At a Glance: Dead of Winter is a superb survival horror game. If an intense, story-driven adventure set in a zombie apocalypse blizzard sounds amazing, it is!
Dead of Winter is a semi-cooperative survival horror game for 2-5 players set in a zombie apocalypse blizzard. The game is set up with a main board that is the “Colony” and 6 external locations. Each person starts with a couple survivors at the colony and 3 dice. You may perform one action per dice result, like Attacking, Searching, or Placing a Barricade. Some actions do not require a die in order to perform them, but the main actions do. Each survivor has stats for their Attacking and Searching. If a survivor has an Attack stat of 3+, that means that you may use a die result of 3+ to do that action. Each game has a different scenario and main goal to complete. Everyone also has a secret private objective that they must also fulfill in order to win. However, there might be a traitor in your midst! If someone drew a Betrayal card at the beginning of the game, then they win if the main objective is failed and they meet their private objective. There is a Round Track that counts down and a Morale Track. Each round goes like this: first, you must deal with a crisis. You flip over a crisis card and throughout the round, players will be secretly contributing the requisite types of cards to the crisis. Nothing happens if you fulfill the requirements, but if the group fails, there are consequences. Everyone rolls the action dice simultaneously and take their turns. At the beginning of your turn, the player to your right draws one of the Crossroads cards. Crossroads cards have some sort of trigger at the top, and if at any point, the active player triggers it, Play is stopped and the Crossroads card is resolved. You can move to external locations and attack zombies, but every time you do, you must roll the dreaded Exposure Die. The Exposure Die may give you nothing (hopefully), wounds, frostbite, or (God forbid) a bite which means your survivor dies! That means every major action may have dire consequences. You may search locations for much-needed supply, barricade an entrance to protect against zombies, clean waste at the colony, attract zombies, play a card, contribute to the crisis, spend food to improve your dice result, give or take items, vote to exile someone, or a special action listed on your survivor card. Whenever the group votes to exile someone they think is a traitor, the accused is kicked out of the colony and moved to an outside location and their secret objective changes a bit. After the player turns, you feed the people at the colony, make sure there is not too much waste at the colony, and resolve the crisis. But then, more zombies show up! Then a new round begins, but you only have a limited amount of time to complete the objective. If the Morale or Round Track reach 0, or the main objective is completed, the game ends and if you have completed your objectives, you win.
Dead of Winter is an excellent semi-cooperative game (can be cooperative, and always is with 2-players). It may seem like a lot to take in, as there are a lot of factors in play, but once you get the hang of it, it is such an immersive experience. Always intense, it is challenging to balance the problems at hand…try not to get overrun by the zombie horde, try to feed your people, try to search for desperately-needed supplies, and don’t forget the dreaded RED DIE that you have to roll every time you attack a zombie or move to a location. I like the way searching works, as you can “make noise” to search more, but you risk attracting more zombies. So even if we stop right there, we have a great game on our hands. But what really pushes this game to the next level for me is the Crossroads deck, where events can trigger depending on what you do on your turn. It really adds a depth of narrative and decision-making that is truly innovative, and just plain cool. And in a market full of zombified things that are just mediocre, this game stands out.
There are definitely a ton of standees, one for every survivor character and a lot of zombies. The dice are small, but good, and the red Exposure Die is especially cool. There are a bunch of cards that you will never see in just one game, and with the different objectives and outcomes, the replayability factor is high. The box is high quality and the cover art is well done (kudos to Fernanda Suarez). The production, theme and gameplay come together for an excellent experience. Turn down the lights and immerse yourself in the survival horror of Dead of Winter.
See if you can survive: https://amzn.to/2AdBZhW