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Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game» Forums » General

Subject: Without a traitor, this game falls apart for me. rss

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Jack McNamee
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In each game of Dead of Winter, there is a random chance that you may have a traitor. I have played the game twice now. Both games lasted around three hours, and it became clear that there was no traitor within the first hour. This led to two long, dull experiences which exposed some key flaws in the design. I can't give the game a comprehensive review, but I did want to give a warning based on my bad experience.

1. Without a traitor, the central mechanic of resolving crises doesn't work.

Dead of Winter emulates the core mechanic from The Resistance: everyone puts in a card to resolve a mission, and one of you may secretly put in a fail card! The tension of wondering whether the mission will succeed or fail makes this mechanic thrilling in The Resistance.

In Dead of Winter, once you realize there is no traitor, you know the mission will succeed every time. You draw a crisis which says you need 5 medicine cards. Over the course of a half-hour round, people put 5 cards into the crisis. You draw them to reveal, to no-one's surprise, that you have beaten the crisis yet again. There is no tension, surprise or excitement at any point in the process.

2. Long, boring down-time.

Most of your actions are secret. You have a hand of secret cards, and you spend most of your actions searching for other secret cards. This is meant to create an environment of paranoia and suspicion.

Unfortunately, this also means that watching someone else's turn is deathly boring. If there's no traitor, the paranoia and suspicion leaks out of the game until you're left with the simple fact that you have to spend 10-20 minutes every round watching other people make decisions you can't see or discuss. This goes over 2-3 hours of game time.

3. No paranoia.

I love bickering, politicking, accusing people, the whole bit. So do my friends! But we don't have any desire to do any of those things if it's clear that we're all on the same team.

4. Low difficulty.

Dead of Winter is intended to be a difficult game. You should get immersed in this theme of struggling to survive against a cold and uncaring world. In both games I played, there was no point where we ever experienced tension or felt like we might lose. (We played "Leave it all behind" and another mission which I do not remember.)

It seems clear that having a traitor on board would drastically increase the difficulty. The game doesn't seem to have any way of compensating for this. Games without a traitor are less difficult, period. So, the game decides whether you'll be playing on Easy or Hard mode based on a secret coin flip.

That secret coin flip happens at the start of every game of Dead of Winter. If it's Heads, you'll be playing a traitor game. If it's Tails, you'll be playing a co-op game full of janky mechanics made for a traitor game that you're not playing.

Again, this isn't a review: this is my experience based on two plays. I would hope that the Traitor game of Dead of Winter is better, but I have no desire to play it as a co-op game again.
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Alexandre Santos
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I agree that a traitor is essential for DoW... But how can you know that there is no traitor? If there is one, s/he will try her/his best to make everyone else believe there isn't one, before royally screwing them if they become complacent.

That is exactly what I did the last time I played, and I believe no one around the table will ever assume again that there is not traitor on board.
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Alexandre Santos
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Oops, I missed that you were playing cooperatively, sorry. Never tried the coop version, as like you I see no point in it.
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Joe Kong
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I have played twice too. We had a traitor in both 4-player games. But the traitor fully cooperated with other players until very late in the game and all other players considered no traitor existed. When the traitor attempted to sabotage in both games, one just failed while the other succeeded. I wonder how your group could be so sure early in the game that no traitor ever existed.

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Sebastian G.
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joekong_hk wrote:

I have played twice too. We had a traitor in both 4-player games. But the traitor fully cooperated with other players until very late in the game and all other players considered no traitor existed. When the traitor attempted to sabotage in both games, one just failed while the other succeeded. I wonder how your group could be so sure early in the game that no traitor ever existed.


This is how it's done in our group as well. Most games we played were quite close regardless of a traitor and when the traitor has a good position, he can easily tank a few morale points on his double turn
 
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Chris Lear
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Context: We've played quite a lot. When we started, we tended to all lose regardless of whether there was a traitor or not. Then we got to a point where we would mostly or all win unless there was a traitor, and now I reckon the odds are stacked against the traitor, and the good guys are very likely to win, but we haven't switched to the hardcore objectives yet.

I agree with the general point that the game is more fun with a traitor. And we tend to increase the odds by shuffling fewer non-traitor objectives in at the start. But (slightly unfortunately) the game can't work if you know for sure that there's a traitor. That just messes up the way the objectives work.

Still, it seems a pity that the group in question managed to establish beyond doubt that there was no traitor - that would make the rest of the game a little less fun. A good traitor tries to create that sensation, and an alert group never falls for it, which is why the game still works for us.
 
