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Review: WWE Superstar Showdown Board Game

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Last weekend was a big couple of days for the WWE.  With NXT putting on one of the best PPVs in recent memory in the Takeover: Brooklyn event, along with the mega four-hour SummerSlam, pro-wrestling is starting to hit its stride again.  In the video game world, WWE 2k16 is getting to come out in the fall, but it has been a long time (if ever) since there has been a good WWE related board game… Until now.

WWE Superstar Showdown is a wrestling board game for 2-6 players (or 2 teams), published by Gale Force 9.  During the game, you will take the role of one of six possible superstars: The Big Show, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Roman Reigns and Big E.

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As you choose a superstar to use, you will receive that wrestler’s 30 card deck.  Each deck is comprised of five different types of cards: Grapples, Strikes, Maneuvers, Slams and Blocks.  Every deck is specifically tailored for each wrestlers.  For example, because Big Show is 500 pounds, he’s not that quick, so he has less maneuver cards, however, he has more strike cards in his deck.

To start the game, each player will draw their hand to six cards.  Players will choose three of those cards and place one in each of the 1-2-3 slots on their side of the board.  Cards will be flipped in order, as players compare their cards in a simple rock-paper-scissors mechanic.  A grapple beats a strike, a strike beats a maneuver and a maneuver beats a grapple.  Slams (finishers and signature moves) always win, while blocks always lose, but you don’t take the damage you would have had to otherwise.  After each card match-up is revealed, and one card beats the other, the winner of the match-up will get to do the actions that are on the bottom of the winning card.  There are total actions throughout the cards that dictate the action that happens in the ring on the board.  They are:

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Move: You can move your wrestler up to a designated number of spaces.  You can move diagonally, and if you land on the space of another wrestler, you can push them up to one square in any direction (except out of the ring)

Power:  If you are in an adjacent space (not diagonal) to your opponent, you may do the designated number of damage to them.  Damage is done as they remove the same amount of cards as the power number from their hand and deck into their “give up” pile.  These cards are removed from the game, and represent wear and damage to the wrestler.

Momentum Power: You deal as much damage as the number of spaces moved to reach your opponent.  This includes bouncing off the ropes.  If you land in a ropes square, you can move as many spaces in a straight line.  So it is possible to do up to five damage to your opponent by bouncing off the ropes in a momentum attack.

Corner Attack: If you’re in the turnbuckle as you play this action, you can jump off the top rope up to three squares in any direction and do three damage to your opponent if you can reach an adjacent square.

Movement and Power Set-Up: These allow you to add +1 to either your movement or power on any of your next winning cards in the round.

Throw: If adjacent to your opponent, you may throw them up to three squares away, including out of the ring (I will explain importance of this shortly)

Stun: If your opponent has to give up cards when you have a stun action at the bottom of your winning card, you can play another card out of your hand.  You may do this as many times as long as you keep playing cards with stuns at the bottom

Reversal: If your card loses but has a reversal at the bottom, you have a chance to play a card that beats your opponent’s card.

Kick Out: When being pinned, you can play a card with a kick out icon, preventing you from being pinned.  You must put the card into your Give Up pile after using it though, burning it from your deck.

If you win two out of the three cards in the round, and you are adjacent to your opponent, you may Pin your opponent.  This means they have to play a card from their hand with a kick out symbol to stay alive.  If they don’t have one in their hand, the top three cards are drawn one at a time from their superstar deck.  If any of these cards have a kick out icon, the game goes on and those cards are burned.  If, after three cards, there is no kick out icon, the pinning player wins the game.  You can also win the game by doing so much damage to your opponent that they don’t have any cards to draw when required to, therefore you win the game via KO.

There are other rules, including rules for being out of the ring.  If you are out of the ring, at the start of a round you can shuffle your discard pile into your deck before drawing cards, simulating you catching your breath in a match.  However, any card that loses when comparing cards while outside the ring gets sent to your Give Up pile, losing them for the remainder of the match.  The game also comes with rules for Tag Team and 6-Man tag matches, which really play up the strategy of moving around the ring to be able to tag out to your teammate.

