House Rules – Making the Resident Evil Deck Building Game Feel More Like Classic Resident Evil

robsm Rob: The Resident Evil Deck Building Game is an interesting creation. A zombie apocalypse survival horror video game adaptation turned into a deck building game – it’s this weird mix of genres and mediums which don’t seem like they should exist let alone work, but somehow, it really does. In fact, there are even several expansions for it, adding lots of monsters, weapons, and characters.

The core game is a perfectly serviceable deck builder, but as a big fan of the source materials, the truth is I found it kind of…meh. I mean, it’s not bad as far as deck builders go, but aside from the images on the cards, it doesn’t really feel like you’re playing a Resident Evil game – it doesn’t particularly capture the best things about the classic games in the series. Unless, of course, you fudge with the rules and cards a bit, which is exactly what I’ve done. But then, that’s probably the game’s biggest strength: the fact that it allows you to fiddle with it so much.

Just to be clear, this isn’t a review. This is a tinkerer’s guide, created to walk you through the steps I’ve taken to create my own version of the Resident Evil Deck Building Game that, in my humble opinion, feels a lot more like classic Resident Evil. It’s certainly not perfect, and it requires at least one expansion (more if you want to avoid having to use more contemporary enemies from the series), but it’s pretty much the only way I play now.

[Note: All the specific info pertaining to the sets and types of cards used, including catalog numbers, are included at the very bottom of this post for your convenience.]

The core set isn't bad, but it could use a little help.
The core set isn’t bad, but it could use a little help.


The Sets

You’ll need the base set for sure, but Mercenaries is sort of a standalone expansion so you could use that instead if you were so inclined. Keep in mind that the main reason I’ve included so many sets is because it offers a greater variety of enemies, which means I can afford to not use the ridiculous parasite baddies from the newer games. What? I like my zombies, dammit!

The most important set to include, aside from the obvious, is Outbreak. And the reason for that is almost entirely because of the Infection rule variant. You see, in the regular game you’ll be searching the mansion for monsters to fight and acquiring better gear to increase your odds of survival, but there’s no real incentive to keep moving aside from some indirect competition with other players. Playing with the Infection rules in effect basically puts everyone on a timer and forces them to avoid “turtling” (i.e. spending most of their turns stockpiling weapons). It also addresses player elimination by allowing anyone who ‘dies’ due to infection to come back as a zombie and hassle everyone else.

Clockwise from top-left: Mercenaries, Nightmare, Core Set, Outbreak
Clockwise from top-left: Mercenaries, Nightmare, Core Set, Outbreak

Adding Nightmare to the pile isn’t strictly necessary, but it will offer up a few more ‘classic’ style enemies and characters. I also prefer to use the grenade from this expansion over the one that comes in the base set because the latter generates splash damage that could potentially harm other players.

Finally, there’s Mercenaries. Aside from the additional ammo cards you’ll be able to add (which is practically essential if you plan to play with more than three people), you’ll also get Skill cards. Skill cards aren’t really integral to the game, but they add a nice little RPG element that can both keep your games from feeling stale and offer a bit of character customization.

The Rules

Once you’ve got your decks set up, you’ll need to start implementing rules. For the most part you’ll be using the basics found in every single manual for every single set. Things like hand limits, making one purchase per turn, spending ammo to activate weapons, and so on.

The Infection cards you draw will become your attack cards when you zombify
The Infection cards you draw will become your attack cards when you zombify

Then there’s the Infection rule from Outbreak, which forces you to take an infection card on a turn in which you don’t explore the mansion. And once your infection level hits or exceeds ten, you’re a zombie. It’s a cool addition that keeps things moving and adds a fair bit of tension. You’ll also want to include one or two Action cards (listed below) that can counteract the infection, or else it’s going to be a pretty short game.

As for Mercenaries’ Skill cards, you’ll be divvying them out as per the manual’s directions. I’d also suggest finding tokens of some sort to use in order to keep track of experience. The health and infection tokens that are included with the base set and Outbreak (respectively) will work, but might create some confusion when characters start taking damage and/or dying.

A few house rules have also been thrown into the mix to keep things interesting. First off, rather than simply taking damage and putting the infected enemy at the bottom of the deck if you should fail a combat against them, keep your character and the infected out on the table and add damage tokens to the infected enemy to show how much damage has been dealt. You are now locked in combat with this enemy. You can attempt to finish it off on your next turn, but you’ll still take damage if you fail. You may request help from another player if you so desire. This is a rule I saw on Board Game Geek, but can’t for the life of me find the post to source it properly. So if you happen to know where I can find it feel free to tell me so I can add the correct link.

