Smash Up: Awesome Level 9000 is the first full expansion for the Smash Up franchise and it pretty much set the pattern for future expansions by introducing four new factions to the game. Each new faction plays quite differently, same as the base set, however their inherent strategies are also quite diverse and they go a long way towards shaking up your game experience.
And while it's not my favorite experience since so many awesome factions have been conceived after this set, it's still a solid addition to any collection. And these "older" factions have presented some interesting new combinations with some of the latest factions as well.
Synopsis: Smash Up: Awesome Level 9000 is the first full expansion for Smash Up as created by Paul Peterson. The expansion adds four new factions and contains a total of 88 cards including reprints of the original base cards from the main set.
So with every Smash Up expansion, we'll need to talk about the factions and how each differs from the other. I might as well follow the order of the box cover just for the sake of having a pattern.
The first faction is the Steampunks, who are obviously all about celebrating the whole notion of retro-futurism sans electronics. Their primary focus is all about Actions played to bases and the sort of long-term effects they can have. They have an abundance of such actions and they can also maneuver things such that other players won't be able to play actions of bases in turn. It's an interesting approac, although personally I've always had a little trouble with the group since not that many factions rely on base-targeting Actions as much as they do. So it seems like a lot of defenses against strategies that don't often happen.
Then you have the Bear Cavalry, is the big bruiser in this set, and every expansion since has pretty much have a group of this time. Their main gimmick involves dealing with the movement of Minions between bases, as what is often seen with factions like the Pirates. Plus they can operate pretty well on their own with key bonuses there or they can bounce the minions of other players out of the bases they enter. They're an interesting mix of strength and speed.
Then there's the Killer Plants, which is a faction that often starts out small and then grows pretty big. They have interesting Minions that are destoryed in order to bring in bigger friends into play or Actions that can allow them to play multiple Minions in a turn. So if you're not careful, that happy little flower can quickly overwhelm your forces like a lethal weed infestation.
Then lastly there are the Ghosts, who rely a lot on cards being discarded or resting in your dicard pile. This goes beyond what the Zombies did in terms of coming back to life. The Ghosts gain strength when you have fewer cards in hand. And of course some of those cards have the power to come into play as long as they've been discarded and such.
But of course any Smash Up game is just about individual factions, of course it isn't. The game shines once you "shufflebuild" your deck by taking two factions together. And these four new factions really did something to inject new life into the game and have all players really re-think strategies. And of course this is the whole point of expansions - to help keep things fresh and thus keeping everyone on their toes.
Smash Up: Awesome Level 9000 may not necessarily be quite as awesome as promised in the name of the expansion, but it's still pretty darn good. And things get better in time, once you've mastered how to make best use of these new factions in your games. Thus the expansion gets a fun 4 surprise strategies as bears manipulate the board or plants come out of nowhere out of a possible 5.