Bandai Collectible Games is soon releasing their first foray into the “deck building” genre, the Resident Evil Deck Building Game. The best known example of this genre is Dominion. But in case you don’t know the genre, there are a variety of different cards on the play field that you “purchase” to place into your deck. Each turn you draw some cards from your deck to make up your hand to do things like buy higher cost items, draw more cards, or perform special actions. When your deck runs out of cards, you shuffle your discard pile and start all over again, making your deck grow more powerful with each passing turn.
The important question is, does this game offer anything beyond using the license of one of the most enjoyable video game franchises out there? I think so.
The Resident Evil Deck Building Game is for 2-4 players (with one solo play option). The game touts three different play styles; Story Mode, Mercenary Mode, and Versus Mode. The most common mode of play in groups will most likely be Story Mode so I’ll explore that in the most depth, and then other versions stem off of it.
Choose Your Character
Each player takes on the unique persona of one of the characters from the Resident Evil world. Ten individual characters are in the base game and promo versions of Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine are also out there. Each character has unique abilities that they gain access to once they have racked up enough decorations (awards for killing infected). Almost all of the characters have fun abilities that seem to try and capture some essence of the characters from the game. Albert Wesker, for example, is all about gaining more wealth and power while also putting other characters in dangerous situations. However, some just seem to be trying to use some sort of game changing mechanic that may or may not work well in the current scenario.
Each character also has a specific health total. In videogame style, your character can come back after being killed, but with 20 fewer maximum health each time. This can be repeated until you would return with no health, eliminating you from the game. I enjoyed the game a lot more once I realized that dying once or twice wasn’t the end of the world, it would just make me more cautious as the game went on.
Lock and Load
The game progresses as characters use ammunition cards (which provide both ammo and gold) to both buy special abilities and weapons to power their exploration into the Mansion Deck to kill infected. There are many suggested set-ups using the 26 different resources available to play with a suggested 10 to 18 in a single game. Each setup is intended to present a different feel in the course of play.
When a character wishes to try and kill infected they reveal ammunition cards from their hand and use that ammo gained to equip and use weapon cards they are currently holding as well. It’s a nice touch that ammunition cards give both gold and ammo so I didn’t really need to carefully manage resource decisions between what I could buy and what I could shoot.
Kill ‘Em Till They’re Dead
One of the aspects that I really enjoyed with this game was the Mansion Deck. The main goal of Story Mode is to kill infected and gain more decorations than your opponents before someone is able to kill the final boss. On a players turn they can choose to “open a door” in the mansion revealing the top card of the mansion deck. This could be something as simple a Zombie, easily put down with some well-placed handgun rounds and knife attacks. It could also be something as devastating as a Tyrant, who deals damage to every character before anyone even has a chance to react. If you’re really lucky you might find a weapon case containing some deadly devices for zombie management.
When infected are killed they are removed from the mansion deck and set beside your character to award them decorations for the kill, unlocking access to their higher level skills and counting towards your end score. Infected who survive combat deal damage to you and return to the Mansion Deck.
I loved this aspect of the game. I was always taking a chance on when to open a door and explore. If I didn’t try and keep pace with other players I would quickly be buried under their mountain of decorations. As weak infected were cleared out of the deck only the strongest and most deadly would remain for me to face. This added a real feel of progression as infected who had mowed down players early in the game would return again with a vengeance if you weren’t well prepared.
Story mode ends when a player manages to kill the biggest baddie in the deck. Everyone then tallies up the decorations they’ve won and the highest is the winner.
Other Play Modes
- Mercenary Mode: In this mode the length of the game is determined by a fixed number of rounds. The number of remaining rounds can be increased by finding “more time” cards that are mixed into the Mansion Deck. Once the number of rounds is exhausted, the player (or team) with the most decorations is the winner.
- Versus Mode: The Mansion Deck is completely removed and this is an all-out gun battle royal. He or she who is the least dead claims the spoils.
There are some aspects of the game I didn’t really enjoy.
Most weapon piles, like the Handgun, have a “super” version randomly mixed into the buy pile, for example a Burst-Fire Handgun. While this adds some neat chance to the game it also does two things:
- Slows the game down. Special weapons cost more than their regular counterparts and you lose access to the regular weapon until someone buys the super one.
- Makes buying one of them necessary to win. While totally possible to make a deck able to kill the biggest Infected in the game using regular weapons, it’s so much easier if you can get some sort of special weapon to power the kill.
Another issue is that story mode tends to lack player interaction. Aside from a few cards and character abilities that affect other characters you can really ignore one another as if you were playing alone. However, that can be easily remedied with a few rounds of Versus Mode. If you enjoy the solo play you can even do Mercenary Mode solo trying to rack up the highest kill count before you run out of rounds.
Overall I really enjoy the game. While each “mode” has some flaws they are compensated by playing in one of the others.
I think people who enjoy deck building games will enjoy this game, especially if you have a fondness for the Resident Evil franchise. But if you have a demand for strict strategy in your games this one will have too many aspects of chance for you to enjoy.
With plans for set card expansions in the future I look forward to playing this game with friends who like killing zombies as much as I do, though I’m a little scared if they get the movie licensing.
The game is scheduled to be released sometime in the next month, and you can download the complete rulebook now.