Jake Smith
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Why did I buy Resident Evil: Mercenaries?
Resident Evil is awesome! Dominion had grown stale, and I thought that adding such a beloved theme to the mix would bring back the excitement to deck building. I have zero experience with any other product in the Resident Evil Deck Building Game line.


What do I like about Resident Evil: Mercenaries?

Resident Evil!
- Sensing a trend here? The video game series is represented in the cards here, from the familiar characters each player is dealt at the start of the game to the slew of recognizable weapons and enemies. The vast majority of the content is drawn from Resident Evil 4 and 5, which may irk some, but I enjoyed those games and enjoy seeing them represented here.
- The art isn't going to win any awards, but it is very serviceable. The various familiar characters can be picked out even without reading the card names.

There are a couple of interesting mechanics here.
- The lackluster weapons that start in the initial deck (along with a few other cards) have an interesting “self-trashing” mechanic that helps jump start the decks into the mid game.
- Two mechanics – character abilities and skills – allow the characters, not just the decks, to grow throughout the game, yielding helpful static abilities or powerful rechargeable effects.


What don't I like about Resident Evil: Mercenaries?

The “mansion” is implemented incredibly poorly.
- At the start of the game a large pile of enemies of vastly varying difficulty are shuffled into one big stack. For the rest of the game, players simply draw an enemy off the top when they opt to explore the mansion. The early turns are akin to playing Russian Roulette, with some players pulling the cannon fodder necessary to get the initial weapons out of their deck and others getting blasted by unkillable late game enemies.
- The game does not end until the “Red Executioner” is defeated, and given both the excellent hand required to defeat him and the fact that he is shuffled back into the mansion deck should a player fail to kill him, all three games I played devolved into a sluggish wait for the boss to be drawn at exactly the right time.

The pool of weapons and actions feels bland.
- I mentioned in the previous section that the weapons are all recognizable from the game, and they are, at least superficially. When it comes to actually playing with them; however, there are at best two categories: little piddly guns that can't kill much but can be used with minimal ammo and stronger guns that do more damage but take more ammo. The bow is the only available weapon that breaks from the mold.
- The actions don't even have a thematic tie in going for them. The designers just made up a bunch of vaguely militant sounding things like “Boundless Battlefield” or “Battle Hardened” with random effects to go along with them – why does “Melee” gain me ammo? I can't help but feel that the designers would have been better off just more blatantly ripping off some Dominion actions and reskinning them.
- The ammo/money cards function as both on each turn, so there's not even a tension between exploring the mansion for victory points and experience points and buying cards to add to your deck.

So many missed opportunities.
- The mansion and actions feel like the biggest missed opportunity here. The game could provide a much more tactile and engaging experience with the addition of a board to manipulate a la A Few Acres of Snow or Trains. Actions could be used to move from room to room, open doors, search rooms, solve puzzles, and such. Enemy encounters could be paced as players make there way further into the mansion.
- Following right behind are the underdeveloped character abilities and skills. While having an evolving set of non-deck based abilities is a great idea (albeit not an entirely original one), giving each character only a single level to achieve is cutting it off at the knees. The skills are just as bad - each skill has three “levels” of increasing potency, but there is no connection between the three once the skills are initially drafted and the game starts. Printing all three levels on the same card would give more progression via experience points as the game went on.
- Particularly given the theme, this really feels like it should be a co-op game, but there are a number of ways to screw with the other players layered all over the place. Given the random nature of the mansion draws, I can't imagine ever playing this truly competitively.


Final Thoughts
This game really feels like a giant what if, insofar as somewhere buried within the broken mess you get in the box is a very solid game. After first reading about the fabulous sounding Epic Thunderstone variant, I entertained the thought of remaking the game along those lines into something closer to the game I wanted it to be. At the end of the day, though, I feel there are way too many well designed games to even play them all, much less to waste time trying to fix broken ones, and I traded my copy away. I can't say that I would recommend this game to anyone.
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Rauli Kettunen
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theintangiblefatman wrote:
- The game does not end until the “Red Executioner” is defeated, and given both the excellent hand required to defeat him and the fact that he is shuffled back into the mansion deck should a player fail to kill him, all three games I played devolved into a sluggish wait for the boss to be drawn at exactly the right time.


REx is IMO easier to defeat than any of the 90 Health bosses of the other sets, even though 80 Health he has is only ten less, but even in the Mercenaries setups, makes quite a difference. Further, I'd say mid-game onwards, you should be hitting 80 dmg regularly (that's only 2x Custom Lightning Hawk for example) and with Skills in the mix (Giant Killing lvl 2 and 3), don't even need that much dmg from weapons, 40 dmg is sometimes enough with the boosts from Skills.

My main issue with Mercenaries is the general lack of +Explore. Nothing hurts more than hitting the mansion with 150+ dmg and flipping a 1 Decoration Infected, when if you had 3 Explores, you'd take down three even if you flip REx as the first card.

Quote:
- The ammo/money cards function as both on each turn, so there's not even a tension between exploring the mansion for victory points and experience points and buying cards to add to your deck.


This speeds up the game in comparison to say Thunderstone (which I also own).

Quote:
- Following right behind are the underdeveloped character abilities and skills. While having an evolving set of non-deck based abilities is a great idea (albeit not an entirely original one), giving each character only a single level to achieve is cutting it off at the knees.


Most characters from other sets have two levels and at least there is some variance between the players' characters (vs say Thunderstone or Legendary).

Quote:
- Particularly given the theme, this really feels like it should be a co-op game, but there are a number of ways to screw with the other players layered all over the place. Given the random nature of the mansion draws, I can't imagine ever playing this truly competitively.


I also prefer the unknown, random mansion to Thunderstone's "pure math" dungeon where you know going in what you will kill. Combat shouldn't be math, there should be randomness in it.
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Trainer Hez
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Nice review, I agree with many of your complaints about the Mercenaries set. However, I've found this game works best if you view the rules only as a base to build your customisations on and it gets better the more sets you have to work with. The book itself says feel free to experiment, this game is as good as you make it.

So for the problem of the Boss showing up early game we designate a "Mini Boss" that must be defeated before the actual Boss is shuffled into the deck.

The multiple ways to mess with your opponents is one of the best features of this set (it doesn't feature so much in the others). Design a setup that focusses on this aspect and you quickly have a very political deck building game! This is my favourite way to play RE DBG and you end up battling with the other players just as much as with the Infected. For a more flavourful approach, a 2 vs 2 team of good guys vs bad guys will give you the co-op gameplay you feel is lacking.

I totally agree with the idea of Exploring "rooms" though! I hope the Japanese re-release goes well so we can see a set featuring this mechanic in the future (perhaps utilising some sort of board?)

Anyway, if you're still enjoying the game at all but wish to spice it up a little, Outbreak is a nice expansion to add to Mercs that will give you both Characters with 2 Abilities and the "Infection" mechanic. Infection adds an extra level of tension to the game, preventing too much camping outside the Mansion.

(EDIT: Missed the last line in the OP about trading the game away. A shame, as I said; rather than "fixing a broken game" I see it as "open to customising".)
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Jake Smith
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I'm glad you guys are enjoying the game. I do think there is a good game here somewhere if you want to take the time to uncover it. The random draws from the mansion are basically a non-starter in my group, though. Redesigning around that is difficult while preserving any tension in the game.
 
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