I generally play roleplaying games, but every once in a while, I dabble with miniature games. Recently I’ve tried out Savage Worlds Showdown, a miniatures version of Pinnacle Entertainment‘s Savage Worlds. Basically, it’s a stripped down version of the roleplaying game with a few extra rules to make it fast, furious, and fun on the tabletop. And best of all, it’s freely available for download here.

There is no GM. It’s just two teams of players fighting against each other to the death. Because of this, all skills, Hindrances and Edges that don’t do anything in combat are eliminated. Figures are either Wild Cards or groups of Extras and they have a point cost based on how powerful they are. When one side is defeated or random chance declares that the game has ended, the two sides count up the point values of the units they have defeated. The ratio of the winner’s kills to the loser’s kills determines how much of a victory was achieved.

There’s a paid scenario for each of Weird Wars and Deadlands, and a whole setting called G-Men and Gangsters. I haven’t tried any of them yet, but I have tried Pinnacle’s two free scenarios: Brides of Dracula, pitting Van Helsing and his hirelings vs. Dracula and his brides, and Rumble in the Jungle, featuring Buck Savage and company caught in the middle of some poachers and a 20-foot tall gorilla!

Several weeks ago, I played Rumble in the Jungle with the Wittenberg Role-playing Guild. Beforehand, I printed out the free figure-flats that come with the scenario. There was nearly a show stopper when I found that the scenario as printed gave the poachers extra units making their total point value nearly twice as much as the Savages! Fortunately, I found a correction on the Pinnacle forums that made the sides much more even.

We had five players, myself included. We decided to divide the players up three and two. The rules say that each player receives three bennies at the start of the game, but with uneven sides, this seemed kind of unfair. So we decided to have six bennies for each team that anyone could use.

Our game in progress.

The poachers led by Baron Wellingsford decided to put those with guns prone on the cliffside while putting the native spearmen behind the rocks below. When the first round started, the Savages went in guns abalazing at whomever they had line of sight for. Everybody has unlimited ammo, so one of the quirks of Savage Worlds Showdown is that it’s always worth it to try and make a chance in a million shot.

They may appear flat, but these boulders did a great job of protecting the spearmen from boom-boom sticks.

Things started off pretty even for both teams. The poachers were taking pot shots, the Savages were duking it out with the spearmen, and no side was really dominating. But then came a ferocious cry from deep in the jungle: DONGA!

Unfortunately for the Savages, Donga randomly appeared near them and started fighting the intruders in his jungle. Fortunately, the twenty-foot tall beast wouldn’t harm the beauty and refused to attack Virginia Dare under any circumstances (which we realized meant she could shoot at him all day and Donga wouldn’t mind).

Danny Dare was the first casualty of Donga’s wrath and the rest of the Savages eagerly booked it away in the hopes that the native spearmen might get between them and the fearsome beast. In the mean time, they took a few shots at the spearmen and were able to get them to flee in terror. Unfortunately for the Savages, they made their morale roll and started coming back to avenge their fallen comrade. The Savages were caught between the bloodthirsty natives and the giant ape and several more fell. But not before killing a few more natives and even shooting some poachers up on the cliffs.

Things fell apart for us at the table when we noticed that Donga has the Gargantuan ability. The Showdown rules describe it as follows:

Gargantuan creatures have Heavy Armor, are Huge, and add their Size to their Strength roll when crushing targets via Fighting rolls.

This is certainly an appropriate ability for a King of the Jungle, but it threw in a monkey wrench to the mechanics of the game. The first problem was the fact that Gargantuan grants Donga Heavy Armor. In Savage Worlds Showdown, this means that only Heavy Weapons can deal damage to the unit (the intention is that a bazooka can destroy a tank, but not a pistol with a lucky damage roll). Unfortunately, no character on either side had a Heavy Weapon. We figured that Baron Wellingsford’s Elephant Gun might count as one even though it wasn’t listed as such, but the Savages certainly didn’t have one and so they had no possible means of getting the victory points for dealing the final wounding blow to Donga. So we just dropped the fact he had Heavy Armor and the remaining native spearmen just swarmed him and stabbed him to death. Not a fitting end for a 20-foot giant ape.

The other issue was that we discovered that Size was not explained anywhere in the Savage Worlds Showdown rules. Savage Worlds has numerical modifiers for sizes (e.g. +3) and I believe that was the intention was for Savage Worlds Showdown as well. But it is completely omitted from the rules. So the whole part about adding Donga’s Size to Strength rolls when crushing targets couldn’t actually be done.

At the end of the game, the Poachers won by a wide margin after eliminating the Savages and dealing the final killing blow to Donga. With the exception of the confusion about Donga’s Gargantuan ability, all players agreed that the game was simple and enjoyable to play. Both sides were balanced and it was largely the fact that Donga randomly appeared near the Savages that made them lose.

All in all, Savage Worlds Showdown was a good miniatures game that I would happily play again. With the rules clarified and the typos in the free scenarios fixed, it would be a perfect entry game for anyone looking to get into miniatures games.

A very happy player!