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Andrea R
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I agree this game without the traitor (i mean the purely cooperative) loses a bit of the appeal (plus crossroads and personal objective make quite the part of the game for me)

I had the same situation feeling the game getting dull proceeding into a game where i started to feel safe there's no traitor until... i had my first game with the traitor.
It was very well hiding behind the scenes to destroy the game at the last round before completing the mission. The feeling of being betrayed is not really something you can describe. It's something you need to feel on your skin.

Since then i'm always on my toes for the whole game.

 
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Patty Pilf
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All this long playtime, over a set amount of rounds? also no tension over the Crisis, even though for example you need to throw in food, and the colony also needs food.

I guess you've missed some rules out for it to be so easy.
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Greg
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A good traitor doesn't have to spike the deck. Or if they do spike it, it's part of a bigger plan near the end of the game to help ensure their win.
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Brett Petersen
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That's funny because I feel that the personal objectives are there to create the feeling of a traitor even when one is not there. Some of my best games have been when we think there is a traitor when there is none. One time we were losing our minds about all the weird actions my friend was taking turns out it was just his personal objective. Some times the objectives are easy to get with out disrupting the game other times they make you look like a traitor even when you are not.
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Steven Albano
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How many people did you play with? Because three hours of Dead of Winter seems impossibly long.

Also, I love this as a co-op game - I actively play it without Betrayer roles because I love how intense and hard it is.

There is absolutely tension with the crisis. Maybe how things went with your group, this didn't happen, but sometimes it takes the last player searching the Hospital on the final noise to try and find the third and final medicine card to complete the crisis. And that is very very intense - specifically if other players potentially invested in cards for a mission that might fail.

And in DoW, there is almost absolutely no way to tell the game is bereft of a traitor until the final turn. It's my biggest gripe of the game, but for the most part, the traitor can just wait until their final turn to tank the game. Usually there are some subtle clues, but if you think you're safe because nobody has done anything obviously traitory, you're absolutely wrong.

Regarding your third point - there is still paranoia: Just because there's no traitor, doesn't mean people aren't encouraged to lie about their secret objectives. "I don't have any medicine," she says as she holds a hand of four medicine cards. Sometimes even if you're on the same team, you will lie to each other.

You must be playing it wrong. DoW is literally one of the harder co-op games out there. It is absolutely brutal. It's one of the few games where you don't even have to wait for things to get start going wrong; you basically start the game with your boat half sunk.




 
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Zachary Pickel

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colormage1 wrote:
How many people did you play with? Because three hours of Dead of Winter seems impossibly long.

Also, I love this as a co-op game - I actively play it without Betrayer roles because I love how intense and hard it is.

There is absolutely tension with the crisis. Maybe how things went with your group, this didn't happen, but sometimes it takes the last player searching the Hospital on the final noise to try and find the third and final medicine card to complete the crisis. And that is very very intense - specifically if other players potentially invested in cards for a mission that might fail.

And in DoW, there is almost absolutely no way to tell the game is bereft of a traitor until the final turn. It's my biggest gripe of the game, but for the most part, the traitor can just wait until their final turn to tank the game. Usually there are some subtle clues, but if you think you're safe because nobody has done anything obviously traitory, you're absolutely wrong.

To the OP, you could always guarantee a traitor by having one traitor objective and adding enough objectives to equal the number of players. Easy enough solution. And playing the traitor in DoW is a bit harder than in other games I've played, since the cards are all basically marked. If you start sabotaging the crises too early then you give up your position as the traitor.

Regarding your third point - there is still paranoia: Just because there's no traitor, doesn't mean people aren't encouraged to lie about their secret objectives. "I don't have any medicine," she says as she holds a hand of four medicine cards. Sometimes even if you're on the same team, you will lie to each other.

You must be playing it wrong. DoW is literally one of the harder co-op games out there. It is absolutely brutal. It's one of the few games where you don't even have to wait for things to get start going wrong; you basically start the game with your boat half sunk.


It's easier than Robinson Crusoe, but my group has still fought for every victory, with or without a traitor. I think the first game we played was about 2.5 hours with 6 players (one of which kept getting bored and leaving the table, making us wait on him), since then they usually run about 1.5 hours.
 
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Fred Shugars
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Fandango wrote:
In each game of Dead of Winter, there is a random chance that you may have a traitor. I have played the game twice now. Both games lasted around three hours, and it became clear that there was no traitor within the first hour. This led to two long, dull experiences which exposed some key flaws in the design. I can't give the game a comprehensive review, but I did want to give a warning based on my bad experience.

