Resident Evil 2: The Board Game

1-4 players/Cooperative/Dungeon Crawler

Designer: Mat Hart

Artwork: Gunship Revolution

Publisher: Steamforged Games

Overview of Gameplay

In Resident Evil 2 you will be controlling character minis moving around tile based boards in an effort to complete your chosen scenario and stay alive. The scenarios usually have some objective you need to fulfill all the while you will be trying to stay alive, what with all the zombies and monsters running amok. I called the game a “dungeon crawler” not because it takes place in a dungeon but it carries a ton of the same similarities to other dungeon crawler types of games such as the random board layout and doorways with rooms of enemies you must defeat. 

Win Condition /Length

The base game comes with a bunch of different campaign based scenarios and each one is a completely different setup from the tiled board layout to the item cards you will discover. Also each scenario has a different win mechanism based on the scenario. I really love this style of win condition in board games where you have to complete objectives rather than worry about getting the most points. The objectives sound easy enough but once you get on the board you really start to see how they can be strategic. For example one of the earlier objectives requires you to just get to a specific room with all characters playing. However that door is locked……SO you will need to find the proper key to unlock it (they also keep the awesome club, heart, diamond etc. keys in game). BUT once you’ve found the key you see there are other doors that are also locked with the same key but are out of the way…..so, do you go investigate those rooms for their loot (and possible enemies) or just escape. I really love the choices they give you in the game in this regard. 

The length is about an hour and a half per scenario which of course will increase the more players you have up to the max of 4. Playing a solo game you could probably squeeze out a quick hour long game in some scenarios. I honestly didn’t even notice the time when playing as the game does a good job of keeping you engaged and the turns move super-fast. 

Note: Walls and Doors do not come with game

Setup/Takedown

The setup takes A LONG TIME, and that’s an understatement. And the funny thing is there really isn’t an overwhelming amount of tokens here. Setup basically consists of following the diagram in the scenario book to setup the specific shaped tiles in the correct order. Then you must place the door tokens on specific spots, then comes the wall tokens, then the zombie minis and any other random tokens like the typewriter or storage box. After that you need to check your scenario to see what cards go in the Tension Deck and shuffle those up. Then what item cards go in each A and B Item Deck and shuffle. THEN you need to place the specific item tokens for A and B in specific spots on the board, phew /wipes brow. Let’s see did I miss anything…..Oh you will need to place your starting character minis on their respective starting spots that are marked in the scenario as well. 

The setup diagram isn’t terrible but it could be a bit better. There are specific spots that are color coded in the picture to show when you make rolls for entering the room on what enemies may emerge. That helps differentiate the tiles in the picture but it still takes a few moments to really piece together the board as they are not numbered or anything. I see why they went this route as they didn’t want to focus on the tiles “meaning” anything other than a place to wander around but it would have helped tremendously with setup. 

Takedown honestly is pretty fast. There are really only 2 decks of cards, the item cards and the tension deck and there are respective places in the insert for each. The few different tokens will need to be bagged up though as there is no space in the insert for that stuff. 

Components/Game Board

And then we come to the components. I really don’t even know what to say about this, they are just…….bad. And this makes me so sad as I am a HUGE Resident Evil fan. Let’s start with the dice, the game comes with 3 blue dice, 2 red and 1 black. The blue and red dice each have different indented symbols on them painted in white and the black is your typical pipped die with the “1” side being a big Umbrella logo (which is really cool). So right out of the box I was getting a feel for the weight of the dice, rolling them. Within seconds some of the white paint had already chipped off one of the blue dice leaving an ugly half-arrow. Ugh I thought. But at least the dice have a good weight to them. 

