Saturday, June 4, 2016

Board Game: Dead of Winter

Yeah, we're making a concerted effort to play more board games.

The Game: Dead of Winter
The Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Time: An hour or two
Players: Me, +Michelle, Al, +Matthew, and +John

Apocalypses are messy.
Game Play: Dead of Winter is a zombie-apocalypse game in which you're trying to survive the winter and achieve a goal. Each individual player also has their own goal, which might be adjacent to the main goal, or might be a "Betrayer" goal that requires the main goal to fail. Achieving the main goal might require killing zombies and collecting samples from them, or might require accumulating a lot of a given supply.

But then on top of that, every round of play introduces a crisis - an outbreak of illness (collect a bunch of medicine), a cold snap (collect a bunch of fuel), etc.

And then, every round, your colony of people eats a certain amount of food. You don't have enough, you take starvation points. Plus, there's the whole "the zombies come and try to eat you" that happens, and if they overwhelm your location, they kill survivors. Any of those things cost the team Morale, and if that hits 0, you lose (like we did, both times we played, but the second time was Michelle's fault).

The game is hella detailed. Everyone starts off with two characters, one of which is your leader (draw four, keep two). The characters have names and special powers, and a certain capability for fighting and searching. You pick one character to be your group's leader, but you can control them all on your turn; you send them to other buildings to fight zombies or search for supplies.

On your turn, you search for stuff, you feed cards to the crisis (only one round, so if you get two Crises in a row that ask for the same resource you're kinda hosed), you can make extra noise while you search and get more stuff, but of course that's risky. Attacking zombies or moving anywhere risks exposure, which can result in nothing, a wound, frostbite (which sucks because it does more wounds every round, and you can only take three before you die) or infection (which kills you outright and may spread).

So, this game has a lot of moving pa- oh, hang on. At the beginning of your turn the player to your right draws a "crossroads" card, which may or may not activate during the turn (they all have different triggers), but might present you with a choice like "let a bunch of new survivors into your colony but then you're short on food" vs. "shine them on and then find them all dead tomorrow".

Chinese food and board games. Where were you, huh?
So, this game has a lot of moving parts, and the rules aren't especially clear in some cases (though there's an FAQ on the company's site that address some things). The main objectives that you play through have a running story that appears to be in chronological order, and they're separated into short, medium, and long (which I appreciate, but even "short" is 45 minutes minimum).

The end of our first game, or as I call it, "everyoneiszombiefoodville."
Opinions: So, I actually really like this game. Yes, it's complex, but it's so detailed, you can get a lot of replay out of it. Once you know how to play it's deep and layered and great as a coop game because it takes into account that someone might be a betrayer and it builds in systems for masking who that might be. And, of course, there are little winking pop culture references here and there. Plus one of the survivors is a golden retriever.

Keep? Heck, yeah.