It has been a long time since I’ve played the deck mashing card game Smash Up, so when I got a chance to check out Smash Up: Disney Edition I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to revisit the franchise.
Due to the Disney name, I was also expecting this new version of Smash Up to be a good entry point to the series and a Smash Up game that would be great for playing with the kids.
Though I have to say, what I got with this new Disney Smash Up game wasn’t quite what I was expecting.
Disclosure: Thank you to The Op for sending us a review copy of this Disney themed version of Smash Up. Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
What exactly is Smash Up: Disney Edition?
Smash Up: Disney Edition is a new stand alone Smash Up game that is also compatible with all previously released Smash Up content.
It was designed by Sean Fletcher and Paul Peterson, and features original artwork from Rick Hutchinson, Delaney Mamer, and Francisco Rico Torres. This new Smash Up core set was published in 2022 in a joint collaboration between The Op and AEG.
On its own, this box plays two to four players with games taking anywhere from half an hour to over an hour depending on the player’s familiarity with the game. This Disney version of Smash Up is listed as ages twelve plus, which seems just a bit high to me though this is in no way a kid’s game.
The MSRP for this latest addition to the Smash Up franchise is $34.99 USD.
In Smash Up Disney Edition, players will select two fan favourite Disney movies to smash together and team up in an effort to control bases for points. These twenty card decks are selected from Frozen, Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph, The Lion King, Mulan, Aladdin, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Beauty & the Beast. Your chosen two decks are shuffled together to become your play deck. It’s then up to you to figure out various combos and symmetries between your decks, play characters and actions to raise your power on the various bases in play, and score based on your relative power when each base pops.
To get a good look at the contents of this new Smash Up box check out my Smash Up Disney Edition Unboxing video on YouTube.
The majority of what you get here are cards split over eight different decks, these include twenty main cards and two base cards for each Disney movie. You also get a number of two sided counters, something that is new with this version of Smash Up and is designed to better track power ups and points. Another new inclusion is base cards and counters, these are used to track the break point and power levels at each base.
The game comes with a plastic insert designed to hold each deck separate from the others, with plenty of room to add in other Smash Up card sets. You also get a set of large plastic dividers which oddly don’t actually work with this insert. After doing a bit of research we learned that these dividers are meant for The Smash Up Big Geeky Box or The Smash Up Bigger Geekier Box, if you happen to have either of those. We found that we like to use these dividers for drafting decks as they include some summary info for each card set.
Finally, there is a rather thick rulebook. This rulebook is a testament to how long Smash Up has been around and how many edge cases there have been over the years. It reads somewhat like a set of card game tournament rules, making sure to get into every keyword and various timing rules. While thick, the rules are very clear and easy to understand.
Overall, I was happy with the component quality here and really appreciate some of the new additions like the base mats, improved counters and unambiguous rulebook.
How do you play Smash Up: Disney Edition?
You start a game of Smash Up Disney with everyone picking a pair of decks to mash together from the eight included. You can also expand your selection to other Smash Up sets, but for this review, I’m only looking at the eight Disney themed decks included in this box.
To facilitate this I recommend using the large plastic dividers that come in the box as they give you an idea of how each deck plays and rank each deck with a difficulty ranking. In our plays, these rankings seemed pretty accurate and some decks are easier to figure out than others. The rulebook also lists a series of suggested pairings that may be worth exploring especially for players new to the game.
For our games we like to use the “Who’s On Your Side” formal drafting system presented in the rules, where one player picks a single faction, then each other player around the table also picks one faction. The last player then picks two factions and things wrap back around the table so that the first player picks their second faction last.
Once everyone has their cards, they should pull out the two blue backed bases and thoroughly shuffle their two decks together into a single play deck. All of the base cards from all players also get combined and shuffled to form the base deck.
A number of Base Mats are put out equal to the player count plus one, and a random base card is placed on each of these. Breakpoint Tokens are placed on the appropriate Break Point for each base and the Total Current Power Tokens are placed on the zero spot for each base.
Everyone draws five cards and can take a mulligan if they have no Characters in their starting hand.
The start player begins the game, which will continue around the table clockwise until someone has at least fifteen points at the end of their turn. If two or more players tie for points at this point, everyone plays additional turns until someone has the most points and is declared the winner.
Each turn in Smash Up: Disney Edition you can play one Character Card from your hand to a base and/or play one Action Card, in any order. As each card is played you will activate the effects on the cards fully before moving on to your next card play or to the end of the turn.
All Characters have a power rating, this rating represents that player’s presence at the base the Character is played at. The Current Power Token for the base should be adjusted after each character is played. If that token meets or passes the Break Point Token that base will score at the end of the active player’s turn.
Most Characters also have special abilities. These abilities, which can go off when the card is played, could be a Talent that can be activated every turn, or they might be an ongoing ability, or even a combination of all of these.
