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Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Just another DoW review (It's a Trap!) rss

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basil mckeon
United States
Portland
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I'm going to try to keep this short because there are some great reviews of this game on this site already. My review is going to focus on a couple aspects where I think the game falls short and may help others understand the difference between what the game looks like vs how it actually plays. Also full disclosure, I have never played with a traitor yet (has never been drawn).

My girlfriend and I rented this game from a local retailer and we were enamored with it after a weekend of playing. We thought it had everything you could ask for in a Co-op game: atmosphere, critical choices, fun characters, intrigue (via the traitor mechanic), and lots of planning. We ended up buying it but every subsequent play-through I find myself not enjoying the game as much.

First: Movement. Characters don't end up moving around a lot. Most games you'll want to plant your characters where you need them in the first round based on what the main objective is asking for, and also by what their special skills are. For example, there's no good reason to move the cook out of the colony, because she can contribute to the food supply without spending a card; a character that is good at searching should never be back at the colony, etc. What this ends up feeling like in terms of gameplay is that characters are action drones rather than personalities that you feel connected with.

Second: Special abilities and action die. Each player gets two characters in the beginning (each player chooses 2 from 4 that they are dealt) + one action die for each + one action die by default, leaving players with 3 action die and 2 characters in the beginning of the game. As stated above, every character has a special ability and due to each player only receiving 3 action die, what ends up happening is that players will use 2 of their action die doing what their characters are good at, then having 1 action die that provides any "choice." Due to the main objective dictating which characters are chosen by the players, and then their characters further dictating how to spend 2 of their 3 actions -- at the end of the day players are not given very many options in terms of how to conduct a round of play.

Three: Main Objective steers the ship Expanding on the above, the main objective dictates the characters that are chosen, but then also what players will focus on in a play-through. These objectives can be unintuitive and quite frankly, boring. One objective, for example, is to deplete two item decks at any two locations. This means that players plant their characters at these two locations, and then simply search until both decks are depleted. This is simply a race, and if the players were smart one, of the chosen locations is the police station because that is where weapons and night vision goggles are -- allowing themselves to defend quite easily. In fact, many of the main objectives feel like a race rather than a puzzle. You are not left feeling like you "survived," but rather that you carried out a correct number of appropriate actions before time ran out.

The exposure die. Some love it, some hate it. No matter if you love it or hate it, the exposure die is a deterrent for movement, further reinforcing the idea that it is better to plant your characters and carry out scripted actions based on their abilities before time runs out. In one game I played, 3 players rolled a bite on their first move -- quite improbable odds, granted, but in that scenario we were defeated before we even started. The group decided to start over because we determined that without those key character abilities, we stood very little chance of completing the main objective.

Crossroads cards & player choice The crossroads cards are the best part of the game for me. They provide choice, interaction, and atmosphere. The problem, of course, is that many times they are triggered upon having a specific character, or moving a character -- which means that they don't get triggered nearly as often as they should (in my opinion!). I say this because they are one of the few areas where players are faced with any real choice. Some crossroads target an individual player, and then other crossroads cards have the entire colony take a vote. These decisions and votes have been the most exciting moments of a play-through to me, so it is disappointing that they are a secondary mechanic to the game rather than at the forefront.

I'm approaching a length to this review that is leaving the "short" mark. All-in-all I think DoW falls flat in providing players with choice and meaningful gameplay. Games feel scripted based on what the colony is tasked with, and the characters determine your actions too much. Crossroads attempt to alleviate this issue of choice and distract you from the respective race, but due to their randomness of being triggered (sometimes every player can trigger one in a round, other times no one will trigger one for multiple rounds), they ultimately fail in providing enough flavor to the game.

What Dead of Winter is missing is a feeling of problem-solving and making hard decisions. I think the game could have been much stronger by doing away with a main objective altogether (and only relying on the crisis cards), and then having more robust individual secret objectives. That way players would feel free to pursue their own objectives and there would be question as to what the aims are of each player. More robust secret objectives could provide conflicting aims and players would butt heads more often -- potentially mimicking the setting of the game more accurately. There could be a usable pool of items -- for example, the colony could have one working vehicle that a character could borrow? Everyone would vote on who would get the car for the round.

When I play DoW I want to move around and explore the world -- engage in situations and make choices; accumulate gear and feel like a level 20 badass, and on occasion, engage in subterfuge via table-talk surrounding secret objectives. What ends up happening is that my characters feel the same at the end, my actions were scripted, the main objective was a race, and I am rewarded for sitting still than I am moving and exploring. DoW paints a wonderful setting, it's too bad you don't get to explore and interact with the world more.
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Dmitriy Razumov
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Almost completely agree. Besides I still feel some engagement when plays with the trator occurs. As full co-op it's rather boring, and even the trator aspect will become boring for me after few times. Not enough depth and possible strategies. Also semico-op is not for everyone.

 
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Stefan Kaiser
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Uncivil wrote:
As full co-op it's rather boring, and even the trator aspect will become boring for me after few times.


