As a self-confessed Japanophile and someone who has loved Smash Up for years, it's crazy that I've only just been gifted this expansion. But here we are - finally - I have the Big in Japan expansion and boy, was it worth the wait.
This expansion contains 4 new factions, 8 new bases, a rulebook, VP tokens and 4 titans which also serve as dividers for The Big Geeky Box. If you're reading this review, I'm going to assume you know Smash Up. If not, head on over to Zatu's listing for the original Smash Up and get yourself the game - it's fantastic. Essentially, it's a build-your own card game where you 'smash up' two sets of 'factions' to create your team. You then use your team to win bases and, ultimately, points. It's simple but at the same time, never boring.
Intellectual Property? What Intellectual Property?
One of the things I love most about this game is it's sense of humour. I present to you, the four new factions:
- Magical Girls
- Itty Critters
- Mega Troopers
If you watched any television in the 90s, you'll know exactly what these are supposed to be, but in case you didn't:
Kaiju - think Godzilla. All sorts of mythical monsters.
Magical girls - Lunar Captain *coughs* I mean, Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura and all sorts of animé gals feature in this aesthetic deck.
Itty Critters - Do I even need to explain this one?
Mega Troopers - A cross between Transformers and Power Rangers, from what I can tell. I'm getting a hint of Gundam in there too.
New Mechanic Alert!
Titans are a new type of card for Big In Japan, different from minions, actions and bases. Every faction in 'Big in Japan' has a titan. Titans are printed on the back side of the plastic Faction divider card. A titan starts the game next to the player's deck and never goes to the hand, deck or discard pile of that player. They also can't be played like any usual minion or action, in fact, they can only be played when a card (including the titan itself) allows you to play one. They bring a fun new variable to the game as well as being beautifully designed.
While we normally like to blind pick our teams, as we were testing out a new box I chose - of course - Pokémo- I mean, the Itty Critters. Leafaroo, Meowth- I mean Calicoin and all those well-known creatures we've come to know and love. Gotta get 'em all, right? For contrast (and nostalgia) I plumped for Mega Troopers as my second faction. This left my opponent with the slightly odd mix of Kaiju and Magical Girls.
The Itty Critters were, as you can imagine, all about the minions. I won't spoil all of the hilarious Poképuns for you, but just know that I giggled every time I drew a new card. The artwork is adorable and the mechanics work well although one repeating action was quite annoying (find a minion in your deck and play it. If you still control it at the end of your turn, put it on the bottom of your deck.) I think this is meant to help score a base, however it was on so many of the cards that it was rarely used.
The Mega Troopers had some solid buffs and reliable action cards, with a useful titan in Megabot. I think combining these two factions left me light on actions overall, which was a problem my opponent most certainly did not have.
The Magical Girls had a number of adorably derivative animé girl minions and a moving- I MEAN WALKING castle titan. If you're a Studio Ghibli fan - you'll enjoy these cards.
The Kaiju (and its titan Gorgodzola) were what ultimately won the game. While light on minions (and disappointingly lacking in fun playable monsters), this faction has an array of action cards you can play on bases, which make those bases much easier to win.
This expansion is my personal favourite so far. As a 90s child with a passion for all things kawaii, I loved the attention to detail and endless pop culture references in this set. 'Smash up: Big in Japan' will have you shouting 'Leafaroo, I select you!' and 'It's Blitzin' Time' with the giddy abandon of an eight year old millennial. It even has the puppy seal of approval.