I don’t think it’s worth getting into the details here but these abilities will do all kinds of things like add power to this character or another, allow you to play additional Character Cards or Action Cards, manage your hand of cards, discard or draw additional cards and all kinds of other effects.
Action cards come in a variety of types and, similar to characters, all do something different. They could add or take away power from cards in play, adjust the Break Point of bases, allow players to draw or discard cards, let you pull specific cards from your deck, or mess with your discard pile, and a ton of other abilities.
Most Action cards are one and done, you play them, carry out their effect and then discard them, but there are also Base and Character Modifier cards. These are played onto existing cards in play and stay in play until the card they are attached to is removed from play.
In addition to this, each Base also has its own special set of rules on it which include a wide variety of things like letting you move Characters to or from that base, letting you return Characters at the base to your hand after it scores, increasing the power of cards played at that base, allowing you to play additional cards and more.
There are a ton of different card effects in this game between the Base, Character and Action cards and it’s those abilities and the way they interact that makes Smash Up what it is and this Disney Edition is no exception.
At the end of a player’s turn, if any bases have hit their break point they score. We like to say “the base pops” when this happens.
Each Base Card lists three point values. These points are awarded to the players with the most, second most, and third most power at that location when it pops, with detailed rules for ties being included in the rulebook.
Note that a number of Action Card, Character Card, and Base Card abilities can trigger just before or just after a base scores.
After a base scores, all cards at that base are returned to their owners and discarded and a new base is drawn from the deck. The two base tracking tokens are reset and the next base that popped this turn (if any) is scored. The active player then draws two cards from their deck.
While it is not stated in the Smash Up Disney Edition rulebook, it is a standard rule in all Smash Up games that at this point, if the active payer has more than ten cards in their hand, they must discard down to ten. It has been confirmed with the designers that this rule is meant to be in place for this edition but was missed in the rulebook.
For the most part, these rules are identical to the rules for every other edition of Smash Up and the cards here are totally compatible with all previous and future sets. A significant change here though is that the cards you play on bases are called Characters and not Minions. When combining this set with any other set, all Minions are Characters and all Characters are Minions.
Also in an effort to be more clear, they have replaced the word “Transfer” with “Move” when referring to moving cards or relocating Characters/Minions. The fact that they included power tokens and base mats, and having deck information printed on the card dividers, are new with this Smash Up core set.
Smash Up: Disney Edition is not My First Smash Up, it’s a fully featured new set of cards.
I have to admit I haven’t played a Smash Up game in a long time. I played it back when it was the new hotness and had some fun with it. I played a few more times with other people’s copies and I’m sure some of those plays also included expansions.
When I got the offer to review Smash Up: Disney Edition I took it as a chance to see how the game has evolved and give it another shot.
One thing I expected from this new edition of Smash Up was for it to be a lighter, more entry level, game due to having the Disney license. I was expecting something more like My First Smash Up, the kind of game that they sell at mass market stores hoping to lure in a new demographic to the full game.
That’s not at all what Smash Up: Disney Edition is. Rather, this is a full, complete version of Smash Up with all of the rules, complexity, and card variety that this series of games has to offer, with Disney theming sprinkled on top.
This is going to be a great thing for long time Smash Up fans looking for new compatible content for their games but I don’t know if this particular game has the broad appeal I normally expect from games with the Disney name.
Maybe that’s a me problem. Based on other games we’ve reviewed recently, like Disney Sidekicks, maybe it’s time for me to change my expectations for a game with the Disney name.
The big thing with all versions of Smash Up, including this new Disney Edition, is that the game is all about learning and knowing the cards. Not only just the cards in the decks you are playing but the cards in your opponent’s decks as well. This is a game, like many collectible or living card games, where learning to play well pretty much means turning the game into a lifestyle game.
To learn all the nuances you have to play often, with different people, trying different decks and combinations. You may even want to spend time between plays looking through the decks, trying out sample hands and draws, play against yourself, and more, just to better learn the ins and outs of the various options in the game.
Without this additional work, Smash Up Disney Edition and all other versions of Smash Up can easily become overwhelming. There is a lot to take in even when only considering your own cards, what’s in your hand, and what’s on the table. Every deck is unique and plays differently. This is combined with the fact that the bases in play also have their own card text and abilities, and using them well is also part of the game.
Any time I’ve played this Disney version of Smash Up with someone who hasn’t played any Smash Up games previously they start off the game rather lost. Even experienced card game players aren’t sure what exactly to do with all of the information they are presented with. There is a lot going on in this game and a lot to remember.
