A warm worn out bobble sleeved cardigan. Those trainers than are so thin on the sole they are as smooth as glass. A day a page diary even though Asana, Trello and Netsuite sits looking at you from a screen. Familiarity bordering on comfort. Things that we know are there reliable and even though slightly flawed, aren’t going to give us any terrible surprises.
Which takes us nicely on to the latest Resident Evil board game from Steamforged Games. It is the first game in the videogame series but is being released after two previous tabletop games based on games sequels. (Yes, that is slightly confusing.) As I was informed, it was based on a timing and anniversary decision as opposed to some kind of special marketing plan.
The Resident Evil board game starts off in a bit of a quandary, as anyone familiar with the series will know that the first videogame was based more around atmosphere and creeping dread than out and out zombie annihilation that the sequels offered. The issue is that with the other two tabletop games already existing, how do you then effectively take a step back, pull on the reins and allow the game to breath at the pace that was intended?
The answer seems to be that you don’t blink and you don’t panic, and you check you ammo and you shut the doors behind you as you go and base your actions on your experience. For those who haven’t played any of the tabletop efforts from Steamforged before, their Resident Evil games rely on a clever combination of lack of resources and continual pressure, where the enemies are more likely to overwhelm than outsmart, and a closed door can be just as effective as a fully loaded shotgun. Mechanically everything kind of makes video game sense. You’ll carry out your shooting or moving or searching actions, then any undead that are on the same tile or connected tiles will shamble towards you and take a bite. Bullets aren’t infinite and neither are health packs, so you never feel in full courage mode. The final section is the Tension deck, that is designed to give peaks and troughs in sudden difficulty with a turn of a card either giving nightmares or a sigh of relief. It also acts as a timer for how long you’ll get to finish the particular scenario. This game is more run and gun than dungeon crawl smash, and the odds against successful shots are stacked against you in most cases. There’s a lot of these games where the enemies feel like a minor inconvenience, but like the other games in the series, the tension and potential to fall foul is something that is definitely very real.
Resident Evil offers two flavours of terror in either bite sized chunks or the full flavoured campaign where you’ll experience the cardboard version of the videogame including the addition of other player characters and puzzles. The puzzles mix between fetch quests and sequence guessing, with you often needing to take several attempts which adds to the impending doom. The items deck can still be the gift that either gives or punches you in the face such is their randomness in the set up phase. The campaign book is huge, full and certainly offers value for money for those who decide to dive in and play through as games are likely to last hours rather than minutes and with the chance of failure always in the background. You’re possibly going to be playing scenarios on repeat until you understand the most efficient way to clear a level. Big bosses come with their own activation deck, which brings with it the videogame element of proceedings and normally become the reason why you were saving ammo in the first place. The rulebook disgustingly decides to not only have a quick reference guide, but a contents page, and does its best to explain the main mechanics well and get you up and running with a decent tutorial. Though for me there are still a few edge cases in the book which made me wonder what some of the iconography actually meant.
Which leads us on to the potential snaffles. Well not snaffles, more like sniffles. Resident Evil is solid, but it seems to sometimes forget that outside of the game there are people who need to organise, play and tidy up the game once they are finished. Scenarios can be a little fiddly to set up due to the deck set up requirements occasionally. Sometimes you’ll feel you’re the victim of bad luck rather than bad choices as the dice can be exceptionally unforgiving. I would have liked the iconography on the card art to be clearer of the difference between the roll results and the damage taken as it appears like a grid of eight icons until you become really used to it. I know the game is meant to be set in a dreary dark foreboding mansion, but the art work is so dark, that it can be impossible to pick out all the effort that has been put into the details of the tiles. This is a shame, because the miniatures look brilliant and perfectly capture their videogame counterparts, but when you’re staring at another very dark mini tile for the fifth time, wondering what the hell it is, there is some frustration. Also, I find it strange to give me all these tokens and storage trays and not give me guidance on how said tokens should be placed in said trays. These are all quality of life complaints than game complaints, but this is the third game in the series, so I think they are valid points.
All in all, Resident Evil doesn’t do a huge amount to distance itself from the previous iterations of the other two released games. There’s still all the tension, panic, decent sized campaigns and enough game to keep you chomping along for a decent amount of time. For those who have the other games in their collection then its probably already sitting on your shelf. For everyone else, it’s a solid game in a solid series that offers a decent experience that won’t cost you all your brains. Look zombie puns aren’t my forté ok?
This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid monetary compensation for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
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