Designing the Rulebook | Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game

Hi Survivors

Another week gone by! Firstly, a massive thank you to everyone in the Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game Facebook group. Reading your comments last week remembering the campaign and your favourite moments gave several of our team massive smiles. We couldn’t ask for a better community than you guys, and are extremely humbled you chose to follow us on this adventure. Anyone who isn’t yet part of the group and would like to meet a wonderful bunch of likeminded people should go check it out!

Last time we continued our series of behind the scenes updates, and received even more positive comments – so we’ll keep going. And if you missed out, don’t worry – you can find it here

This week we’re going to skip forward a few months from last time, discussing how the rulebook evolved, and why it came to look the way it does.

The Living Rulebook

When designers begin to create new games, they compile any rules for them into a living document. Initially this looks very messy. Some areas are ringed around or underscored, others drawn through and crossed out, and large sections are in different colours. In fact, imagine a digital version of a handwritten note with scribbles all over it and you’re not far wrong. At the beginning of every session this gets printed off, and by the end it has a host of additional notes, amendments, and corrections which are all then added to the digital file for the next day.

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Sooner or later, the project reaches a stage where the engine and mechanics are well formed enough to create a version 0.1 rulebook. Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game was no different. Around the time we started designing our first scenarios we also created a monstrously unwieldy forty-page document – and believe it or not, that didn’t include any of the specific rules for scenarios, enemies, bosses, or weapons!

Our initial goal was to bring this down to a more reasonable size. Over the months of playtesting this was refined and edited until it was sixteen pages in length, a far better proposition for new players. It was time to switch objective, however. With streamlining coming along nicely, we now had to think about what a Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game player looked like. This was an important question as the answer would likely affect the rulebook’s overall structure. And if that sounds weird? Don’t worry – we’ll explain. 

Time to delve into some game design theory…

As much as gamers from different mediums and platforms often share interests and outlooks, we also have entirely different approaches and learned understandings when playing a game. A term such as melee zone is instantly recognisable to a wargamer, for example – yet the same term is utterly bewildering for someone without years of tabletop experience. The same is true for a video gamer describing a UI or HUD; second nature and ingrained into their experience, but utterly alien to the uninitiated. 

We knew our gamers would come from both of these backgrounds. To successfully mesh these two worlds together, we knew the rulebook couldn’t be laid out in the same way as a traditional tabletop game. One group might be familiar with it, but players new to tabletop gaming potentially might find it hard going. 

Besides, we weren’t sure Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game deserved a dry and conventional rulebook. We wanted the rules to reflect the fast-paced energy of the game, getting people playing straight out of the box as quickly as we could. We immediately set to adapting and changing the layout. This presented quite the challenge. How do you create a tutorial that simultaneously holds players’ hands but also teaches all of the rules at once? The simple answer is that you can’t – so our scenarios needed to adapt to help us achieve our goal instead.

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The rulebook for Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game is laid out into three sections; beginner rules, extra rules, and then advanced rules. These allow players to learn the game at their own pace. The scenarios are designed to complement this, introducing new rules slowly over time rather than dropping everything on players at once. 

Scenario 1A will teach you how to control your survivors and how activations work; Scenario 2A introduces the encounter dice and tables, as well as locked doors and different enemies. Scenario 3A adds corpse tokens to your games, as well as Tension Deck elimination. We could go on, but it will definitely be better for you to find out what awaits yourself… after all, Resident Evil™ is a game about suspense and tension more than anything else!

The end result is the most unique and user-friendly rulebook we’ve ever made. Along the way it’s forced us to revisit how we think as games designers, both when writing rules and approaching layout. And we know from your feedback already it went down a storm, which has been awesome to see!

If you’re still interested in hearing more behind the scenes material, let us know – our next port of call would be character design…

Production Update & Typhoon Mangkhut

It’s getting very close to the end of the month, and the imminent shipping of Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game. Our production partners in China have been busy for the last few months making and packaging your copies of the game, all ready for despatch. 

We’re committed to as much transparency as we can, and unfortunately do have some bad news. For those of you who have been keeping an eye on world events, Typhoon Mangkhut has devastated southern China over the last week, causing incredible devastation and tragic loss of property and life.

We’ve been in constant contact with our production partners, trying to predict if this will have any knock-on effect to shipping of Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game, and sadly it does seem this has interfered with our deadlines. Our best estimate is that shipping will be delayed until the week commencing either the 8th or 15th October. 

Obviously, this is less than ideal, but we are also extremely appreciative of the best efforts of our Chinese partners during this difficult time. As much as we all want to get our hands on Resident Evil™ 2: The Board Game, we’re sure that all of you will agree that real life comes first. Our hearts and minds are with our production partners and their families.

Rest assured, as soon as we can provide you with further information and confirm despatch, we’ll ensure you’re the first to know. Thank you for your understanding and patience.