Exactly what i feel about the game. I really wanted to like this game due to its theme and mechanics, which i find interesting. However, for pure Co-Op games there really are lots of better choices out there...
 
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Alexandre Santos
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I definitely understand OP's points, but for me the game takes off once you start taking into account the traitor.

As a side note, in Dead of Winter: The Long Night, the common objective becomes a endgame timer and is not a victory condition pot the loyal players, which opens the game. In the sane vein, turn order, which is crucial in this game, becomes subjected to a vote.

Despite some of its shortcomings, I find this game fantastic.
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Lee Schmitz
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I can understand where you are coming from, for sure. I would say that if you are only playing with 2 people, the game will feel a little flat. I can also say that the traitor element really ramps the game up. We usually stack cards so there is more of a chance for a traitor... instead of 2 secret objectives per player, we do one so that there is a greater chance of a traitor. Plus we as a group love to just accuse everyone throughout the entire game. We love it, but I understand that it may not be for everyone.
 
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Davy Ashleydale
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zephalim, have you only ever played two-player?
 
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Ryan M
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Dead of Winter is possibly my favorite game and has been since it first came out. Having said that, anyone who buys this looking for a co-op experience is going to be very disappointed. I've posted a few times in the past how I groaned and rolled my eyes when PHG called DoW a "meta cooperative game" but having played the game it is fitting. The real enjoyment and fun of the game is based on the players at the table as much as the events on the board. It is co-op in only the most tenuous sense as I only need/want to work with other players to further my own goals. I don't care if you win or not when all is said and done. I will gladly work to convince someone else to contribute "for the good of the group" while witholding myself and then push hard to end the game once I have what I need. But doing that won't work every game because people catch on and remember and you have to act and play differently next time.

Mistrust, lies, manipulation, etc is a big part of the atmosphere and theme of DoW and that doesn't exist in the co-op game. So it is missing a good chunk of what really makes DoW shine.
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Kobo
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The secret betrayal objectives make the game shine. When you play with a possible traitor (not an option with 2 players), everyone is suspicious because of their secret objectives, good or bad. The tension/theme ramps up significantly. Also, the exiled objectives are fun because you get another chance to win if you're voted out of the colony.

Without the possibility of secret betrayal and exiled objectives, the game is just an okay coop game.
 
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Dan Smith
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Koborover wrote:
The secret betrayal objectives make the game shine. When you play with a possible traitor (not an option with 2 players), everyone is suspicious because of their secret objectives, good or bad. The tension/theme ramps up significantly. Also, the exiled objectives are fun because you get another chance to win if you're voted out of the colony.

Without the possibility of secret betrayal and exiled objectives, the game is just an okay coop game.


Actually, the secret objective is what breaks the game. You may not have noticed, but some of them are extremely easy to achieve (Complete the main objective" Wtf? I'm going to do this anyway) while others can be absolutely impossible (One player's objective can be to have a vote against another player. But all the other players need to agree for a vote to happen, so people can simply say no to you completing your objective. Which they will if they've played the game before)
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Davy Ashleydale
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Phaseshifter wrote:
Koborover wrote:
The secret betrayal objectives make the game shine. When you play with a possible traitor (not an option with 2 players), everyone is suspicious because of their secret objectives, good or bad. The tension/theme ramps up significantly. Also, the exiled objectives are fun because you get another chance to win if you're voted out of the colony.

Without the possibility of secret betrayal and exiled objectives, the game is just an okay coop game.


Actually, the secret objective is what breaks the game. You may not have noticed, but some of them are extremely easy to achieve (Complete the main objective" Wtf? I'm going to do this anyway) while others can be absolutely impossible (One player's objective can be to have a vote against another player. But all the other players need to agree for a vote to happen, so people can simply say no to you completing your objective. Which they will if they've played the game before)


Yes, the secret objective cards are uneven in difficulty. But personally, I think that's fun -- you never know what you're going to get.

But I don't think any of them are impossible.

If you're talking about the secret objective that says, "If there is a betrayer, they have been exiled," that's actually one of the easier ones. If there is no betrayer, which happens about half the time, you just need to complete the main objective. But if there is a betrayer, you just need to figure out who they are and convince the other players to exile them. It can be hard to figure out who the betrayer is, but you just have to watch carefully. If you do find a betrayer, the other players will also be interested in exiling them, even though it completes your goal. For one thing, there is no reason for the other players to make you want to lose -- there can be multiple winners. For another, they don't know what your secret objective even is.
 
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M M
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Mools wrote:
Mistrust, lies, manipulation, etc is a big part of the atmosphere and theme of DoW and that doesn't exist in the co-op game. So it is missing a good chunk of what really makes DoW shine.

But done better in a number of other games imo. In the universe of hidden traitors, DoW ranks near the bottom for me. Even Shadows Over Camelot, the original in the genre (I think), did it better and with more tension.
 
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