Overview: Hero and villain battle it out in a struggle of brawn, speed, and wits. Super Showdown is a compact game set in the Golden Age of comics, but don’t be fooled by its small stature, because it packs a punch! This is an abbreviated review, because the game is raising funds on Kickstarter and there are only two days left to go before it ends.
Ages: 12 and up (though you could maybe go as young as 10)
Playing Time: 10 minutes
Retail: $15 for a copy through Kickstarter
Rating: Super! I kicked in for a copy after playing the demo.
Who Will Like It? People who like Golden Age comics will get a kick out of the artwork, which is made to look like old comic strip panels — even the rulebook looks like a comic. Also, if you need a 2-player game that you can take with you for a quick battle of the wits against your nemesis, Super Showdown is for you.
It’s your classic Hero-vs.-Villain struggle. The hero has a bit of an advantage in battles of strength, but the villain has an edge when it comes to wits. (Oh, and he has a ray gun, of course, because he doesn’t fight fair.) The artwork really sets the stage for the game.
The version you see in the photos here are the demo version sent to me by designer Trevor Cram, so I can’t comment on the quality of the components. However, here’s what you get:
- 9 hero cards
- 9 villain cards
- 2 player aid cards
- 1 hero meeple
- 1 villain meeple
- 1 scanner die (hero)
- 1 rumors die (villain)
- 1 city grid board
And, of course, as you can see from the images, the artwork is fantastic.
The Hero and Villain cards are shuffled together, and 9 are dealt to each player. If you have 5 or more of the Hero cards, then you are the hero; otherwise, you are the villain.
The game takes place on a 6 x 6 grid which represents the city, and the hero and villain move about on the grid throughout the game. There’s a starting spot for each character, which is also where they return after a battle of brawn.
- Players alternate being starting player each round (with the villain going first), and take the following steps:
- Starting player rolls die and places it by the board in the appropriate spot
- Move up to 2 spaces (3 if you start on a powerboost space)
- Nemesis moves up to 2 spaces (3 on powerboost space)
- Both players play a card face down
- Nemesis rolls die, set next to board
- Nemesis moves
- Starting player moves
- Flip cards over to resolve battle.
- Switch starting players, and repeat.
The two dice mark the columns and rows of the city grid, and where they intersect is where mayhem takes place. This, and the position of the two players, determines whether it’s a showdown of brawn, speed, or wits. When the cards are revealed, you determine the high card and the low card — if both cards are the same color, then they add up and become the “high card,” with no low card.
Brawn: if the two players are in the same space, it’s a battle of brawn. (Also, if you move into the same space as your nemesis, there’s no more movement this round and it’s automatically a battle of brawn.) The high card wins, but if the Ray Gun was played, then the villain automatically wins. Unless a Decoy was played, and then the outcome is reversed. Got that? Also, after a battle of brawn, both players are returned to their starting locations.
Speed: if only one player reaches the mayhem, then that player gets to determine whether each card wins or loses. Unless the player who didn’t reach the mayhem played a Decoy, in which case they choose the outcome instead.
Wits: if neither player reaches the mayhem, then the high card wins and low card is defeated. However, if two same-color cards add up to more than 19, they are defeated.
Victorious cards go in one pile, and defeated cards go in another. If at any time there are 5 of your cards in the victory pile or 5 of your nemesis’ cards in the defeated pile, then you win!
The rulebook, although cute in its design, can be a little confusing at first. But once you figure it out, the game plays pretty quickly. The trick is trying to guess what your opponent is going to do. There are 18 cards, numbered 1 through 18, with odd numbers being villain cards and even numbers being hero cards. There’s the one ray gun (#9) and five decoys (#1, #2, #7, #13, and #14). Once you have that information, you know what cards your opponent has in hand.
The fact that you could have up to four of your opponent’s cards makes the game very interesting. For instance, if you’re the villain but you have a bunch of high hero cards, you could try to force a battle of wits, and hope you can make the hero cards add up to more than 19. Or, you go for speed, trying to get to the mayhem so you can force the high cards to lose.
What’s key is that you both have to play cards before the final location of the mayhem is revealed, and you both get to move once more when it is revealed. You’ll know either the column or the row, since one die has been rolled, but that’s it. Also, the board is just big enough that there’s no way you can cover every available spot. Plus, if you get too close to your nemesis, they could force a battle of brawn, in which the hero has a slight advantage.
I’ve had the chance to try the game out several times and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s pretty quick to teach and to play, and it allows for a lot of interesting strategy as you try to outwit your opponent. (Let’s face it, although in the game it’s about brawn, speed, and wits, the real game is just about wits and a bit of luck.) It reminds me a little bit of Yomi, not necessarily in the mechanics, but in the fact that it’s about reading your opponent and trying to predict their strategy.
At only $15 for a copy (and even less if you buy multiple copies), there’s really no reason not to kick in for a pre-order. It’s almost worth that even with the demo-quality components, but I’m excited about having a polished copy. Plus, if it reaches $8,000 it will allow the designer to use higher quality components, making it even better. If you like the artwork and are looking for a great, inexpensive 2-player game, get in line for Super Showdown. The Kickstarter campaign ends on Saturday, October 8.
Wired: Fantastic Golden Age artwork, excellent 2-player strategy.
Tired: Rulebook can be a little difficult to parse.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a prototype version of this game for review purposes.