Raccoon City has been under siege by zombies since the original Resident Evil game came out in 1996. And now you can head back into the fray with Resident Evil 3: The Board Game, designed by Sherwin Matthews and published by Steamforged Games.
Resident Evil is one of those games where you’re always scrapped for resources and constantly feel overwhelmed by the onslaught of zombies. Does the game successfully translate that field from the screen to the table?
The answer is YES, but let’s see how it plays!
Resident Evil 3: The Board Game Gameplay
When I first opened up the box for Resident Evil 3: The Board Game, I was worried about the two thick books that were sitting on the top. How long was it going to take me to learn and get rolling?
Luckily, the rulebook length is just an illusion. The core rules of the game are quite simple, and as you progress through the campaign you’ll gradually introduce new mechanics to add depth. This is a really smart way to keep things easier to teach without losing depth for a more experienced group.
During the game, players will be working through different scenarios that make up a greater campaign. It’s advised to play through the game in order, as there are some legacy mechanics that carry over between games, but it’s not a necessity. You can also play solo, which really adds another level of desperation to the mood.
On a player’s turn, they will perform four actions. This includes moving, attacking, opening/closing doors, searching for an item, or trading with other players. After the player takes their actions, then all of the enemies take their reactions, which results in them closing in on the heroes or attacking them outright.
Enemies can also take reactions depending on the player actions. You need to be very cognizant of when you are attacking and whose attention you might draw inadvertently. When doors are open, sound travels to the linked tiles, and those zombies are gonna come running!
At the end of each turn, a card is randomly drawn from the Tension deck, which is where things can start to fall off the handle. Most of the time, everything is fine and everybody stays calm. However, there can be some disastrous cards that cause zombies to suddenly swarm and turn everything on a dime.
The game comes with a bunch of differently-shaped cardboard tiles that you’ll configure for the various scenarios. This allows so much variability with the setup that invites you to even cook up your own scenarios if you’re feeling so inclined. I might have to do that after I wrap up the campaign!
Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on Resident Evil 3: The Board Game!
Since this is a Steamforged game, custom miniatures bring the table presence to a whole new level in Resident Evil 3: The Board Game. The miniatures are fantastic quality, representing zombies, zombie dogs, and more. The sculpt of Nemesis is exceptional, but don’t let it distract you as you attempt to them down!
The cardboard pieces are all nice and thick, and should easily be able to handle the constant wear and tear from constantly shuffling them around to build the dynamic maps. I really like the ammunition counters, which are two cardboard circles held together so that they spin, revealing the amount of ammo remaining. So much better than keeping track with little bullet tokens.
I did find the quality of the cards to be a bit lacking. Within a few hours of undoing the shrink, I found that some of the cards were already beginning to curl. And it’s winter in Wisconsin, so my house is distinctly not humid at all. I also wish the insert had a little more space available, as the ammunition dials don’t fit very well when assembled.
But hey, this is a miniatures game so that should be the main focus. And those are great – next stop is breaking out the paints to get a nice level of horror on top.
As you’re playing through Resident Evil 3: The Board Game, you’ll find that teamwork definitely matters. This isn’t a game that you can just go charging in and automatically be successful. I mean, if you’re lucky then the dice might support your strategy, but it’s certainly not a given!
You also need to manage your resources. Ammunition will be used up quickly if you aren’t careful, and there aren’t a lot of opportunities for healing. If you get yourself into a mess, you better hope that the other players can help you get out of it.
The Tension deck adds a layer of uncertainly to your turns. You may think that you’re ending your turn on a high note, and then the Tension deck changes everything. It forces players to adjust their strategy and adapt to changing conditions.
Another aspect of the game that makes your strategy different each scenario are the unknown hazards. The idea is that you don’t necessarily know what’s directly behind every door, and so you roll the encounter die to find out what lies beyond. Sometimes the room will be empty, but more often than not you’ll find additional enemies that you’ll need to dispatch. It makes every door feel potentially deadly.
Resident Evil 3: The Board Game has some really great art. As you flip the various tiles you’ll see various scenery like burning cars in back-alleys, abandoned warehouses, and contaminated buildings. You really start to feel like you’re in Raccoon City, trying to stave off this outbreak.
The only problem is that sometimes you need to use so many tiles in the scenarios that you’re not getting ‘cohesive’ theme across the entire board. There are only so many warehouse tiles, so you’ll need to mix and match the tiles to create a melting pot of themed tiles. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it does suspend the immersion for a bit.
Other than that, the general theme of the game screams horror. It’s dingy. It’s dirty. It’s narrow corridors and small rooms. You’re never going to have enough space to feel safe.
If you’re a fan of the Resident Evil universe, then Resident Evil 3: The Board Game is something that you’ll want to look into. You’ll find some familiar faces from the franchise, like Jill Valentine and Carlos Oliveira. And, of course, there are plenty of classic Resident Evil items like the Green Herb. If only I had to strategically order my inventory to make sure I could fit everything in there!
Even if you aren’t a diehard Resident Evil guru, the Resident Evil 3 board game is designed for fans of the survival horror genre. If you like zombie culture (is that a thing?), the game really conveys the theme well, which I’ll touch on more in a bit.
Gameplay-wise, I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly we could start playing. Players of games like Pandemic, Eldritch Horror, or Forbidden Island will find familiarity with the general action economy which is directly followed by global actions. The cooperative nature of the game will also appeal to players who want to succeed as a group. Of course, you can still be a hero and save the day, earning the unofficial title of Best Survivor.
Resident Evil 3: The Board Game is one of the best games on the market in the survival horror space. This is especially true if you’re playing solo, where you feel utterly and hopelessly alone. There’s nothing quite like running low on ammunition and healing items, knowing full well that a veritable horde of zombies lies beyond the next door.
I also like how the enemies respond to your actions. Should you take the shot now and risk zombies moving closer to you? Should I wait to open the door, taking the risk of another Tension card at the payoff of potentially setting myself up for a better turn next time? You always have this feeling that things could be going better.
Another one of my favorite aspects of the game is finally meeting up with your companions. Oftentimes, you’re starting off in separate areas of the board, mostly alone. Having the power of another player beside you makes you feel like you can actually come out of this whole zombie thing alive.
Resident Evil 3: The Board Game: Survive the Zombie Outbreak!
I’d love to kick off a full campaign of Resident Evil 3: The Board Game over a weekend. The mechanics of the item box and how collecting specific items triggers new scenarios is really interesting, and a compelling reason for picking up the game. You could definitely call it a Legacy game, but that’s not the only way to play either.
We enjoy the game so much that we’re awarding Resident Evil 3: The Board Game with the Nerds on Earth Seal of Awesomeness award! Aside from the great miniatures, the gameplay is tense and challenging, and when you finally get surrounded by zombies you feel victory slipping from your fingertips.
You can pick up a copy of Resident Evil 3: The Board Game through Steamforged Games directly, or look for it on the shelves of your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS)!
Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Resident Evil 3: The Board Game, and the City of Ruin expansion, from Steamforged Games in exchange for an honest review.