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Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Leave It All Behind 2P: Prisoner’s Dilemma Variant rss

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oldschoolgamr
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This is a session report of our (myself and my wife’s) 2P run on the scenario “Leave It All Behind” – so yeah, SPOILERS. If you're anything like me you can't get enough of these session reports or videos - so read on you junkie, read on.

NOTE: This play through was played using a variant posted by Jon Gilmour, one of the game’s designers. See https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fYAkm-SE_9BV3cXI19h4h2Yx... for the official document. But in summary, both players get a standard secret objective and a betrayal secret objective – with the option to complete either. The catch is (and why it is called the Prisoner’s Dilemma Variant), if both players complete their betrayal objectives, they both lose. If one person completes their betrayal objective, only that person wins. Otherwise, anyone who completes their secret objective wins.

So the game becomes a real test of trust, and/or manipulation – depending on how you decide to approach it. After three games of pure 2P co-op, we really needed this addition to shake things up AND increase the difficulty. We just always seemed to get killer survivor and item combos and were wiping the floor cooperating – despite always playing in hardcore mode.

So. I don’t even know where to begin as the experience that unfolded was just so unique. Words on a page don’t do it justice, but I am hopeful that sharing this will allow people to see the potential the game systems has… The surface mechanics are one thing, but the depth beneath – if you allow yourself to look there – is nearly bottomless. Yes, you need some imagination, and yes, you need to invest some effort, but what comes out of that is something so wondrously emotional it really shouldn't be missed.

Setting the Scenario

Objective: “Leave It All Behind” [Hardcore] – Need a survivor of each player to have a weapon equipped and need to place six food cards under the objective card by the end of five rounds.
My Survivors: Thomas Heart (Solider) – Leader; Olivia Brown (Doctor); Sparky (Stunt Dog)
Her Survivors: Buddy Davis (Fitness Trainer) – Leader; Kodiak Kolby (Woodsman); Ashley Ross (Construction Worker)
My Objectives: Hypochondriac – Complete Main Objective; Have 2 Medicine in Hand and Trigger Happy – Morale at 0; Have 4 Weapon Cards Equipped to Survivors You Control.
Her Objectives: ?? and ??
Ok – slightly daunting given only five rounds, but we were up for the challenge. Besides, I felt good about the Olivia/Sparky combo and who doesn't like having Kodiak around to help? The main problem – this was the first game we played “closed hand” as all prior games were open (we could see all the cards in play) – it was co-op, so why not…? This time, hands were secret and the suspicion mounted immediately. Did I say immediately? Good, because I meant it.

Closed Hand Suspicion

I realized we needed weapons and food ASAP. I was first player and figured Sparky and Olivia would make good headway at the Grocery Store. I could find both food and medicine there and maybe not look like I was deserting my wife already. Four equipped weapons seemed like a lot so for the moment I was focused on the medicine.

Sparky got wounded along the way, but I used fuel to drive the Doctor, who picked the dog from the shoulder and repaired his wound – no problem. I found a medicine and a food at the Grocery Store and without thinking smiled a bit. Did you find food? asked my wife. Yeah – and I slipped it under the objective card. “Five more to go” I said. “Maybe you can get the weapons – at the Police Station?”. She looked at me suspiciously and I couldn’t help but giggle a bit. She did not like this.

The crisis was food, so I played a starter card to it and to the supply for the colony, as she confirmed she could supply the other for the crisis. She took Buddy to the Police Station and found a Shotgun. Nice. I frowned a bit at the thought of us moving so quickly toward completing the objective – I kinda wanted a more difficult journey. We’ll see.

Apparently, I Cannot Tell A Lie

The general searching/killing with Sparky/barricading with the hammer (found earlier at the Grocery Store) continued during which time I got three food for the colony via a Crossroads Card. I also gave Junk to the Fireman and told him to keep moving as the extra mouths just weren't a priority. My wife found a handgun and kept that for herself, giving me the shotgun as I told her I could deal with the noise tokens better – given that Sparky could not be bit. Another crisis – Tools – went by smoothly.

Then at the start of the next round, the crisis was medicine… I smirked and asked her if she had two medicine to contribute as I didn’t have any. She laughed and immediatly – almost spooky like – called me out and said “You have at least one medicine, I can tell – you better play it or we won’t pass.” Crap. She knows me too well. I need to lie to my wife better. Fine. “I will play mine if you have a second one to get us to pass.” She agreed. But I could feel the mistrust growing… She couldn’t see may cards and was assuming I was up to no good. It was a strange situation.