Next we have the board tiles. The artwork is great on these tiles…..if you can see it. I mentioned this earlier as the art on the tiles means literally nothing other than adding to the theme of Resident Evil. You will see familiar locals on the tiles if you played the videogame and they look really good, but they mean nothing in context to the gameplay. You are meant to use ANY tile to create your scenario maps based around size, not art. Personally I think this was a mistake since they designed the layouts of the maps almost EXACTLY like the layout of the videogame. Each scenario I played I was thrilled to actually recognize the layout of the tiles to be almost exactly like the layout in the videogame. And that was flipping amazing to me. They go through all the trouble to design the tile layout to match but they can’t also align the art on the tiles up? And for the love of gravy, brighten them up a tad. I understand this is a dark game in the sense of the theme but darkening the tiles to the point you can’t see the art is pointless. I am happy to say at least the cardboard quality is decent, nothing super outstanding but workable at least. 

Now we come to the worst offenders of all components, the doorway tiles and wall tokens. These things are an affront to nature. They spit in the eye of any that dare try to observe them. Actually spit in your eye might help see them better because these things are DARK. Darkest of the dark, if you thought the board tiles were dark, HA. It’s like the devs had the game set up with some SUPER bright LED lights overhead and was like, “ok, I like the darkness of the tiles BUT let’s make the doors EVEN DARKER to make them MORE ominous” and they all just went with it. Under a regular lighted room you will struggle to make out some of these doors. There are 3 different (I think) style of door tokens in the box and of course the most plentiful are the standard wooden doors in classic Resident Evil fare. And of course these doors are colored a deeeeeeeep dark brown, when combined with a super deep black (where did they find such deep blacks?)….well even with my perfect vision I had trouble making out which side of the tile the door was opened and which was closed. One set of doors isn’t too terribly bad, the uhmm steel door variety tokens are colored a gray/silver color so they at least stand out much better than the dark brown ones. Of course they are still hard to see. And good gravy the walls! Be careful not to throw them away when you first punch the tokens as all these things are, are tiny little thin slits of cardboard. They were fraying already after first being punched and I was being careful. My best advice, find some plastic miniature doors and walls to substitute. This will enhance your game greatly as far as table presence goes. 

Let’s see what’s next…..AH! The minis. The minis are…..actually not bad. They are not top of the line minis by any means but they are pretty good. The zombie sculpts are pretty cool and actually remind me of zombies with their poses regardless of their detail, which isn’t terrible. The 4 main characters you can play as all look different and are colored differently to differentiate them from the enemies which is always welcome. The lickers and zombie dogs are all good looking with different sculpts for each. The bosses are really the stand outs here though. The G monster is really cool looking but man that Birken monster is just spectacular. The thing is really big and really adds a ton to the theme and aggressive nature of the game. 

Man this is like a rollercoaster, the card quality is just bad. The cards are super thin and the way the edges look on the cards looks like they used the dullest blade possible when cutting them at the factory. Not only that but they are very, very slick and will slide around when stacked. Not a fan of the card choices. However the artwork on the cards is good. Has a nice take back to the old videogame even with the standard cards in the base game. 

Then you have the Dial Trackers. These little guys are actually pretty nifty and I like them overall. However they also suffer from some pretty crappy quality problems themselves. So they come as 2 different round cardboard pieces that you attach together with a couple of those plastic snap together things (that probably makes zero sense). Anyways the two round pieces are punched in the middle so the plastic things can hold them, but the holes are not punched evenly so they don’t fit together flush. Also, and this one just drove me crazy at first, there is no ZERO on the dial counter! For example to keep track of your handgun ammo you will turn the dial from 15 down to 1 over time as you expend ammo slaying zombies. But there is no zero to show you are empty, it just rolls back around to 15 and there is almost no gap between the numbers so you can even put it on a blank space. Like I said this irritated me to no end for a bit till I just started flipping the dials over to the black side when I spent all the ammo to show the gun was empty. Now all is good again in the world of dial counters….or so I thought. The boss dial counter specifically has such a large chunk cut out to display his remaining life that 2 different numbers can easily fit in the opening. More an annoyance than anything but ugh. 

The various tokens kinda vary in quality. Most of the rest of the random tokens are also super dark such as the corpse and typewriter tokens but the ink ribbon and enemy health marker tokens are actually colored really nicely and look good. 

