Since some wonders about encounter balancing in Savage Worlds, as I do, I’ve come up with a way to determine the strength of a creature.
When you advance a character, you get to buy an Attribute, an edge or two points of Skills (roughly), so you basically get two of the same points that you used at character creation to buy Skills or you get from taking Hindrances. You can use them to calculate the total value of all stats of a creature. Let’s call them “Creation Points” (CP).
So a novice character has 10 points of Attributes (counting also the first d4) that costs 2 CP each, for 20 CP in Attributes, 15 points (or 18 if playing a futuristic setting) in Skills (1 to 1 with CP, so 15), plus 2 points for the race (as race points equals to CP), or whatever race points is your race (race points are the same of skill points). Edges would cost 2 CP, while Hindrances give 1 or 2 CP, but they balance out at creation. So a Novice character is "worth" 37 (or 40 with more skills), a Seasoned character is 43 (3 advance that give 2 CP each), a Veteran 51 (4 advance), and so.
In the same way can be calculated the CP of a monster. Here the problem is special abilities, that must be given a cost. For that, however, one can base on the existing edges and racial abilities, and measure on that. Many special abilities can be split up in underabilites that can easily be compared, so something like undead would cost something between 8 and 12 (not aging probably will not be counted, for example). Something like Invulnerability or Ethereal or Swat must be judged, as different Pace. For animal intelligence, I figure it as counting half.
Then, adjust Extras total dividing it for the relative potency to a Wild Card. Many states that a WC will roughly be confronted by two Extras, so divide Extras CP by 2, but I found that three is probably the best gauge, so I divide by three.
Now you can calculated the CP value of monsters in the manual. For example, the alligator has a CP cost of 41 (/ 3 for being an Extra), the bear of 54 (/ 3), while the mighty dragon has 122.
That said, balance in all RPGs is a delicate question, because balance depends not only on the average potency of a creature, but also on the situation, the location and relative abilities of the contenders. Also, in SW as in all RPGs, luck is a factor that cannot be accounted for.
So, in all RPGs, I find balance is something of a non-problem. In addition, I find balanced encounters something like an unrealistic and forced artifact that will remove challenge and fun from the game.
What I suggest you to manage encounters is firstly focus on why you have to balance them. Ok, easy encounters are boring. But they can be complicated on the fly. Hard encounters can kill characters, right?
But, they can surely happen. Would not be silly if all encounters are magically of the same level of the PCs? In the same town, one year the guards are of 2° level, the year after they are all of 8°?
What I do to the balancing topic is use some tools to manage encounters (without cheating on dice).
First, give the PCs the way to approach the encounter and prepare. Do not have them bump on tha adversaries and roll initiative. Give them the chance to hear and see signs of the approaching encounter. Then, when they see the adversaries from distance, give them the opportunity to gauge the opponent’s abilities. Have them the opportunity to roll Battle, Survival or whatever and even on a single success give them a good idea of the capacity of the enemies (Fighting, Toughness, weapons, or maybe the CP value). So that if the encounter is over their capacity, they can choose to avoid it, or better prepare (and if they choose to attack anyway, well, is their choice).
Second, keep always an escape route for your PCs (but also for your main villains). In “real” encounters, an animal, for example, would never fight to death, and will always have some different objective for a fight than killing its opponents. Maybe their fight for their lairs, their offspring, and if they are fighting to feed and get hurt maybe they can evaluate to go away and search something less hazardous. Villains also can have more interesting plans for the PCS than simply kill them. Give your losing PCs the opportunity to surrender, offer it to them, if they don't come up with the idea themselves.
So, my combats very rarely ends with the death of one of the sides. A losing PCs side can be trapped, jailed, left on a small island without food, and so on. I prefer to transform a lost combat into a new challenge instead of a TPK with new characters that comes up on the next session. But obviously, it depends much on the preference of the players.
Also, I keep a door open also for my main villain. If they would not have to die in an encounter, but the dice says so, I’ll never hide this to my players, as cheating is always betray their trust. Simply I’ll admit it “guys, you’re too good, you beated him!” and then give them some kind of reward, Bennies or something more permanent, maybe some help in their adventure, and then improvise some way to save him with some special effect or so.
This comes good also in the big end fight with the mail villain (because, well, they are good and sometimes will happen): if the PCs manage to kill him with their first blow, but you imagined a more epic fight, admit it, give your PCs a good prize, and then have him resurrect, transform the hit in a scratch hit or something similar. I find this more funny, no?