After Resident Evil 2 got the board game treatment followed by Resident Evil 3, the idea of jumping back to the original game in the series might seem like an unlikely move, but in Resident Evil: The Board Game that’s exactly what happens – we’re back in Spencer Mansion where so many of us developed a whole new range of sleep-ruining nightmares back in the mid 90s after a few too many late night Playstation sessions.
The general idea of the Resident Evil board game is to complete a series of missions that build up to a larger, evolving campaign. Objectives for each mission will vary from game to game, but the common theme is pretty obvious: don’t get eaten by zombies. Sounds simple enough in principle, but when you don’t know what might be lurking around the next corner, and with resources and ammo at a premium, it’s easy to find yourself in a tricky situation. If things go wrong, the only question is whether the zombie wants butter on its brain sandwich – either way you’re a goner.
Jumping straight into one of the things I really enjoyed, the mansion itself unfolds as you explore. You won’t be able to see a full map of the mansion from the first minute; instead as you explore, open doors and unlock areas new parts of the mansion will be added to the table, where more careful exploring kicks off. At the point of a new area being opened up, other entities will show up with it. This might be story elements, objects you can collect or, if you’re particularly unlucky, a couple of zombies waiting for you on the other side. As you take your turn you can carry out various actions such as opening or closing doors, moving to another area nearby, or attacking a zombie amongst others. If you choose to attack then a dice roll will determine your success, and with weapons and ammo being in short supply it’s often a risky strategy to have a pop at a bad guy. That said, it might be your only option – survival might rely on you spending the last of your firepower just to get out of a room in one piece!
I really liked this blind element to the game, the idea of opening up a door that you’ve spent a while finding the key for, only to find a couple of peckish zombies between you and some useful gear. It reflects the video game horror trope so nicely too; anyone who’s played a horror game at any point will know what it’s like to open a door and get the ultimate jump scare on the other side… this is as close as you’ve getting to replicating that fear in a board game.
It helps that the components reflect the style of the video game series too. There’s plenty of dark, moody colours in use and the artwork used throughout really adds to the general feel of the horror genre, and the plastic minis that come with the game are very very cool. The storyline elements add a really nice touch of progression to your games, and while it’s entirely possible to get set up for a single mission it’s that idea of moving things forward over several hours that really adds appeal to this. I’ve yet to work through all of the missions on offer, but the creators of the game claim it’s a 30 hour campaign in total, which I can absolutely believe to be true. It’s also entirely possible to play through a second time, not because the storylines will change necessarily, but the way you approach each mission can be so dramatically different from one playthrough to the next, combined with the nature of dice rolls to determine outcomes, it’s literally impossible to have the exact same results, outcome and experience each time you play.
And that’s a really important thing to note. Considering this game plays best with others (as a family of 3 we had a great time working together on this) there’s every chance you’ll end up playing a quest multiple times with different people, so being able to do that without knowing whether you’ll succeed or end up as part of a zombie buffet is a really nice thing to have. The game isn’t the cheapest game around either, retailing at a touch under £100, but for what you’re getting in terms of how much game there is ahead of you, the quality of the components in the box and the fact it can be replayed several times over, the value is actually pretty decent. It’s easy to spend not much less than this on a video game that you finish in 15 hours and never revisit, so if you’re likely to be able to find the time to make the most of what’s on offer here, it could be a really great purchase.
For fans of nerve-wracking exploration, or someone looking for a great take on the zombie board game experience, this could be just what you’re looking for. Very enjoyable indeed.