How does one recreate the heart-pounding suspense of the Resident Evil titles with cards? Sh-sh-shhh… Worry not your pretty little head. I’ll walk you through Bandai’s Resident Evil Deck Building Game: Alliance, a one-to-four player game with multiple modes that last from thirty minutes up to hours. Just hang back and stock up on that gold, stranger.

If you’ve ever played a Deck Building Game, then you’ll get started in no time. If not, then know that in a DBG you start out with a small selection of cards composed of resources and something else. You draw a certain number of cards from this few to form your hand and whatever you have then is what you’ll have to work with for that turn. As the game progresses you’ll be using your resources to buy more cards, increasing the size and versatility of your deck. However, the size of your hand will always stay the same, so you’ll want to build a well-balanced set to not end up with turns where you only get resources, for example.

In RE: Alliance, your starter deck consists of five seven (Edit: Oops. -Ade) Ammo cards, two Knives and one Handgun. Ammo can double as Gold, as seen in the picture above. Knives deal five damage whereas Handguns do ten damage but require  twenty Ammo to fire (yes you’re a terrible shot). Out of these eight you draw a hand of five random cards, thus an ideal composition would be one Handgun, one Knife and three Ammo.

Every player turn you’ll get the opportunity to Buy a new card, use an Action card or Explore the Mansion, that creepy little place filled with monsters you and your friends find yourselves in like some lousy teenage horror flick. You can buy cards that grant you an extra Buy, Action or any other effect that turn, mixing strategies a little. Going by the hand mentioned in the previous paragraph, what you can do is spend 30 Gold on a card and then use your Knife and Handgun (using an Ammo card for its Gold doesn’t consume it) to hit whatever baddie you may  unveil from Exploring for 15 damage.

I say “may” because there are cards shuffled into the Mansion deck that are pretty much mini-events – you’ll know when you see them. Should you manage to get some weak excuse of a zombie that you quickly murder, place that Monster card under your Character card. He or she then gains a certain number of Decorations represented on the Monster card; those will go towards levelling up your Character and winning the game.

I haven’t lost you, have I?

As you can imagine, each Character has a unique set of skills. I took Leon for two reasons: the deck control his skills provide and simply because his face is on the cover. That means he’s the best, right?

That pretty much sums up the basics. There isn’t any point for me to name the cards you can buy as the selection available is dependent on the mode you play. This is a good time then, for me to explain the subtitle: RE: Alliance  is actually a standalone expansion to the Resident Evil  DBG. Differences between this and the base set, aside from the Characters, are a pool of slightly tougher enemies and Partner Mode.

Partner Mode is very straightforward: each player uses two characters instead of one. One will be the designated the Main and the other the Partner. Changes mostly come in how you Explore, but better still is how your Partner can hold onto a weapon permanently by using up one Action. This allows you to be far more aggressive than you normally would, reducing game time. Decorations are shared between both but if the Partner dies then that Partner is permanently removed from the game.

Other available modes are Story, Mercenary and Versus. The first is the standard RE  experience and changes nothing except for the cards you can buy; Mercenary plays similarly to its video game counterparts, each player turn part of a time limit; and Versus mode ignores the Mansion entirely, pitting players against each other instead.

Alright, so that’s gameplay out of the way. But how does it play?

Great! Resident Evil: DBG Alliance  is a wonderful addition to anybody’s collection, providing a solid hour or two (or three!) of thoughtful deliberation and nervous tension. You’ll never know just what you’ll get from that Explore – an easy kill? A close call, scraping by with a difference of five damage? Or will you be the one unlucky enough to reveal a “boss” Monster, finding yourself hilariously short on damage output and getting everyone involved injured?

It’s that mystery that gives this DBG  its excitement, though that is the very same reason why Story mode games tend to run for a pretty long time. Without the time limit of Mercenaries or any other penalty, each player has the chance to calmly think through their options and leave the Mansion alone if they desire. Ultimately this leads to players stacking their decks before going anywhere near the Mansion, only to power their way through the Monsters once weapons appear in their hand.

Entertainingly enough, it’s possible for a player to chain Action cards together in a way that grants him access to more cards than five, mixing and matching their way to victory. It takes only one player to drastically slow down the pace of the game, and once everyone picks that up an hour will fly before you even know it.

   

Once you’re in the thick of it, you’ll realise the extended gaming times are a small issue. That’s what the other modes are for, too; when you’re wanting a different style to the game just flip through the manual and look at the Mercenaries, Versus and Partner modes.

New players — even if they don’t play card games — will pick up on the rules by the end of the first game. By the second most will be considering a simple strategy or two, thus it’s fairly newbie-friendly. As this isn’t a Living Card Game, Resident Evil: Alliance  comes packaged with everything you need to get started; no booster packs needed. Ever. When you feel like spending then either the base set or the expansion, Outbreak,  will be right up your alley. I’ve played this on multiple occasions and enjoyed them all, even when the odds are stacked against my favour on the very first turn.

I told you Leon was the best.