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  • Writer's pictureDork Orc

SUD Effects: Unique

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

Last stop is the island of misfit Effects, the kitchen drawer of questionably functional batteries and forgotten keys - the Unique family of Smash Up card Effects. The following Effects always ended up on the outside of our blog series looking in. We never expected Smash Up to fit neatly inside every little box we designed for it (except the Bigger Geekier Box of course), and that’s fine - great actually. It means we’ve found an edge, an analysis boundary, an exception that proves the rule.

SUD Effects represent how cards affect the game. They are verbs representing the irreducible what of Smash Up abilities. If they would share too much in common, then they would lose too much of their value. Therefore, it is much better to think of the Effect families (Lifecycle, Power, Knowledge, Territory, and Unique) as ways to organize a discussion, rather than as ways to organize an analysis. And with that we reach into the grab bag and pull out...


Abilities that increase a player’s VP total.

Aliens | Invader
Aliens | Invader

Win the game without playing it. Lol! No no. Earn abilities are legit and go all the way back to the core set. These devious abilities force opponents to play around them and can be oppressive without some form of recourse.

Be on the lookout for bases with Earn abilities too, as the factions that spawn them are usually adept at harvesting from them (looking at you Field of Honor). Earn strategies can fizzle out as they rely on very specific cards and card combinations, so it is best to not let them distract you too much from your own game plan. Earn abilities fit into the Gimmick and Control playstyles.


Abilities that replicate any card attribute such as values, names, identities, or abilities.

Shapeshifters | Copycat
Shapeshifters | Copycat

Copy makes the impossible possible, reimagining the written word and undoing the system of checks and balances normally found in the game. For example, Shapeshifters can give the Aliens four more Invaders.

There are a few cards that enable dual triggers worth calling out. Argonaut replicates the action identity and triggers both action and minion sensitive abilities. Spirit of the Forest triggers both options on “OR” abilities, effectively replicating the second option. Lastly, the Goblins have a couple cards that replicate the outcome of reversed coin flips (Diviner, Make Your Own Luck) as well as a card that can replicate itself (He Who Smelt It).

Copy abilities will continue to become more potent and more flexible as more cards enter the game - something we can't say about most other Effects.


Abilities that prevent cards from transitioning OR abate undesirable Effects.

Orcs | Dork Orc
Orcs | Dork Orc

Secure started out as Protect and focused on immunity cards like Game Guru, General Ivan, and Deep Roots. But some abilities grant immunity from the game itself, cards like First Mate and Mummy “protect” themselves from being discarded by the game – not by a player. After we discovered the Lifecycle, we realized that similar cards like Ship’s Engineer secure a card’s place in the Lifecycle and so Secure became a much more inclusive label.

Effects are not intrinsically good or bad. Sometimes we want our cards destroyed (Hydra Agent) or discarded (Shady Deal). It all depends on the situation, so the only thing that determines if an Effect is good or bad is whether we want it to resolve. Ensign, for example, doesn’t prevent an ability from resolving, but it does soften the potential harm an opponent’s ability might inflict on us. So we went with “abate undesirable Effects,” because it allowed us to capture redirection abilities like Ensign’s.


Abilities that negate other non-base abilities OR impose restrictions on gameplay mechanics.

Clerics | Curse of Imprisonment
Clerics | Curse of Imprisonment

Disable cards attack our opponent’s abilities and feature words like “cannot” and “cancel.” But we realized that disabling opponents should also encompass limitations on normal gameplay and earning potential. Big Funny Giant and Dangerous Ground require players to discard a card before playing on their base. If a player cannot discard a card, then they cannot play at those bases. Limitations on earning potential can be direct, like Clever Distraction, or indirect, like... Madness.

All abilities that draw Madness are Disabling because giving one away is like giving someone a card that says, “you lose ½ a VP (rounded down) for every Madness card in your card pool at the end of the game.” This makes the consequence of receiving Madness more immediately recognizable as a Disable.

Additionally, the Madness card ability lets us forfeit an action to return it to the Madness deck...yay. When being given a Madness card, we are forced to choose between losing an action now or potentially losing VP later. We get to choose what we lose, but both are undesirable. Furthermore, SUDS does not treat returning Madness to the Madness deck as an Earn because the VP we would potentially “gain” from returning Madness is really just recouping VP we already possessed.

As mentioned in the Territory post, we are careful to specify whether an Effect interacts with bases. Jammed Signal and Witness Our Superiority fit the mold for Disable, but as much as possible we want Tailor to represent abilities that target bases. Consequently, Disabling cards emphasize player-to-player interaction and are most at home in the Control playstyles.


Abilities that do not produce an Effect.

Dinosaurs | King Rex
Dinosaurs | King Rex

Four cards. There are currently only Four cards in the whole game that do nothing. Our methodology requires us to create a new Effect category if we cannot code a card to an existing one. Reluctantly, we added Nothing to the list, and it was the last Effect created. If we hadn't, then King Rex (Dinosaurs), King Rex (Smash Up All Stars), Topper Chopper, and Jungle Oasis would have been missing from our card catalog, and our Effects metrics would have broken.

Conclusion: SUD System Effects

This concludes our series on the methodology behind our Effects categories. One last point to make is that cards with more Effects are objectively more complex. We now have a means of empirically determining card complexity and can better recommend faction combinations for beginners, intermediates, and advanced level players.

You can check out a list of all the cards and their Effects over on our analysis page or on any of the individual faction pages. Perhaps now you are better able to compare our Effect categories with your own analysis categories to see what we have in common and where we differ. As a methodology, we can apply these Effects to any custom faction you create too; we could even give your custom faction the full SUD System analysis treatment. What do you think of our Effects categories? How do you code cards in the game?

Please use the comments section on any of these blog posts to leave us your questions, comments, and curiosities.

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