Smash Up Faction Review - Aliens
Updated: Sep 18, 2021
The Aliens faction is one of the original eight factions that were released in first set (Core Set) on October 8th, 2012.
The Core Set rulebook describes the Aliens as:
Aliens love to mess with people, and they love to mess with other players even more. From bouncing minions back to players’ hands, to replacing bases in play, aliens are out to have a great time, at any planet’s expense.
That being said, we describe the Aliens as a faction that, if paired correctly and with some decent card draw, can win a game of Smash Up without ever scoring a base.
Aliens have the typical 10 minions, 10 actions, and 2 bases breakdown. One thing to note for their breakdown is that they have no 4 power minions, and instead have two Invaders that are 3 power minions. For additional data around the Aliens breakdown, please visit our faction analysis page.
1x Supreme Overlord - power 5 - You may return a minion to its owner's hand.
2x Invader - power 3 - Gain 1 VP.
3x Scout - power 3 - Special: After this base is scored, you may place this minion into your hand instead of the discard pile.
4x Collector - power 2 - You may return a non-Collector minion of power 3 or less on this base to its owner's hand.
2x Beam Up - Return a minion to its owner’s hand.
2x Disintegrator - Place a minion of power 3 or less on the bottom of its
1x Abduction - Return a minion to its owner’s hand. Play an extra minion.
1x Crop Circles - Choose a base. Return each minion on that base to its owner’s hand.
1x Invasion - Move a minion to another base.
1x Jammed Signal - Play on a base. Ongoing: All players ignore this base’s ability.
1x Probe - Look at another player’s hand and choose a minion in it. That player discards that minion.
1x Terraforming - Search the base deck for a base. Swap it with a base in play (discard all actions attached to it). All minions from the original base remain. Shuffle the base deck. You may play an extra minion on the new base.
The Homeworld - breakpoint 23 - VPs: 4 2 1 - After each time a minion is played here, its owner may play an extra minion of power 2 or less.
The Mothership - breakpoint 20 - VPs: 4 2 1 - After this base scores, the winner may return one of his or her minions of power 3 or less from here to his or her hand.
Check out what these cards look like at the bottom of this post!
We classify the Aliens faction with a predominantly control-gimmick playstyle. The Aliens really excel at returning their minions to their own hand to gain VP, as well as disrupting their opponents minions in play by sending them back to their hand. Something to note when playing with or against the Aliens is that they are one of the few factions to have VP fixing capabilities, and that at their core, they rely on one minion. The Aliens playstyle rating has an average of 2.16, which is below the typical playstyle average for a faction (~2.5). The control aspect of Aliens comes from returning minions in play to their owners hand, and given that 12 of their cards do this, we gave it a 4/5 rating. In regards to the gimmick aspect of the Aliens, we also gave it a 4/5 due to them being so reliant on farming VP.
A lot of novice players tend to over play the Aliens cards to slow down their opponents by returning a minions back to their owner's hand, but we think the real strategy behind winning with Aliens is to use their return minion cards on themselves. The Invader minion has one of the most powerful abilities in the game and it is too strong to not return back to your hand. Free Victory Points can make or break a game, so why not take advantage of a card that lets you keep farming them?! Of course, there is a fine line between stalling your opponents by returning their minions and farming victory points for yourself.
Be cautious of when you decide to play your Invader as it gives a lot of information to your opponent. If they are playing a destruction faction, you want to try to only play your Invader on turns that you can return it back to your hand by the end of the same turn, ensuring you do not leave it out on a base for others to send it to the discard pile or to the bottom of your deck. Notably, "Disintegrate" will often be used to return opponents' minions, unless of course, the Aliens are paired with a faction that plays from the bottom of your deck (like Grannies) or if your deck has very few cards left in it. However, If you do decide to return your opponent's minion(s), be sure to focus on one of the following types of cards to return:
Minions that do not have a strong ability when they are played (unless it is the difference in you winning a base vs. them winning)
Minions that are core to your opponent's playstyle and strategy (think of Water Lily or Sprout from Killer Plants)
Minions that obstruct your turn (think Secret Agent from Super Spies)
Minions that have an action(s) played on them (think any Cyborg Apes minions stacked with play-on-minion actions)
Minions that have abilities that do "x" when they are destroyed/discarded (think of Gremlin from Tricksters)
Minions that secure their cards on bases (think First Mate from Pirates or Polar Commando from Bear Cavalry)
When you play Aliens, there are a few things that you must pay attention to:
When playing against destruction factions, do not keep your Invader out in play as it is an easy target and you do not want it in the discard pile.
