Horror is one of the most pervasive and divisive genres of games. Resident Evil 2: The Board Game, manages to balance all the things that make horror great, with the immersive and tactical breadth we’ve come to expect from modern tabletop experiences.
For those familiar with the Resident Evil franchise, the games have gone from classic survival horror, to more action-oriented zombie-swarm horror. In recent years, with the advent of Resident Evil 7, and the remake of the classic Resident Evil 2, the franchise has returned to its roots- and Resident Evil 2: The Board Game, follows suit.
Developer Steamforged Games, (known primarily for Guild Ball, Dark Souls as well as the acclaimed Dungeons & Doggies range), have created a modern dungeon-crawler that emphasises resource management, action economy and a surprising amount of narrative depth.
Player’s take on the role of 1 of 4 survivors, each with their own stats, strengths, weaknesses and special abilities. Players must work with one another to navigate the zombie-infested city of Racoon City, infiltrate the dreaded Umbrella Corporation and do their best to put an end to the G-Virus that is causing the carnage.
Each scenario (of which there are several), sees you create a unique map from the game’s set of stunningly detailed and evocative tiles, and then you populate it with item chests, locked doors, stairwells and -of course-, hordes of the shambling dead.
Each scenario will have its own unique route to victory, and the game highly encourages players to communicate, take risks, and make co-operative tactical choices in order to get the best outcome.
Make no mistake- Resident Evil 2: The Board Game is still very much a survival horror game. You’ll run out of healing herbs. You’ll run out of bullets. Players will be downed. You will make it out by the skin of your teeth. All these things add up to what can be a truly stressful and horror-inducing tabletop experience.
What sets Resident Evil 2: The Board Game apart from the other titles in the genre is the way it so seamlessly integrates one of the core mechanics of the franchise: Puzzle solving.
Unique keys and access points are always littered across each scenario. Just like the video games, you’ll have to back track, hunt for items, find the correct key and even trade them with your fellow players to fully complete each scenario.
The various item chests you’ll find scattered across the game board allow you to draw cards from specific item decks- each one being different for each scenario. You’ll find resources like recovery items, keys, and, of course, spare ammo and new weapons.
This also drives home the survival horror experience, especially if you’re playing in campaign mode. Survival horror games are known for not holding your hand- if, like me and my group, you missed picking up the shotgun in the first scenario, then you’re going on the rest of the game without a shotgun.
Campaign mode really is where Resident Evil 2: The Board Game shines. Playing through the scenarios in order to tell a proper, over-arching story, taking your items (and what remaining health!) you may have from story-to-story, and learning your character’s strengths and weaknesses makes for a truly rewarding horror experience.
While you can play Resident Evil 2: The Board Game solo (and I really do love solo games!), it’s really at it’s best with a group of 3-4. My favourite aspects of this game come from the communal survival, the co-operation, item-trading, and watching your friends draw Tension Cards that really can swing the tide of battle.
It wouldn’t be a Steamforged Game without an array of beautiful miniatures, and I can see plenty of folks wanting to pick up a copy of Resident Evil 2: The Board Game just to pad out their collection with some excellent zombie, licker, hounds and mutant minis- and if you’re primarily a fan of the video game franchise, then you won’t at all be disappointed.
Resident Evil 2: The Board Game offers a premium horror experience that can be enjoyed by fans of cooperative games, horror games, and dungeon-crawlers alike. If you live in a household where your kids are getting into their early teens and are hungry for a family game with some more mature themes, Resident Evil 2: The Board Game teaches resources management, action economy- and of course, the importance of teamwork.