Smash Up’s Awesome Level 9000 expansion brings in 4 new factions and the Talent ability. Talents can be used once on your turn and have an impact on the strategies and tactics to use with each faction. Don’t forget to use your talents!
The new factions that are added are all usable and none are overpowering. There is enough randomness in which cards you draw that any combination can win, however, you can get a significant advantage if you find a faction combo that works well together. I’m going to go through each faction, discuss combos and other tips for playing them more effectively, and tell you which factions are good pairs for each. The video below covers all 4 factions or continue reading what follows it for the text version of the analysis. If you care about only a specific faction, you can watch the video that covers that single faction.
Bear Cavalry is a control faction that has a surprising amount of muscle to render opponents’ small minions ineffective. The standard operating procedure is to lay claim on a base with a Cub Scout, and then you move any smaller minions of your opponents over to that base to kill them upon landing. You may want to pair them with a faction that increases the power of your Cub Scouts, like the Dinosaurs who have their augmentations, so that you can kill even larger minions.
High Ground is arguably the best card in deck for the Bear Cavalry as it is the key to an even more powerful combo than Cub Scout, and can be used along with all of the minion moving cards at your disposal to kill ANY of your opponents’ minions. If you can get that card in play, you will very likely win the game. You never want to rely on a single card in the deck, but even if you get it out and it is destroyed, you have cards that can bring it back.
This faction can be paired with many other faction with success. My favorite is probably Pirates because it is similar in its ability to move minions and destroy them as well. You can really control the game with those two and take advantage of the Cub Scout and High Ground moving combos. Overall, I believe Bear Cavalry is the best out of this bunch.
The Secret Grove is an annoying base for them because they don’t have any minions small enough to take advantage of it. But don’t worry, the Bear Cavalry faction has two bases tailored to their style: Field of Honor and Tsar’s Palace. Tsar’s Palace is a good place for a Cub Scout because it forces opponents to play their smaller minions somewhere (to be moved here) but Field of Honor and Bear Cavalry may be the best faction/base combo in the game. If this base comes out and you can make it your killing grounds, you stand to gain tons of victory points, while still destroying opponent minions. A.K.A. You win.
Ghosts rely upon keeping your hand limit very low to get various powerful bonuses. The bonuses increase minion power, bring back minions from the discard pile, take control of someone else’s minion, or gain 1 VP. Any time in Smash Up where you see “1 VP” on a card, pay very close attention, because those cards are often the difference between winning and losing and are so much easier to get than winning bases.
This faction is based largely on timing. They have a wide array of great cards, but they usually have restrictions on how many cards you have in your hand that will affect how helpful they are in your current situation. They don’t have a lot of minion power, but Spirit is their bread and butter because it’s a power 3 minion, which is good, it allows you to discard a bunch of cards, which you want, and it lets you kill an opponent’s minion.
They are an ab0ve-average faction on their own, but the hard part is pairing them with another faction. Most factions want to gain the card-advantage to provide more options, but this one needs fewer cards to really shine. If possible, you will want a faction that will get some kind of benefit for having cards in the discard pile, such as Zombies who bring minions back from the dead or the Steampunks who can easily recover the valuable lost cards in the discard. The fact that Ghosts don’t play well with others forces me to label them as the weakest faction of this expansion.
The two bases added for the Ghosts are The Dread Gazebo and the Haunted House. The Dread Gazebo is good for them because base actions are not very important to them, but the Haunted House is the one they really love because they don’t mind discarding cards, while it will really hurt other players to do so.
The Killer Plants are a very solid faction in this expansion. Their Water Lily minions will ensure you get a steady stream of cards coming into your hand, which should give you the card advantage over your opponents and allow you to make efficient use of your turns by almost always providing you with both a minion and action to play. However, they are fairly dependent on when you draw certain cards and because they let you search through your deck for cards, they tend to go into a slump once your deck runs low until you get to re-shuffle your discards into it.
This leads us to another core component of the Killer Plants: the Sprout. They let you pull a power 3 or less minion from your deck, and play it as an extra minion to replace the Sprout, so if you can pair that with a faction that has a 3 or less minion with a summoning bonus, you can take full advantage of these guys sprouting out all over the place. Getting Sprouts early is great, but you will find your deck sputtering if you’re unlucky enough to pull these in the bottom half of your deck because you won’t have many cards left to search. Another downside is that playing one minion ends up removing two from your deck, which means you’ll be drawing fewer in the future. This is where you’ll need the Water Lily card drawing to keep those minions flowing. If you can get a bunch of minions in your hand, you can often play more than one in a turn to surprise your opponents with a big power boost coming our of nowhere and triggering a base score.
You can think of Plants as a great support faction because they will help you with your card advantage and allow your paired faction to pile onto those bases. Combining these guys with a faction like Ghosts won’t work very well because the Ghost benefits you get from having few cards in your hand will not apply when you’re drawing extra cards from Killer Plant abilities. Since this faction allows you to pop out lots of small minions, it works well with a mobilization faction like Bear Cavalry or Pirates because you can distribute all your little plants among the bases to put the numbers in your favor before scoring. Otherwise, get Robots or Zombies or another faction that has a lot of little minions to overwhelm opponents.
The Secret Grove base will help you get your Sprouts out even quicker, but will help your opponents just as much as you unless they don’t have any small minions. The Greenhouse was added for the Killer Plants but will definitely help opponents as much as you, or more, since you may have already searched through your deck to find the minions you want to play while this will probably be their only way to do it.
The Steampunks are another solid faction, but will be better in support of another faction, however they have some extremely powerful base actions that can get you a victory no matter who is paired with them.
Base actions are the Steampunks’ specialty. The Rotary Slug-Thrower gives each minion at a base +2 power and the Aggromotive will give you a +5 power advantage. WOW. You don’t need much beyond those to win bases and games. Other Steampunks cards will help you recover or protect your base actions, so it will be hard for your opponents to throw a meaningful wrench into your machine. If possible, pair them with a faction that has many/good base actions, such as the Tricksters from the base game.
The Difference Engine is great to help get you a card advantage over your opponents, especially when played on a high breakpoint base or in a game with fewer players. Their minions aren’t bad either. Captain Ahab has a Talent that lets him move to a different base on his turn, so don’t forget to use that to your advantage whenever possible. The Steam Men get a bonus for base actions, so they are almost always a 4 power minion. They don’t have a stand-out bomb minion, but their machines are solid and dependable so you can hang in there in any base battle.
For bases, the Workshop is the best one out there for them, but the Inventor’s Salon is handy too. The Dread Gazebo doesn’t let you play actions on it so that one you pretty much have to forfeit when it drops. In general, bases do not have much of an affect on the way the Steampunks roll.