Thursday, September 4, 2014

Monster killing unplugged

I had never played any of the Resident Evil video games, or seen any of the movies, before I played the Resident Evil Deck Building Game. I hadn't played Dominion or and of the other deck building games on the market either, so I like to think I was able to approach it without any expectations or preconceived notions, either about the theme or the type of game it is.

A deck building game, for those of you who may not be familiar, is an offshoot of the collectible card game, but rather than building a deck ahead of time and bringing it to the table, players build their customized decks over the course of the game, starting with a small number of basic cards and adding more specific cards from the available stacks laid out on the table.

In Resident Evil, these cards represent weapons, ammunition, and actions that players will use while facing down hoards of rampaging monsters in a creepy old mansion. Each player plays as one of the characters from the video game, with one or two unique abilities that come into play after they've killed a certain number of monsters. On a player's turn, he or she can play any number of weapon and ammunition cards, buy one new card from the stacks at the center of the table (using gold values on the ammo and other cards), play one action card (although many actions allow the player to play additional actions) and explore the mansion once.

Exploring the mansion is the meat of the game. The mansion deck consists of  around thirty monsters of varying strength, plus one boss monster whose defeat ends the game. In a normal turn, a player can explore the mansion once, which consists of first playing as many weapons as possible from a hand of five cards. Each weapon has an ammo requirement that must be met by playing ammo cards in order for the weapon to be functional. Action cards will often provide additional card draws that can be played, as well as more ammo and bonuses to the amount of damage each weapon does.

One the player is armed to the teeth, the top card of the mansion deck is flipped over, revealing a monster that must be fought. Each monster has a health and a damage value; if the player's combined weapons do enough damage to wipe out the monster's health, the monster is killed and added to the player's stack of decorations, with more powerful monsters naturally being worth more points. Otherwise, the monster inflicts its damage on the player and their turn ends. After a certain amount of damage the player is killed, but they come back on their next turn with a reduction in health but no other ill effects.

Eventually, the boss monster will be drawn from the mansion deck. It is usually substantially more powerful than the other monsters, so as the mansion deck starts to dwindle in size, players are a bit more cautious about exploring, but at the same time, they should have more and better weapons and actions in their decks by then, making them more likely to be able to take down the boss.

When the boss monster is defeated, the game ends and players add up their decoration points to determine the winner.

I like the strategy involved in choosing what cards to add to your deck, and the added challenge of doing it on the fly as you play makes it more spontaneous than the often more deliberate and devious collectible card games. However, the random nature of the mansion deck leads to wildly inconsistent game times, with some games ending in 30 minutes and others taking several hours.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) The game's fast pace and quick turns are somewhat undermined by its often lengthy play time.

Unfortunately this game is currently out of print, and it doesn't appear that the publisher has any plans for it.
Date played: July 16, 2014

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