We were kindly gifted Resident Evil 3: The Board Game and its expansion The City of Ruin by Steamforged Games. This game is a tabletop port of the video game Resident Evil 3. For those of you unfamiliar with the Resident Evil franchise, it is a series of games that follows the after-effects of the T-Virus, a virus that has the potential to mutate the DNA of those affected by it. These effects can range from zombification to enormous scorpions, giant humanoids, and viscous Doberman Pinschers. Needless to say, if it is a creature or plant that can be made terrifying, Resident Evil has probably done so already. The board game does a very good job of making the survival horror feel like the video game by establishing rules that act to both help you and hinder you (we’ll get to this later). The expansion City of Ruin adds some side missions that will add some of the video game content that was skipped for the core game. If you are a die-hard fan of Resident Evil, check this game out if you like cooperative campaign games. Heck, if you’re looking into a good entry point to how the video games work, this is a good place to start as well.
Setup for this game is a bit of a lengthy process and will depend on which campaign mission you are on. In Resident Evil 3 you play as a survivor who is being hunted by a mysterious humanoid creature (Nemesis) and it is your goal to survive long enough to figure out what is going on. Did I mention that there is an ongoing zombie apocalypse going on as well? Yes, there is a zombie apocalypse going on in Racoon City and you are being hunted by a giant humanoid creature. So, in order to set up your mission there are a few pieces of information that you will need to have handy. The first thing you will need is your campaign guide. In this booklet, you will find all the necessary pieces, minis, location tiles, accessories, items, enemy references, narrative event cards, tension deck cards, and tokens. This seems like a lot of pieces (and it is). The game box contains an enormous amount of materials that make for a great campaign (though it can make cleanup a hassle).
In order to begin setup you will first find your mission, this mission will let you know how to set up the game map. The game map is where you play. The map will contain tokens that represent finding loot, recovery items, weapons, and important tools such as keys. Depending on the scenario it may also include automatically starting off with enemies on the game board. There are also tokens that will represent if a room has been explored and how dangerous an unexplored room may be when entering (giving you a sense of dread as you open doors). There are also fire tokens that represent areas that are off-limits to move through. Typewriters and item boxes do exactly the same thing that they do in the video games, allowing you to save your progress and store items that you do want taking up your precious inventory. There are various shapes for the map tiles and this allows for multiple configurations throughout the campaign. Each tile is made of individual squares that count as a specific location. Tiles may contain the aforementioned tokens, items, and loot.
There are a variety of minis that represent your player character or various enemy types. These minis come in three different sizes: small, medium, and large. Small minis are the most common and are humans, zombies, and zombie dogs. Mediums are a bit bigger and wouldn’t normally fit through a standard-size door in a real-life situation. Large are gigantic creatures that would take up an entire room. There are 4 combinations that may fit into 1 square: 4 small, 1 medium and 2 small, 2 medium or 1 large model. If you are in the same space as another mini, you can think of it as being within arms-length. It would be a good situation to be that close to your partners as the game allows you to exchange items, give items, or heal characters that close. Being that close to an enemy is never a good idea and is definitely not something you want to do.
In order to track your character’s health you have a handy health track and token that will move from left to right as you take damage. You have a total of “5” health ranging from green fine to red danger. Should you be on red danger and take damage, your character dies and the game ends (unless your partners have a first-aid spray and can manage to save you). To defend yourself you will have access to weapons and these weapons will use ammunition that is tracked with ammo dials. Now that you have a very rough idea of how the game works, it’s time to talk about the actual gameplay.
During your turn, you may take a total of 4 actions. Actions may be repeated as long as you still take only 4 actions. These actions are move, open/close doors, search, trade, use item, and attack. Moving consists of moving your mini to an adjacent square (orthogonal or diagonal). It is important to note that a door must be open to move to the next tile and that if there is a corner you must go around the corner and cannot move diagonally through the corner (as our characters are still somewhat grounded in reality). Opening/closing doors is exactly what it sounds like and you may be wondering if it’s necessary to close doors and the answer is: kind of. So in order to open and close a door, 2 actions would be used. Searching is simply picking up an item. Trading may be done when you an another player share the same square. Using an item is to simply use the item following its instructions on the flavor text. Attacking is to… well.. attack something with a weapon.
Attacking is the heftiest rule in the game. In order to attack, there are steps that must be followed in order. First you declare what you are doing and to what you are doing it to. For example, you may declare an attack on a zombie using your handgun. Then you reduce your ammo dial by 1 point (knives do not have ammo and certain weapons may allow the use of multiple bullets at a time). Now you roll the attack dice as indicated by your weapon stat card. Depending on your roll, there may be different effects such as pushing the enemy one space away or damaging the enemy. In order to shoot an enemy they must be within line of site, meaning they must be visible to your character and not hidden behind a corner or wall/door etc.
