#158 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Showdown – Bebop & Rocksteady Madness

Box

Base price: $30.
2 – 6 players.
Play time: ~45 minutes.
BGG Link
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 3

Full disclosure: A review copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Showdown – Bebop & Rocksteady Madness was provided by IDW Games. 

Well that’s a mouthful. TMNT Showdown was another one of the IDW games that I’ve been reviewing lately, which has been a lot of fun (as they’re all kind of … wildly different? Really ended up with a lot of variety). Unfortunately for almost everyone involved, I have no idea about anything Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, so I’m kind of just taking it as a game with some turtles, I guess? Who knows.

Anyways, in TMNT Showdown, you can play as a bunch of the Turtles against … their rivals, enemies, or something, Bebop and Rocksteady. Some players will play as the bad guys, some will play as the Turtles. Who will win this showdown?

Contents

Setup

Setup’s not too bad. Lay out the board:

Board

There are two spaces that you should look for: One’s a shell, the other’s a foot. You should take the corresponding Start Cards and place them on those spaces:

Start Tiles

The rest of the Sewer Cards you can shuffle up:

Sewer Tiles

Try not to spin them at all, since the backs aren’t symmetric. That’ll drive you up the wall. Maybe that’s just me.

Anyways, take the Character Cards:

Character Cards

And distribute them, like so:

  • 2 Players:
    • Turtles: One player controls all Turtles and uses one Character card per Turtle.
    • Villains: One player controls all Villains and uses both Character cards for each Villain.
  • 3 Players:
    • Turtles: Two players control two Turtles each and use both Character cards for each Turtle.
    • Villains: One player controls all Villains and uses both Character cards for each Villain.
  • 4 Players:
    • Turtles: Two players control two Turtles each and use both Character cards for each Turtle.
    • Villains: Two players control one Villain each and use both Character cards for each Villain.
  • 5 Players:
    • Turtles: Four players each control one Turtle and use both Character cards for each Turtle.
    • Villains: One player controls all Villains and uses both Character cards for each Villain.
  • 6 Players:
    • Turtles: Four players each control one Turtle and use both Character cards for each Turtle.
    • Villains: Two players control one Villain each and use both Character cards for each Villain.

Helpfully, they also come with standees. I may opt not to take a picture of them if I can’t do it easily, since they’re clear plastic, and, in fact, I did not. You’ll notice four extra friends in there that don’t match any of the Character cards. These four should be put on the four corners of the map. The Turtles want to get to them and bring them back to home base!

You’ll also see some tokens:

Other Tokens

There should be grenade, chainsaw, and nunchuk tokens. You can place them in their own piles near the board, symbol-side up. There are also pizza tokens!

Pizza Tokens

Place a pizza token on the board on each of the four pizza spaces, and then give each player four pizza tokens to put on their Showdown Tracker:

Showdown Tracker

Put them on the 2, 4, 6, and 8. Once you’ve done all that, you should be about ready to start! Turtles go first.

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay

Turns alternate between the Turtles and the Villains. Each turn, one member of that team takes their turn and then flips their Character card over to “exhausted”. If you would flip over your team’s last card, flip all your team’s Character cards face-up.

On your turn you must move and place tiles, if you can.

Movement

With movement, you may move up to the number of spaces indicated by the movement (four directional arrows) icon on your Character card, but you must move at least one space. There are some rules to movement:

  • You cannot move diagonally. As with most games.
  • You can move back onto your original space. As long as you have the movement for it.
  • You may only move on sewer grate path tiles that are connected horizontally or vertically. You cannot move over open water or onto pipes unless otherwise stated.
  • Turtles may move between two ends of a pipe for one movement point. Something something sewers something something. As long as the pipe is connected they may move between two ends of it. They cannot end on the water. Villains cannot move through pipes.
  • Neither team may move onto the other team’s Home card. There are rules to this conflict, after all.
  • If you move onto a space with a Pizza token, you take it. More on Pizza later. You may pass Pizza tokens between characters if they’re on the same space.
  • If you move onto a space with an Ally on it, place the Ally in front of you. More on Allies later.

