Full disclosure: A review copy of Showdown Tactics was provided by Korea Boardgames.
The one nice thing about slowly settling in is that I’ve had a lot more space and bandwidth to play some newer board games, lately, which means I’ve been able to dust off some games that I’ve had my eye on for a while. One set is the Korea Boardgames set that I received; there are a few others, particularly in the box of doujin games I ordered and a bunch of games that the Happy Baobab folks sent me. All on my list; all will hopefully happen in the near future. In the meantime, though, let’s try Showdown Tactics, a surprisingly-large-box game that KBG sent.
In Showdown Tactics, well, strategy kind of matters, but you’re going to go back and forth with your Dragon Tiles until a player wins! You’ll have to be better than they are at predicting when to attack, how to defend, and preventing an unexpected upset. You’ll have the board as your arbiter, as the tiles themselves contain NFC chips (or some equivalent) that allows the board to tell what tile has been played and how the face-down matchup will be decided. Do you have the mettle to show down with your opponent, and will you be able to outplay them?
Not much to do here. First, set out the board:
Give each player a set of tiles in their color, from 1 – 9:
That’s pretty much it! You’ll have to put in batteries and turn the thing on, but you can press the button to do that. Once you do, it’ll ask the attacker to register and you’ll be ready to start!
This one’s pretty simple. Each round, there’s an attacker and a defender. The attacker places a tile of their choice on their play area, and then the defender follows suit.
Once both tiles have been placed, the game will handle the rest! Do not flip the tiles over; just place them in the next available spot on the game board. Generally, the higher-value tile will win, unless a 9 and a 1 are played; then the 1 wins, instead!
Keep playing until one player has won 5 rounds or until 9 rounds have been played. The player with the most wins, well, wins! Feel free to play best of 3 games, though.
Player Count Differences
None to speak of! It’s a purely two-player game.
- It’s hard to strategize for a game like this, since it’s almost purely tactical. The name of the game is Showdown Tactics, after all. For this, rather than planning long-term, keep an eye on what your opponent has played and deduce based on wins and losses what their options must be. You need to respond to them and be offensive or defensive as the situation requires. If you’re going after them at a good pace, you should be able to pull the wins you need. Just make sure you’re not tying on a key victory or losing too much ground!
- Keep in mind that your evens and odds are labelled, so you can narrow down what your opponent has. White tiles are odd, black tiles are even. Once your opponent is down to one of either tile, you should be relatively confident as to what it must be, based on which tiles you’ve played and how you’ve won or lost. If you know what tile they’re playing, then you can usually respond in kind and potentially take a quick win!
- Similarly, try not to play in such a way that your opponent can predict what your remaining tiles are. I try to avoid running down to 1 tile of a color too quickly, but I’m inconsistent about that so that I’m not as predictable. Sometimes I’ll burn through my evens, other times, I’ll take out all my odds. What I try to avoid is situations where I have one odd and one even left, because then it’s pretty easy to guess both of my remaining tiles, and if we’re at that point in the game, I’d like to win?
- Sometimes losing isn’t a bad play, since it’ll put your opponent in as the attacker. The attacker is at a slight disadvantage, since they have to play without much care for what their opponent has. That said, being the attacker and winning a few early can pave the way to success, since you can occasionally bait your opponent into a bad play, or play a low number and try to mind game them into wasting a high-value tile beating it. If you can successfully play a 1 and bait your opponent into playing a 9 and losing, I mean, that’s an A+ move.
- Remember also, it’s best of 9. Don’t let your opponent beat you before the game is even over! Some folks may try a strategy where they lose a few early on and then come back and win the remainder. That might work for you and is generally fine, but keep an eye on where you’re standing when you do that. If you lose too many and your opponent wins 5, you lose. It’s best of 9, after all.
- You can definitely bluff and table talk to some success with this one. It’s a lot like Cake Duel, honestly, except bluffing in this costs you essentially nothing, even if you lie. You just might lose the matchup, but you may also be able to bait your opponent into playing sloppily. Every game is a mind game if you believe in the strength of your conviction.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The board / speaker thing is like, peak kitschy 90s – early 2000s plastic and I kind of love it? I used to have this uh … let me see if I can find it online, a Merlin? I think? I must have had the 2004 version because it was bulky and loud and it had a built-in speaker that was also loud and I loved that thing, loosely. No idea where it came from and similarly no idea where it went. I think that’s just how these things work, sometimes. But I did like it quite a bit, and this reminds me of that with the built-in speaker and the loud noises and how gently overdone it is.
