Resident Evil: The Board Game review – Survival Horror at its finest 

Jack Bye
Resident Evil Board Games, pieces, board and tokens

Stalwart tabletop masters Steamforged Games have returned to Resident Evil well with their most faithful and thrilling survival horror adaptation yet. 

A decaying horde of the undead infests the halls of Spencer Mansion, as their groans suddenly become punctuated by an anxious burst of bullets, coming from unsteady hands. Whether the S.T.A.R.S team makes it through this ordeal alive is in your hands. 

Resident Evil is a classic, which set a new standard for how video games could approach horror as a medium. Steamforged Games have taken to the task of adapting that beloved, harrowing experience as a board game. In doing so, they’ve once again shown themselves to be industry pioneers, as Resident Evil: The Board Game raises the bar for faithfully translating survival horror action into a tabletop format. 

Resident Evil The Board Game: Starting out and gameplay phases 

Resident evil board game intro session in play

Resident Evil: The Board Game is designed for campaign play first and foremost. While you can play each of its scenarios as standalone games, the whole thing really comes alive when exploring the mansion and dealing with the ever-growing threat of the undead

The larger campaign is broken down into discrete scenarios, each one representing a specific wing or location within the Spencer Mansion. You’ll be exploring, collecting items, solving puzzles, and gunning down – or running past – zombies and other mutations in teams of one to four.  

There’s a nice element of class choice between player characters, as each comes with different starting gear, abilities, and inventory slots. Chris Redfield has mostly combat skills, Rebecca Chambers is a versatile medic, and so on.  

Action, reaction, and tension

Each player’s turn within a scenario is broken down into three phases: action phase, reaction phase, and tension phase. Players can take up to four actions per turn, including attacking, moving, opening/closing doors, and picking up items.  

Once a player’s actions have been taken, the reaction phase begins. This is one of Resident Evil: The Board Game’s most elegant systems, as it allows enemy movement and action to be fully automated, without the need for allocating a GM. Your foes aren’t always in pursuit here, but they will react and move toward nearby active players, encouraging careful planning before taking aggressive action. 

Finally, in the tension phase, the player will draw a card from the tension deck before ending their turn. The tension deck really brings the survival horror element of Resident Evil: The Board Game to life, and you’ll often be on the edge of your seat when drawing from it.

While drawing a green card from the deck can be a welcome relief, amber and red cards effectively serve as jump scares, often harboring complications and threat escalation. Beware, even an otherwise benign green card might temporarily allow enemies to use more powerful attacks. 

In addition, the deck keeps you on your toes and prevents taking wasteful turns, as running out of cards means an automatic failure in most scenarios, at least without the aid of an Ink Ribbon. 

Key gameplay mechanics 

Exploration is something that Resident Evil: The Board Game absolutely nails. Each scenario lays out a starting area, but sections of the map are initially hidden and get unlocked as you progress. This element of surprise is further maintained through encounter cards, drawn whenever a player enters an unexplored area. When you enter a new location and set up a section of the board, you’re never quite sure what could be awaiting you on the other side. 

When it comes to dealing with the undead in Resident Evil: The Board Game, fleeing and fighting are often equally valid choices. Thankfully, combat strikes the right balance between frustration and fun. Attacking is an imprecise art with your starter weapons, and you’ll often find yourself flailing and striking again and again with a knife, just hoping to land a lethal blow. On the flip side, you might spend additional resources to start popping heads like a pro. But, wasting too much ammunition in any scenario can leave you ill-equipped for what lies ahead.  

Resource management is as crucial here as it is in any classic Resident Evil experience. Items are plentiful within scenarios, but finding ammo, healing herbs, or fuel when you need them is far from assured. 

Dwindling resources can be compounded from mission to mission, really amping up the tension in campaign play. While a certain amount of healing and ammo restocking takes place between missions, this is mostly an incremental boost rather than a full refill.  

Presentation and storage 

Resident Evil Board Game minis


As to be expected from Steamforged, Resident Evil: The Board Game comes packaged with a highly detailed set of minis. While many gameplay elements are represented by simple tokens, the player characters and the enemies they’ll face each get lovingly detailed models to move through the mansion’s cramped corridors. For many Resident Evil fans, these will be worth the price of admission alone. 

If there’s a complaint to be made here, and it’s a small one at that, it’s that the majority of the minis are plain old zombies. While there are multiple zombie designs in the box, it’s a shame to not have more of the truly horrifying and accurately recreated designs of some of Umbrella’s more imaginative mutations like the Tyrant and Lisa Trevor. 

But this is Resident Evil after all, shambling undead is its bread and butter, and you’ll be equal parts glad and fearful of the abundance of minis once the mansion starts to be overrun. 

Box Space 

Rather than attempting to fit all the game’s playing area onto a single map, Resident Evil: The Board Game’s designers have made the smart choice of using modular tiles that can fit together to create every scenario. There’s a huge amount of variety here, and the design is absolutely to be commended. 

Unfortunately, while the modular design of the board saves a great deal of space, the box itself could have been designed for better storage between uses. This is a game that takes up a lot of table space and is intended for multi-session play. Packing and unpacking the box while keeping most of the individual decks in the right order is more of an impediment to play than it really should be.  

Card and token design 

Resident Evil: The Board Game features beautifully atmospheric art that absolutely captures the grandeur and decay of the Spencer Mansion. Unfortunately, as a result of the gloom, some smaller tokens are a little murky and hard to differentiate. While the slowdown in play this can cause will be minor and temporary, it’s still an unfortunate snag for a game with so many moving parts. 

Additionally, while the item and enemy cards do an incredible job of getting information across through symbols rather than reams of text, some of the symbols are a bit too similar in design and can cause some initial confusion. 

The bottom line is that this is a lot of info to pack into such a small space, and the game doesn’t always hit the mark of being clear and understandable at a glance. 

Should you buy it?

Resident Evil: The Board Game features a huge number of different gameplay systems, to the point that it can feel as if it’s straining against the allocated box space. Still, if the price to pay for effectively adapting and streamlining so many game mechanics is a bit of visual clutter, it’s a price well worth paying. 

The verdict: 4/5 

While there are a small handful of rough edges and presentation issues, Resident Evil: The Board Game shines as a tense, thrilling adaptation of one of Capcom’s finest. It’s an inspired translation and a fantastic game in its own right. 

Resident Evil: The Board Game launches on the 9th October 2023, and can be pre-ordered directly from Steamforged.