WBG Score: 8.5/10
Player Count: 1-4
Published by: Steamforged Games Ltd.
Designed by: Sherwin Matthews
Before I start, I want to be clear this is a spoiler free review.
The year is 1996. I’m a skinny, awkward teenager, with a terrible acne problem, an obsession with football, and a dream of being able to sleep in every day. Then, after I won a PlayStation in a competition at a football match, a friend gifts me his old of Resident Evil as his Mum said he wasn’t allowed to play it! And everything changed!
Fast-forward 25 years, and I’m still obsessed by the Resident Evil franchise. Having lost a lot of my youth to the first few games, the name alone inspires many fond memories. But, as someone who is not into painting miniatures, I hadn’t been drawn to any of the board game versions yet. There have been a few iterations over the years, the main ones being the deck-building version back in 2010, then Resident Evil 2 board game in 2019. And recently, a new version of this, Resident Evil 3: The Board Game, which drove 7,489 backers on Kickstarter to fund this update. RE3 is a stand-alone sequel that plays similarly to RE2 with a few minor rule’s tweaks, but a number of new additions for fans of the series.
If you don’t own any versions yet but loved the video games, RE3 is the one to get. If you own RE2 already and loved it, in truth, the main addition here will be the new campaigns to play. However, the art is a little brighter after fans complained it was too dark in RE2, and there are of course a few surprises along the way that I am sure will delight loyal fans.
But should you buy this if you are not a fan of the IP? The game is set deep in the world created by the video games, and as the great @northern_dice said on the games Kickstarter page, “This board game is a beautiful homage to Resident Evil’s classic survival horror feel.” Something I could not agree more with. So, the question more is this. Do you want a game that brings tension and horror to a dungeon crawl tabletop game? If so, then this should be on a list of considerations.
Resident Evil 3 throws you into the world of Racoon City. A fictional American metropolis thrust into a horrific post-apocalyptic world. Your first mission is to escape from a warehouse, onto the streets of the city. This is done is a very smooth way, teaching you the game in the process. There is a lot of intimidation when it comes to buying, learning, and playing a game like this. The large box, thick rule book, and second large campaign handbook. It can put some people off. But I found I was up and playing withing 25 minutes of opening the box. The game recognises this with lines such as “we’re sure you want to jump straight into the action, so let’s not waste any more time!”
As such, after a few clearly written pages about the iconography, characters, cards, tiles, enemies, and weapons, you will be up and running. Literally! Trying to escape the zombies. This is the first lesson. Killing zombies in RE3 is very hard. You essentially have a 1/6 chance of doing so each time you try with a knife. Other weapons will increase your chances later in the game, and you do start with a gun which you can fire three times, but you are still looking to roll the single face of a D6 that will cause the enemy you are attacking any damage.
As such, you will find that dodging past enemies, shutting doors behind you and all round “just leg it” tactics are what happens most often in this games early scenarios! But that doesn’t detract from game. It just means you need to adjust your expectations. But don’t worry, there will be Shotguns, Grenade Launchers and Assault rifles in your hand soon enough!
The game is set-up to make you feel like you are playing a video game. At the start, you have access to three areas of the map. You can play either one as your first game. In each scenario, you will be tasked with collecting the campaign progression path token, which unlocks later levels. This, along with collecting key items and defeating certain enemies will be the main tasks required to success at the missions. It feels very much like progressing through a video game.
As you move through the Downtown, Uptown, Commercial, and R.P.D. areas, you will be looking to progress you way through the C item deck. Items are separated into A, B, and C decks. A's are mainly ammunition and herbs. B are scenario specific items needed to get through the level you are on such as specific keys and Weapons required. The C deck is sorted at the start of the game as a tantalising look at what is needed. Players are asked to shuffle the deck in a way that certain cards will come out later in the game, but still at a random order. Attaining the C items is crucial to each rounds success, and without them, you will need to re-do the mission.
Setting up each level is very simple. The Scenario booklet clearly shows what is required visually and there is a simple to understand key for each one. Spotting all the Barricades can be hard due to the colours used, but other than that, this is a breeze. The scenario booklet also offers a simple to use guide for the encounter dice.
As the game progresses, you will quickly start moving into areas on unexplored territory. When you do this, you must roll the encounter dice, and each level will have a separate guide as to what each die face represents. This is a great system that works well both mechanically and thematically.
Playing Resident Evil 3 will most likely come in bursts. I played most of my games in batches of two or three scenarios at a time. As such, you will need to get used to the pack-up and tracking system. If you have the Kickstarter exclusive inserts, this will be a little easier. But I used bags and found it to be quite simple. On the back of the scenario booklet, you can record your item box and character items, but a quick photograph on your phone will do just as good a job. But after a few plays, I just put each characters items into separate bags and found this to be a quick and simple process to set-up from at a later date.
The tension deck used on each scenario (bar the bosses), and played after every character turn evolves through the game, as does the item decks. As such, you don't want to mess them up mid scenario. Simply band them together so they cannot be confused with other cards already taken away or not added yet, and you are done.
Running through the scenarios is a brilliant, narrative driven, suspenseful ride. I have absolutely loved it. The question many may have, is how much replay-ability is there in the box once you have done this. Well, there are four characters, so you can always try with other people. Also, each scenario plays differently each time based on a number of random factors, so if you enjoyed playing once, I am certain you will enjoy playing again! However, I found, going back to early missions and loosing all my powerful armory was tough to take! But give the game a break for a few weeks or months and I am sure you will be able to enjoy running through them all once more.
The game has a stack of expansions out and on the way too. I have the City of Ruin expansion which I will review in a few weeks once I have run through that. I am very excited to see what that brings to the table. But ultimately, like any campaign game, there will be some who will play it once and then not again. It's up to you if it is worth it for that. But I found just the base games 15 missions to be ample experience for this price and box size.
The minis are ok. A little small. But good detail and robust. They all come painted a solid red colour, so pop on the board right out the box. The ones I have seen painted online look phenomenal and if I had an ounce of patience for that sort of thing, this would be one of the first games I would do that for. But as someone who love minis but doesn’t as yet paint, these look okay to me. The boss minis have a nice size to them, and the ones in the expansion look incredible!
The rest of the components are good. The only complaint is the Raccoon City dashboard which is printed on standard paper. This could do with being a thicker card, perhaps duel layered to hold the elements in place. But the rest of the parts are solid. Good dice. Decent cards. The tiles for the map are beautifully illustrated and surprisingly detailed if you take the time to look at them
I have loved my time in Raccoon City. It has been great walking down memory lane. And revisiting my youth. Despite the constant attack from zombies. The game is hugely entertaining full of suspense and ramps up the tension and difficultly very well in my opinion. I have seen some complain of this being too easy, but there are simple ways to adjust the difficulty if this is the case for you. However, I found the difficulty to be just right, especially as I played most of this with my son.
The Resident Evil legacy lives on! From a game, to a film, TV series, comics, and even a play in Japan back in 2000! Resident Evil is close to many of our hearts. The games certainly play on this using art directly from the old games and not messing with the winning formula. If you are looking for a trip back to Raccoon City and like the idea of being reacquainted with some old Zombie bashing friends, then I can think of nothing better than sitting down and playing through the scenarios in Resident Evil 3. I absolutely loved it.