The showdown you never knew you wanted.
Barry, otherwise an expert member of S.T.A.R.S., commits a classic battlefield mistake and brings a gun to a snake fight.

If you decide you can’t or don’t want to keep fighting the enemy, you can attempt to run. I say attempt, because your character’s level may prevent it. A level 0 character (i.e. someone who hasn’t leveled-up yet) can escape combat by trashing (i.e. place back into the shop) one card from their remaining hand, then remove all damage counters on the enemy and put it back on the bottom of the mansion deck. A level 1 character must trash two cards. A level 2 character cannot run. And of course, if you have no cards in your hand to trash in the first place then no running for you.

Another optional rule I’ve been playing around with involves equipping weapons (I think this is in the Alliances expansion but I don’t own it so I’m not entirely sure). You can ‘attach’ a weapon to your character (two 1-handed weapons like pistols or one 2-handed weapon like a shotgun), then spend ammo on your turn to activate it. Unlike regular weapon rules you can use your equipped weapons as many times as you like on your turn, provided you have the ammo to pay for every single activation. However, if you use an equipped weapon you won’t be able to activate any of the ‘regular’ weapons you might have in your hand. It’s one or the other, not both.

The Results

The goal for this custom setup is to emphasize as many of the original video game series’ iconic qualities as I could, using the cards provided in these sets. Specifically, I wanted to give players a way to avoid a fight early on when resources are still rather scarce, while still encouraging them to explore the mansion. I also tried to make the battles against the Infected a little more interesting by removing the whole “one shot” mechanic. This way you can decide if you want to stick around when your character is still low-level, or get stuck dealing with a powerful monster in the late game.

Inventory Management in both a figurative and literal sense.
Inventory Management in both a figurative and literal sense.

I also wanted to make inventory management a lot more important by removing most of the extra gold/buy action cards. It makes building up a large stock of ammo a bit more difficult, and when paired with the infection mechanic from Outbreak it forces you to really weigh your options when it comes to meticulously gathering supplies and not, you know, dying and turning into a zombie.

I’m by no means selling these changes a the definitive way to make the Resident Evil Deck Building Game more Resident Evil-y, but I think it’s a good start. If you’d like to try (or have tried) this variant, please chime in and let us know! And if you have other rules you’d like to suggest, let us know that, too!

More cards means more options.
More cards means more options.

As I said, what makes all these variants hang together as well as they do is the modular nature of the base game.  It’s quite likely that, no matter which Resident Evil you love, you can probably cobble together an analogous experience with enough components from the expansions.  But what do you think? Have you tried it for yourself? Are there any changes you’d like to make? Let us know in the comments!

The Complete Inventory

Base Set (purchase here)

  • Ammo: AM-001, AM-002, AM-003
  • Weapons: Combat Knife (WE-004), Survival Knife (WE-005), Six Shooter (WE-006), Rocket
  • Launcher (WE-008), Handgun (WE-009), Pump-Action Shotgun (WE-013), Automatic Shotgun (WE-014)
  • Items: Green Herb (IT-001), First Aid Spray (IT-003)
  • Actions: Mansion Foyer (AC-001), Shattered Memories (AC-003), Item Management (AC-009)
  • Misc: Rocket Launcher Case (MA-012)
  • Characters: Leon Kennedy (CH-002), Claire Redfield (CH-003), Barry Burton (CH-005), Ada Wong (CH-006), Claire Redfield (CH-008), Jill Valentine (CH-009), Rebecca Chambers (CH-010)
  • Infected: Licker (MA-006), Nemesis T-Type (MA-007), Hunter (MA-008), Cerberus (MA-015)
Be the zombie.
Be the zombie.