Tile Placement

Before or after you move, you may also place 0 – 2 tiles, depending on your character. Not all characters place tiles on their turn, so make sure to double-check your Character card. When you place a tile, you must place it on the closest space to the active Character, and you may choose if there’s more than one closest space. You may also choose the orientation of the tile, as long as it’s within the space. If you can’t play a tile because the map is full, compare your team’s Showdown track with the other team’s; the team with the higher Showdown count wins! If there’s a tie, the Villains win!

Allies

So, Allies. Turtles can rescue Allies by bringing them back to their home space. If the Turtles rescue three Allies, they win immediately. That’s pretty helpful. If you have an ally and you’re in a tile adjacent (and connected) to another Turtle, you may pass the Ally to that player for free. They may immediately pass the Ally to another Turtle if they can. You can do this to make Turtle chains back to the base and get allies back, quickly.

Abilities

All characters have a special ability that you can also activate. Some help with Showdowns, some place tokens, some copy other abilities, and Donatello can literally throw a Turtle through spaces as far as he wants without setting off a Showdown. One of Raphael’s abilities lets him jump over a pipe, as well, so that might be helpful. You can use a Character ability once per turn.

Showdowns

Are you here to fight? Good. If you start your active Character’s turn on the same space as an opponent or on an adjacent, connected space, you can either move away (as long as your movement puts you on a space that’s not adjacent and connected to them, so like, either you start a space away or you use the pipes) or you can fight. There doesn’t seem to be another way to start a Showdown, but it’s not especially clear from the rulebook.

In a Showdown, the current player is the Attacker, and the member of the other team is the Defender. Both players roll a die. The Attacker adds their Attack value (the number by the sai) and the Defender adds their Defense value (the number by the shield). Turtles get one bonus, though — if multiple Turtles are on the same tile, each Turtle adds their Defense (not Attack) to their Defense total. The Villains aren’t quite so cooperative, so you just choose one to be the Defender. The higher roll wins! If there’s a tie, re-roll.

If the Attacker wins, the Defender drops their Allies (if any) onto the game board and gets moved back to their Home space. The Attacker moves one space up their Showdown tracker for each enemy defeated (this means if you beat multiple Turtles in one shot, you can go up multiple spaces). As you might imagine, if you move your tracker onto a space with a Pizza token on it, you gain that immediately. If the Defender wins, nothing happens.

Gameplay 2

Turn End

Again, once you’ve done your movement (you can move back onto the original tile if you don’t want to move) and tile placement, you can end your turn, if you want.

If you’d like to immediately take another turn, you may spend one of your Pizza tokens to activate any of your Characters and take another turn immediately.

Play until one team wins!

Player Count Differences

I didn’t get a lot of experience with this, but I imagine that the higher player counts allow for more coordination between team members — one of the reasons I don’t play the Pandemic app as much as I used to is because I’m actually startlingly bad at playing Pandemic single-player; turns out other people are really good at keeping an eye on mistakes you’re about to make before you make them.

Another interesting bit about this is that it prevents teams from chaining Pizza at higher player counts, as you must have the Pizza to take another turn, and you can only do that if both characters are on the same space. Furthermore, in the two-player mode you only choose one Character card for each Turtle, but at higher player counts you use both of the cards, forcing you to use each ability in turn (unless you have Pizza).

Oh, just to highlight it specifically:

  • 2 Players:
    • Turtles: One player controls all Turtles and uses one Character card per Turtle.
    • Villains: One player controls all Villains and uses both Character cards for each Villain.
  • 3 Players:
    • Turtles: Two players control two Turtles each and use both Character cards for each Turtle.
    • Villains: One player controls all Villains and uses both Character cards for each Villain.
  • 4 Players:
    • Turtles: Two players control two Turtles each and use both Character cards for each Turtle.
    • Villains: Two players control one Villain each and use both Character cards for each Villain.
  • 5 Players:
    • Turtles: Four players each control one Turtle and use both Character cards for each Turtle.
    • Villains: One player controls all Villains and uses both Character cards for each Villain.
  • 6 Players:
    • Turtles: Four players each control one Turtle and use both Character cards for each Turtle.
    • Villains: Two players control one Villain each and use both Character cards for each Villain.

