This post chronicles my quest to build a zombie game that will satisfy my RE cravings.
The Thirst is Real
I have a thirst. I’m going to walk you through it. What happened is I stumbled across the Resident Evil Deckbuilding Game at the secondhand store and did not realize how badly I wanted such a thing until it was in my hot little hands. Well, I got to the checkout and discovered I didn’t have my credit card (that’s whole other adventure I’m afraid) and then when I got home to research it and mourn my loss, I learned that not only is the REDG a mixed bag what I actually found was an expansion, not the base game.
The thirst persists. Resident Evil 2 was one of my favorite video games of all time and now I am dead-set on having a RE tabletop game to play. A Resident Evil 2 board game was released in 2019. It’s a miniatures game and, like many miniature games on Kickstarter, slightly ridiculous if you approach it clear-eyed. It’s expensive and the reception appears to be mixed, so I didn’t want to go that route. I wanted to see if I could find a PNP game that I could modify to meet my needs. I like the idea of building a tabletop sandbox and evolving it over time.
Exploring PNP Zombie Games
An incredibly prolific game designer, Lloyd Krassner, has created three RE themed games: Resident Evil Relived, Resident Evil Quest, and Resident Evil Skirmish. I discovered this independently, but also read about it in Christian Heckmann’s Resident Evil 4 Would Make a Pretty Good Boardgame. To say these games are obscure would be an understatement, and the current format is rules and a component list, but no printable cards or tiles. There’s a listing for a Resident Evil card game published by Crazy Pawn, but I couldn’t find anything anywhere on it. I wasn’t able to find any Resident Evil-type games or materials on wargamevault or drivethrucards.
Before I dive into whatever mad world Lloyd Krassner has created I wanted to see if there are existing survival horror games that could be lightly rethemed to scratch the itch. Zombie in my Pocket seemed like an obvious one, as there are a plethora of rethemes, but no one has made a Resident Evil theme yet and I would rather invest my energy in a heavier game.
After researching several candidates, including Dead of Night and Dawn of the Dead I stumbled upon an old PNP favorite, Zombie Plague, which has a lot of fan support, making it a good place to start.
This is a popular PNP game with a lot of files. I decided to try the vanilla base game first and built the following:
- Kwanchai’s Zombie Plague Redesign (plus Kwanchai’s additional maps)
- Palsley’s Zombie Game-Themed Cutouts (which includes Claire!)
- Volte6’s Search Crates, created 6-crate sheet, use them to mark crates that haven’t been searched
- zombiegod’s door standups to mark barricaded doors and windows (I realized after the fact FlyTrap has unique door/window barricade markers…d oh)
ZP allows all characters to search each crate once. To track this, and weapons and items, I created a laminated player mat featuring Resident Evil characters (with Leon instead of Sheva, sorry Sheva).
I enjoyed my solo plays, but I can tell the game doesn’t have longevity for me. I played the zombie AI as it would logically be played (zombies are not smart, but they will go for the nearest human in line-of-sight (including through windows) or toward any obvious noise (player discharges firearm)). It was easy to run but wasn’t compelling enough. I wouldn’t mind playing a game or two with a friend to introduce them to the concept but this wasn’t something I’d be playing a lot on my own. The gameplay sometimes devolves into what another player described as “Benny Hill.”
I started looking into ways to beef up the game. Kwanchai has created several variant maps, including a city center, and there is an expanded variant, FlyTrap’s Zombie Plague: 10th Anniversary Edition. FlyTrap has a thrown item cardset, which is interesting, as well as a few noise-destruction items, a concept I was interested in, so I added a few of those cards to my deck.
One of the reasons Zombie Plague is easy to run is because zombies are stupid. When the board is covered with 16 to 20 zombies, having easy movement rules makes sense. I would like to add surprise behavior, and I would like to add complexity that doesn’t require me, as the player, to decide on optimal moves for the enemy AI. One way is to add event cards to the deck, and this allows really specific AI commands in the middle of the player’s turn (zombie nearest you lunges 1 space, bites if close enough, etc) though it is obviously limited to whenever players stop to search. The other is to incorporate a zombie deck of some kind.
Reading the rulebook for Dead of Night, something I like is the expanded actions, like setting fires, breaking furniture, and so on. This takes us a little outside the scope of RE however.
- One thing that bugs me about dudes on a map is orientation. I don’t really like taking 2 actions to turn around.
- I do like line of sight and sound rules. If orientation rules are kept, one idea is that if there is EVER a loud sound all zombies within hearing distance turn in that direction automatically (FlyTrap’s item cards cover this now).
- Infection rules are basic: if bitten, roll a die to determine if you are infected. I’d rather infection be a longer process, and part of the strategy is deciding how to handle infected characters. Possibly medication can slow the process. (Infection deck is being tested now.)
- I currently play with a max of 16 zombies. Not sure I want or need to have to manage much more than that, but as long as I’m using standees they are easy and cheap to make.