base, discard attachments on that card.

SPECIAL: Most abilities happen when you play a card. Special abilities happen when you play a card. Special abilities happen at unusual ways. Special abilities might be on a card already in play or held in your hand. A card’s ability will describe how it can be used. If you use a special ability to play a card on your turn, it doesn’t count as one of your free cards for that turn.


  • 8 factions with 20 cards each
  • 16 base cards
  • 1 rule book


I hope you can now all say you know how to play Smash Up. It is a very fun game that is deep in strategic choices and combos to keep it interesting. This happens on many levels, the beginning draft of your factions puts your strategy in place and then within that during gameplay there are tons of choices to make. There are lots of smart angles to Smash Up that have carved it out a great little niche that no other game is exactly alike.