A Duel By The Numbers
Showdown! The Samurai Card Game
Publisher: New Experience Workshop
MSRP: $12.00
Copy Provided By Publisher

Showdown! is an expansion/spinoff of Shootout!, a Wild West-themed card game where players try to shoot their opponents while staying alive themselves. Showdown! takes that same idea and brings it to feudal Japan, where the players participate in a series of duels until only one is left standing.

A Quick And Easy Hand Management Game

Showdown! is quite a simple game. Players draw and discard cards from the deck until someone plays a Duel card. When that happens, that player picks an opponent and they compete to see who can rack up the highest total score, thereby winning the duel. The numbers come from Weapons, Titles, and Notoriety bonuses (you can only have one of each of these), as well as Special bonuses. Special bonuses can be stacked indefinitely and often have other effects as well. Whoever has the higher total wins, and the other player is out of the game. The last player standing wins.

Of course, it’s not quite that simple. There are some cards that can help turn things to your advantage, either by improving your own score or by getting rid of your opponents’ cards, but in the end it all comes down to those Duel cards.

I’ve watched a lot of anime, so I’m pretty sure this is what duels look like.

The really remarkable thing about Showdown! is how quickly it’s over. Depending on how many players are involved, a game could end in just a few minutes if Duel cards are flipped early on. There’s no getting out of a duel - once you’re involved, there’s nothing to do but play out your cards and see who wins.

Unlike the katanas you fight with, this is a double-edged sword. The first time I tried Showdown! it was against my friend Brian (of Downloadable Content fame), with nobody else involved. We’d only played for a minute or so when a Duel card showed up. We played out the duel, then looked to see what happened next and realized that we were already done. We were blindsided by the sudden ending, and were left feeling like nothing much had happened.

Looking at it from another perspective, however, it’s an accurate recreation of a duel between swordsmen. Whatever anime might try to tell us, a real swordfight is over the first time someone lands a solid hit. It’s reminiscent of the old Playstation fighting game Bushido Blade, where taking a single hit left you maimed or dead.

A dramatic reenactment of a round of Showdown!

A Good Fit For A Party Or A Bar Night

Perspectives aside, there’s no doubt that Showdown! gets better the more people you have playing it. More players means more opportunities to mess with your opponents, and more options for who to challenge when you’re forced into a duel. Showdown! is a party game through and through, something to quickly throw down with a several people at a time or to take a break in between heavier games.

Speaking of party games, our accountant John suggested a Showdown! drinking game where you take a shot when you lose a duel. Since I can’t drink alcohol I’ll be counting on you, our readers, to try this and report back.