Also added in the box are stipulation cards that you can shuffle and deal out for your match such as: Submission match (no kick out cards can be played from your hand, you have 10 chances to draw a kickout from your deck.), Rope Break (can’t be pinned in a ropes square) and Hardcore Match (can’t play block cards from your hand).  These are pretty hokey and really don’t need to be used.  Especially the Rope Break, because it’s a rule in wrestling anyway, why wouldn’t it just be a standard rule in the game?

The rule book wants you to put on “events”.  With 1-4 matches, using the different stipulations and match types.  Included are also rules for gauntlet match.  I think this will run its course pretty quickly when only using the six wrestlers included in the base game.  There is already talk of expansions to WWE Superstar Showdown.  I talked to the CEO of Gale Force Nine, John Kovaleski, at GenCon 2015 and he mentioned that there are plans for a legends expansion, while others have said they also heard a divas expansion is in the works.  Kovaleski also mentioned that they were talking of a referee expansion, where you can move the ref around the ring, and depending on which way he is facing, you can cheat.  It will be interesting to see how/if that works.  Others were talking about chairs expansions, which might be part of that referee expansion.  The possibilities for this game are pretty much limitless, I mean, who knows, maybe we could see a Jon Stewart expansion if we’re REALLY lucky.

I played a lot of games of this during GenCon and many more since I have returned and I have a blast with it every time.  The game actually ended up being a surprise hit of GenCon, as the Gale Force Nine crew did a great job drawing people in and getting them to play this game that they might not normally would have.  The game is a great game for all wrestling fans as you will get to play out actual matches with the figures that are included in the game.  The icons at the bottom of the card allow for strategy, more than just the Rock, Paper, Scissors aspect of the game.  If you know you might lose a card comparison, you could play a reverse card to get the upper hand.  Maybe you want to move away from your opponent if you know he’s going to try and pin you.  In one game at GenCon, I threw my opponent out of the ring, and he kept losing our card comparisons, meaning he had to burn any lost cards out of the game.  He eventually lost because I wore him down so much that he couldn’t draw any more cards, a KO win for me.

Courtesy of Board Game Geek member: MrChurch13

The superstar models used for the figures in the game are pretty spot on.  Each one is doing their signature taunt, with the exception of Big E., but I don’t know what his would be.  If you head over to Board Game Geek’s website, you can see where someone has started to paint their miniatures, with extreme detail, which makes the figures look even more awesome.  Again, with just six wrestlers, you will start to run through all of the match-ups, so I’m hoping for an expansion soon to mix things up a little bit.  Kovaleski was hoping the first expansion would come out around Holiday 2015.  With the success of NXT, I’m hoping that they put out one of those sets as well.

I only had a few issues with the game, and none of them are game-breaking.  The first are some of the titles and images on the cards.  Being a wrestling fan, I pay way too much attention to the detail of the game to not be bothered by some mistakes.  For example, John Cena has a card called “Flying DDT”, but he is clearly doing a top-rope leg drop.  Other card issues I have include cards called “Fancy Feet”, these are a maneuver card, meaning they more than likely allow the wrestler to move around the ring.  However, on Bryan’s Fancy Feet card, it’s just a picture of his feet.  A better image would have helped, unless they were just saying that his boots looked fancy.  We found in a couple of games we played, that if you tie during a comparison, you draw the next card off the top of the deck and compare.  Well during the end of the match, when you are running out of cards, if you tie and don’t have a new one to draw, you automatically lose via DQ.  It is a very anti-climactic ending to the game, and could maybe use a rules clarification, because it isn’t specifically mentioned in the game.

However, despite those very minor issues, I am a huge fan of this game.  I have found that you can teach it to people who are not wrestling fans and they still can get into it.  It really has the ability to mimic an actual wrestling match, which is something that some prior wrestling games have not been able to do.  This game is also so diverse as you can win a game after the first round with a quick roll-up, or you can have a really long back and forth match that ends after a nice flurry of moves.  The most satisfying thing is winning a match after being kicked around for so long, but taking advantage of one round and pulling off the upset.   I will keep this game in my collection for quite some time, and can’t wait to see what Gale Force Nine comes out with in these future expansions.  If you are a wrestling fan, you need to add this game to your collection, as it is going to be a big success.

And before I close, I’m issuing a challenge to Matt Jones, Shannon The Dude, or anyone on the Kentucky Sports Radio staff to a round of WWE Superstar Showdown, to crown a KSR Champion.  Who has what it takes to face me?

Article written by Richmond Bramblet