The original Resident Evil trilogy features some of the most iconic horror video games ever created. Resident Evil, RE2 and RE3: Nemesis may be outdated– especially when compared to their respective remakes – but they remain influential and beloved enough that they have all received tabletop adaptations by Steamforged Games, the studio behind the upcoming Elden Ring board game.
Having never played the original Resident Evil trilogy, I can't comment on whether the tabletop adaptations remain true to those games or not. However, I have recently played and finished the amazing remake of Resident Evil 2, which – whilst not a one-to-one recreation – still manages to nail the soul of the original game: pure survival horror.
Obviously, video games and board games naturally provide very different experiences, meaning that the tabletop adaptation of Resident Evil 2 won’t be exactly the same as the original. Nevertheless, when creating an adaptation, it’s more important to capture the overall feel of the thing in question, rather than include every single element. In that case, let’s see how much the Resident Evil 2 board game is like its video game predecessor.
Resident Evil 2: The Board Game starts players out in roughly the same opening set-up as the RE2 remake does, with Raccoon City in flames and flooded with the undead. Both titles take place in similar environments to each other, whether that’s the zombie-filled streets of the city, the dark hallways of the Raccoon City Police Department, or the laboratory in which the immoral Umbrella corporation create their deadly viruses.
The very first scenario of the Resident Evil 2 board game takes place in the streets leading up to the RPD, wherein players control one of four characters – Leon S Kennedy, Claire Redfield, Ada Wong or Robert Kendo – as they attempt to find safety away from the hordes of monsters. Likewise, Resident Evil 2 remake, besides a brief tutorial section at a petrol station, begins right outside the RPD, with either Leon or Claire – depending on whichever path players have chosen – needing to avoid the zombies and make their way into the police department.
Resident Evil 2: The Board Game completely nails the video game’s approach towards risk versus reward.
Scenario 1A, the first mission that players experience in the RE2 board game, is an introductory level that’s designed to teach players the ropes whilst ensuring they’re not put in too much peril. The co-op board game sees players taking turns in order to complete a goal, the particulars of which depend upon the current scenario. Potential goals in the Resident Evil 2 board game range from reaching certain destinations to defeating specific enemies, with a smorgasbord of obstacles scattered around those objectives.
Much like in the RE2 remake, how players choose to deal with those obstacles depends on what they have at their disposal. Every scenario in the Resident Evil 2 board game begins with players getting access to a small inventory of weapons and items, with certain characters being able to equip certain weaponry. Players can find other items and weapons in various loot locations scattered across each map. However, what players find in those locations is entirely dependent on which deck they draw from and what card they happen to draw.
Similarly to the video game, player success in Resident Evil 2: The Board Game is affected by how lucky they are with the gambles they choose to take. In the RE2 remake, deciding to return to an area that you know is teeming with zombies in the hopes of acquiring some more ammo or an inventory upgrade is a gamble. In the Resident Evil 2 board game, deciding to attack an enemy or enter an unexplored location for some loot is just as much of a gamble. Resident Evil 2: The Board Game completely nails the video game’s approach towards risk versus reward and the fear and hope that drives those kinds of decisions.
The second scenario that players experience in the video game board game – Scenario 2A – sees players entering the Raccoon City Police Department in order to escape the undead hordes outside. The goal, to reach the S.T.A.R.S Office, is not as simple as players would hope, with the key to the room being sequestered away in one of several possible loot locations on the upper floor. How quickly players are able to find the required key depends on whether they’re lucky enough to draw it sooner rather than later.
Resident Evil 2: The Board Game does several things to make entering more rooms a bad thing to have to do. Certain tiles in each scenario map will be highlighted either yellow or amber, which means that players will have to roll a d6 whenever they enter them for the first time. The result of that roll will determine whether something slightly bad happens – such as a zombie or two spawning – or something very, very bad happens, like a whole load of monsters arriving at the player’s doorstep.
Resident Evil 2: The Board Game captures the same ethos of RE2 remake – running away is sometimes the smarter and more survivable option.
Forcing players to encounter enemies is another way that the RE2 board game makes traversing difficult. Enemies, no matter the type, are no joke in both the Resident Evil 2 remake and its horror board game counterpart, oftentimes making evasion and avoidance the preferrable strategy over all-out war.
Downing zombies in the Resident Evil 2 remake requires players accurately fire any number of rounds into them, with some zombies taking multiple bullets in the head before falling. Resident Evil 2: The Board Game echoes this gameplay mechanic by having players roll a certain number of dice – depending on how much ammo they’re willing to use – with only one symbol resulting in successful damage being dealt. This is one major way that Resident Evil 2: The Board Game manages to capture the same ethos of RE2 remake – that running away is sometimes the smarter and more survivable option.
The challenge of Resident Evil 2 remake often comes from being able to manage the number of enemies you’re facing. Keeping zombies separate from one another is essential to surviving in RE2 remake and it’s no different in the Resident Evil 2 board game. Players can use an action to open or close doors within their square. After every player’s turn, the enemies have their turn – with every enemy contained within the same tile or connected tiles moving or attacking. Tiles are connected by open doors, meaning that closing doors between tiles prevents enemies from having reaction rounds. Doing this can mean the difference between complete success or failure, as having just one character die in a scenario means it’s game over.
Having players never feel quite in control is a hard thing to achieve in a board game compared to that of a video game.
The unpredictability of Resident Evil 2 remake – whether certain zombies revive themselves, where and when Mr X shows up and boss behaviour – is also somewhat replicated in Resident Evil 2: The Board Game. After the enemy’s reaction phase, the active player draws a card from the randomly shuffled tension deck, which contains a select number of certain cards. Whilst there are plenty of safe green cards in there, the yellow and amber cards are bad enough that drawing them can turn the tide of the game in an instant – leading to a once-clear corridor now being filled with vicious zombie dogs, for example.
Having players never feel quite in control is a hard thing to achieve in a board game compared to that of a video game – especially one like the RE 2 remake, which relies on players’ reactionary skills as much as their smarts – but Resident Evil 2: The Board Game somehow manages it. The nuts and bolts of the Resident Evil 2 board game might be hugely different to those of the RE2 remake, but it nevertheless captures the thing that matters most about it: the desperation, the fear and the eventual triumph.