Smack Talk Showdown
Players: 3+ (the more the better)
Time: ~50 minutes
Times Played: 7
I’m a big professional wrestling fan so when I saw the Kickstarter for Smack Talk Showdown, I knew I’d end up backing the game. I’m always in the market for fun games that can support a large crowd and while I tend to favor the board variety, I wasn’t going to not buy a wrestling game even though I knew it wouldn’t be the easiest sell at the table because…wrestling.
Do you need to know anything about wrestling going into this game? On a scale of one to ten, I’d say your knowledge would have to be a two as there are two questions you need to be able to answer this question: Do you know what wrestling is? and Can you add the word “slam” after body parts? Elbow slam, back slam, toe slam, they all sound real!
My first caveat as I start to talk about this game is that it’s much better inebriated. This is an ultimate pre- or post-game game. Let the reservations about cutting promos and being stupid in front of your friends drift to the wayside as that’s the best way to enjoy this game. Promos are promotional speeches directed at your opponent about how you’re better than them or the upcoming match. This game can be enjoyed sober (and there’s nothing wrong with that) but we’ve had more fun when our inhibitions are lowered.
For an example of a promo, I’m including a few of my favorite’s here to give you some inspiration. There’s the cream rises to the top, the Woo off, The Miz flirting the line of real and staged, and of course, the Scott Steiner math promo. This should give you an idea of the outlandish world that is professional wrestling.
Smack Talk Showdown can play as little as three people but the more involved, the better the experience becomes. Two players compete against one another by cutting promos based off their name (randomly drawn before each promo) and the segment that the producer, an unbiased third party, draws for them (we allow the producer to select two randomly and then pick which one they think is better). Each wrestler will then cut a forty-five second promo on one another and the audience or the producer (in a three-player game) will choose the winner. They receive the segment card and the first player to win three segment cards wins the game. We typically just play until we don’t want to anymore or our voices are hoarse (like mine right now after last nights playing).
An additional element is the role of Smack cards, which has players being given a stipulation for their promo. It could be talking in a New York accent, performing jumping jacks, or ending every sentence with a question. There are a ton of Smack cards. 350 of them (not including KS exclusives). That’s a ton of variability for rounds.
Memories were made when the Elegant Ninja whispered his good fortune about losing his ex to the other wrestler or another wrestler had to speak down to their an opponent like an infant.
There are only fifty segment cards but there are some blank cards included for players to design their own segment. The segments seemed reasonably split (maybe 60/40) between general segments and wrestling specific segments. General would be something like wishing the other player a happy birthday or shilling for a used car lot whereas wrestling specific involves the promo being structured around a cage match. I wish there were more segments to choose from honestly.
The game is also easily adaptable for more people as well. You can easily up the time limit and make a tag team promo, having two players talk trash to another two players. It’s all dependent on your gaming group. If someone doesn’t want to cut promos, they can always be a part of the audience or be a producer, so they have a role in the game without being front and center. I really appreciate this addition as it allows a group to play the game even if someone would rather not summon their inner Macho Man.
I want to double-down on an earlier statement. This game is entirely dependent on your group. By now, if you’ve been reading this review, you already know if your group would like this or not. And that’s fine. This isn’t an indictment or an endorsement of one group over another group at all. Just facts so people enjoy the games that are right for them.
Is the game perfect? Eh. The Kickstarter Exclusive cards are completely different shades of color and card backing compared to the base cards, which makes them stand out like a sore thumb. But since it’s the words on the cards that matter, this is a trivial complaint at best. The white-text on yellow-background wouldn’t have been my first choice either as it can be hard to read the Segment cards dependent on your lighting situation.
We greatly enjoy the implementation of the Smack cards but playing them during a players turn really disrupts the flow of the game and since the rulebook doesn’t say, we incorporate an additional fifteen seconds per Smack card so the players have time to digest the information. Disrupting the promo is the point of the Smack card but it makes the game disjointed and if you have players that are already not entirely in their element imporving, the added wrinkle of the card might ensure they don’t have a good time.
There are also a few cards that are more difficult than others. Thinking of alliterations on the fly is not easy. There are a few cards that request physical interaction, such as arm-wrestling, jumping, and push-ups, but nothing is deal breaking (to us at least).
Like most party games, this is entirely group dependent. I know I’ve said this already but I want to really reiterate the point. If you can have fun throwing shade and pretending to be caricatures of made-up wrestlers, then this will be an absolute great waste of an hour.
There is enough in the base game that it can be played two or three or four times before you see everything the game has to offer and as there are so many combinations of cards, the replayability factor is high.
But how replayable is it? While I don’t see Smack Talk Showdown ever being a staple of our board game group, I’ll never sell it and know that the four or five times a year this game hits the table, we’ll have an absolute blast with it. For the $20ish I spent on it, it has already proven worthy of its investment.
As an initial backer of the game, I would be remiss to mention that Double Turn games has the expansion on Kickstarter currently. For full disclosure, I am not backing the expansion as I’m not the biggest fan of “adult” orientated variations of games, such as Codenames: Deep Undercover. I wish them the best though as I enjoy the base game and am hoping for some additional segments and such down the line.