With four players you need to remember what the five bases in play do and how they interact with the cards in your hand. Depending on the deck you are playing you may also need to watch what cards you are discarding as much as tracking what you have in your hand. All decks benefit from you knowing what’s in your deck including how many copies of each card are in there, and all of that is without even considering what your opponents have going on.
Due to the amount of information you need to process while playing this game, it’s not going to be for everyone.
On the other side of the coin, the long time Smash Up fans I’ve played Smash Up: Disney Edition with love it. They love the new combos, they love having more options and they appreciate the fact that this is not a simplified version of the game. The eight new decks here are all very valid options combined on their own or paired with earlier sets.
These people thrive on having more cards to learn and more interactions to figure out.
Speaking of combining this set with previous Smash Up sets, I appreciate that this box is fully compatible. While I do find it odd they changed the name Minion to Character, maybe there’s some licensing thing with Disney where they can’t use the name Minion because it’s owned by Universal or something, this is a minor annoyance at best.
I also appreciate the new bits that Smash Up Disney Edition brings to the game in the form of the new two sided counters, base mats, and tracking tokens. Now I know there are some hardcore Smash Up fans that think it should be up to the players playing to keep track of what Power level every base is at, but that information has always been public and I would rather players were rewarded on their skill at playing the right cards at the right time to the right place rather than their observation and quick math skills.
Another bonus of this new edition is a comprehensive detailed rulebook that is much more thorough than the original. I’m sure this comes from the series’ age with multiple expansions and core sets coming out since I read the original rulebook. Every time we had a timing issue or didn’t quite get how a card worked we were able to quickly find the answer in the rulebook.
One final thing I do want to bring up about this game is the game length. The game is significantly longer at the max player count. This is due not only to the fact that you have more players taking turns but also the fact there are more bases in play and thus more things to read and remember. This can lead to even more AP (Analysis Paralysis).
AP can also be a huge issue when you are playing with people who are just learning the game. There is a lot of reading to do in Smash Up: Disney Edition. At a minimum, before the first turn you have to read all of your cards and then all of the base cards and then figure out what to do with all of that. Then you are quickly flooded with more cards played onto the table by the other players plus additional cards coming into your hand from your own deck.
My oldest daughter is very tactical when she plays board games. She likes to think out every possible action and weigh them against each other before making a move. This Disney version of Smash Up proved to be a bit too much for her. There was just too much to think about and her turns became excessively long.
You can tell from the rules that this has been an issue for other people. The book even recommends just playing cards to find out what happens when learning the game. The problem becomes convincing a competitive player to actually do that at the table.
A surprise for me regarding player count is how well the game played with only two-players. Usually area majority style games don’t work well with anything less than three players, but somehow Smash Up: Disney Edition manages to make it work rather well. While I prefer the game with at least three players, I could see playing with only two. Two player games do have a big advantage of being much quicker than playing with more.
Overall I was impressed by Disney Smash Up, even if it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I thought I was getting a lighter version of Smash Up with a Disney theme to play with my kids and instead, I got a fully functional, just as detailed and complex as the past sets, version of Smash Up.
This new version includes some useful upgrades and has proven to be popular with the long time Smash Up fans I know. While the game can be overwhelming for new players, and that alone is going to turn people off, people willing to stick with the game and learn the various cards and their combos will be rewarded with a very replayable, tactical, and strategic game.
If you are a Smash Up fan, don’t let the Disney theme scare you away here. This is a complete new Smash Up boxed set with eight new factions for the game you love. Factions that work great together and combo well with the sets you already have. As an added bonus you get some improved tokens and a better way to track Base power levels.
If you enjoy area majority games Smash Up is a neat one. Instead of a map and cubes or minis, you are battling over card locations with Character cards and power ups, which your group may really enjoy. This new Disney Edition could be a good place to start your Smash Up journey.
A group that may not have tried Smash Up but that should are competitive card game players. Smash Up: Disney Edition provides all of that deck mastery, combo finding, and synchronicity discovery you love without the cost of having to keep up with the latest releases and an ever evolving meta.
If you’ve tried Smash Up in the past and weren’t won over by it, I don’t think this new edition will change your mind. That is unless you happen to be a huge Disney fan or perhaps if your main complaint was trying to keep track of the math at all the bases, as the new base mats do help with that.
For anyone else, this is a try before you buy, and if possible I recommend trying with the same set of cards at least twice. There’s far too much going on in this game to really grasp it with only one play.
While Smash Up: Disney Edition was not quite what I was expecting, I was not actually disappointed. This is a very solid Smash Up game that includes all the things Smash Up fans have grown to love.
I do think there’s a spot in the market though for a My First Smash Up, something with simpler cards that have fewer powers and abilities. I don’t think anything like this is currently in the works though.
Is there a game out there that you enjoy but that you think could use a lighter entry point? Something like My Little Scythe for Scythe or Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion? Let us know about it in the comments below!