After the attack, there is an attack reaction phase in which the enemy has a chance to react to your attack (This is what we meant when we said rules that help and hinder you). If the player is within line of sight of the enemy, the enemy will advance toward the player by its movement level. If it happens to be on the same square as the player then it will perform a basic attack. Basic attacks are outlined on the enemy stat cards and have different ranges, damage, etc. In order to give the game a bit of balance, the game has an evasion system with circular arrows. These arrows are either short, medium, or long and they count toward difficulty levels. The difficulty level for evasion changes based on the number of enemies that are present on the square. A long arrow is always successful, a medium is successful against 2 small/medium base enemies or less, and a short is successful on small bases only.
After a player has performed their actions (whether or not there were attacks), there is an enemy reaction phase. During this phase, an enemy will advance towards any players that are in a linked area or attack any players that are in the same squares. A linked area is any open area that is a closed space. The easiest way to think of this is, if a door is open then the two adjacent rooms are considered one room as a zombie/enemy can hear what is going on in both rooms as the doors are open. So while it makes things easier to open and close doors it is not necessary. It is important to note that while the reaction phase always takes place, the attack reaction phase does not always happen as it depends on a player attacking an enemy. As such these two phases may sometimes happen out of order.
After the player phase and enemy reaction phase, there is the tension phase. During setup, you will obtain and shuffle a set amount of cards that are green, yellow, and red. At the beginning of this phase, you will draw one of these cards and do as it says. Green cards are great as nothing happens. Yellow cards usually involve a tough choice of how to proceed. Red cards are dire events and shake things up by placing enemies next to you or unexpectedly taking damage. As you progress through the campaigns, the ratios of green, yellow and red cards will change.
If you enter an unexplored room, whether it be through movement or through a card you drew during the tension phase, you will roll a die. There are charts in the campaign guide that will show you what your roll is. There are 4 types of unexplored rooms: green, yellow, amber, and red. Each is progressively more dangerous than the last. Green is considered safe and does not require rolls. Depending on the campaign and threat level, roll results can range from “no enemies seen” to filling the room with zombies, zombie dogs, or drawing a card from the tension deck.
The game provides a lengthy and replayable campaign with the opportunity to save your progress. As the game continues, failing the missions does not necessarily mean you will fail the game. It may make future missions a little tougher but by no means does failing a mission mean automatic failure of the entire campaign. As you progress you will encounter more difficult situations that will have you begging your partners to help you get out of a room. There is also the ability to get bigger and stronger weapons, health items and poison cures, and even the possibility of unlocking side missions and the City of Ruin expansion adds new weapons new ammo types and even more creatures/monsters to extend your already large campaign. Resident Evil 3: The Board Game does an excellent job of making you feel immersed in the decaying city while being surrounded by enemies. You will seek small trinkets and hope that it is ammo or a health item. It is by no means an easy game and you may find yourself wanting to restart a mission (which you are encouraged to do). I mean, who hasn’t restarted from a previous safe file before?
Language Barrier Playability: Bad. This game is extremely dependent on language for every item and mission, enemy, and tension phase. As such it is not unplayable but you may find yourself frustrated having to translate every single thing multiple times and it will add more time to an already lengthy game.
Replayability: Good. It is an easily replayable game as it replicates the Resident Evil 3 video game very well. It will allow you to try different routes or strategies or perhaps try different weapons against enemies.
Artwork: Excellent. The artwork on the box, cards, minis and booklets are chilling, haunting and grotesque. A wonderful look at the horror that is Resident Evil.
Quality: Excellent. We have yet to find a Steamforged game that is not of excellent quality. Sturdy, detailed minis, excellent cards that are textured, tiles that are sturdy and ornate while not feeling overwhelming with information. The guides are done very well and explain everything in detail.
Strategy: Medium high. The game is extremely dependent on strategy, so much so that your decisions may affect future missions. The campaign will change slightly based on where your danger levels are as you progress through the campaign.
Instruction Manual: Excellent. The manuals are very well made. However, it is a thick manual that will take some time to read. It is a heftier game that you may find yourself reading the rules over a few times, especially when it comes to attacks.
Organization: Good. Usually Steamforged is great when it comes to storage but in this case, there is so much content that it cannot be easily organized in a way that makes it easy to find things. There are so many cards but not enough space for all of them to be organized properly by type. The tokens do not have enough room to be stored all in the same space and the ammo dials do not all fit in the designated ammo dial slot. Everything does fit in the box but not in an organized way.