- It’s also pretty well made. Pieces slot in nicely and don’t jostle around, which is good. There’s a worse universe out there somewhere where this wasn’t as nicely-produced and everything slides around, but thankfully that’s not this one. I appreciate the care put into the full range of this product. The insert snugly fits everything without it moving around and the pieces click nicely into place on the board and nothing slides. It’s got a lot of good design work put into it and the product is better for that.
- This game is almost entirely mind games, and that’s very much my scene as well. As I mentioned in Strategy, this game is purely tactical. If you want to say what you’re playing and double-bluff your opponent, go for it! If you want to just lie aggressively and play a black tile and say “this is an odd number”, why not? I generally recommend against totally gaslighting your opponent but feel free to lie if you feel like it will serve you. Either way it’ll be funny.
- The component structure is nice! The tiles are very good. The tiles have a good weight to them, which is nice! The whole game feels good, as a tactile thing.
- I like the fact that 1 can beat 9. It can still give you a lot of information, but it can also swing a showdown in your favor, especially if your opponent is aware that it can happen. More mind games! We actually didn’t know that early in our plays, which would have made things hilarious if we had discovered it organically. But now that you know it, it makes things interesting. Do you risk playing a 9 if your opponent potentially has played a 1? Or will you try to draw out the 1 first so that your 9 is a guaranteed win? And how will that affect how your opponent plays? All good questions.
- Plays quickly. This really is a fast one. You can have a round done in 5 or 10 minutes. If both players take 30 seconds to choose a tile, for instance, that’s a 10-minute game. I assume once you’ve gotten used to it you might take progressively less time (on some moves, at least).
- Given that it’s a very short game, it’s also a low-complexity one. You really are just playing number tiles and the higher one wins. There’s the 1-beats-9 thing but beyond that, that’s the game.
- It would be kind of nice if there were a “speedy mode” that allowed you to skip the “deliberation” process that the game does to hype the drama. It’s cute the first couple games, but after a while you kind of just want the game to make up its mind and keep moving. It slows down the pace of the game a bit for the drama, which hampers players who just want to play a few games quickly.
- It’s a very particular box shape. It would have to be, but ugh, it’s hard to store. Almost painfully so. I don’t particularly hate that, but it’s ever-so-slightly annoying.
- The dream-team combo of a screw-top battery casing and a requirement for three AAA batteries really almost made this game temporarily unplayable for me. I never check how many batteries a game needs before I open it up! I understand that’s mostly on me, but man, having to go find a screwdriver is a real buzzkill for “let’s play this game”. I generally don’t like battery cases that require a screwdriver, anyways.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I think Showdown Tactics is a blast! The key here is that this is almost exactly the kind of game I want to play. No frills, no fluff, just a tactical mindgame. It means there are going to be some players I can always beat and some players I can never beat, and that’s just … kinda how it’s going to go. I find these kinds of games interesting but not always compelling, but thankfully the extra-kitchsy plastic base that can sense the tiles and call the winner makes the game a little bit elevated (and a tiny bit hilarious). Is it wildly unnecessary? Yes. Does it add a lot of value to the game? I want to say, also, yes? It’s hard not to be slightly enamored with it. That said, it’s definitely not going to be for everyone. There’s a volume control for the weary parent / housemate who doesn’t like loud game noises, but there isn’t much in the way of a “skip deliberating” / “speed up game” function. The latter would definitely be nice for long stretches of playing multiple rounds of this, but I suppose it’s not critical. The fact that the game seems to take itself super seriously for no reason might be a bit of a turn-off for some folks, but I think it makes it a bit funnier? It’s not exactly what I would call whimsical, though; it’s just a quick-and-simple tactics game. If you like that sort of thing, you might like this, though I will freely say I prefer Cake Duel because the bluffing adds more to the game, I feel. You can still bluff here, it just may not be as impactful? Since the computer kind of proves / disproves bluffs? I’m not sure, so I’m going to try it a bunch more and see how it turns out. In the meantime, though, if you’re looking for a quick and fun tactics game and you really want some electronic integration, I’d recommend checking out Showdown Tactics! I think the concept is super cool, and it’s a fun, smoothly implemented game!