1. Without a traitor, the central mechanic of resolving crises doesn't work.

Dead of Winter emulates the core mechanic from The Resistance: everyone puts in a card to resolve a mission, and one of you may secretly put in a fail card! The tension of wondering whether the mission will succeed or fail makes this mechanic thrilling in The Resistance.

In Dead of Winter, once you realize there is no traitor, you know the mission will succeed every time. You draw a crisis which says you need 5 medicine cards. Over the course of a half-hour round, people put 5 cards into the crisis. You draw them to reveal, to no-one's surprise, that you have beaten the crisis yet again. There is no tension, surprise or excitement at any point in the process.

2. Long, boring down-time.

Most of your actions are secret. You have a hand of secret cards, and you spend most of your actions searching for other secret cards. This is meant to create an environment of paranoia and suspicion.

Unfortunately, this also means that watching someone else's turn is deathly boring. If there's no traitor, the paranoia and suspicion leaks out of the game until you're left with the simple fact that you have to spend 10-20 minutes every round watching other people make decisions you can't see or discuss. This goes over 2-3 hours of game time.

3. No paranoia.

I love bickering, politicking, accusing people, the whole bit. So do my friends! But we don't have any desire to do any of those things if it's clear that we're all on the same team.

4. Low difficulty.

Dead of Winter is intended to be a difficult game. You should get immersed in this theme of struggling to survive against a cold and uncaring world. In both games I played, there was no point where we ever experienced tension or felt like we might lose. (We played "Leave it all behind" and another mission which I do not remember.)

It seems clear that having a traitor on board would drastically increase the difficulty. The game doesn't seem to have any way of compensating for this. Games without a traitor are less difficult, period. So, the game decides whether you'll be playing on Easy or Hard mode based on a secret coin flip.

That secret coin flip happens at the start of every game of Dead of Winter. If it's Heads, you'll be playing a traitor game. If it's Tails, you'll be playing a co-op game full of janky mechanics made for a traitor game that you're not playing.

Again, this isn't a review: this is my experience based on two plays. I would hope that the Traitor game of Dead of Winter is better, but I have no desire to play it as a co-op game again.


I don't understand saying you were playing as a team. Each player has separate goals. Did everyone then meet those goals? I've had games with the Betrayer and without. I don't think I've ever been in a game where all players won.
 
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Davy Ashleydale
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I agree with the other posters -- I don't see how you could be so confident that there was no betrayer. Could you give us some more information about how the group determined so quickly that there was no betrayer? What were the clues?

I have played this game with some very inexperienced gamers and/or very young players before and it quickly became obvious which of them were betrayers and which were not -- they just weren't good at subterfuge or subtlety. So I agree that this game shines a little more when the players are actually all good at subterfuge.

My suggestion is to tell the players at the beginning of the game to really try to keep their secret objectives secret. Don't even hint at them. This will keep the tension up during the game as everyone continues to suspect everyone else of being a betrayer -- even if there isn't one.
 
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Evan
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colormage1 wrote:

You must be playing it wrong. DoW is literally one of the harder co-op games out there. It is absolutely brutal. It's one of the few games where you don't even have to wait for things to get start going wrong; you basically start the game with your boat half sunk.


Couldn't agree more with this. I've only played it three times, but never have we even come close to winning.

Also, the rules say that you have to include two non-betrayer cards for each player plus one traitor card for the group to pick from. That means that there is a 54% chance there will be a betrayer in every four player game. The first player that chooses has a 1 in 9 chance, followed by a 1 in 8, then 1 in 7, and finally, 1 in 6. In a three player game, those odds are 50.9%. In a five player game those odds increase to 56.9%.

But there is nothing to say that you can't decrease the number of non-betrayer cards to a level that almost insures someone chooses a betrayer card.
 
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Mark Blasco

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GoingTopShelf wrote:
colormage1 wrote:

You must be playing it wrong. DoW is literally one of the harder co-op games out there. It is absolutely brutal. It's one of the few games where you don't even have to wait for things to get start going wrong; you basically start the game with your boat half sunk.


Couldn't agree more with this. I've only played it three times, but never have we even come close to winning.

Also, the rules say that you have to include two non-betrayer cards for each player plus one traitor card for the group to pick from. That means that there is a 54% chance there will be a betrayer in every four player game. The first player that chooses has a 1 in 9 chance, followed by a 1 in 8, then 1 in 7, and finally, 1 in 6. In a three player game, those odds are 50.9%. In a five player game those odds increase to 56.9%.

