It's another card game, kids.
My first Nerds and Men column discussed a fun four-player card game, Gamers vs. Evil, and its expansion, Ruins of R’lyeh. I got another card game for Christmas around the same time—the aptly titled Resident Evil Deck Building Game. Because my cohorts were more familiar with Tycho and Gabe than they were Chris and Jill, we got our kicks with Penny Arcade for several weeks before I introduced them to the RE game. After playing several games, we liked them both about equally well, partly because the RE game is almost exactly like the PA game with some interesting tweaks (and more expansions).
Like Gamers vs. Evil, players start with a character card and a specific loadout. They use their initially small hand to purchase resources (additional cards) from a “store” in the center of the playfield. Instead of Tokens and Cardboard Tubes, however, players are given ammo and gold. Gold is used—go figure—to purchase more stuff. Ammo is used to power your weapons and deal damage to monsters. The trick is that gold and ammo are on the same card, so you have to choose whether to use your ammo as ammo or as gold. You can buy more ammo/gold cards from the central area.
The resource cards come in three main types: weapons, use items, and stat bonuses (“actions”). The game throws a ton of weapons at you, including shotguns, handguns, rifles, grenades, and even a chain gun. Each gun requires so much ammo to use and does a set amount of damage. Damage can go up with certain event cards or passive character abilities. Use items are things like herbs and sprays, which obviously heal your character. Finally, action cards tend to give you stat boosts, like +20 gold or +10 ammo. Sometimes they let you make an additional purchase—you can normally only buy one card per turn—or play a second event card—again, one per turn normally.
Once you have a sizable arsenal and plenty of ammo to go around, you can basically gamble by “exploring the mansion.” The mansion is a stack of cards containing all the game’s monsters, from easily stepped-on spiders to boss monsters that, upon defeat, end the game. But there are also special items in the mansion, like yellow herbs, which heal you and permanently increase your total HP, or special weapons like the chain gun or rocket launcher.
Combat is as easy as turning over a monster card and seeing whether your total damage (with all your guns and ammo) meets or exceeds its hit points. If so, you kill it and add it to your trophy pile. If not, it does damage to you and gets shuffled back into the mansion. Some monsters have secondary effects, like instantly dealing 20 damage to everybody once revealed, or making another player lose a turn. It’s pretty straightforward. Defeated monsters are collected and your character accrues experience and victory points. At the end of a game, whoever has the most victory points wins.
Experience is interesting—each character card has two levels of experience, each of which unlocks a new passive ability. For example, Leon’s first passive ability allows him to use handguns with a lower ammo requirement, and his second ability allows him to duplicate his handguns (so if you play a handgun, you basically double it). Everyone has a different HP total. When somebody’s HP is dropped to zero, they lose a turn, drop all their bonus items, and come back with a -20 penalty to their total HP. It’s nice because nobody is ever really out of the game, and you keep your experience and victory points. The characters in the base game are pretty standard RE fare: Chris, Jill, Leon, Sheva, Krauser, Wesker, and a few others. As for monsters, the base game gives you standard zombies, zombie dogs, Hunters, Chaingun Manjinis, Nemesis, and the big bad boss: Uroboros Aheri!
The game has a lot of variations: you can play a standard game where you go for victory points or an interesting variation on Mercenaries OR a pretty brutal PvP game that eschews the mansion altogether. You can also mix up the resource piles: the instruction manual suggests several “scenarios,” which can really affect how quickly a game goes by. One note: I suggest playing with our house rule of a six-card hand. With the game’s standard five-card hand, it becomes difficult to accrue enough guns and ammo in a single hand to kill the beefier monsters, especially the boss. There’s a lot of game here, more than in Penny Arcade.
The base game costs $30, as does each expansion, of which there have been three: Alliance, Outbreak, and Nightmare. They reportedly add new card and game types. I’ve been meaning to pick up Alliance (it’s at the comic shop). The game is probably not as meaningful to my friends, who are not RE junkies like me, but they like that it’s definitely more strategic than Gamers vs. Evil. It’s also always funny when somebody takes a chance on the mansion with minimal weapons and draws the boss. “That’ll teach you to come unprepared,” the game seems to say. Personally, if I had to recommend one over the other, I would say that Gamers vs. Evil is easier to get into and lighthearted. However, once you learn the ropes, you’ll make the transition to RE very easily. Give it a shot!
I do have a minor complaint. The cardstock is great, but all the different card types are not well segregated in the box. The game comes with a really cheaply made plastic floor, which is supposed to hold all the different cards on their sides, but the slots have rounded edges so nothing actually fits in there, and you can’t wedge more than three or four cards into a single wedge. Sometimes you’re asked to cram 10 cards into one of these wedges, so you can to come up with your own system. The best idea—which I haven’t put into practice yet—would be to buy an actual collector’s card case and separate the card types with slats. Someday!