Box/Storage

The box is the average board game size, not too big and not too small. There is also an insert included which I really like…for the most part. It holds both decks of cards and the dice nicely and all the minis as well. Oh it also has a clear plastic overlay to keep everything in one place if stored on the side which works pretty well not that the minis would be escaping with the way they are stuck in there. Which brings me to the one thing I don’t like about the insert, the way the minis are stored. Instead of having individual spots for each mini they opted to have them 2 at a time base to base contact. I’ll admit this bothered me much more the first couple times I played as I had no clue where each went and the shapes of the opening aren’t really helpful in determining their placement. However after many more plays this has become less of an issue as I’ve learned how they go in. 

I have seen a lot of bickering about the wasted box space but honestly I just don’t see that here. The insert is for the most part a good insert. You can store all the game tiles under the insert, bag up the tokens and toss them on top of the insert and still have space for the instruction manuals. Heck I even tossed in some terrain doors and wall pieces that I use for the game as well and the box lid still closes all the way. Zero wasted space, utilizing all areas of the box. 

Visual Appeal /Theme

As far as theme goes this a knock out of the park. I mean it IS Resident Evil 2 from the characters, monsters, locations and scenarios. They did a fantastic job in recreating the scenarios and board tile layouts of the areas you will explore. I mentioned this earlier but one of my favorite things about the game was the realization that the tile layouts were nearly identical to the map layouts in the videogame. Of course for those that haven’t played the videogame this will be lost on you but it still does a good job of creating a good zombie theme. 

Visually the game suffers. The artwork that you can see on the board tiles is good and has visuals of actual locations in the videogame but is so dark that it obscures most of it sadly. Again it’s a design choice, just not a very good one. 

Rulebook

For the most part the rulebook is solid. There were a few things that were confusing going in such as the reaction phase with the monsters and how they move/attack. Also one of the biggest confusing parts to me was the entirely separate section in the book about non-active reactions. Basically these are enemy reactions that don’t happen during the Reaction Phase. The way the section is worded makes it seem like only certain enemies can do this. So for the first couple games I completely ignored this until I realized it didn’t make sense thematically for ALL enemies not to do it. In any case this kinda stuff I see in most rulebooks so it wasn’t a surprise to see these wording mistakes here as well. Rulebook wasn’t bad though and it did get me to playing rather quickly. 

Table Talk/Fun Factor

This is a heavy co-op game and you WILL want to discuss with your partner/s on how you want to tackle the objectives. As such this is a very high game for table talk. Once you get the map setup I suggest looking over it and discussing strategy before you even start playing. There are lots of doors that lead to rooms where you have to roll on the encounter table based on the color of room. A Green room means no roll (which is good), a yellow room is a higher chance of enemies and generally bad things and a red room is the utmost worst. Of course if you get lucky and roll a six you are in the clear generally, but if you happen to roll that cool Umbrella symbol….well prepare yourself. 

Also after the first couple of scenarios that Tension Deck I mentioned earlier basically becomes a timer. Once that thing runs out, you lose. But another really cool aspect is the use of ink ribbons to “save” yourself. If you get to a room with a typewriter token you can use one of your precious ink ribbons to reshuffle the entire Tension Deck discard pile into the draw pile which basically restarts your timer. I found this aspect REALLY cool and thematic to the overall game.

So yeah the game will generate tons of table talk not just around strategy on how to tackle the scenario but also on how to handle enemies, whether you use your precious ammo or just try to run through them and risk getting injured. There are a ton of difficult choices to make like this in the game and with that Tension Deck running dry you need to plan all this in the most efficient way possible. 

But that brings me to the one thing that really detracts from the overall outstanding gameplay, the card randomness. So based on what cards you draw from the Item Deck really determines just how difficult the scenario is going to be. For example one game I played had the ONE key card that I needed to unlock the one door I needed to escape and win….at the very bottom of the item deck. So I had to literally hit every single one of the item tokens to get this key, which caused the game to drag out, more enemies spawned from the Tension Deck and eventually I lost the scenario due to the Tension deck running out. As such the difficulty will vary between scenarios due to the randomness of the card draws. So it’s not a perfect system but it does add to the sense of unease since you really don’t know if you’ll get the key you need or more handgun ammo etc. Of course whatever you get will for sure be useful in your ongoing struggle to survive.

