The Succinct Review – Dead of Winter
Dead of Winter is a pseudo-co-op zombie apocalypse game.
What It Feels Like
Dead of Winter provides a unique atmosphere that is hard to compare to other games. The feeling of a possible traitor, but not guaranteed, lends itself to a not-felt-before feeling. The co-op feeling of working towards a common goal is reminiscent of many games such as Robinson Crusoe. However, the personal objectives lead to an odd what’s good for the group may not be perfect for me moment. This impending doom grows with a feeling similar to some Arkham Horror sessions as everyone is trying to find that pristine move that can still be ruined by a bad roll or draw.
F.U.R.B.Y. (Fun – Uniqueness – Replayability – Bits – [no] Yawning)
F [Fun] 5/5 – I had a great time playing this game. It provides that team feeling I love in a co-op coupled with that drive for personal goals. The personal goals themselves are rarely paramount, but they definitely create a stand-offish setting. The search decks give a fun theme of finding what’s left over while still being important to the game. The entire table spends time both getting excited for each other’s searches and throwing wild accusations and threats of exile.
U [Uniqueness] 5/5 – Quite specifically the hidden objectives that could be betrayers gives a uniqueness for me personally. I love the feeling that even if I am exiled, there is another game basically waiting for you in the Exile cards. It creates a seamless connection between a storied setting and a rich gameplay. There aren’t many other games that scratch the same itch that Dead of Winter does. The Crossroads deck also gives a great switch-up to the standard take your turn while I watch the obvious move feeling. Finally, while using dice for actions isn’t exactly new, the take Dead of Winter does with this mechanic feels fresh and integral.
R [Replayability] 4/5 – I actually did replay it back to back to back multiple times which should have me writing a big ol’ 5/5 here. My only drawback is, like all good things, the search decks and objectives do play themselves out. However, the Crossroads deck combined with the players’ uniqueness themselves, makes this have twists that no two playthroughs can share. While my technique for playing a betrayal role goes one way a friend can be just as effective in a totally different tactic. Some players will quickly go for the stockpile strategy while others want to clear out the zombies before thinking to the next step. These different play styles allow repeated plays with different people that never feel like copies.
B [Bits] 2.5/5 – The twelve-sided exposure die is a cool, and stressful, addition. I enjoy the artwork and storylines created within the survivors and search decks. I’m still looking for ways to pimp out my copy further but the game isn’t about giant miniatures (I’m looking at you Cthulu Wars, my love of loves), so the lack of over-the-top bits is not a factor in my love for Dead of Winter.
Y [No Yawning] 4/5 – It is so awesome to feel invested in each player’s turn. I can feel their stress of rolling the exposure die, worry from not finding fuel, and concern for an overrun at the school no matter how much work the Principal is doing there. The Crossroads, while not a hovering constant, also provide a focus on each player’s turn waiting and hearing the storylines played out. I love creating visuals and adding flavor to how the stories piece together.
Three Things That Stood Out
The possibility, but not a guarantee, of a betrayer is so ridiculously cool. You could stress an entire game over nothing and honestly make subpar plays in concern of what the other players may or may not be doing correctly.
I enjoy the created storylines that are pieced together in such a archetypical way. Seeing the principal stuck in the school as it’s being overrun, the sheriff slamming out zombies in pairs protecting others while they search for food, or the rush to the gas station for fuel to keep warm. It is a blast watching these stories unfold and, with the right group of friends, really makes the game.
3) Growing Urgency
I love the feeling that the game starts off with get a few things done and, suddenly, there are fourteen things to deal with and only enough dice to do three. Your friends, a term I use loosely with this game, are hopefully helping manage the threats (see #1).
Dead of Winter is one of my top games of all time. The time flies by as a story unfolds and maybe, just maybe, your friends will actually help you defeat the onslaught of threats.