In our previous update we revisited boss monsters and spoke about how Birkin Stage Two has evolved since you guys last saw him. If you missed out, don’t worry – you can catch up here. We were delighted with the response from our wonderful community regarding bosses, so thought it might be fun to keep going with them for a little while longer.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to introduce a formidable new adversary…
The First Malformation of G
Last time around we touched on how our design team began to develop behaviour decks for boss monsters in Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game, carefully watching animations and attacks from the videogame. But as you’d expect, creating boss monsters wasn’t quite that simple. Each boss needed to have their own identity – a unique sense informed by the artwork and look of the model, the rules, the behaviour deck, and the tactics players would need to use in defeating their foe. But that’s not all. They also needed to tell a story, both in terms of the playing experience and continuing the overall narrative of the game.
Let’s expand upon that, with Birkin Stage One as our example.
After compiling the gameplay footage of Birkin Stage One and turning it into raw templates for behaviour cards, we discussed what our overall theme for the boss was going to be, and how that might lend itself to gameplay. At this time, we already had an early build of Birkin Stage Two and a firm idea of how that boss would be, providing a great reference point to bounce ideas off. One thing was immediately obvious – Birkin Stage One is a very different type of foe than Birkin Stage Two.
In his first malformation, William Birkin doesn’t demonstrate the same bursts of explosive power which characterise his later forms. The encounter is more of a slow, grinding onslaught as the boss advances on the player, rusted iron pipe in hand, until he reduces the range enough to lash out. The attacks are brutal but predictable, and the key to defeating him is to manage this behaviour before it can overwhelm the survivor or back them into a corner.
Our first thoughts were to build a mechanic around the raised arm animation Birkin demonstrates, a precursor in the original videogame to a one-hit kill attack. Early versions of this involved a setup card which amplified the damage of the following attack, which we loved for introducing an element of counter play but was mechanically awkward. For starters, with up to four survivors on the tile, it was very hard to avoid, unless we delayed the attack for several activations. As you can likely imagine, that revision didn’t lend itself too well for creating much suspense. We tried a system where players could inflict damage to discard the setup card next, but this didn’t help much. Regardless of where we set the threshold, it didn’t change gameplay – players just stood still and unloaded everything they had at Birkin.
What we needed was an in-game mechanic which players could see coming and plan around with dynamic gameplay shifts, but also wasn’t too mechanically complex. For a little while, this was a real headscratcher. And then, the storytelling for the encounter came to our rescue.
William Birkin doesn’t instantly transform into a hulking brute after injecting himself with the G-Virus. In the first stages of his transformation, Birkin actually remains a relatively recognisable figure, albeit with some hints of the horrific changes yet to come. Watching the cut scenes from Resident Evil™ 2 we can see a tortured man fighting against the bestial fury threatening to overcome him, his rational mind trying to retain some semblance of control.
Unlike Birkin Stage Two, who starts the encounter at the height of its destructive powers and then deteriorates, Birkin Stage One is much less dangerous until the G-Virus takes over and his descent truly begins. And that’s what we wanted to portray.
The Birkin Stage One confrontation has two phases built into it. The boss begins slowly, with a behaviour card named Iron Pipe that provides mobility as well as a powerful attack from the rusted lump of metal it carries. At this point, we’d forgive you for asking the obvious question – what’s slow or weak about that?
Well, players can very easily mitigate the effectiveness of this behaviour card by getting closer to the boss. Up close, Birkin’s wide swing still hurts but is hampered by the proximity of the survivor, meaning the attack is far easier to dodge. Additionally, the Wild Fury special rule on Birkin Stage One’s reference card means the boss will always target the closest player, keeping the other survivors safe from harm – because, you guessed it. No movement.
The fight turns on its head once a certain damage threshold has been reached, and the boss becomes much, much more dangerous. Each Iron Pipe card is replaced by a card named Bludgeon, the evolved version of the setup attack cards. Bludgeon is an extremely dangerous attack which can render a character unconscious in one hit, no matter the position of their health track marker. The drawback of this attack is the short range, so players then must switch their tactic to keeping away from retaliation.
Looking at this boss in relation to Birkin Stage Two, we see a clear progression. William Birkin begins as a man, the G-Virus slowly creeping through his veins and changing his body, until he is wounded and loses control. Then the fury of the monster within emerges – and doesn’t leave until Birkin Stage Two has suffered so much damage it is forced to retreat and regenerate.
Of course, it doesn’t end there, we all know. And if you thought Birkin Stage Two was tough, just wait until you see how the offensive power of Birkin Stage Three skyrockets up once more…
Let us know if you want to hear more about that next time!
City of Ruin
Two more new tiles today, and these are from the Giant Alligator expansion. Whilst clearly intended to be more suggestive of the sewers location, we’re sure that you guys can envision them turning up elsewhere also…