Rob: The Resident Evil Deck Building Game is an interesting creation. A zombie apocalypse survival horror video game adaptation turned into a deck building game – it’s this weird mix of genres and mediums which don’t seem like they should exist let alone work, but somehow, it really does. In fact, there are even several expansions for it, adding lots of monsters, weapons, and characters.
The core game is a perfectly serviceable deck builder, but as a big fan of the source materials, the truth is I found it kind of…meh. I mean, it’s not bad as far as deck builders go, but aside from the images on the cards, it doesn’t really feel like you’re playing a Resident Evil game – it doesn’t particularly capture the best things about the classic games in the series. Unless, of course, you fudge with the rules and cards a bit, which is exactly what I’ve done. But then, that’s probably the game’s biggest strength: the fact that it allows you to fiddle with it so much.
Just to be clear, this isn’t a review. This is a tinkerer’s guide, created to walk you through the steps I’ve taken to create my own version of the Resident Evil Deck Building Game that, in my humble opinion, feels a lot more like classic Resident Evil. It’s certainly not perfect, and it requires at least one expansion (more if you want to avoid having to use more contemporary enemies from the series), but it’s pretty much the only way I play now.
[Note: All the specific info pertaining to the sets and types of cards used, including catalog numbers, are included at the very bottom of this post for your convenience.]
You’ll need the base set for sure, but Mercenaries is sort of a standalone expansion so you could use that instead if you were so inclined. Keep in mind that the main reason I’ve included so many sets is because it offers a greater variety of enemies, which means I can afford to not use the ridiculous parasite baddies from the newer games. What? I like my zombies, dammit!
The most important set to include, aside from the obvious, is Outbreak. And the reason for that is almost entirely because of the Infection rule variant. You see, in the regular game you’ll be searching the mansion for monsters to fight and acquiring better gear to increase your odds of survival, but there’s no real incentive to keep moving aside from some indirect competition with other players. Playing with the Infection rules in effect basically puts everyone on a timer and forces them to avoid “turtling” (i.e. spending most of their turns stockpiling weapons). It also addresses player elimination by allowing anyone who ‘dies’ due to infection to come back as a zombie and hassle everyone else.
Adding Nightmare to the pile isn’t strictly necessary, but it will offer up a few more ‘classic’ style enemies and characters. I also prefer to use the grenade from this expansion over the one that comes in the base set because the latter generates splash damage that could potentially harm other players.
Finally, there’s Mercenaries. Aside from the additional ammo cards you’ll be able to add (which is practically essential if you plan to play with more than three people), you’ll also get Skill cards. Skill cards aren’t really integral to the game, but they add a nice little RPG element that can both keep your games from feeling stale and offer a bit of character customization.
Once you’ve got your decks set up, you’ll need to start implementing rules. For the most part you’ll be using the basics found in every single manual for every single set. Things like hand limits, making one purchase per turn, spending ammo to activate weapons, and so on.
Then there’s the Infection rule from Outbreak, which forces you to take an infection card on a turn in which you don’t explore the mansion. And once your infection level hits or exceeds ten, you’re a zombie. It’s a cool addition that keeps things moving and adds a fair bit of tension. You’ll also want to include one or two Action cards (listed below) that can counteract the infection, or else it’s going to be a pretty short game.
As for Mercenaries’ Skill cards, you’ll be divvying them out as per the manual’s directions. I’d also suggest finding tokens of some sort to use in order to keep track of experience. The health and infection tokens that are included with the base set and Outbreak (respectively) will work, but might create some confusion when characters start taking damage and/or dying.
A few house rules have also been thrown into the mix to keep things interesting. First off, rather than simply taking damage and putting the infected enemy at the bottom of the deck if you should fail a combat against them, keep your character and the infected out on the table and add damage tokens to the infected enemy to show how much damage has been dealt. You are now locked in combat with this enemy. You can attempt to finish it off on your next turn, but you’ll still take damage if you fail. You may request help from another player if you so desire. This is a rule I saw on Board Game Geek, but can’t for the life of me find the post to source it properly. So if you happen to know where I can find it feel free to tell me so I can add the correct link.
If you decide you can’t or don’t want to keep fighting the enemy, you can attempt to run. I say attempt, because your character’s level may prevent it. A level 0 character (i.e. someone who hasn’t leveled-up yet) can escape combat by trashing (i.e. place back into the shop) one card from their remaining hand, then remove all damage counters on the enemy and put it back on the bottom of the mansion deck. A level 1 character must trash two cards. A level 2 character cannot run. And of course, if you have no cards in your hand to trash in the first place then no running for you.
