The Resident Evil Deck Building Game Review

After trying the DC Comics Deck Building Game, I decided to buy some more deck building games to see what else is out there. I enjoy Dominion tremendously, and I even enjoyed the DC Comics game, even though I didn’t like it as well as I like Dominion. So I made a trip to a game store this weekend and bought three new games, one of which was the Resident Evil Deck Building Game.

I should mention that I am a big fan of the zombie movie genre, and I also loved the various video games in the Resident Evil franchise, so I might have been predisposed to like this game a little extra just because of my interests. On the other hand, I had no problem distinguishing between the greatness that is Dominion compared with the relative mediocrity of the DC game, and I’ve been into comic books, especially DC comic books, since I was 7 or 8 years old.

The production value of this game is excellent, but I have one quibble. I’m not young, and my eyesight isn’t what it used to be. Still, I don’t think anyone has such great eyesight that reading the rulebook for this game is going to be an easy or pleasant experience. For one thing, it’s a tiny book, but for another, it also uses and extremely tiny font. Some of the text is in a lower contrast color with the background, and I literally had to ask one of my nieces to read some of the rules to me because I just plain couldn’t make out the text for myself. The artwork on the cards is great, though.

Like the DC game, Resident Evil requires you to randomly select a character to play, and your character has a couple of special powers. The characters, like Ada Wong, will be familiar to anyone who has played through the video games. One aspect of this game that I enjoyed was the Health score for each character and the leveling up aspects. It added a touch of RPG-like fun to the game, and it was entirely welcome. Characters start at level 0 but once they defeat a couple of infected, the level up fairly quickly. Each character’s special abilities were interesting and fun to play, too.

The rules for the basic game have a “Story” mode and a “Mercenaries” mode. We only played the “Story” mode, but it was a lot of fun. The mechanics of the game are quite similar to the mechanics of other games of this genre, but the combat had a few nice wrinkles that distinguished it from other deck building games I’ve played. For example, you have ammunition cards as well as various firearm cards, and in order to use certain firearms, you must have enough ammo for that card. Generally speaking, the more damage a weapon does, the more ammo you need. Some weapons, like the combat knives, don’t need any ammo at all.

On each turn, a player gets a single action to take, a single buy action to take, and a single explore action to take. The player can take these actions in any order they like, and they can also use items. Using an item doesn’t cost an action. Certain action cards allow the players to gain additional actions, buys, and cards.

The winner of the game is the person who receives the most “decorations”, which is Resident Evil speak for victory points. Each infected that you fight and destroy becomes attached to your character’s card, and at the end of the game, you count up and compare your totals. The number of decorations you have also determines your level.

Combat takes place during your mansion exploration phase. You don’t have to explore the mansion if you don’t think you have enough firepower, but if you do choose to explore, you usually face a monster from the top of the mansion deck. Each monster has a health score and a damage score. If the total amount of damage your weapons deal are equal to or greater than the infected’s health, you defeat him. If not, then the creature lashes out at you before retreating back into the mansion. This requires a little bit of bookkeeping on the part of the players, because they have to track how many hit points they have.

If you run completely out of health, you lose a turn, then you get back into the game, but your maximum health is reduced by 20. If your maximum health ever reaches 0, you’re out of the game. This didn’t happen to any of our players either time we played.

The game ends when the boss monster is defeated. He’s shuffled randomly into the mansion deck.

The Resident Evil Deck Building Game does a fine job of emulating the video game it’s based on. If you hated the video games for whatever reason, then you probably won’t find much to like here, either. On the other hand, if you like this genre in general and that video game in particular, you’ll find a lot to enjoy about the Resident Evil Deck Building Game.

Also, this game requires less strategy than Dominion, but more strategy than the DC Comics Deck Building Game. At some point in the future, I might invest in the expansions, but there are still several scenarios in the rulebook that I haven’t tried yet. I’d say that this game has excellent replay value. It’s a good value for the money, but the audience for it is somewhat limited by its theme.

One last thing–the box says that the game is for ages 13+, but I played with my 11 year old niece, and she had no trouble with the rules at all. I think it’s possible that the age range is based more on the type of content the game represents than how difficult the game is to play.

Have you played the Resident Evil Deck Building Game? If so, what did you think?


Race for the Galaxy Card Game Review

The Race for the Galaxy card game won Boardgamegeek‘s Golden Geek Award for best card game. Everyone else loved this game, so I wanted to be one of the first kids on my block to try it, too. Since it’s very similar to another card game that I love, San Juan, I was especially excited to try it.

Race for the Galaxy is everything an adult card game fan is looking for. The complex game play involves plenty of strategy with a little bluffing thrown in for good measure.

A game of Race for the Galaxy goes something like this: each player builds a galactic civilization using game cards that stand for planets or technological and social developments. The game is broken up into rounds that contain five possible moves. Each round, each player in the game picks one of seven different action cards at random. Only the game phases pulled and shown can occur that round.

