In this Smack Talk Showdown review, D and Will reflect on the positives and negatives of the wrestling-themed party game. In this card game, three or more players compete to find out who’s the best at cutting a wrestling segment (or promo). In order to do this, they’ll have to draw some cards to determine their wacky names and another that determines where the segment is and what it’s about. Not only that, they also have to contend with an abundance of Smack Cards that can change the segment in an instant. For our thoughts on Smack Talk Showdown, continue reading below.
D reviews Smack Talk Showdown
(Author’s note: this review is meant to accompany our gameplay video and will not go in-depth on the game’s rules. If you’re interested in learning how the game is played, please watch the video. It’s not bad.)
When reviewing a party game, there’s really only one question that matters: is it fun? Interesting rules, attractive art, and well-made components are nice, but they’re nothing more than superfluities when talking about a game that’s meant to be enjoyed by a lot of people (who may or may not be drinking) in a casual setting. So, this won’t be my longest review ever. Is Smack Talk Showdown fun? Yes, it is. It’s not perfect and may not be for everyone, but with the right group of people, I think it’s a blast. Now I guess I should elaborate.
Smack Talk Showdown is really not a game about winning. It’s competitive, certainly, but like many party games, the real goal is to simply have a good time. I might even say that there are too many rules presented to the players in the rulebook. The basic rules are all good and provide a solid structure, but the time limit and the way the “smack” cards are implemented seem counterproductive. They just don’t work that well together. The smack cards cause the timer to stop, which may put the affected player in an awkward position where they may need to change tack with only seconds remaining in their promo. Frankly, I think the game would be more fun if players could just deliver promos of any length they choose. A promo that’s short and sweet is sometimes enough, but it could also leave that player vulnerable to being upstaged by their opponent. Likewise, a player who’s in a groove with their character should be allowed to go for as long as they’re able to, while making themselves more vulnerable to smack cards. Fortunately, all of these issues can be bypassed with some simple house rules.
When Smack Talk Showdown works, however, it is aces. Watching a player build up a backstory for their ridiculous character, or having a smack card get played that meshes perfectly with the scenario, creates a wonderful feeling. The game is almost guaranteed to make people laugh. And while it helps to be a fan of professional wrestling who understands the “spirit” of the game, it’s not necessary. I think most people can grasp the concept of trying to lay down some sweet disses. The biggest hurdle is just getting everyone comfortable with the role-playing and improvisation, which are not skills that come naturally to all people. But with a group of close friends and, perhaps, some liquid courage, I think most people should have a good time with Smack Talk Showdown. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Terrifying Baby has to go powerbomb a fool.
D’s Rating: Four Stars out of Five.
Will reviews Smack Talk Showdown
I’m not ashamed to admit it – I love professional wrestling. It’s an absurd form of action theatre that’s often divisive when it comes to whether or not it’s entertaining or has merit. Strangely, it’s usually the actual wrestling side that loses people (It’s fake, Will – Yeah, I get it. Leave me alone). For me, the DDTs and suplexes and stuff like that is what I love the most, but I also enjoy the acting (or kayfabe, for us nerds). And in my personal experience, casual viewers also find this part of wrestling to be, at the very least, occasionally tolerable. I don’t always know why – maybe it’s the melodramatic, soap opera-y-ness of it all. Regardless, wrestling storylines are objectively funny and over the top, and the designers of Smack Talk Showdown fully understood this when they created their game.
It’s this clear understanding and passion that the designers have for professional wrestling that I like the most about Smack Talk Showdown. This all comes through the most with the Smack Cards, which basically tell the player what to do during their segment. Speaking of segments, that’s what this game is – you cut a segment (or promo) like the ones you’d see backstage between matches. Back to my point, these Smack Cards feature little Easter Eggs for fans of wrestling, specifically the WWE. I love that one of them forces you to constantly refer to yourself as “The Big Dog”, which is clearly a nod to Roman Reigns and his “This Is My Yard” shtick that we all hate. Stuff like this is great for wrestling fans because they’ll find excitement in recognizing the reference. And at the same time, people who don’t watch wrestling will also like it because it’s silly and ridiculous, which to be fair, is an accurate assessment.
I hate to say things like this, but I need to because it’s relevant and truthful – Smack Talk Showdown plays better when alcohol is involved. After all, this is a party game, and roleplaying as wrestlers is way harder to do while sober, especially if you’re a bit shy. Now, I’m not saying that you have to be inebriated to get a kick out of Smack Talk Showdown, but it certainly helps and that’s how I’d recommend playing it. Not only does booze make everything somewhat funnier, it also will prevent you from becoming too frustrated by the game’s shortcomings, which are noticeable.
For one, I found the Name Cards, which are supposed to create hilarious stage names, to be mostly underwhelming. Sure, a name like “Giant Baby” or “Studious Demon” is humorous at first, but after a while, names like that leave you wanting. I think these cards fail because actual wrestling names aren’t like that anymore. Names like “The Undertaker” or “Macho Man” are being phased out for names like “Seth Rollins” or “Tyler Breeze”. I would love more real-life names in there because it would lead to better comical moments, like if someone drew a name like “Evil Jesus” or “Brad Chad” or something like that. These may not be the best examples, but you catch my drift.
Second, I didn’t always dig the rules for the Smack Cards, which is mainly due to the game’s logically brief time restraints. In Smack Talk Showdown, you only get 45 seconds to deliver your promo, which somehow feels both too long and too short in the moment. The “too short” part of it is exacerbated by the near constant onslaught of Smack Cards, which often force you to completely change your character and/or narrative in an instant. Not only does the producer get three of these cards, but the competing wrestlers also get one to use on each other (or themselves)! And the producer draws back up to three after every segment. That’s simply too much, and it can lead to somewhat stressful moments. Yes, in the video, we played the Smack Cards concurrently too often, which is actually against the rules. But still, even when the cards are played one at a time, the game asks for too much improvisation. A sober person can only do so much; a drunk person even less. Though at least if you’re drunk, you won’t care so much.
Perhaps I’m overthinking this a bit, but still, my points have some validity. Ultimately, party games are supposed to work with larger groups that may or may not be drinking, and most importantly, they shouldn’t require too much thought. Smack Talk Showdown mostly succeeds in this regard, but there’s just too much thinking involved. Fewer Smack Cards and a more fluid timer would fix this issue, so I recommend resorting to house rules with this one. But hey, if you’re like me and love wrestling, or if you just think it’s amusingly juvenile, then Smack Talk Showdown should appeal to you.
I give Smack Talk Showdown a: B-
Smack Talk Showdown Review – Board Crazy’s Ratings