Anne Skelding
United States
Connecticut
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It took a few weeks for me to put together a meeting with my two best friends, Chrissy and Megan. Megan works as both an ER nurse and an EMT, so her schedule is full and unpredictable; finding time to do anything these days is difficult. But finally, after a lot of texting back and forth, we settled on a Sunday afternoon. Chrissy brought Girl Scout cookies; Megan brought homemade baked goods; I brought Dead of Winter.

(Actually, I brought Dead of Winter, Pandemic, and Fury of Dracula, these being the ones I wanted to try the most. Did I mention that none of us had played this game before? Three complete newbies walk into a post-apocalypse survivors colony... only one walks out.)

I had thoroughly read the rule book and watched several "how to play" videos on Youtube. However, like many people, I learn best by DOING things, so even though I'd prepared, it took me awhile to explain how to play. This was further complicated by the fact that I'm autistic, and while I'm not non-verbal, I'm not 100% verbal, either. A lot of the time, I start my sentence and then get "stuck," so while I'm pretty good at learning rules on the fly, I really struggled to explain why I did whatever I'd just done. I ended up getting frustrated with myself and reading sections from the rule book when we had questions. Hey, it's there for a reason, right?

Fortunately, the slow start didn't put them off. I worked on getting my friends pumped up for the game as I set up the board, placed the decks, and dealt out starting cards. I don't think either of them quite knew what to expect when I had said "let's play a game." Megan has apparently only played party games before this, and she isn't a big fan of those. No no, my friend, not Charades or Apples to Apples; instead we're going to try to survive a bitter cold winter! Also there's zombies! Also one of us might be a traitor! Yay!

Our first few turns were slow, with a lot of starts and stops as we found our footing, but after about halfway through the second round, Megan and I both seemed to have a good hold of how to play. We had gone with the rule book's suggestion of "We Need More Samples!" as our main objective, so I moved my ninja out to go kill us some zombies and maybe rustle up some supplies while he was at it. I left the nurse character in the colony to help put up barriers and such. (In retrospect, I wish I'd sent her to the hospital right away. Her search ability there would have been a big help. When I finally did move her there later in the game, she got bitten and died before she could do any searches.)

Our crisis for the first round was to gather extra food, so I finished my turn by putting two of my starter food items into the crisis collection and the third into our food resources.

Megan went next. She took her drunk Santa character out to search for supplies (much laughter was had), left her chemist in the colony, and added one card to the crisis deck.

Then it was Chrissy' turn. Much hemming and hawing ensued. Oh no, I thought to myself. I didn't realize Chris had Analysis Paralysis! Maybe she just doesn't understand the rules very well? I hadn't done a good job of explaining things, after all. Chris ended up sending one of her survivors out to search, too, and put up a barricade in the colony.

The colony phase began... Between us, we had found enough food to feed our survivors in the colony, so that was good. But what's this? Of the three cards in the crisis collection, only two were food! We failed the crisis and suffered a loss of morale.

I had added two cards to the crisis, and Megan had added one. I knew I had only added food, so clearly, Megan was the traitor!!

Chrissy triggered a crossroads card in the second round that gave her another survivor, Greybeard, but prevented her from adding anything to the crisis collection, so Megan and I covered that task for the rest of the game. We requested cards from Chris only once, when both of us had empty hands, and between that and a lucky search from Megan, we prevented the crisis that turn.

The rest of the game followed that basic structure. Megan and I searched for supplies to meet the crisis. Chrissy searched for other necssary suppies. We all killed zombies and tried to get samples. I kept an eye on Megan, remembering that suspicious fuel can in our first crisis collection, but things really seemed to be going well. My ninja found a shotgun, so he could kill two zombies at once (thus doubling his chance of finding a sample). Megan's drunk Santa became badly hurt, so she removed him from the game to give us a morale boost (apparently no one likes drunk Santa).

Chrissy still seemed to be struggling--she asked a lot of questions, and sometimes made mistakes. For example, she really liked the search mechanic, and every time she drew an outsider card, she played it to get more action dice. We kept explaining that that meant we had more mouths to feed, but I was relieved that at least she was having fun finding people. Maybe she didn't fully understand the game, but she was enjoying herself, so it was okay. Besides, she added tons of food to the colony to support them, so we only had one round where we starved! Though all that food ended up lowering morale anyway, because there was so much in the waste pile...

She ended up with six survivors total. "Damn, Chrissy's starting a cult!" I joked. We all laughed.

Finally, it's the very end of the game. I had the last turn of the round. We were going to fail our crisis during the colony phase, which would have ended the game for us, and I couldn't prevent that because I hadn't rolled high enough for my only survivor to do any searches. But we had a chance... We had seven of the nine samples we needed, and my ninja, if you recall, has a shotgun! I only had one action die left for him, but if I killed two zombies, and rolled a 4+ on both sample checks, we would win!

(Or at least, the zombies wouldn't win. My personal objective hadn't been fulfilled, so I was going to lose no matter what, but damned if I wasn't going to at least complete our group mission!)

My ninja took aim. My ninja fired. My ninja killed two zombies with a single shot. My ninja... rolled a two on his sample check.

cry

Megan groaned. "If you'd gotten the samples, I would've won!" she said, and showed us her objective card, which would indeed have been fulfilled if we had succeeded.

"If it makes you feel better, I was going to lose regardless," said I. My goal had been to find three fuel cards--I guess my survivors wanted to get the hell out of dodge--but I hadn't found any fuel at all in the whole game.

We turned to Chrissy.

Chrissy was smirking.

BETRAYAL!!

The suspicious fuel can from the first crisis turned out to be a mistake; either Megan or I had put in a fuel when we meant to put in a food. We had apparently spent the whole game suspecting each other, while the real traitor hid right under our noses...

Chris, in pretending to not understood the rules, had made "mistakes" that continually lowered our morale. In particular, adding more people we had to feed, then pretending to fix the problem by adding food and "accidentally" overflowing the waste pile had been a clever ruse.

Moreover, when I had joked about Chris being a cult leader, I hadn't realized that that was actually a card in the game! Her massive hoard of survivors was actually her collection of cultists! They hadn't just served to lower our morale, but also went to complete her goal. Megan and I spent the whole game thinking she was struggling, when really she was bluffing us all.

Well played, my sneaky friend.
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Delith Malistar
United States
Appleton
Wisconsin
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Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
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That sounds like a great session! I think the designers would look at that and beam with pride because it sounds exactly like what they had in mind when they designed the game. Well played indeed.
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Fernando Santos
Portugal
Amadora
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Great game indeed, after the phrase we turned to Chrissy, i was smiling also!
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Anne Skelding
United States
Connecticut
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Heh, yeah, we had a lot of fun. We spent most of dinner talking about how the game had gone, what we could've done differently, what Chris was going to do with her new cult...

I do wonder how any subsequent games will go, since she won't be able to pull off the "doesn't get the rules" trick twice, lol.
 
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Fernando Santos
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I also were in a game when someone played that i don't really understead the rules tactic, Shadows over Camelot, the only time i saw just black swords on the round table...
 
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