Options are great. They allow for lots of decisions to be made, often for personal gain more than anything... And in this expansion for Resident Evil 2: The Board Game, you can be the selfish, manipulative and cruel decision maker you wanted to be all along. The Survival Horror expansion introduces both a new mechanic and a new style of play; Competitive.
Main Campaign Gameplay
The Survival Horror Expansion, published by Steamforged Games, introduces an amazing new mechanic allowing players to add the non-player characters (NPCs) that are so tremendously loved from the video game into the character choice pool. Players can now earn characters in their main campaign by completing specific tasks within them. Be it healing the zombie Marvin Branagh with a first aid spray to unzombify him, or being at the right place at the right time, these characters then become another choice of character with their own weapon specialisms, storage capacities and unique abilities.
Undeniably, there will be the feeling that those who don't play the campaign will have more trouble integrating these extras into their causal play, however these can still act as alternative characters. Unlocking them is part of the magic of playing the campaign. No campaign? No need to unlock! Although, it's clear that the true continuity of the video game is lost with this; Marvin seemed too sharp a guy to end up fighting G Stage 3, Mr X and the likes!
On top of the extra characters, more nasties are included in this expansion. (Emphasis on survival.) The Survival Horror Expansion lovingly includes models for the Ivy and Giant Spider enemies, crafted with quality details and an interesting set of abilities and moves. These aren't the sort of enemies to simply allow you to run, nor are they the sort to let you know where they are. These beasts are spawned through the tension deck, making those cards even more dangerous and scary.
Ivys don't move but have a heck of a reach, and the Giant Spiders poison everyone they touch. Also, as with many of the monsters, the models are simply representations for these creatures as the enemy information cards provided include Ivy, Giant Spider and Poison Ivy (the Ivy's tremendously toxic variant). Luckily, the expansion also includes several new weapons to help you put these horrors down, but don't count your blessings... Flamethrowers are only helpful so long as you have fuel in the tank!
The abilities of these new additions are completely reflective of how they behaved in the game. This can be both a blessing and a curse however, as players will have to contend with some very problematic abilities when balancing their characters. Annette Birkin is the best example; she is healed more by herbs but needs better dodge results if she shares a tile with another player. With these new abilities, your style of play will be altered and your decision to enter a room you'd normally wait a turn to do so may be changed. If you're not about changing your face for cosmetics and immersion, you'll be pleased to know the main characters also unlock new abilities from completing specific tasks within the game!
This is the other side to the gameplay. The moment you are no longer the hero trying to save the survivors from endless horrors, you are now on the side of evil. Which sounds awesome until you remember that the nasties in the game don't discriminate and will be aiming to eat your innards as well as the heroes'. Luckily, you'll take on the role of either Chief Irons, a twisted man bent on his own survival, or William Birkin himself (before he becomes G).
Chief Irons is hellbent on killing everyone. That's his objective, the death of all other players. Whoever plays as Chief Irons has the ability to lay traps throughout the Police Department instead of allowing players to take from the tension deck. That sounds pretty awesome... Until you realise the traps are undeniably doing to do a tonne of damage!
William Birkin's objective is centred around his precious creation and the cause for this mess: The G-Virus. Everyone wants it, the heroes don't know why, but they play along regardless! Should anyone except William pick up the G-Virus, that player immediately becomes G Stage 1. So, things heat up very quickly!
The issue for competitive players lies in their inability to shoot other players. They must blend in, be survivors and aim to escape. That being said, they have their objectives and need to complete them; usually through everyone else's demise.
Engagement and Player Interaction
The main game requires you to discuss every action. The Survival Horror Expansion forces you to discuss every action before and during the game! Choosing characters, their spawn and who they are with will be determined by many factors beyond the usual foursome of heroes. This, combined with the opportunity for competitive play, demonstrates how player interaction is of the highest calibre!
Component Quality and Replay-ability
As always, the components added are beautifully gruesome. The Ivy and Giant Spider models look terrifying and their size is reflective of the danger they pose to players. On top of that, the artwork and designs for player cards are fantastic too. The inclusion of more character models and alternative models for zombie Marvin and Brad were a great idea to increase the immersion of the original story.
This is the only expansion I'd say adds less reply-ability than the rest; instead I would argue it adds an alternative play style. The competitive play is slightly limited compared to the main game but is still wholly enjoyable and allows for a good solid amount of fun!
Final Thoughts on the Survival Horror Expansion
If you already own the B-Files Expansion, this is the next one you need. It adds more variety to the existing play and amps up the difficulty in the later stages of the campaign through the new monsters.
The mini-boss Brad Vickers and Marvin Branagh are superb additions into the campaign and increase the tension surrounding their survival to be unlocked, or the guilt you feel as you put them down. The competitive alternative style of play is good fun too, but it isn't the best way to play this game.