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Expansion Review – Awesome Level 9000

al9kWe need more games that answer the tough questions. Where do we go when we die? How do I know when I’m in love? How much riboflavin is too much riboflavin? And of course, if people riding bears teamed up with giant carnivorous plants to have a fight against zombie robots, who would win?

I can’t help you with the first three questions. You’re on your own there. But happily, for the last question,we have Smash Up. Want to know what happens when gnomes team up with ghosts to battle pirate ninjas? Well, Smash Up can tell you, especially if you have Awesome Level 9000.

Awesome Level 9000 is the expansion for Smash Up, and if you just want to play a two-player game, you don’t even need the original game. It comes with bases and rules and everything. But if you want to have more options, or if you just want to play with more people, you will need the starter kit, too. It has a bunch more teams to mix up and brawl, so it’s worth owning.

I’ve already reviewed Smash Up, and I mostly liked it. It is wacky and fun and deep enough to hold my interest. The art is great, and the thematic elements are both utterly insane and totally awesome. It does have a bit of a weakness in that there are some combinations that just don’t work, though, and until you’ve played it a few times, good luck figuring out what goes best with what.

So if you’re already a fan of Smash Up, Awesome Level 9000 is an easy decision. The new factions add exciting new levels of bad-assery. The carnivorous plants are straight-forward and easy to play, where the bear cavalry dudes are just plain dangerous. The steampunks are tough to beat if they can add in all their gadgets. The coolest new half-deck, though, is the ghosts. They’re not easy to play, because they require a little more forethought and planning, but they have a neat combination of discarding and powering up from an empty hand.

One thing that comes in Awesome Level 9000 that absolutely should have come in Smash Up is a punch- out sheet of victory points. I don’t know why the base game didn’t have these, but it was annoying as hell, having to keep track of scores on a pad of paper. Poker chips were practically mandatory. But now you have cardboard circles with numbers on them, so everything is better.

Awesome Level 9000 does not fix the problems with the original game. You can still pull a bad combination, and if dino-mounted laser cannons and zombie ninjas seemed stupid before, adding bear-riding cossacks to the mix isn’t going to make the lunacy any better. However, with more decks, the odds of getting something completely unplayable are a lot lower, and the new stuff is very easy to integrate into the existing game.

The new cards in Awesome Level 9000 are also, in many cases, more fun than the original cards. My bear-riding Russians kept killing off enemies like genocidal sociopaths, and the steampunks can rule a base with one minion and a couple key actions. The new cards are easier to play, for the most part, and still deep enough to be interesting. I haven’t played Smash Up for several months, but now that I’ve got these new dudes to experiment, I’m definitely going to be getting more mileage out of the original game. I still don’t know the meaning of life, but at least now I know who wins between ghost aliens and piratical, man-eating shrubbery.

Summary

2 players (4 with the base game)

Pros:
Full 2-player game right in the box
Really great art
Continues the wacky theme

Cons:
Basically the same cons as the original – if you can get past those, you’ll love these

This time around, I found a wicked good price at Sci-Fi Genre. I’ve shopped there before, so ignore the fact that the site looks like it was designed by Russian counterfeiters.

WHO RIDE BEARS

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