Food Glorious Food

So, we had the weapons, but needed five more food cards. The crisis was fuel, so my wife moved Buddy (safely, thank goodness) to the Gas Station and searched a number of times there. She wanted to keep the fuel she found for moving, so we decided to let the crisis pass, as it only took our morale from 5 to 3. We are hyper paranoid about travel bites and have never had to lose a chain of survivors due to a spreading infection because of that. Using a fuel she later traveled to the school to refocus the search on food. She did get a Crossroads to trigger on that move – one where she had to choose to let some children survivors stay on their own. I didn’t want the extra mouths to screw up the end game, so I agreed. She made it clear that her as a person would help them, but she was purposely “detaching” from her emotions on the topic to make the best game decision.

In the meantime, I felt like I had pretty much flushed out the Grocery Store. I had placed 3 more cards under the objective, and my wife one… I had also managed to find two medicine – so I was sitting pretty with my secret objective. We only needed one more food card heading into the final round and my Crossroads card from the turn prior seemed to be a good sign…

Cue The Folksy Guitar Music

I had found a guitar and choose to serenade the colony as we rose to meet our final day before we left it all behind. Because of that soothing guitar music, we both got an additional action die – just what we needed to get that last food. I exhausted my dice searching at the hospital where I had moved Sparky and Olivia earlier – no food. Something in my subconscious told me to get it done myself - find the food on my own - not sure why... Maybe I wanted to seal the win this turn - to be safe in case a Crossroads card hit, despite my wife saying she's got the last food... So I made all the noise possible before leaving - empty handed without that last food – and managed to get Sparky to the police station…

I was considering moving Olivia to the school with Buddy, as he had two barricades there already, but my wife convinced me to move her to the library which had an open zombie spot, a move that wouldn’t risk spreading the infection as I didn’t have a fuel. I was laser focused on the end game and giddy that we could wrap this up to the tune of folksy guitar music filling the colony’s nighttime air… How cool.

Then something horrible happened. My wife, just before taking her turn, did something so unexpected, so META, so amazing(?) that I will NEVER EVER forget this game. She asked for the rule book.

Cue The Creepy Folksy Guitar Music

“There is an index on the back page if that helps” I cringed. Really? We are this close. She said she had the food. All she has to do is put the food card under the objective card and we are good. Does she not realize that? She did realize that. But she also realized that she had another option. And story wise, it was a good one – so I couldn’t even argue. Buddy, now completely “detached” from reality after turning his back on the “Little Survivors” he could have helped, was going for a full colony Take Down… and that is exactly what he (my wife, I remind you) did – all to the tune of Thomas Heart, playing that uplifting music to the colony…

Buddy dispatched the remaining zombies at the school, he put up more two barricades (for a total of four) and then moved to the colony - rolled a blank. Then my wife moved Ashley to the completely overrun gas station and sent Kodiak Kolby to the completely overrun grocery store. She creepily gobbled our last food token and revealed two fuel in her hand. She had betrayed the colony and won the game: Morale at 0; 4 barricades at a single non-colony location; and 1 survivor under her control with a weapon.

I was speechless. Even more so when I saw the rest of her hand – in it – a food card. Then, even more so when I saw her non-betrayer secret objective: Germ-A-Phobe (Complete Main Objective, and have no wounds on survivors you control). You guessed it, all her survivors were A-Ok. Not a scratch. She, just like Buddy, had detached from the game and simply won it the most exciting way she knew: Merciless take down of the colony and her husband. I couldn’t have been more proud.

That was freaking awesome. Crazy and a bit insane, but that just made it more awesome – all with that now creepy guitar music playing. I could see the scene clearly. It was snowing (of course). Thomas Heart was playing the guitar in the colony with everyone gathered around. Cut to Buddy, mowing down zombies and putting up barricades with a fevered pace. Out of breath and gobbling down our last bean can he stole before initially leaving… Creeeepppyyyy! He returns to the colony after both Ashely and Kodiak are consumed by zombies, watching us argue about who emptied the food stores as morale hits rock bottom. He laughs, ushers us to the gates at gun point, and we turn to face the elements on our own. Did I mention creepy. Take that Zombie genre!

So FREAKING Meta

I keep thinking about how I could have avoided that end – and it is really almost too Meta to discuss without being face-to-face. My wife did have to detach, literally, to play this type of game. She is, in real life, selfless to an extreme and just getting her to play this theme was a stretch. She really didn’t want to leave the children on their own and when it came down to choosing which objective she wanted – since the last turn of the last round presented a route to completing both – she went for the hammer.

I could have played more defensively. I could have put her more at ease about what I was doing. She got paranoid and never considered ignoring her betrayal objective. I pretty much disregarded it from the beginning, and instead could have gone for it as well. Or at least threatened like I had. I could have searched more locations to get items to help boost morale – making the betrayal route less attractive. Albeit, that extra action die she got from that damn guitar made that less of an option. (Damn guitar.)

