Based on the iconic survival horror video game series, Resident Evil 3 is another adaptation by Steamforged Games. The game lets up to 4 players team up and take on the hordes of undead enemies as they try to escape Racoon city.
Players take turns exploring classic locations, solving puzzles and fighting (or running from) monsters. The game borrows heavily from the video game, from the mechanics and artwork to its characters and progression of its campaign mode.
As a huge fan of Capcom’s horror game, I have fond memories of playing the PlayStation classic. I also enjoyed Steamforged Games’ previous entry in the franchise; Resident Evil 2.
My two biggest concerns for this tabletop game were; will it capture the essence of the video game and what will it do differently from the previous game?
Scenes Of Explicit Violence And Gore
Upon opening the box you are greeted with a sheet displaying the famous warning message displayed when you started up the video game, a great little touch here which is both nostalgic and practical. Flipping this over gives us a map of Racoon City, with slots for items required to progress and lots of iconic locations like the RPD building and the clock tower.
The insert for this game, while still not being perfect, is an improvement over the previous entry. Slots for many zombie enemies, monsters, characters and of course, Nemesis himself hold the miniatures in place nicely. Spaces for the item, tension and event cards plus all the tokens mean the games set up time is reduced.
Despite this more organised approach the game does take a little bit of time to get to the table, using the scenario book provided to lay out the map can take some time. There are plenty of tokens like doors, barrels and enemies to place.
One noticeable improvement for me is the slightly clearer map boards and item tokens. However the dark, murky looking map of Racoon City, while being very thematic and true to its source material, may be a little hard to read for some players.
Learn When To Flight Or Flee
So how does a typical round of Resident Evil 3 play out?
The game’s structure and phases are quite simple and easy to understand. Once you set up your game based on your selected scenario, picked your character and received your starting items you are ready to go. Each scenario has a specific objective to complete in addition to any secrets you might find along the way!
Resident Evil 3 ends when the scenario is completed, players lose when all characters have been defeated or the tension deck runs out.
The game is broken down into 3 phases; Action phase, Reaction phase and Tension phase.
Players receive 4 actions on their turn, they can for example, move, use an item, shoot or pick up an item from the floor. These all feel simple to understand and 4 actions feels just enough to have plenty of choices on your turn and not be too restricted.
Enemies are very simple to understand. Each one has a matching card that indicates its statistics such as health, movement, attack values and any special abilities that they may have. Enemies simply move in this phase based on who is closest, and trace a link to that character based on open doors, so learning to shut doors behind can prevent an unwelcome monster chasing you.
Finally the tension phase is where players draw a card from the facedown tension deck. These act like encounter cards and can alter the game state. Cards may spawn enemies, make some move or attack or simply be just a false alarm and nothing will happen. Each time you draw one of these you may find yourself holding your breath and just hoping nothing bad happens to you!
From Console To Table
So how does this co-operative tabletop adventure compare to the video game?
I feel like Steamforged Games have down a wonderful job adapting many elements of the playstation game into a board game. The first and most obvious is the artwork and theme of the game. From your character cards looking like the inventory screen in the game, to items and weapons looking like the playstations 32bit graphics, there is a lot here that die hard fans are going to really enjoy discovering.
Gameplay too is very close. Although the major difference is that this game supports up to 4 players rather than being a solo adventure it still manages to recreate the horror and survival feeling of the video game.
Opening doors and exploring new rooms feels unnerving. Rolling the dice and consulting the chart to see what horrors you have disturbed in this area is a tense experience.
Reloading your guns when it is safe, using red and green herbs and using ink ribbons to reset the tension deck and buy you more time work will here and make you feel like you are playing the PlayStation classic.
Managing your inventory is crucial to progression in the game too. Of course the classic item boxes are here but your character has very limited space for items. Do you want to play it safe and keep the healing items? How about that new big gun? You just found an important item, what do you give up to take it?
Fighting the zombies and grotesque monsters from the game is just as intense and dangerous! Using weapons is risky, ammo is scarce and sometimes just running away is more logical. When you fire your gun you roll the indicated dice and consult your weapons chart for the results. Bigger weapons like shotguns and grenade launchers will result in more damage but there is still that small chance you could miss.
Exploring The City
My favourite aspect and the best improvement upon the previous game is the campaign mode and story progression. Using the map of Racoon City and some area cards, players actually have a choice of what area too explore. Also, in addition to completing your scenario objective, scenarios have hidden items that help you unlock new rewards like items and areas to explore.
I love this system. It feels incredibly thematic and true to the video game series. Certain items must be acquired and combined to unlock a new route. Players are rewarding for exploring and being thorough in their gameplay.
The tension will slowly rise though a small token that acts as the city’s “Terror level”. Not only does this put a timer on the campaign play but it also can ramp up the effects of certain tension cards.
Event cards can be drawn which display small story like texts and offer players difficult choices with dire consequences. I found these incredibly fun and daunting as I wanted to see what events would occur but also dread the outcome of my decisions.
Resident Evil 3 is a challenging and intense co-operative experience. Despite a lengthly set up, fiddly tokens and at times harshly difficult, it is a fantastic adaption of one of the pioneers of the survival horror genre.
This is a true treat for the hardcore fans. There is enough visual changes to make it slightly more inviting than its previous game RE2, however, it’s the campaign mode and progression system that help elevate this game to be far superior and a stand out horror board game. Not only this but it is fun to play either solo for a true horror experience or with friends for a fun co-operative adventure.