I won’t go into each phase, but here’s a look at one of them, “Develop.” In the “Develop” phase, each player has a chance to pick a development from their hand, reveal it to everyone, then add it to their tableau. That player will have to discard a certain number of cards depending on the development’s cost.

Each phase has its own set of rules and possibilities. Ultimately, the winner in Race for the Galaxy is the player who does the best job at managing her cards, is lucky during the round phase and bonus card selections, and has the skills and bluff to build the game’s biggest galactic power. The player with the most Victory Points at the end of the game wins.

Race for the Galaxy retails for around $30, though you can find lots of sale prices from sites like Amazon. I found a copy this Christmas for just $20 through Amazon, new in the packaging. It makes a great gift for fans of strategy games, fantasy, sci-fi, or board gaming.

Several expansions are available now, and they make it possible to play with additional players, as well as providing additional in-game options for the players.

Cosmic Encounter Game Review

Cosmic Encounter is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. While not traditionally considered a card game, most of the gaming action takes place through card play.

Cosmic Encounter was first published by Eon Games in 1977. The backstory for the game is simple cosmic domination. You’re dealt a race and a set of cards as well as a common number of units, and then you go about trying to spread your race to the furthest reaches of the known universe. You’re competing again the other players, occasionally teaming up against a weaker opponent, or maybe even going so far as to ignore each other entirely.

But there’s no way to really describe the appeal of Cosmic Encounter until you’ve sat around and actually played the game. Imagine a traditional game of Risk only with game-assigned player personalities and specialties and a battlefield scene that encouraged participation by the other players. The game has many different species that affect the game’s outcome in a big way.

A new version of Cosmic Encounter that came out in 1992 is a big reason the game is still popular. Germans are probably the world’s number one board and card gaming public, and the game appeared thanks to a small German game company’s desire to revamp the title for today’s gaming crowd. They altered the rules of the game a little, added and deleted some of the alien races, and came up with a game good enough to be a finalist for the German Game Prize that year.

Wizards of the Coast designer Richard Garfield credited the original Cosmic Encounter with being the single biggest influence on Magic: the Gathering. Garfield says he has “no end of respect for” Cosmic Encounter.

There’s just something about the way this game plays out, human vs. human but also alien vs. alien, with a built-in combat style that encourages both bullying and defending your opponents, and the awesome retro 70s space glam graphics that makes this game a regular at game night at my house.

Thanks to the 90s rebuild, there are now 50 alien species in Cosmic Encounter, . I love the variety of aliens in the new game, and you can usually grab a copy of the new Cosmic Encounter for $50 or less on Amazon–when it’s in stock. It’s worth every penny. The game offers high replay value and cool illustrations.

Car Wars: The Card Game Review

My friends and I have fond memories of playing the Car Wars miniatures game when were in our early teens. And we’re still in touch with each other, but now that most of my friends are grown-ups with children of their own, we tend to prefer less involved games that are fast, easy-to-learn, but still are thematically similar to the games we loved growing up. Car Wars: The Card Game was a big hit with our group, although it doesn’t have a tremendous amount of replay value.

Like the original miniatures game, the card game version of Car Wars is published by Steve Jackson Games in Austin, Texas. Like all Steve Jackson Games products, the production values are excellent. The cards are big, and the artwork looks great, without being so slick and super-realistic that it no longer feels like Car Wars.

Gameplay is simplicity itself, and it took almost no time to learn how to play. That’s a two-edged sword though, and it’s the game’s biggest weakness while also being the game’s biggest strength. Each player gets a car card, which is significantly larger than the playing cards. The cards in each player’s hand represent the various attacks and defenses that the player can play against the others. Combat resolution is a straightforward damage point versus armor point versus hit point type situation, which should be familiar to anyone interested in this type of game. (I can’t imagine that anyone playing Car Wars: The Card Game has never played a traditional pen and paper RPG.)

The scenario is a free-for-all, so the winner of a game is the last man standing. This adds a pretty significant element of luck to the game. If two of the players are rivals, you can count on them wearing each other out pretty fast, and a smart player can use this to his advantage. If one player at the table is especially disliked, it could be a lot of fun for all the players at the table to gang up on him first. But don’t expect him to want to play with you again after being on the receiving end of such an attack.

Steve Jackson Games also released a spinoff game called Battle Cattle, which plays exactly like the Car Wars card game, only with cows instead of cars. The two games can be played independently, but adventurous card game players might buy both sets and combine them for a bovine-automotive showdown that most people had never even imagined was possible.

Unfortunately, Car Wars: The Card Game is now out of print, and I don’t know if Steve Jackson has any plans to ever re-issue the game. Their Munchkin card game is such a mega-hit that it’s hard to imagine that anyone at Steve Jackson has time to work on anything else. Car Wars is especially fun to play with kids who are around 10 or 11 years old, especially if they’re good sports. Younger children, or kids who are sore losers, might find the game pretty frustrating. The game used to retail for $25, but it’s not that easy to find anymore. But copies turn up on eBay from time to time, so it might be worth checking out there.