Bases that could score on your opponent's turn, particularly if you have an Invader on it, as it will go into the discard pile before you can return it back to your hand to gain additional VP.
Factions that have strong on-play abilities as that will alter the way you return their minions.
Factions that disturb the Aliens playstyle in general, putting cards on the bottom of your deck or making you discard cards.
Two common strategies that should be used when an Alien base is in play are:
If The Homeworld is out in play - play your Invader and then play Collector as your extra minion play (due to the base ability) to immediately return your Invader safely back to your hand (and to set yourself up for another VP gain on your next turn).
If The Mothership is out in play - and you know you will win the base, you can play an invader on it and when the base scores you can return it back to your hand (assuming you do actually win).
Another key strategy for the Aliens revolves around their Terraforming action. This is an insane card that can change an entire game as searching for a new base allows for extreme threats. Some example plays of the card Terraforming include:
Play it on a base where you have 12 power, searching for Jungle Oasis and getting an instant base break, scoring points before any of your opponents can.
Play it when you are in second place on a base and look for a Ninja base to get more VP gain than the second place player.
Play it to discard any threatening base that may be more beneficial to your opponent(s).
Play it when opponents have high power invested on a base that pays big VP, and swap it for a base that doesn't give as much VPs (Jungle Oasis).
Play it to end a game early by making a base win more valuable, aiming for 5+ VP on a single base (Mushroom Kingdom or Mountains of Madness).
Aliens suffer from a need to draw Invaders paired with no card draw, and very low power drop potential. They have only 28 minion power with no power increases and their only two extra minion plays come from powerful actions that often have a better use - Abduction and Terraforming. Abduction is typically used for the Invader VP farming strategy, and Terraforming is an insane card that can change an entire game as searching for a new base allows for extreme threats, see the above Terraforming strategies to get a better look at how it could be played depending on game circumstances. Aliens board presence is very lackluster due to these weaknesses, as well as their gimmick of returning minions back to their hand (typically used on themselves), and due to their lower than average minion power. Another thing to note with Aliens is that if they do not draw an Invader early on, their chances of winning quickly diminishes as they are very reliant on the VP farming strategy. To gain further insights into their weaknesses, check out the Effects Breakdown below!
When to use Aliens:
Aliens are best used in 2 player games and in fact, their win rates reduce significantly when played in 3 player and 4 player games. The more players in the a game, the worse we see Aliens perform, mostly due to it being very difficult to use the VP farming strategy as a base could score before it even gets back around to your turn, and with minimal board presence it is tough to stay relevant on any given base. Check out the What does our data tell us section below to see how overpowered Aliens are in 1 v 1 versus how bad they do in a 4 player game.
Using our SUD Effects system, we are able to classify all Smash Up cards into different effect categories. These categories help us determine the effects that each faction excels in, as well as effects that they lack in. More details regarding this system can be found on our Effects Definitions page.
Check out the Aliens' effects breakdown below:
So what do these effects tell us about Aliens? It tells us that the Aliens have a primary focus of returning cards, recovering cards, earning VP, and tailoring the board. The Aliens have 10 distinct effects throughout all of their cards, which can be broken down into 27 effects for their deck and 2 effects for their bases. This gives the Aliens an average of 1.35 effects per card in their deck. Breaking this down further gives us the following:
Actions: The actions have 17 effects across their 10 actions, giving an average 1.7:1 effects per card.
Minions: The minions have 10 effects across their 10 minions, giving an average of 1:1 effects per card.
Bases: The bases have 2 effects across their 2 bases, giving an average of 1:1 effects per card.
The higher the ratio and count of the effects per card can usually determine the complexity and/or versatility of a faction. Aliens have a pretty low ratio across all of their cards, telling us they are relatively straightforward, especially since they have a spread of 10 distinct effects out of the 20 total features available for any card to have.
Here is how we broke down the defined SUD Effects for Aliens:
So what works well with Aliens?