In hindsight, if I had considered the environment and how people can snap under stress, I could have even tried to force a card from her hand, attacking one of her survivors, maybe getting a fuel and leaving the co-op win her only avenue. That would have been an aggressive move to do without instigation, but there are plenty of situations where the hero has to do something less than appealing to secure the safety of his group. I am not sure how I would have known to do this before, but you can bet it will be in my bag in our next game. However, I have a feeling she would have stayed in character and tanked the game anyway – so no one would win…

Bottom line is – she schooled me. And, to be honest, I was surprised. I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt just a bit. And that honesty, that emotion, that pain – was brought on by a freaking BOARD GAME! How is that possible? I am amazed that Plaid Hat, Jon and Isaac, and my wife for that matter actually pulled it off. It was literally a heart wrenching episode of The Walking Dead THAT I WAS A PART OF. I have watched the show, I have felt their pain, but this – this was my pain. AND DID I MENTION THIS WAS FROM A BOARD GAME? (not even at the optimal player count, mind you).

Dead of Winter is a great game. Not because of the mechanics, or the standees, or the art (which are in fact great), but it is a great game because the playing of it transcends the activity you are doing like no other. It goes beyond just I win/you win/we win… It is an experience filled with strategy, surprise, story, defeat, and of course that creepy guitar music. You gotta love that. If not, you are likely just too detached… *cue creepy guitar music*

THE END

OSG

EDITS: Grammar
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oldschoolgamr
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eviljelloman wrote:
Thanks for the detailed writeup - I haven't seen that Google doc before, was that sent out to people who had playtested the game previously?

Jon Tweeted it to those interested in play testing a new 2P variant.

I think the initial call for 2P testers was via Twitter, about the time the 2P variant thread was posted...

OSG
 
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oldschoolgamr
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eviljelloman wrote:
The way your game played out is going to influence the next couple of games you play. Heck, it's going to influence the way I play MY next game, just from having read your story. How cool is that?

This is exactly why I hate seeing people rush to judgement on end game fairness. There is a learning curve to this game. Recognizing tells, manipulating players - subtly and overtly, reverse psychology, faking out, are all viable strategies that enter into Dead of Winter. Not to mention the tactical options - raising morale, not loading up the food stores, maybe even purposely looking at other peoples cards... They are all important and likely take multiple plays to really understand...

I think for those of us that stick around, the importance of the betrayer hammer will diminish with each repeated play we get.

Oh - that reminds me: the follower I chose not to include in my party at the start. It was the one that allows you to look a one card at random from another players hand. For some reason I immediately dismissed her - so from the start I was pro-co-op biased... and I paid for it.

OSG
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Dan Licata
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Wow what a great game . I love the 2 player variant is working for you and now I am excited to try it. I might have a slight problem finding only one other person to play the game though!
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oldschoolgamr
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danlicata wrote:
Wow what a great game . I love the 2 player variant is working for you and now I am excited to try it. I might have a slight problem finding only one other person to play the game though!

Rub it in Mr. Popular. I miss friends.
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JonnyRotten
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oldschoolgamr wrote:
danlicata wrote:
Wow what a great game :D. I love the 2 player variant is working for you and now I am excited to try it. I might have a slight problem finding only one other person to play the game though!

Rub it in Mr. Popular. I miss friends.


MI isn't that far from Ohio, and I have a huge monthly group...
You're invited any time!
 
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Frank Karinsky
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Great writeup, thanks. I didn't know this 2p variant...
And hats off for your wife... laugh From now, you better keep her by your side...
 
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James Sitz
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One question I have about the variant. What happens if the colony objective is completed but only one person completed their secondary non-betrayer objective?
 
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JonnyRotten
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Then like the regular game, just that player wins.
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oldschoolgamr
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jgilmour wrote:
Then like the regular game, just that player wins.


Yeah - if only I had been able to find that last food myself the round before. I could have ended the game a "forced" a "we all win" result - since she had met the conditions of her Germ-a-Phobe non-betrayal secret objective.

Instead, I had to watch her teardown all the work we, mostly I, had done the four rounds prior... What a tender moment... And all set to imaginary Crossroads guitar music.

As far as I am concerned, the cost of the entire game was justified with that single play. Talk about value!

Thanks PHG!
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oldschoolgamr
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jgilmour wrote:
oldschoolgamr wrote:
danlicata wrote:
Wow what a great game . I love the 2 player variant is working for you and now I am excited to try it. I might have a slight problem finding only one other person to play the game though!

Rub it in Mr. Popular. I miss friends.


MI isn't that far from Ohio, and I have a huge monthly group...
You're invited any time!

Thanks for the invite Jon! The trip to your neck of the woods isn't too far, but I rarely get a chance to get away with the family and all.

Maybe the moons will align someday. I would be honored to attend your legendary board game launching gatherings without a doubt!