It’s hard for me to speculate, but I imagine it’s probably best at three or four. Probably leaning four, just to have the extra person on each team to bounce ideas off of.

Strategy

  • Bazooka the weakest turtle. It’s just a good idea. You can hit them and you have a natural +2 advantage over them, so you can keep bazookaing them, even moreso if you have extra Pizza. How the pizza charges the bazooka, we’ll never know. I’d recommend not thinking too much about it.
  • Obviously, watch out for the bazooka, Turtles. You should try to zig or zag because Bebop needs line of sight to hit you with the bazooka, so if you can avoid that, then you might be okay? It might not be a bad idea to try and have Donatello tank the shots.
  • Turtles: stick together. It’s irritating and slow to move in a pack, but Bebop and Rocksteady won’t dare mess with you if you’ve got the defensive advantage (since you add your defenses together).
  • Bebop and Rocksteady: dare to mess with the Turtles, even if they’ve got the defensive advantage. Don’t attack if your loss is a mathematical certainty, but, I mean, if you can knock out two Turtles in one shot, that’s awesome! It means that you automatically get another Pizza token, which means you might be able to do it again (if you have the right ability).
  • Rage is good. Raphael’s Rage makes him one of the few turtles that can consistently overcome Bebop or Rocksteady’s incredible defense. I wouldn’t recommend always fighting, but it might not be a bad idea to try and take down Bebop or Rocksteady from time to time, especially for that sweet extra free turn.
  • Turtle chains aren’t a bad idea, either. If you can pass allies back to the home space, you might be able to pull off the win. I’m not explicitly confident (as you’re more vulnerable when you’re not together), but it could work.
  • Lean into your strengths. This is good no matter what character you are — you should be using your Ability almost every turn. Make extra connections, try to block Turtles, attack Bebop and Rocksteady, move faster to get Allies, whatever; if you’re not using your ability you’re wasting it. The only exception might be Hammer Smash — if you’re already in the lead on the Villain side, then running out the game might be a better bet than smashing a tile and effectively extending the game by another turn.
  • Be smart about tile placement. If you’re a turtle, making long pipe chains might be a good idea. If you’re a Villain, well, making complete messes of the Sewer system might not be a bad idea, especially if you’re using a Bazooka to pick the Turtles off from afar…

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Multiple character abilities is a neat conceit. It’s nice to be forced to use certain characters in a certain ordering — forces you to think a bit ahead of when you act, even if the pizza tokens kind of make that irrelevant.
  • The abilities to modify the board are pretty cool. I like being able to add water or break pipes as the bad guys, and being able to add a stepping stone as one of the Turtles is nice.
  • The many vs. many team dynamic is interesting. Most team games I see are going to be your Avalon / ONUW / social deduction-style games. It’s rare to see a team-based tile-laying game. Kind of a nice angle, in that regard.

Mehs

  • Why are there more pizza tokens than you need? You only use 12, but it comes with 16. I suppose you could use them to buff one team if they’ve lost, but it’s kind of confusing.
  • Clear plastic standees are irritatingly difficult to photograph. Also, the art style makes it difficult to tell the difference between the red and orange turtle masks, so I’m not 100% sure which Turtle is which every turn. This is probably made more difficult by me not having any familiarity with TMNT as a property, as I’d be more likely to recognize them by weapon choice, I guess?
  • Square cards are annoying. This one is frustrating because they’re also designed such that they’re not symmetrical (in terms of back art) whatsoever, so you can’t have a nice-looking organized deck without going through and changing all the cards’ orientations. That’s … tedious.
  • Why are the corner tiles painted onto the board but the start cards aren’t? They just look like ordinary cards which someone might shuffle into the deck, forcing you to go looking for them. I can’t think of a reason why they’re not just … on the board, like the corner pieces, instead.
  • It’s not immediately clear that the mini-tiles on cards aren’t the “tiles” referred to by the game. Just something that confused us starting up.