Another optional rule I’ve been playing around with involves equipping weapons (I think this is in the Alliances expansion but I don’t own it so I’m not entirely sure). You can ‘attach’ a weapon to your character (two 1-handed weapons like pistols or one 2-handed weapon like a shotgun), then spend ammo on your turn to activate it. Unlike regular weapon rules you can use your equipped weapons as many times as you like on your turn, provided you have the ammo to pay for every single activation. However, if you use an equipped weapon you won’t be able to activate any of the ‘regular’ weapons you might have in your hand. It’s one or the other, not both.
The goal for this custom setup is to emphasize as many of the original video game series’ iconic qualities as I could, using the cards provided in these sets. Specifically, I wanted to give players a way to avoid a fight early on when resources are still rather scarce, while still encouraging them to explore the mansion. I also tried to make the battles against the Infected a little more interesting by removing the whole “one shot” mechanic. This way you can decide if you want to stick around when your character is still low-level, or get stuck dealing with a powerful monster in the late game.
I also wanted to make inventory management a lot more important by removing most of the extra gold/buy action cards. It makes building up a large stock of ammo a bit more difficult, and when paired with the infection mechanic from Outbreak it forces you to really weigh your options when it comes to meticulously gathering supplies and not, you know, dying and turning into a zombie.
I’m by no means selling these changes a the definitive way to make the Resident Evil Deck Building Game more Resident Evil-y, but I think it’s a good start. If you’d like to try (or have tried) this variant, please chime in and let us know! And if you have other rules you’d like to suggest, let us know that, too!
As I said, what makes all these variants hang together as well as they do is the modular nature of the base game. It’s quite likely that, no matter which Resident Evil you love, you can probably cobble together an analogous experience with enough components from the expansions. But what do you think? Have you tried it for yourself? Are there any changes you’d like to make? Let us know in the comments!
The Complete Inventory
Base Set (purchase here)
- Ammo: AM-001, AM-002, AM-003
- Weapons: Combat Knife (WE-004), Survival Knife (WE-005), Six Shooter (WE-006), Rocket
- Launcher (WE-008), Handgun (WE-009), Pump-Action Shotgun (WE-013), Automatic Shotgun (WE-014)
- Items: Green Herb (IT-001), First Aid Spray (IT-003)
- Actions: Mansion Foyer (AC-001), Shattered Memories (AC-003), Item Management (AC-009)
- Misc: Rocket Launcher Case (MA-012)
- Characters: Leon Kennedy (CH-002), Claire Redfield (CH-003), Barry Burton (CH-005), Ada Wong (CH-006), Claire Redfield (CH-008), Jill Valentine (CH-009), Rebecca Chambers (CH-010)
- Infected: Licker (MA-006), Nemesis T-Type (MA-007), Hunter (MA-008), Cerberus (MA-015)
Outbreak (purchase here)
- Weapons: Standard Sidearm (WE-026) [optional], Samurai Edge (WE-027)
- Actions: Power of the T-Virus (AC-023), Injection (AC-026)
- Misc: Antivirus (MA-055), Rock Trap (MA-057)
- Characters: Jill Valentine (CH-025), Leon Kennedy (CH-026), Ada Wong (CH-027), Chris Redfield (CH-028), Rebecca Chambers (CH-029), Hunk (CH-030)
- Infected Characters: Zombie A (CH-031), Zombie B (CH-032), Zombie C (CH-033)
- Infections: Claw (IN-001), Virulent Frenzy (IN-002), Bile Vomit (IN-003), Slough Armor (IN-004), Drag (IN-005), Devour (IN-006), Infection (IN-007)
- Infected: Tyrant T-002 (MA-041), Yawn (MA-042), Nemesis (2ND Form) (MA-043), Wasp (MA-045), Web Spinner (MA-046), Reinforced Zombie (MA-047), Crimson Head (MA-048), Reinforced Licker (MA-049), Grave Digger (MA-050), Zombie Cop (MA-051), Lisa Trevor (MA-053)
Nightmare (purchase here)
- Weapons: HE Grenade (WE-041)
- Characters: Chris Redfield (CH-034), Mikhail Victor (CH-038), Carlos Oleivera (CH-039), Albert Wesker (CH-041), Leon Kennedy (CH-042), Ada Wong (CH-043)
- Infected: Zombie Security Guard (MA-063), Zombie Technician (MA-064), Ivy (MA-066), Neptune (MA-067), Cerberus (MA-069)
Mercenaries (purchase here)
- Ammo: AM-005, AM-006, AM-007
- Weapons: Custom Standard Sidearm (WE-049) [optional], Reliable Blade (WE-050) [optional]
- Actions: Resuscitate (AC-050)
- Characters: Hunk (CH-045), Claire Redfield (CH-046), Chris Redfield (CH-047), Jill Valentine (CH-048), Albert Wesker (CH-049), Rebecca Chambers (CH-050), Barry Burton (CH-051)
- Infected: Venomous Snake (MA-087), Crocodile (MA-091)
- Skills: All Skill Cards (SK-001 through SK-030)