OSG
 
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Michael D. Kelley
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Love the session report, but this points out a flaw in the proposed Prisoner's Dilemma variant.
Your wife chose to win alone instead of which you, which I find totally awesome. But, even with the game on hardcore and this variant active, she COULD have chosen to let you both win. So the game still wasn't difficult enough for the two of you experts
I guess the threat of one of you tanking morale to win alone, just for the fun of it, could make the game more tense in the future. But it's still kind of a gamey decision, when you could win together. Is a win alone worth more, in a way? I wonder...
In this case, I love your wife's thematic justification for the choice. But I assume such justification will not be present in every game where one of the two of you has a choice of how to win, alone or together.
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oldschoolgamr
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GameMasterX0 wrote:
Love the session report, but this points out a flaw in the proposed Prisoner's Dilemma variant.
Your wife chose to win alone instead of which you, which I find totally awesome. But, even with the game on hardcore and this variant active, she COULD have chosen to let you both win. So the game still wasn't difficult enough for the two of you experts
I guess the threat of one of you tanking morale to win alone, just for the fun of it, could make the game more tense in the future. But it's still kind of a gamey decision, when you could win together. Is a win alone worth more, in a way? I wonder...
In this case, I love your wife's thematic justification for the choice. But I assume such justification will not be present in every game where one of the two of you has a choice of how to win, alone or together.

You have raised a lot of classic points about how Dead of Winter plays. The reasoning behind player choice - especially when it comes to end game is a popular topic - with some threads here counting 20+ pages. It is this gray area - which the designers have left soley up to the players - that makes the game so unique.

This WAS the very last round and a single die roll could have changed the outcome. I had a one a had to use to clean waste the turn prior - if I had bumped it with food would the additional Sparky search allowed me to win before the betrayal...? If the cross road card had been something other than the guitar - or if I had picked to increase morale by one instead of the extra action dice - things could have been different.

I felt this variant kept success on a knife edge, even if it was obtainable this time, it seems much closer to balanced with the addition of the objectives. Longer scenarios would likely be more challenging as well... We will have to see. I can tell you this much - my strategy will now include assessing a potential betrayal and how to counter it next time... That shift in focus alone will make success even more tenuous... Or I could make it a straight race to betray... I do owe her one after all. Hehe.
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JonnyRotten
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Also, the threat of betrayal is a counter to a threat of betrayal.

"Listen, I know you are going to screw me over, and if you do, I have mine done already as well. I'm just not doing it because I think you have yours done already..."

I would certainly tell this lie to keep my teammate in line.
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rajae aree
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Wonder if shuffling up the starter cards and adding one in to the crisis offering could spice things up (destiny deck)
 
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oldschoolgamr
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jgilmour wrote:
Also, the threat of betrayal is a counter to a threat of betrayal.

"Listen, I know you are going to screw me over, and if you do, I have mine done already as well. I'm just not doing it because I think you have yours done already..."

I would certainly tell this lie to keep my teammate in line.


Yeah, I totally underplayed this threat - chalk I up to being TOTALLY and UTTERLY surprised by the turn of events... Noob mistake... What a rush though... Like I said - from a boardgame!

OSG
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ozzy perez
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jgilmour wrote:
Then like the regular game, just that player wins.


Thanks for the variant Johnny... I am going to try it with my g/f tonight.
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Enon Sci
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SapoLJackson wrote:
jgilmour wrote:
Then like the regular game, just that player wins.


Thanks for the variant Johnny... I am going to try it with my g/f tonight.


Ozzy, what did you think of it?
 
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ozzy perez
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Anarchosyn wrote:
SapoLJackson wrote:
jgilmour wrote:
Then like the regular game, just that player wins.


Thanks for the variant Johnny... I am going to try it with my g/f tonight.


Ozzy, what did you think of it?


Things came up n we couldn't play... We're going in this weekend though. Will update after the game.
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Steve Austin
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This link for this variant is missing 4) The main objective has been completed and neither player has achieved their non-betrayal objective. Both players lose.


Can someone please update it? We just tried this variant as our first game and it was played incorrectly due to missing information from the google doc link in this thread.
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Frank Karinsky
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Peepser wrote:
This link for this variant is missing 4) The main objective has been completed and neither player has achieved their non-betrayal objective. Both players lose.


Can someone please update it? We just tried this variant as our first game and it was played incorrectly due to missing information from the google doc link in this thread.
"4)" is already an official rule, this variant doesn`t change that...
 
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Dan Montgomery
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Karinsky wrote:
"4)" is already an official rule, this variant doesn`t change that...

It's confusing because the variant refers to "The three ways the game can end", when there are actually more than three. The current wording seems to remove common outcomes such as only one player completing their non-betrayal secret objective. It's not clear whether this is part of the Prisoner's Dilemma or just an issue with the wording.
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JonnyRotten
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I will update the google doc.
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Steve Austin
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jgilmour wrote:
I will update the google doc.


Much clearer now. Thanks!
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Mike Clarke
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Not to me. Link?
 
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