Due to the Aliens lacking card draw and having low powered minions, pairing with factions that enable these two weaknesses will overall allow the Aliens to succeed more often. Additionally, factions that play or retrieve cards from the discard pile, help find minions in your deck (to get your Invader early), or help slow down the game in order for you to maximize your VP from Invaders also work exceptionally well. Below we list some wombocombos and additional sample pairings for Aliens, but please check out our Aliens data breakdown page to see a full tier list of pairings.
The term wombocombo is typically used in video games, but we've used it in Smash Up as a descriptor word for faction-melding that is so strong that opponents are unable to do anything about it. In short, it gives you a huge advantage if played properly, and if your opponents are unable to stop you from doing it.
Pairing with Star Roamers: This pairing allows for additional recycling of cards from play which you can use to take advantage of the Aliens' Invader minion. Utilizing the Star Roamers cards you can gain a lot of additional Victory Points that the Aliens faction could not as effectively do by themselves (or with other factions). See a few card combo breakdowns below:
Ship's Captain: This minion allows you to get your Invader out early, and to abuse it the Victory Point gain as quickly as possible.
Medical Officer: This minion providers protection against your Invaders, or against other minions of yours that can be utilized to bring Invaders back into play.
Science Officer: This minion provides additional recycling of your cards, and additional card play.
Ensign: These minions can used as meat shields, protecting your precious Invaders.
Mass Teleport: These actions allow you to recycle your Invaders.
Port Me Up: These actions allow you to save that Invader after a base scores.
Protector Fields: This action can shield your Invaders from other player's plans to remove them from play.
Teleport Overflow: This action is extremely advantageous when paired with Aliens. Imagine having two Invaders in your hand, playing one of them on your turn, and then playing this action, allowing you to play all of your Invaders and gain 3 free Victor Points in one turn. Insane!
Weird New Worlds: This action is pretty great if you have a little RNG on your side. Play this card, hope for an Aliens' base (The Homeworld or The Mothership), and then get some of your Aliens out into play!
Neutral Space: This base helps protect your little Aliens from going to the discard pile.
Pairing with Time Travelers: This pairing allows for additional recycling of from play and from your discard pile. Again, allowing for the utilization of the Aliens' Invader minion. Similar to the Star Roamers, you'll gain a lot of additional Victory Points that the Aliens cannot do by themselves. Check out some combos below:
Doctor When: This minion allows you return an in play Invader, and replay them to gain an additional VP.
Repeater Perfect: This minion lets you snag an action from the discard pile. Almost all actions on both Time Travelers and the Aliens will allow for additional recycling of cards, which will in-turn grant additional VPs.
Time Raider: This minion lets you bring that Invader back into your deck so you have an opportunity to draw it again for additional play.
1.21 Gigawatts: This action allows for recycling of your cards from the discard pile
Do Over!: This action allows you to return your Invader to your hand and play it again, to gain an additional VP.
Into the Time Slip: This action will allow you to return your Invader back to your hand to play later for an additional VP.
It's Astounding: This action allows for playing an action from your discard, paired up with almost any action between these two factions, this can be an amazing card to have.
Stasis Field: This action stops a base from breaking, which is great if you have an Invader on it and you think it will break before it comes around to your next turn. Basically, it saves your Invader until the next turn to try to get your invader back into your hand for additional play to gain more free VPs.
Time Walk: This action lets you play safe with your Invaders. Play your Invader, then play this action, then play a Collector to bring your Invader back into your hand. Thanks for the free VP!
Wormhole: This action lets you recycle your cards that were going into the discard pile after a base scores, aka putting your Invaders back into your deck to be drawn later.
Timebox: This titan is amazing once out in play. It allows you to play an Invader and a Collector in one turn, allowing you to gain free VPs quite often. It also allows you to play an additional action, which can be combo'd with the above statements.
Portal Room: This base is pretty good if you win the base, it could allow you to play an action that can save one of your high value minions (aka the Invader)
The Nexus: A great base to break if one or both of your Aliens' bases are in the base discard pile.
Additional example pairings:
Cowboys - This pairing helps Aliens with some card draw and additional power possibilities. Also, duel bluffs can be utilized to play an extra action to return an Invader back to your hand. Useful cards include: Pinkerton, Form a Posse, Gold in Them Thar Hills, Gold Strike, High Noon, and Quick Draw.
