Resident Evil 3 Board Game Review Plus The City of Ruin Expansion – Steamforged Games

In terms of the videogame, I jumped into the Resident Evil Series from number three onwards. Even though it was some time ago now, I remember tension of playing, moving from room to room while trying to manage your ammo, and even control where you wanted your character to walk to. For some reason at the time even the control scheme did its best to make things as tricky as possible to navigate around something as easy as a corner. Only now looking back do I realise how much of a genius move that was, as the Nemesis came lumbering towards you and all you could do was scream, rotate wildly and run into a doorway. It did that thing that so many horror films want to achieve, which is a slow painful death that is creeping towards you slowly, and you are merely delaying the inevitable. 

With that in mind, while I always approach these adaptations with a hint of trepidation as past history has shown that board games don’t always translate well onto cardboard. Especially when you are trying to bring in an artificial anxiety into the mix. I open the box with these thoughts at the back of my mind. 

The first thing you’ll notice when you unpack your copy of Resident Evil 3 is that it follows a lot of what you would expect from a standard dungeon crawler. A set of tiles of different shapes that will be laid out based on the scenario into different levels, smaller chits that are there to represent doors and barrels and even the unfortunate dead. As expected, the colour palette for most is fairly dull and oppressive though there are some places touched in fire and subtle lighting. This is a game played at night in order to create the atmosphere, so grimy and dull is most of the order of the day. 

You’re not going to be surprised when I tell you that the sculpts for both the protagonists and the enemies are both highly detailed and if you’re a fan, instantly recognisable. I actually feel pity for the small size of the Nemesis when they stand on the game board, because you’re tempted just to flick them off the table, claim victory and disappear off for a cuppa. It almost makes me wish for slightly bigger models but I’m pleased to report that both sets from the base game and The City of Ruin are superb and are begging to be painted in order to bring out their maximum threat level. 

Steamforged want you to be playing a videogame version of their board game and so alongside the well laid out rules, you’ll find a huge campaign book which is designed to be played through as though you are playing through level by level, hostile environment after hell hole, all trying to escape the lumbering zombies, snapping dogs and other terrors lurking in the shadows. It’s not a game that you’ll have one or two sessions and put to one side. This is a game that just like it’s digital bedfellow is going to need some decent time spent over it order to get the very best out of what it is offering. 

Resident Evil 3 suits the analogue version? It’s not perfect by any means, but also at the same time, it’s hardly a horrific way to spend several game sessions. It works because of the amount of randomness that Steamforged have brought to the game. Allow me to explain. Resident Evil 3 works as a game because all of a sudden you will be thrust into a surprise situation where you just have to deal with something as best you can. Sometimes that might result in you having to take risks in order to make sure you have enough resources to cover yourself where things get more desperate down the line. You’ll want to be keeping stuff back just in case. In the board game, resources can be scarce but there never a huge cause for concern here. There’s always something to be found and salvage if you really need to. 

As a player, you can move, and open and close doors and search for items, you can try and kill the baddies but most of the time, you’ll be rolling really badly. This frustrated the hell out of me when I started playing as I am really used to being some kind of badass in every other dungeon type explore game I’ve played, laughing as I lay asunder anyone who stands in my way. The key here is that the zombies aren’t a huge threat. Most of the enemies aren’t a huge threat because the evade rolls aren’t too tricky to succeed at until you’re taking on some of the bigger louts. The dice are weighed more towards you being on the attacked side of things than the attacker. You’ll start off with fifteen bullets and when you shoot, you naturally deplete a bullet, but you can also shoot more than once by spending more bullets which will make you roll more dice to try to beat the odds. The bit I like is that you can quite literally shoot a zombie four times if you want to and only manage to knock it back even if you roll a success. I really like that. It lead to me being laughed at when I was playing because I seriously couldn’t hit get the dice. That resulted in me running, passing through zombie squares, and trying to avoid being attacked. 

Once you’ve finished your move for that round, then every enemy on your tiles move towards you. And I say tiles because as you open doors and explore then enemies on connected tiles activate and try to move towards the nearest player. At the beginning of the game when you’ve been in a couple of rooms, then it’s fine. By the end of that mission, there’s a chance you’ll have a horde slowly shambling towards you. At that point, you’ll be down to your bare arse in bullets. Then you draw a tension card and possibly, one of the zombies has managed to sneak up behind you and take a chomp or has reanimated. The Tension deck isn’t doom and gloom, most of the time you’ll draw an all clear card. As you progress through the campaign, more nastiness is added to the tension deck and so it becomes something you hope doesn’t add some further salt into the wound. It works really well as a mechanic because it doesn’t do nasty every single time but occasionally makes things trickier in a difficult situation. 

Some of the rooms are colour coded so when you enter them, you’ll be rolling a dice to decide what you find. Roll well and you’ll have a clear space, roll badly and you might end up with a licker dog and a pack of extra zombies to contend with. Now this might frustrate some when they play, but others will relish the extra challenge as they go from area to area. Interestingly all of the map including the various potential threat levels are visible from the off, allowing players to strategise their approach to that particular mission. In some cases you’ll be planning to pick up certain objects that will allow you progression to other missions in the campaign, while other objects will be keys that will be required to unlock doors to give you access to better weapons and equipment. It encourages you to explore the entire area, as missing a key item might require you to go back and replay a previous mission in order to move forward. 

You’re looking at a lot of game time here, and a large amount of content to get through. The City of Ruin adds in additional mechanics including flooding, collisions and even freeze tokens as well as a glorious collection of sculpts and another set of campaigns to play through. It is a worthwhile addition if you plan to keep the campaign going once you have played the core game. Fans of Resident Evil will be in their element and I have no doubt the nostalgia smiles will be reaching from ear to ear once a few missions have been played. 

Steamforged could have cashed in with a bland and by the numbers dungeon crawler type game with a Resident Evil 3 skin present to please the fans and keep the IP owners happy. Instead they opted to create an experience that will push you as a player to make decisions on the hoof in order to survive and ultimately triumph in Raccoon city. There’s a real tension to proceedings as you play through the game, running past zombies and firing round after round in the attempt to stay alive. A surprising adaptation that works well on the table. 

You can find out more about the Resident Evil 3 Board Game by visiting https://steamforged.com/en-gb/products/re3-tbg

Game Concept – Mat Hart

Lead Designer – Sherwin Matthews

Lead Developer – Fraser McFetridge

    This review is based on the final retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.

If you like reading these words and wish to support us then please consider joining our Patreon https://www.patreon.com/werenotwizards