But there is nothing to say that you can't decrease the number of non-betrayer cards to a level that almost insures someone chooses a betrayer card.


I don't think these numbers are correct. In a 3 player game, you have 6 non betrayer cards, and 1 betrayer card. So, you'd have a 3/7 chance of pulling a betrayer card. In a 4 player game it's 4/9, 5 player is 5/11. In each case, it's less than 50%.

As for the game in general, the groups I've played it with, the games have all been 2-4 hours, and we've always thought there was no betrayer until the round in which they ended the game. The time I was the betrayer, I did absolutely nothing to hinder the progress the entire game, we were struggling to stay alive. Then, in the last round, I put 2 cards in the crisis deck that didn't match, and moved my people around in order to get someone to die, which lowered morale enough that the crisis deck lost the game for everyone (except me).

Granted, we haven't played the game much, and haven't ever played it with the same group of people more than once, but the games have always been crazy hard, and I have never once been sure of a betrayer until it was far too late.

If you are finding the game to be too easy, than it's either a fluke and you've been getting lucky, or something else isn't right. Even if there is no betrayer, the secret objectives mean that not everyone is going to always be doing what's best for the colony.

If it's not a fluke and your group just finds the game to be easy, there are harder sides of the mission cards, you should try that out.
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Evan
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The odds don't work as you portray. It's not as simple as 5 of 11 because once someone pulls a card, for the next person there are one less non-betrayer cards to choose from, so the odds change. The first person has a 1 in 9 chance of pulling the betrayer card. The last person to choose (in a four player game) has a 1 in 6 chance of pulling a card. Those odds are cumulative, so...

1 in 9 = 11.1%
1 in 8 = 12.5%
1 in 7 = 14.2%
1 in 6 = 16.7%
Cumulative odds = 54.5%

The odds are different depending on how many players play, but it ranges between 51% and 57% from a 3 to 5 player game.
 
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Andy Burgess
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No, that's not right. Your calculations assume each time that the betrayer card remains in the set of cards to choose from, whereas in fact, it may have already been drawn.

Mark's logic is correct - it's 3/7, 4/9, 5/11, etc. You don't need the complexity around cumulative odds - it's 3 cards drawn out of 7 (or whatever, for the correct player count), the end.
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Marco Schaub
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Mark is right. Assuming there is 1 betrayer card and 2*n non-betrayer cards, then the odds for a betrayer are 3/7 in a 3-player game and 4/9 in a 4-player game.

Math behind it: What are the odds that no betrayer is present? With 3 players - 6/7 * 5/6 * 4/5 = 4/7, so the odds that one is present is the opposit of that, ergo 1 - 4/7 = 3/7.
 
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I just wanted to add that I felt the same way as the OP after our first game. Throughout the whole game I never felt like there was a traitor in the group. There were moments where another player started getting suspicious of the player beside him but aside from that I didn't feel any tension. In the end, I wasn't able to achieve my objective because of bad card draws but we survived the night or whatever the objective was, we achieved it, and there was no traitor. A couple people did some odd things but I could see through it and figured they were just going for their objective. I think I was hoping to have a traitor and some tension and it just never happened. Even if at the very end, had a traitor had been revealed, it wouldn't have saved the game for me. It fell flat.

Another thing that happened was that the crossroad cards almost always referenced a character that wasn't in play. There was only one card that came up that actually provided a nice thematic decision.

I don't doubt that the group, the crossroad card draws and the rest of the game was an outlier but it just didn't live up to my expectations.


EDIT: typos
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Davy Ashleydale
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Logus Vile wrote:
I just wanted to add that I felt the same way as the OP after our first game. Throughout the whole game I never felt like there was a traitor in the group. There were moments where another player started getting suspicious of the player beside him but aside from that I didn't feel any tension. In the end, I wasn't able to achieve my objective because of bad card draws but we survived the night or whatever the objective was, we achieved it, and there was no traitor. A couple people did some odd things but I could see through it and figured they were just going for their objective. I think I was hoping to have a traitor and some tension and it just never happened. Even if at the very end, had a traitor had been revealed, it wouldn't have saved the game for me. It fell flat.

Another thing that happened was that the crossroad cards almost always referenced a character that wasn't in play. There was only one card that came up that actually provided a nice thematic decision.

I don't doubt that the group, the crossroad card draws and the rest of the game was an outlier but it just didn't live up to my expectations.


