plaid hat games

2

Dead of winter makes such great stories every game. I lost my leader on the first turn because he hesitated and couldn’t shoot his zombie dad. This left me with Mike Cho the ninja who was apparently so sneaky he couldn’t find any one to help him out the rest of the game. Though I had what I need to win we lost the main objective when some one tried to move to a new location and got bitten on the last turn.

5

I don’t hate zombies, but I will say that I’m bored with them.

It’s not just board games that feature zombies, but it’s movies, tv, food, clothing…it’s all zombie crap, and I’m excited for it to be worn out and boring because no one has done anything original with zombie stuff (I mean…how original can you be if you’re being chased by someone that is dead, was once alive, but is some how alive again? Dumb.)

At least, I felt that way until I played Dead of Winter. Even when I heard about its announcement, I was mildly uninterested just for the sake of it having some sort of zombie-related theming. I’m glad I was wrong.

This game is not about zombies. it has zombies in it, much the same way that Agricola has plots of farm in it. It’s not the game, but a part of it. In fact, in Dead of Winter, the zombies are an added layer of complicated factors that are all about survival. There’s physical and psychological elements in the game that force people into making tough decisions, turn after turn. 

Breaking it up in to its various pieces you’ll find a cooperative game, but it’s the sum of the parts that prevent those jerk Alpha players from horking control over the game (that’s right…horking). Plus there’s the nasty red exposure die. Plus the crossroads cards. What does all this mean? Read my summary, and you’ll find out if this is truly a game for you.

Rules

The rules for Dead of Winter are pretty straight forward. You take on the role of a survivor in a colony of other survivors. It’s literally wintertime, and you along with the colony, must outlast both the winter and the mysteriously post-apocalypse horde of zombies knocking on your door. The roles are of just everyday folks, like teachers, doctors, pilots, and ninjas.

NINJAS?

Yeah…somehow a ninja made his way here. WHATEVER. He’s awesomely overpowered, and frankly, I don’t care that I like using the ninja. Some survivalists that prefer a more intense experience may wish to discard him, and choose someone else. Like the local Mall Santa, that’s preeeeetty much a drunkard and a fool that hates his life.

On a players turn, they will rolls some dice, and depending on the rolls, you will choose from various actions like fighting zombies, cleaning up the waste in the colony, or maybe searching around at some locations outside of the colony. 

So, what makes this game special? I mean, those mechanisms are standard issue in games these days wherein players take on the role of some fantastical person in some bizarre scenario. Well, sweet reader, there are three things that make this game stand out:

  • Each player (unless playing fully cooperative) has their own secret objective. This objective could be something that may have you horde fuel, food, or a number of various allies to support your individual team leader. Only the player knows their objective, so while trying to accomplish it, they’re also trying to contribute to the objective for the individual round, identified on a ‘Crisis card’. AND…the group at large is also trying to accomplish a main objective to win the game. It seem like a lot, for sure, but that’s the point. It’s all about survival, and no one ever in any survivor situation thought “Hmm…this is fun and easy.”
  • The problem here is that someone, possibly….maybe…might be a betrayer. Again, only they know that betrayal is imminent. But their secret objective isn’t too different than that of someone else’s that is not a betrayer. So everyone automatically assumes that someone is a betrayer…even if no one is a betrayer.
  • And this is where the game differs across the board. Prior to your turn, another player will draw a Crossroads card…and on this card, there is a scenario…a situation. If this situation comes to pass, then the game halts, the person holding the card reads aloud a small story. This story involves having to make a decision that could affect the individual or the group. There’s no telling what could happen! Sometimes it even involves the entire group to vote, thumbs up or down. Watching the other players just raises suspicion too.

Even though there is a lot going on in this game, individually the rules are very easy to manage among the players. And since this game is cooperative, generally speaking, new players can always get help from veterans. Just watch your back.

Gameplay

I’ve played this game now several times. I typically get a beat on a game after a couple of plays, but I really wanted to dig in deep with Dead of Winter. It gets richer with each play, especially because the deck of cards making up the crossroads is so thick. Having a lot of different situations that could potentially happen make up a game that’s difficult to repeat over and over.

Essentially, the game has two timers, metered by the number of rounds, and the level of the group’s morale. The round timer…that’s self explanatory. The moral timer meter thing…just more stress. It’s a measurement of the group’s self-esteem essentially, and when someone dies (someone WILL die), the morale drops. There could be other factors that may affect morale (and that WILL happen). So it’s important to know, that the Mall Santa can off-himself to bring up morale.

Keep kids away. :(

Speaking of which…it’s nice to know that someone at PHG said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Uh…we need to mark some of the Crossroads cards in such a way to let our fans know that these cards aren’t for kids or Mall Santas because people be freakin’ and stuff.” That’s right, you can make this PG-13 game (although it doesn’t always feel PG-13) into a PG game.

Components

Pretty standard fare for board games. Lots of cardboard and paper.

The artwork though, really conveys a sense of cold and loneliness. Being a survivor ain’t fun, despite how Bear Grylls makes it seem. And to be honest, Kodiak Colby is way handsomer.

The dice are fantastic, but I switched out the standard dice for some frosted dice to contribute to the thematic element of being cold and alone.

Bottom Line

This game is not only finding a permanent spot in my collection, but likely finding itself in my Top 10. We’ll see. 

This game also isn’t for everyone. I get that. Some have panned this game for reasons unknown to me. They just don’t like it. Not sure why, but some people just couldn’t get behind it. I was afraid that I’d fall in line with them, sure, but I haven’t. It’s a very nice design of a game, very thematic, and very fun. Some would rather push wooden bits around the board, and frankly, there’s a great time and place for those games. If you prefer euro-games, then  look elsewhere. 

But, if you’re like me and kinda are burned out on zombie stupid crap, you should still consider this game. It’s not about the zombies. The zombies themselves just add a layer of stress to deal with because while you’re trying to find food and medicine for the colony, these turd burglar zombies are following you because you’re making too much racket. SHUT UP ALREADY. Seriously. And it’s stressful for so many other reasons. Like the exposure die. There’s a 1 in 12 chance that your soldier of fortune could die…and I’m talking dead. Not wounded. D-E-A-D. DEAD. How? Rolling this obnoxious exposure die (if I sound bitter, it’s because I am). Once, I had my soldier of fortune kick the can on the VERY FIRST FREAKING TURN OF THE GAME. I had him move from the colony to the Gas Station to find some equipment. Upon finding myself exposed, I rolled this red die, and what happened?

I died.

If you like adventure, this game is for you. Of all of the adventure games that I have in my collection, this one is probably the ripest of them all when it comes to thematic elements, cooperative structure, and cleanest rules. I am always excited to play this game because I just have no idea where it’s going to lead me. The mystery behind every corner keeps me coming back for more.

At least, that’s what a traitor would tell you.

7

A few months ago I placed my pre-order and since then, I’ve been hearing a lot of good press and hype about Plaid Hat Games’ new semi-cooperative game, Dead of Winter. Might be a game of the year type of deal. Lots of conflicts to resolve every turn such feeding your starving colony, desperately searching other locations for fuel and items, keeping morale high as crushing despair might also cut your survivor’s story short. The unique Crossroad cards create new events and situations every turn to deal with. And less we forget, this isn’t a full cooperative game. There may be traitor in your midst…

Lots and lots of standups, both survivor and zombie as well as nearly 300 cards with beautiful art that throws you into this cold, post-apocalyptic world.


Beautifully brutal, tense and memorable, from the looks of the art and the rules. This whole game makes me think of The Last of Us.