REVIEW: Resident Evil Deck Building Game

I was walking past a FLGS* last week and noticed a new Resident Evil board game in in the window. Now, I am a huge Resident Evil fan, (at least of the original and RE: Zero for GameCube) so I had to check this out. Turns out it wasn't a board game so much as a card game, but it was reasonably priced and I was intrigued so I picked it up.  I got the "Alliance" intro set because it specifically said it had rules for single-player, which is always a plus for me.

*Quick Aside: It actually not "my" Friendly Local Gaming Store.  I was downtown visiting my real estate lawyer (man, that feels weird to say, but we bought a house, so I had to get a lawyer) and I walked past Fandom II, a popular gaming store here in Ottawa.  The shopkeeper wasn't particularly "friendly," but they have a good selection and a strong customer base.  My FLGS is actually the Comic Book Shoppe, which has some of the best prices on gaming stuff in town.  One of these days I will have to write a column about game stores in Ottawa. End aside.

For those not familiar with it, being a "Deck Building Game" means that customizing your deck is actually part of the game play, unlike most collectible/customizable card games where you bring in your deck pre-built.  The object is to build a deck of weapons, ammo and "action" cards, which allow you to search the "Mansion" and kick some zombie ass.  The simplest way to describe it is a cross between Munchkin and Magic the Gathering, but I admit that is huge generalization.

The game is straightforward.  Each player chooses a character card at the beginning of the game, each representing a familiar face from the RE Universe (Leon, Claire, Chris, Krauser, etc). Each turn you draw 5 cards from your deck.  You can play Action cards (which usually let you draw more cards or add damage to your weapons), Item cards (usually herbs to restore your health), and you can play your Ammo/weapons and go "explore the mansion," which is played out by drawing a card from the "Mansion" deck, which is usually a zombie or zombie-like enemy.  If your weapon does enough damage to defeat the monster you gain Decorations (victory points), but if not, the monster card goes back in the deck and you lose health (based on the monster's health).  You can also buy new cards to add to your deck, which are chosen from a wide field of playable cards that are laid out on the table at the beginning of the game, thereby "building" and customizing your deck as the game proceeds.  The Winner is the player with the most Decorations when a certain event occurs - either a set number of turns pass or a special "boss" monster card is drawn and defeated.

I didn't realize that Wesker was actually the lovechild of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

So what did I think of this game?  Let's find out.

The Good:

The game is actually pretty simple and quick to learn.  The number of steps and possible actions during a turn is pretty low, so there isn't a lot of nit-picky timing steps to remember.  I figured it out after only one solo game, and then taught it to my regular gaming group, who picked it up very quickly.

There are many different "game modes" that you can use to keep the game fresh and varied. This is great, as because the rules are so simple you need the different options to keep up the replay value.  It works with any number of players from 1 to 4, there are team options, player vs. player, as well as many different combinations of "characters" you can play, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.  The neat feature about the "Alliance" version that I picked up is that it has rules for playing two characters, playing into the common trend in RE video games of having a partner character to help you out during your adventure.

The cards are well made, have a clean, simple layout and are visually appealing (well as appealing as bloody corpses and horrifying monsters can be), and capture well the look of the Resident Evil universe.  The fact that there are several expansions to diversify your gaming experience, without going into full-blown MtG madness, is a nice option as well.

Other Good News: There are no cards based on the Resident Evil movies.  The Bad News: The fifth movie is currently in production.
 The Bad:

The game is very abstract - it's not as simple as "you pick up a gun and some bullets" and go zombie-hunting.  Your deck often ends up with all kinds of odds and ends, and as you randomly draw a new hand every turn you never know what combination of guns and ammo you will end up with.  While fine from a game play stand-point, thematically it's hard to justify (and I'm big on theme, game play and logic all working together).

The main resource card, called "Ammunition" is labeled wrong, in my opinion, and it causes some confusion when you first start playing.  Whenever you play an "Ammunition" card, you gain both bullets AND gold (which you later use to buy more gear).  You get the gold whether or not you fight and defeat any enemies, and if you use the card to provide ammo for one of your weapons, you can still spend the gold from the same card later on in the turn.  Confusing?  It is at first, though it becomes second nature after a little while.  It still doesn't make any sense though. Where does the gold come from?  And how they hell are you spending it to buy new gear inside a haunted mansion?  The game play is fine, I just think the naming conventions are stupid.

It takes a bit of work to set up all the different card piles at the beginning of the game, so to make your life easier the publisher provided a box with neat little slots to sort all the cards into piles when you put it away, so that you can just pull them out and be ready to play next time.  It sounds helpful but unfortunately the cards don't really fit into the slots.  It's a time-consuming and aggravating process to try and jam them in, and it feels like doing this repeatedly will damage the cards.  After only a few games, I've already given up and just stacked them neatly in the box.  As long as you put them back arranged in bunches, it's just as easy to sort them out next time.

The Ugly:

Remember how I compared this game to Magic: The Gathering?  The thing that has given MtG such staying power is that it works well on two levels.  You can play it casually, with whatever cards you have lying around, and you can also play it competitively, devoting serious thought in strategy and deck construction.  The problem with the RE Deck Building Game as I see it (and this may not be a problem for other people) is that it ONLY works on the competitive level.  The strategies are specific and necessary.  If you don't build your deck very carefully and around the character you're playing the game becomes frustrating, boring, and takes a long, long time.  You can totally ruin the whole game if you mess up your first five turns or so.  For instance, one of the guys I played with couldn't figure out how to work around his character's drawback, so he would often do nothing for turn after turn while he tried to figure out what he was supposed to do.  He played for over an hour before he even killed his first zombie!  I have since figured out what he was doing wrong (none of us had a clue at the time), but I don't know if he'll be willing to play again.  The game is not noobie friendly, is what I'm saying.

The Verdict:

Overall, I really like the game.  Once you get the hang of it, it plays fast, and I like a card game that provides in-depth strategy without requiring obscene financial investments.
Fuck you, Richard Garfield.
The Good far outweighs the Bad, and the Ugly is very specific and may not apply to your gaming group.  We like games that you can pick up quickly and can have fun at with little skill, but have a lot of depth and replay value too for those who really want to get deeply into it (Munchkin and Settlers of Catan are two of our favourites that fit that criteria perfectly).

Has anyone else played the RE: Deck Building Game or have any thoughts on the matter?  There's a comment section down there.  Use it.


Ages ago I wrote about Wrestling RPGs and the long-lost art of Fantasy E-Fed Wrestling.  Well, I've been feeling nostalgic lately, and I started a new league.  We're still looking for more wrestlers, so if anyone is interested in signing up, check out C.L.A.W. (Canadian Lucha Action Wrestling)!

We're a laid back group of players just in it for fun.  Besides me, all the handlers are brand new to e-fedding.  Looking for guys (and girls) with a good sense of humour and a who enjoy crazy wrestling characters, not necessarily hardcore players with tons of experience.

Like this?


  1. Awesome SauceOctober 22, 2011

    I found that the game was a little long with 4 players.  After 90 minutes I was trying to find a way to turn my pistol on myself.  I think it would be better with 2 or 3.

  2. Hey! I'm a Fandom 2 customer too. Small world!


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