EDIT: typos


I think that once you have a session where there is a betrayer and they are good at it, you will be tense every time after that.
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randomlife wrote:
Logus Vile wrote:
I just wanted to add that I felt the same way as the OP after our first game. Throughout the whole game I never felt like there was a traitor in the group. There were moments where another player started getting suspicious of the player beside him but aside from that I didn't feel any tension. In the end, I wasn't able to achieve my objective because of bad card draws but we survived the night or whatever the objective was, we achieved it, and there was no traitor. A couple people did some odd things but I could see through it and figured they were just going for their objective. I think I was hoping to have a traitor and some tension and it just never happened. Even if at the very end, had a traitor had been revealed, it wouldn't have saved the game for me. It fell flat.

Another thing that happened was that the crossroad cards almost always referenced a character that wasn't in play. There was only one card that came up that actually provided a nice thematic decision.

I don't doubt that the group, the crossroad card draws and the rest of the game was an outlier but it just didn't live up to my expectations.


EDIT: typos


I think that once you have a session where there is a betrayer and they are good at it, you will be tense every time after that.

Maybe but my game group gave it all a "meh, I pass" so I'm going to have a hard time getting it back to the table.
 
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Fred Shugars
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I think saying that "we achieved" the objective may be part of the problem.

You lost.

If you didn't feel the tension of trying to achieve your own objective, even if that meant potentially risking the shared objective, or putting pressure on the others to make that shared objective happen while you concentrated on your own, then I'd suggest you were going at the game in a different way than intended.
 
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fredact wrote:
I think saying that "we achieved" the objective may be part of the problem.

You lost.

If you didn't feel the tension of trying to achieve your own objective, even if that meant potentially risking the shared objective, or putting pressure on the others to make that shared objective happen while you concentrated on your own, then I'd suggest you were going at the game in a different way than intended.


I think I would be opening a can of worms here by addressing your post about "going at the game in a different way then intended". Suffice it to say, we played within the rules that were presented in the rulebook to the best of our knowledge. I tried to achieve my personal objective but failed (I believe it was something mundane like have 3 food in hand but I spent a food a couple of rounds from the end and then went searching again and didn't find more before the group achieved their objective).

Believe me I wanted to like the game more than I did. I still have a copy with the hope I might get it out again at some point.

EDIT: I was looking through the secret cards, I believe my objective was the Hunger card: achieve main objective and have 3 food in hand.
 
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Jack McNamee
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Hi everyone,

I had a chance to play Dead of Winter: Long night last night. There was no traitor and we did win easily, but I had a lot more fun.

There's a lot of questions here, so I'll break it down.

How did you know there was no traitor?

We overcharged the first crisis to get an extra morale. Everyone helped out. Then we got a crossroads card that gave us morale for searching specific places, which we did. If I recall correctly we may have even overcharged the second crisis. That made it hard for me to believe there was a traitor. In any case, if it's impossible to know whether or not there's a traitor then there's no point in being paranoid.

We ended the game with 6 morale, and we'd never starved. We could have starved if we'd needed to, or just ignored a crisis, and we would have still won.

How many people did you play with?
5.

You must be playing it wrong.

I've looked through a bunch of rules and FAQ's and I can't see anything serious we missed. We occasionally moved twice and forgot the crossroads cards.

This was a fluke.

Well, it's happened in 3 games now.

We have been lucky. In the last 2 games, we've never once rolled the "Bite" symbol on the exposure die. Maybe our die is unbalanced. In any case, Dead of Winter is founded on luck, so this stuff is always possible.

Each player has separate goals. Did everyone then meet those goals?

No. I won, but some failed. We had an extra round left (and last night, we finished with 2 rounds left) so they could have stalled to get over the line, but I think they accepted that the game had gone on long enough.

I think some people did consider it a "Half Win", but if that's the way their brain works, it's not up to me to tell them they're "Playing wrong". If that's the way they enjoy playing games, let them.

Dead of Winter: The Long Night.

I had a chance to play this last night with all extra modules. It took 3 hours and was much easier.

We built up a character who could take 3 cards from Raxxon each turn. Even one card from Raxxon is 3 times more powerful than anything in the base game. In short order we were all decked out with plasma cannons and flails and the whole nine yards. We never lost a single morale, and we finished with 2 rounds to spare. If there was a traitor I would have felt sorry for them.

The funny thing is I enjoyed the game a lot more this time. There was still no tension or paranoia, but it was at least hilarious to see the new crazy overpowered thing we would get each turn. The whole table was doubled up laughing as Blue the monkey ran around with a portal gun, forcefield, 2 books and six action die.

 
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