Outbreak (purchase here)

  • Weapons: Standard Sidearm (WE-026) [optional], Samurai Edge (WE-027)
  • Actions: Power of the T-Virus (AC-023), Injection (AC-026)
  • Misc: Antivirus (MA-055), Rock Trap (MA-057)
  • Characters: Jill Valentine (CH-025), Leon Kennedy (CH-026), Ada Wong (CH-027), Chris Redfield (CH-028), Rebecca Chambers (CH-029), Hunk (CH-030)
  • Infected Characters: Zombie A (CH-031), Zombie B (CH-032), Zombie C (CH-033)
  • Infections: Claw (IN-001), Virulent Frenzy (IN-002), Bile Vomit (IN-003), Slough Armor (IN-004), Drag (IN-005), Devour (IN-006), Infection (IN-007)
  • Infected: Tyrant T-002 (MA-041), Yawn (MA-042), Nemesis (2ND Form) (MA-043), Wasp (MA-045), Web Spinner (MA-046), Reinforced Zombie (MA-047), Crimson Head (MA-048), Reinforced Licker (MA-049), Grave Digger (MA-050), Zombie Cop (MA-051), Lisa Trevor (MA-053)
Even after selecting specific characters, there are still quite a few to choose from.
Even after selecting specific characters, there are still quite a few to choose from.

Nightmare (purchase here)

  • Weapons: HE Grenade (WE-041)
  • Characters: Chris Redfield (CH-034), Mikhail Victor (CH-038), Carlos Oleivera (CH-039), Albert Wesker (CH-041), Leon Kennedy (CH-042), Ada Wong (CH-043)
  • Infected: Zombie Security Guard (MA-063), Zombie Technician (MA-064), Ivy (MA-066), Neptune (MA-067), Cerberus (MA-069)

Mercenaries (purchase here)

  • Ammo: AM-005, AM-006, AM-007
  • Weapons: Custom Standard Sidearm (WE-049) [optional], Reliable Blade (WE-050) [optional]
  • Actions: Resuscitate (AC-050)
  • Characters: Hunk (CH-045), Claire Redfield (CH-046), Chris Redfield (CH-047), Jill Valentine (CH-048), Albert Wesker (CH-049), Rebecca Chambers (CH-050), Barry Burton (CH-051)
  • Infected: Venomous Snake (MA-087), Crocodile (MA-091)
  • Skills: All Skill Cards (SK-001 through SK-030)
Skills will help you customize your experience a little more.
Skills will help you customize your experience a little more.

13 thoughts on “House Rules – Making the Resident Evil Deck Building Game Feel More Like Classic Resident Evil

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  • I’d like to find more / clearer rule explanations …

  • I really like this variant.

    I have always found that early on in the game people always turtle too much – even though health is relatively high in this game – so I loved outbreaks zombie mode however some people in my playgroup didn’t like it and thought of a zombie victory as a fake victory I felt it pushed the game on and made it far more exciting.

    I like your idea of attacking monsters until you run away, defeat it, or are defeated – I feel this balances the early game where you cannot quite get enough damage to defeat zombies in one go so it sticks around to give you a better chance to beat it.

    I didn’t like alliances equip mechanic so much – as equipping any X ammo X damage weapon was way too powerful – any and all extra ammo would just stack on top damage and someone ahead was just impossible to catch up to – so I like the idea of restricting weapon use this way I will try this and see if I can balance how people play.

    • Happy to hear you’re enjoying it, Reuben!

    • so what are the expansions u think that are really worth getting? so far i’ve only gotten outbreak..

  • I love it but I do have a question. First off the idea of leaving a monster out if you didn’t kill it is cool but do you take damage that turn or the next turn if you didn’t kill it and on the second turn when you go against it and beat it with your guns can you explore the mansion using the same guns? Also on the second turn do you face the monster first before anything. Lastly what do you mean you wanted to take out the one shot mechanic?

    • Thanks! And to answer your questions:

      – I’ve been playing it as you take damage on the turn where you can’t kill the monster.
      – You can use the same guns to continue exploring, but you need to have enough ammo for them.
      – If you’re already in combat with a monster from the previous turn, that’s definitely the first thing that needs to be dealt with.
      – “one shot” was in reference to how in the vanilla version of the deck building game you only have one turn to fight a monster. If you can’t kill it in one go, you have to put it back in the bottom of the deck. I wasn’t a big fan of that idea. 😛

      • Ah ok I gotcha now I do have another question my friends hate to play the outbreak version because you could easily fight the boss monster first time you explore so how can I change the? They said to fix the mansion so easy monsters are at top and strong monsters at the bottom. So how would you fix it so that doesn’t happen.

        • I tend to split the deck in half and shuffle the boss into the bottom half. You could also try something like splitting the deck into 2 or 3 piles, shuffling the boss into the bottom pile, and shuffling the tougher mid-boss enemies into the second and first piles. Then stack the piles back into a full deck, of course. 😉

          EDIT: Although playing with the option to run from fights usually means you can also get away from the boss if it shows up too early.