Cons

  • The rulebook has a number of nontrivial issues, which can lead to a lot of confusion about numerous potential edge cases. For one thing, it seems like you can move through a series of connected pipes for one Movement, but the game’s rulebook says “Moving from your Map tile to an adjacent Map Tile costs 1 movement”, which makes me think that I have to go through the pipes one at a time and can stop inside of pipes. At one point in the rulebook, it explains how to take a second turn (spend a Pizza token at any time on your turn) and in the next sentence explains that you must have already completed your turn to do this. That’s giving me information I need after I need it, which isn’t great. One of my personal favorite things is in the Turn Example, where it states that the Rage Character card is the “only 1 he can use”, which … should just be the word “one”. I’ve never seen the number used in that context, before. It would also be nice to have an FAQ, a set of clarifications about character abilities, and some additional explanation about how turns work (can you move, use an ability, then spend the rest of your movement points? I argued no, but it doesn’t specifically say you can or can’t). Can you attack characters that are on the same Map tile as you, even if there’s a pipe or water between you? Again, unclear. There’s also pertinent information in the Summary of Play that’s nowhere else in the rulebook, which … I definitely skip play summaries if I’m going to read the rules anyways, so it might be worth being a bit redundant, there. I’ll stop now, but … the rulebook could have used a few more passes before going to press.
  • The Sewer cards are really flimsy. One thing I really like about Carcassonne or Lanterns is that the tiles have a certain weight to them — it means they’re not likely to spin around on their own or move without much effort being applied. This is not the case in TMNT Showdown; these are pretty thin cards that can be jostled pretty aggressively.
  • There are a … nontrivial number of typos. Some more egregious than others — one card refers to placing a tile “pipe-side” up, when that’s simply not a thing you can do. My co-player in one game forgot to look at the tiles and just assumed that the card was right when it wasn’t. This led to some … strategic difficulties. There are also a few typos in the rulebook, which just … looks bad.
  • The character standees are too big. This is a really odd problem as some games usually make a piece or two too small (Pie Town), but the standees don’t really fit all on one tile all that well, which kind of makes it hard to have all the Turtles start on the same tile, to say nothing of gathering Turtles around an ally.
  • The game can be decided long before it ends. It’s not too difficult to force the game to end via running out the tiles if you play a fairly avoidant game (and watch out for the Bazooka). For the Turtles, it can be easy (especially in your first couple games) to lack a coherent enough grasp of the strategy to formulate something workable, whereas the Villains are rather easy to figure out. This means that once the Villains get ahead by a few, it’s essentially over for the Turtles unless they get a miracle. There’s not much in the way of a catch-up mechanism, and I feel like that might be necessary to keep the game competitive, especially between players of varying experience levels.
  • A fair number of turns in the game can be fairly inactive for the Villains. We found that playing with Bebop’s Bazooka made the game … just sort of a dice-chucker, as Bebop could just target the Turtle with the lowest defense (Leonardo or Raphael) and keep hitting them and using Pizza tokens to take additional turns. This did not make for particularly exciting games, as this feels like a fairly good strategy. Sure, they might win the die roll occasionally, but there’s no penalty for losing on an attack, so I should just literally always do that. Additionally, they seem to be either “move” or “place tiles” as their two abilities, so for every move-heavy turn there’s a light-movement turn.

Overall: 2.75 / 10

In Progress

Honestly, it’s just not for me. I think that I’m actively frustrated by the rulebook and the tile quality, and that causes the whole game to feel like a frustrating experience, for me. That said, my issues with the game go deeper than just the first impressions. At times, it felt like I was just rolling dice as the Villains; I didn’t spend time investing in strategically trying to figure out how to block the turtles or how to keep them away from their allies because I didn’t really need to. There’s not much in the way of a catch-up mechanism, so once I got ahead I just kind of … stayed ahead. There might be more strategic depth to the game than that, but I played this with my “willing to play anything group” and one player asked to never play this again after two plays, so I’m probably not going to have much of an opportunity to find it. As it stands, I’d probably get this for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle superfan trying to satisfy that completionist instinct (which, as a mild completionist myself in other areas, I totally get), but if you’re not incredibly invested in the theme and / or you’re looking for a solid board game that’s going to offer something new or challenge you in a way that you haven’t seen before, I’d recommend looking elsewhere.

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