Smashed Up! Ninjas and Pirates

smash up card game geeky box

Welcome to the a new column, called Smashed Up! No, it is not about that one game that has “Smash” in its title. No, not that one either. Yes, that one! This column is about a ‘shufflebuilding’ card game called Smash Up, where you take two half-decks, smash them together, and use them score victory points before your opponents do the same. Each faction has 1-3 things that they are particularly good at doing, as well as other factions that they play well with. I’ll save explaining the game itself for the next Review ALL The Things, so let’s take a look at two of the factions – Pirates and Ninjas. Despite being bitter rivals for whatever reason, the two factions are similar in their mindset – they’re all about having power control, albeit with very different methods. Ninjas have a bit more precision and power behind their control options, but Pirates have significantly more of them.


From AEG’s website – “Ninja strike from the shadows and steal victories from under enemies.”

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Ninja are all about two things – debilitation/destruction of enemy minions, and sneaky minion placement, especially at the point of scoring. For a quick explanation of scoring – when a base reaches a certain power threshold (determined by the total power of all minions on that base), the base will score, and players will earn points based on the amount of power that they have on that base. By both being able to destroy enemy minions as well as get extra minions onto the board, Ninjas can have substantial power control on a base. Several of their actions mimic the abilities of their four minions, giving the Ninja player several opportunities to use these skills to their advantage.

Debilitation and Destruction: The Ninjas have several cards that can allow for destruction of other minions. The Tiger Assassin minion as well as the Seeing Stars action both allow for destruction of minions of power 3 or less, while the Ninja Master and Assassination cards will destroy any minion, unless they are protected somehow. The one drawback of all of these abilities are that they can only affect a single minion, but this plays well into the Ninja’s general theme of subtle yet important shifts in power on a base. By playing a Ninja Master on a base, for instance, and taking out another 5 power minion, the Ninja player has created a 10-point power swing in their favor without actually affecting the total power on the base.

In addition to destruction, the Ninja player has two debilitating actions at their disposal. Both Infiltrate and Poison act as debuffs, removing ongoing actions from bases or minions, which could then open them up for other shenanigans. Poison in particular has a nasty secondary effect of reducing a minion’s power by 4. This is quite useful to neuter a powerful minion without destroying them. Since discard piles get reshuffled when the deck is depleted, keeping a powerful minion on a base, but unable to contribute, is an optimal way to slow down your opponent’s progress.

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Minion Placement: The Ninja player also has access to several abilities and minions that allow for them to better control the power on the board, as well as steal first place in base scoring at the last second. The Ninja Acolyte and Disguise both have the ability to substitute minions on the board with minions in your hand. In both instances, this counts as extra minions, which doesn’t count towards your “one Action, one Minion” play limitation. Disguise is a simple “sub 1-2 minions in play for 1-2 minions in your hand”, and is very powerful for one reason – almost all minions have abilities attached to them, and putting the minions back into your hand gives you another opportunity to play them and their ability a second time. The Acolyte has unusual wording for their ability, but it’s essentially a weaker version of Disguise that must be used at the start of the turn. Still useful if you have two minions that synergize well with each other, and you want to make sure that your opponents don’t have a turn to react to one of the two being played. The Smoke Bomb card also allows for protection of minions for a turn while you build up your strategy, but it again might reveal part of your plan to a veteran Smash Up player. Way of Deception allows to move a minion around, which could be useful to ensure that a base has two minions for Disguise.

The other core minion placement ability that the Ninja has at their disposal is the sudden playing of minions just before a base scores. The Shinobi minion can be played just before a base is scored to add +3 power for the ninja player on that base. This power increase could help shift the Ninja player to first place on a base, or allow for them to steal an uncontested second or third place on the base if only one or two players have influence on that base. Hidden Ninja is a more extreme version of the Shinobi’s ability, allowing for you to play any minion to the base. This could be devastating, depending on the minion in question (i.e. Master Ninja?)

Plays well with:

Dinosaurs, Robots: Both of these factions are creature-focused, with creatures that synergize well with each other. By using Acolytes and Disguise, it is easy to get these synergies into play and score bases more easily


From AEG’s website – “Pirates move cards around the table keeping your opponents unbalanced.”

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Pirates are similar to Ninjas, in that they are focused on destruction and minion placement. However, they have somewhat different ways of approaching each of these goals. As expected, Pirates are much less subtle about these abilities.

Destruction: The Pirate player has a similar number of destruction cards to the Ninja, but they differ in two major respects. First off, most of the destruction cards can affect multiple minions (2 minions for Cannon, all minions on a base for Powderkeg and Broadside). This gives the Pirate player the ability to cause some serious harm to a player’s power score on a base. The balancing act? Most of these cards can only affect grunt minions (2 power or less), with the Pirate’s only option for affecting stronger minions (Powderkeg) requiring a sacrifice of one of your own minions to have any effect. Powderkeg has good synergy with one of the Pirate minions, however. Since the Buccaneer’s special ability allows for it to be moved to another base instead of being destroyed, it makes for a good minion to ‘sacrifice’ to deal some real damage to a base.

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Minion Placement: Although the Pirate doesn’t have access to extra minion plays or sudden minion plays like the Ninja, they do have access to a large amount of minion movement, which can be applied in a similar way. Interestingly, the pirates can move other player’s minions through Shanghai and Sea Dogs, pushing a player off of a base to allow for the Pirates to swoop in. Dinghy can be used to help consolidate a few minions, useful for synergistic armies like the Dinosaurs and Robots mentioned above. The Pirate King is like a more extreme Shinobi (can be moved to a base just before it scores), limited by the fact that there is only one Pirate King card in the deck and that he needs to already be in play.

The truly scary cards in the Pirate’s aresenal, however, are Full Sail and First Mate. Full Sail allows for you to move any number of minions to any other bases. This can be used to scatter minions if you realize that you won’t be able to score a base easily, or (more usefully) to consolidate all of your minions onto a base to have uncontested first place when it is scored. Since this ability can be used just before a base scores, it has the potential to be utterly devastating. The First Mates, on the other hand, are not that scary on their own (only 2 power). However, after a base is scored, First Mates can be moved to a different base instead of the discard pile. If you have all four First Mates out on a single base, you will then have essentially a roving power 8 monster going from base to base. This has the potential to score several bases in a single turn, When used in conjunction with Swashbuckling (grants each minion +1 power until the end of the turn), you would have 12 power base-hopping, which is enough to guarantee first or second place on almost all bases. This combination more than makes up for the more lackluster destruction abilities that the Pirate has at their disposal.

Plays well with:

Plants: Allowing for extra minion plays, as well as searching for low-power minions out of the deck, this is ideal for quickly building up the First Mate roaming army.

Zombies: This faction can be used to bring the Pirate King (and First Mates!) back from the discard pile, which allows for either of these minions to continue using their awesome effects turn after turn.


Any other fun combinations/good pairings for these factions? Mention them in the comments below! Next Time: Robots and Dinosaurs!