  • Hi, I recently played RE DBG and I found that Skills in Mercenaries expansion is quite fun. Can you help me to complete the Skill list before I buy the expansion?

    Here’s the list that I can gather until this moment. Some of them has ?? on it because I don’t know the exact amount of it.

    SK-001 Extension Lv 1 – 1 XP
    At the beginning of your turn, if there are 5 or more Infected attached to all Characters in total or your Team has 10 or more Decorations, you get +20 Ammo during this turn.

    SK-002 Extension Lv 2

    SK-003 Extension Lv 3

    SK-004 Medic Lv 1 – 1 XP
    When you would Heal your Character, you can Heal that amount, plus 10 instead.

    SK-005 Medic Lv 2 – 2 XP
    When you Heal your Character, you can Trash 1 card from your Discard Pile.

    SK-006 Medic Lv 3 – 5 XP
    At the beginning of your turn, Heal your Character’s Health by 20. If your Character is at Maximum Health, you can get +1 Explore during this turn instead.

    SK-007 Luck Lv 1 – 1 XP
    While your Character is at 20 or more Health, if they have their Health reduced to 0 or less, they take 10 Damage instead.

    SK-008 Luck Lv 2 – ?? XP
    When your Character would receive Damage, you can negate that Damage. In that case, Remove all XP on this Skill from the Game.

    SK-009 Luck Lv 3

    SK-010 Toughness Lv 1 – 2 XP
    When you or your Character would be affected by an Infected’s effect,
    you can Remove all XP on this Skill from the Game. In that case, you are not affected by that effect.

    SK-011 Toughness Lv 2

    SK-012 Toughness Lv 3 – 4 XP
    When you or your Character would be affected by an Infected’s effect, you can Remove all XP on this Skill from the Game and choose another Player or Character (respectively) to be affected instead.

    SK-013 Reversal Lv 1 – 2 XP
    During your turn, you can give your Character 10 Damage. In that case, Remove all XP on this Skill from the Game, then you get +3 cards and +1 Action during this turn.

    SK-014 Reversal Lv 2

    SK-015 Reversal Lv 3

    SK-016 Smart Reload Lv 1 – 3 XP
    During your turn, you can Trash an Ammunition with a cost of 0 from your Hand. In that case, Gain an Ammunition with a cost of 30 or less.

    SK-017 Smart Reload Lv 2 – 4 XP
    At the beginning of your turn, you get +10 Gold and +10 Ammo during this turn.

    SK-018 Smart Reload Lv 3

    SK-019 Weapon Master Lv 1

    SK-020 Weapon Master Lv 2

    SK-021 Weapon Master Lv 3

    SK-022 Giant Killing Lv 1 – 2 XP
    While your Character is Exploring, if an Infected with 40 or more Health is Revealed, reduce that Infected’s Damage to 0 during this turn.

    SK-023 Giant Killing Lv 2 – 4 XP
    While your Character is Exploring, if an Infected with 40 or more Health is Revealed, you can have your Character deal an additional Damage during this turn.

    SK-024 Giant Killing Lv 3 – 6 XP
    While your Character is Exploring, if an Infected with 40 or more Health is Revealed, you can have all of the Weapon your Character is using to get +10 Damage during this turn.

    SK-025 Maximizer Lv 1

    SK-026 Maximizer Lv 2

    SK-027 Maximizer Lv 3

    SK-028 Handgun Technique Lv 1 – ?? XP
    All of your “Pistol” Weapons get -10 Ammo Requirement.

    SK-029 Handgun Technique Lv 2 – 5 XP
    At the beginning of your turn, you can Reveal 2 “Pistol” Weapons from your Hand. In that case, you get +1 Explore during this turn.

    SK-030 Handgun Technique Lv 3 – 6 XP
    When your Character Explores, every “Pistol” Weapon that Character is using gets +10 Damage during this turn.

  • I actually have 2 questions if you can help me. I just got the mercenaries and nightmare expansions and I’m confused on 2 cards. One is the character card Sergei Vladimir his lv 1 says during your turn while Sergei is not exploring you can give 20 damage to Sergei in that case Sergei deals 10 additional damage. So you lose 20 health to get 10 damage is that what it me?

    Second card is the neptune, it says when this infected is revealed, if the exploring character has 30 or more damage, this infected gets plus 30 damage. So my character has to have +30 damage or health cause it makes no sense if it’s damage since the card only has 10 health.
    So please help me cause I’m confused on those 2 cards

  • One last thing sorry once you use a skill does the xp go away then?

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