Disco Dancers - This pairing helps Aliens with card draw and additional recycling of their Invaders. Useful cards include: Disco Lou, Celebration, Disco Inferno, Get Down Tonight, I'm So Excited, I Will Survive, Last Dance, and Stayin' Alive.
Grannies - This pairing helps Aliens with card draw and additional recycling of their Invaders. Useful cards include: Matriarch, Nana, Always Room at Granny's, Attic Treasures, Chicken Soup, Don't Mess With My Babies!, Hush, and My Stories are On.
Killer Plants - This pairing helps with additional card draw and getting the Invaders out early as they are able to search their deck for minions. Useful cards include: Venus Man Trap, Water Lily, Sprout, Budding, and Insta-Grow.
Shapeshifters - Similar to the Killer Plants, Shapeshifters help with getting the Invaders out early and with deck searching. This pairing also helps a little with boosting power and protecting your Aliens. Useful cards include: Doppelgänger, G.E.L.F., ...Really?, Mitosis, Shell Game, and Transmogrify.
Zombies - Send Invaders to your discard to get them out early, which also allows you to continuously play them from your discard pile. Useful cards include: Grave Digger, Walker, Grave Robbing, Lend a Hand, Mall Crawl, Not Enough Bullets, They Keep Coming, and They're Coming To Get You.
…and what doesn't work so well?
Aliens struggle when pairing with factions that: lack card draw, only enable power boosts until the end of the turn, have weak minions (unless they are swarm factions), have a lot of play on base/play on minion actions, movement factions, or discarding factions.
Check out the synergy table that we created below with how we think the Aliens faction pairings are distributed! You can see from the report that Aliens have a pretty neutral balance of synergy if you were to randomly select a faction and pair them with the Aliens. The total synergy score for the Aliens is 337, with a synergy score average of 4.1 (Neutral). To better understand synergies, please feel free to see our synergy definitions.
If you think a faction in the table listed above isn't where it should be, or if you want to give us feedback on your favorite faction pairings with Aliens, please let us know by filling out the favorite pairing form!
There are a few things that are key to look for when countering the Aliens faction. A common strategy is to choose factions that will break bases faster than Aliens can farm VP. To maximize your effectiveness when breaking bases, the greater the difference between your total gained VPs vs. their total gained VPs (from the base scoring) the better it is for you - as the Aliens will most likely be farming VP while you are trying to break the base, and it sometimes evens out and may not be worth the investment.
Check out some quick notes on what makes Aliens struggle:
Destruction factions - Factions that can destroy the Invaders will counter Aliens if the Aliens player leaves their Invaders in play. An Invader in play is vulnerable to being sent to the discard pile causing inefficiencies in the Invaders play and the Aliens overall strategy. Some example factions include: Ninjas, Sharks, and Vampires.
Hand manipulation factions - Factions that can mess with the Aliens from using or reusing their Invaders are also great to counter them with. Some example factions include: Geeks, Russian Fairy Tales, Super Spies, and Vikings.
High/boost power factions - Factions that have high power or boost their power are great against Aliens as they can pump out high power on the bases in play, almost always putting them in first on the bases when they score. Some example factions include: Avengers, Cyborg Apes, Dinosaurs, Mythic Greeks, Mythic Horses, Princesses, Vigilantes, and Werewolves.
Swarm factions - Any faction that can play additional minions will take advantage of bases as Aliens will want the bases to take as long as possible to score so they can continue to use their Invader. Some example factions include: Halflings, Hydra, Robots, S.H.I.E.L.D., and Teddy Bears.
What does our data tell us?
Check out a brief overview of what the data tells us about Aliens. Feel free to click on the data bars to see specifics about 2 player, 3 player, and 4 player games.
Overall Review and Ratings:
Aliens have a unique playstyle that make them incredibly fun to play when paired correctly, and if not countered. I have had people complain about me winning by not even "playing the game", which is hilarious to even think about. We recommend choosing Aliens if you enjoy recursion in plays, enjoy the control/gimmick playstyle, want to switch up your typical Smash Up games, want to be annoying to your group, if you want to have some fun farming victory points, or if you want to have a high change of winning in a 1 versus 1 game!
Aliens complexity is Low-Medium. Please see the definitions of our difficulty levels to know more.