Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game – The Tension Deck

Last time around we took a closer look at Zombie from Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game, and talked about how nearby enemies moved in reaction to a character’s activation. If you missed out on that, don’t worry – you can find it here. This week we’re going to discuss something which we mentioned briefly at the end of that article, which is the very last step that occurs during every character’s turn, when they draw from the Tension Deck.

It’s Quiet… maybe too Quiet. 

One of the core elements of the whole Resident Evil™ franchise has been the phrase ‘Horror Survival’. Right from the opening moments of the first Resident Evil™, where Zombie Dogs ambush the members of the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team, players have grown to expect their share of foreboding areas, sudden sounds, and terrifying jump scares. The original Resident Evil™ 2 video game was no different. Long-time veterans will smile to remember how they jumped out of their seat when zombies suddenly reached through barricades to grab them, or the Licker crashed through the one-way mirror.

This was definitely a strong element we wanted to keep for Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game. After all, it’s a core appeal of the game, and part of the series identity.

Of course, we needed to find a different way to bring this to the table. Unlike the original video game, Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game doesn’t have an eerie soundtrack or force players to view the playing area through restrictive camera angles. And as much fun as we had in testing by suddenly dropping a Licker into a room and screaming, it wasn’t really a well-rounded mechanic.

Our solution was to create the Tension Deck.

Each scenario in Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game has a unique Tension Deck, based upon what events take place during the original game, with a handful of extra surprises thrown in for good measure. Players have to draw from this deck at the end of each character’s turn, meaning that the tension and suspense builds as they take their actions and try to fight past any enemies. If they’re lucky, this last step might not cause any effects at all, and they can start the next turn as planned – but draw the wrong card and suddenly the enemies surrounding a character can lurch forward unexpectedly, or have their ranks swell as yet more zombies crash through a window or door…

Rising Fear

The Tension Deck is made up of three different types of card, all of which serve a different purpose in the game, and require players to take a different approach in planning out their next turn, or thinking about how to save their friends from an untimely demise.

The first type of card in the deck are the Green Cards, and these are the cards that players will always want to see. As you’d guess from the colour, Green Cards indicate that nothing is amiss for the moment (assuming of course, that you’re willing to overlook being trapped in a zombie infested city…) and have no extra effect. In fact, the only downside to drawing a Green Card from the Tension Deck is that there’s one less of them between the player and a more severe card!

The next type of card is the Amber Cards, and this is where things start to become difficult for the characters. Although not immediately disastrous, Amber Cards force players to make difficult decisions, or hinder their progress. They range from the characters hearing a threatening sound or seeing an odd shadow around the next corner, to Zombies remaining in play as sinister corpses after they’re killed, with plenty of other results between. Will the characters choose to ignore these warnings, and press on, or turn back and face the horde at their heels for another turn?

The final type of cards is… you guessed it, the Red Cards. Red Cards present immediate challenges for the players, and most commonly represent the jump scares we talked about earlier, spawning enemies on the same tile as the character, or causing the existing enemies to unexpectedly move and attack again. When a character draws a Red Card, they’ll nearly always have to rush to think of a solution or escape route whilst the other players take their turns, or even ask the other players to come and help them… drawing one is a significant and dangerous set-back!

Sustained Terror

Of course, we don’t want to players to feel too comfortable playing Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game, and that’s why we were sure not to limit drawing from the Tension Deck to the end of a character’s activation. After all, just as with enemies moving and attacking out of their normal sequence, players should always fear the unexpected from the Tension Deck!

Next week we’ll take a look at one of the mechanics which prompts drawing from the Tension Deck out of sequence during a player’s turn, and discuss how much more dangerous this can be…

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