At first I was going to comment on the dice as well but after more game play throughs I’ve come to appreciate the way the dice work, it makes the game more tense. So at the beginning you start out with a Knife, Handgun with 15 bullets and a Health Spray. You will quickly realize just how fast you blaze through ammo and then the chase is on! At first the weapons are pretty weak so usually you will want to save your bullets as a last resort and take your chances running through enemies as rolling to evade has better odds than actually killing them. Of course if you leave too many enemies on the tiles stuff can go bad really fast as well. 

So bottom line here is that I love the table talk and the fun factor is super high. The gameplay is outstanding and really does live up to the theme of the videogame. Heck even for those that haven’t played the videogame, the way the gameplay works here is just flat out fun. 

Optimal Player Count/Replayability

This is a game that can be played with up to four players as there are four different characters to choose from: Leon, Claire, Ada and…..Kendo? Yes Kendo, he was the gun shop owner at the very beginning of the game….that met a grizzly end….at the very beginning of the game. An overall odd choice for a playable character but now that I think about the videogame there really weren’t any other characters that were not evil that didn’t die right away. So looking past that they each have their own little special abilities which differ a bit, nothing super game changing but helpful for the most part. And yes, you can play the game solo! The scenarios will detail if you can choose to play with a single character or if you need to play with 2 characters controlling both. I’ve found that playing just a single character just isn’t as good as playing with at least 2. Playing with more than a single character allows you starting spots on opposite ends of the tiles and can kinda work towards each other clearing out rooms and enemies. Playing with just a single character you have you do it all and, to me, drags the game on much longer than is fun. 

So a good character/player count for me was 2 or 4. At 2 player you each start on different ends of the map so you both can focus on your own thing but at the same time work towards a common goal. At 4 player it’s the same but you have another player that has your back which is always needed in this game. 3 player is kinda lopsided, either 2 on one side and 1 on the other or all 3 on one. It felt super unbalanced. Keep in mind the more players you have, the faster that Tension Deck will get drawn out as each player draws from it at the end of their respective turn. However the game does try to balance that a bit by giving 3 and 4 player games two ink ribbons to use whereas 1-2 player games only get one. 

The replayability is so-so. The game is set up where you can do all the scenarios individually with a set batch of starting equipment so kinda just jump in on whatever part of the story you want which is cool. OR alternatively you can go through the extensive campaign mode. Now this is really cool, as you progress in the board game just like you do in the videogame following the same story. At the end of each campaign scenario you refill your handgun ammo, refill and other weapons ammo you have by 3, you can gain a single health spray if any are missing from the players and that’s basically it. You have the opportunity to heal yourself with whatever herbs you have and use your ammo as well to refill other weapons and discard the rest of this stuff. You will keep any other items you may have picked up during your past scenarios that will probably come in useful in later scenarios and that is the coolest part of the campaign. The fact that like I picked up some wire cord in scenario 2 and then in scenario 4 I can use it to activate the shutters in one hallway so I don’t have to draw Tension cards in there. It really makes you want to search through all the rooms for this stuff. 

But at the end of the day there are a set number of scenarios in the campaign and once you complete them, that’s it. You can go through them again but you already know how they play out and as much fun as the gameplay is, I can see it getting old after the campaign is finished. Luckily there is already an expansion out, the B files which basically adds the story stuff for the B missions of the videogames. Not gonna help you with the base game package but it’s there to buy if you crave even more Resident Evil action after you finish the campaign. 

The Fuzzy Llama Silver Seal of Distinction

Final Thoughts

Ok the elephant in the room, the component quality. Overall the component quality of this game is just terrible. It really makes me think that the developer was looking to make a quick buck by nabbing up a well-known license and charging a super premium price with really low quality components to make as much profit as possible. I mean that’s the vibe I get hands down as the gameplay is just outstanding. They have the foundation of an amazing game here with the gameplay and dropped the ball significantly on the component quality. Now that said, I still LOVE this game and even though the game is ranked super low on quality, I rank it super high on gameplay and to me that is what matters most. 

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