It’s fer…fer..fu..fu…flippin’ freezin’ out there! …and nowt but moanin’ zombie types cluttering up the doorways trying to lag each other from the biting wind…what have they got to moan about? They won’t feel the cold. Not like me stuck in this bloody dismal community centre with a weirdo dressed in black (does he think he’s a Ninja or something?…I wonder if he knows the black costume came from the stage hands in Japanese theatre who moved scenery about during a performance?…oh, and a dog…there is always a dog! I wonder if he will be the first to cop an unfortunate one or will he/she/non-specific gender third person singular pronoun will save the day? oh well! Enough musing. Time to get ugly and butcher some undead! Walkies! C’mon Jellybean, get your yeti boots on we’re going for walkies in the snow!…oh, you’ve already been out, I see
If the zombie virus is so contagious and mutates humans so ridiculously unrealistically quickly, why isn’t the virus airborne or why isn’t it passed on from particulate transfer?…folks chainsawing zombies left right and centre…all that blood spray and they have to be bitten (or in iZombie, scratched) to be infected. Believe-ability, folks, believablity!
…anyway they are slow, ambling, thoughtless manifestations so I am inclined to just leg it out of here…ahhh…it’s the dead of winter. Snow, ice, frozen fuel lines…bugger! Indoors it is then and to barricading all the doors and windows…let us hope there is enough toilet paper to last until the thaw and spring!
So What’s All The Fuss About?
As the photo shows, the fuss is about zombies. Zombies appear to sell movies, video games and even board games. This fact baffles me but I suppose we can’t argue in the face of commerce. Dead of Winter is a battle of survival not only against zombie hordes but against the most severe of winter elements!
Immersion or Subversion?
Yes it’s a game about zombies…but that, as a theme by its self, has almost no interest for me…in fact I would be tempted to go as far as to say…YAWN…another zombie game…myeeeeeaahhhh!
That might be a misguided thought process to adopt when it comes to considering this game. This is not a hack and slash title. THIS is about surviving hostile weather conditions with, for what ever reason, an Australian road-train cattle truck full of zombies is thrown into the mix.
The way the game gives us limited actions via dice and character statistics means there are some tricky life changing decisions, especially when outsiders are stumbled across (do we take them in and risk contamination or starvation or leave them to the cold and the fate of a candle lit zombie brain supper?!)
It really has that tension of a survival movie aided by some excellent illustrations and a combination of simple but effective game mechanics. I often find myself forgetting it is a zombie game because I am juggling so many precariously awkward shaped survival …juggley thingies.
Dice represent potential actions that can be taken during a round. These are rolled at the beginning of a round. There are a selection of generic actions that require use of any dice but more character specific actions need specific numbers of pippd to be visible on a die before the action can be taken. It is the luck of the roll…but survival is tough and we must make the best of the resources at hand to live to see the next day.
The main component of the game circles around the part of the board illustrated in the above photo. Each round a crisis card is revealed…criterion to be fulfilled or drop in moral (or worse) is encountered. These are always a major drain on already limited resources. There is also a game scenario win criteria. Even if the characters survive, if the scenario hasn’t been fulfilled, everyone still loses. Brutal! The waste pile is where various used cards are placed and, if not emptied regularly, can result in one of the numerous LOSE conditions.
The crossroad cards, throwing additional dilemma into the mix is available on an app.
I had both Android and iPad versions. Not sure if the iPad is available as a quick internet search threw up ‘not available’ but the Android is still out there. This is very useful for solo play (I don’t think it’s free though)
There are locations outside of the community centre we have decided to call our adopted home. Each has a deck of cards representing all manner of goodies we can discover from food, medication to other survivors. To access these treasures our characters have to run the winter gauntlet. There is a risk of injury due to exposure for any movement outdoors. So, as our standee sprints as fast as their little cardboard legs can carry them, we roll the big red dice. If we are lucky nowt happens…if luck abandons us we could get frost bite or worse still, get bitten by a wandering zombie. Accumulation of frostbite, if untreated, from round to round will cause severe deadingness of our characters.
We get to draw four random characters, two of which we select to make our team. All have certain special characteristics that can be beneficial to the collective…there is opportunity later in the came to discover other people which can be added to your roster, bringing with them more action dice…and another mouth to feed.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
There are a lot of cards, lots of counters and loads of dice…or to quote the ambiguous American collective noun a ‘bunch’ of stuff in the box. The illustrations and presentation of graphic information is of a very high standard and adds to the feel of the game. All the card components have been printed well and are of a decent thickness…as an aside, current trends, especially on Kickstarter are leaning towards plastic…tons and tons of plastic miniatures…forget quality of game-play, cool mechanics, let’s just stuff as many miniatures in to the box as we can a stick a staggering price tag on the game…my point is that this is unnecessary. Dead of Winter has (although not quite enough) large , illustrated standees. These serve perfectly well and, perhaps work better than miniatures do. Unless you are a competent painter, a game board full of grey plastic is not so impressive as one with lavish coloured standees.
The rule book its a rather nice coloured affair, lavishly illustrated
The only slight letdown for me is the thickness of playing cards. They are printed well and are totally fine but some are starting to warp a little, making stacking less elegant. A very minor complaint and an issue that really doesn’t detract from the game play (I tend not to sleeve cards except print & play games, which would probably get round this, I suppose)
Meeples and Standees:
Game Designer: Isaac Vega, Jon Gilmore
Producer: Colby dauch
Artwork: Fernanda Suarez
Writer: Mr. Bistro
Published by Plaid Hat Games
Obviously designed as a cooperative game, it is playable by one (with 1-4 characters) and it doesn’t pose too much of an ice ream headache managing all of that but two minor flaws become apparent laying this way. It is difficult to manage the crossroad cards, not inadvertently reading the card text ahead of time etc…the solution is using the companion app which manages this deck admirably…
..it reads out text, shuffles, only reveals parts of the text necessary etc…even has a background winter ambient soundtrack…very useful and I highly recommend it for solo play. The other issue is with the secret role cards (secret indevidual player win conditions). It is obvious that secret identities can’t be managed by one player as they give specific win conditions and dictate how underhand and deceptive a character should be. Brilliant for multiplayer games but an element that is missing when playing solo.
Yes it is a semi-cooperative game that is accessible by a soloist player and there are a number of fan made purely solo variants out there in the digital aether on BGG.
The biggest drawback to the solo game is the option of using the traitor cards…they can’t be executed under normal solo playing conditions, true, and this appears to upset many people. But because the game is played in ‘difficult’ mode for coop (and consequently solo), it is a tricky enough customer without them. Yes having secret goals would be a nice addition, but even without, it is still a challenging, engaging affair. There are some who also claim the crossroad event cards are not thematic enough.tish and pish I say!…I’m not sure if they have the same deck I have but think they spice things up with potential dilemmas that one would be expected to find in a completely made, up frozen, zombie filled environment…but each to their own, I guess.
All that said,, even without those elements it really is a nail-biting, zombie biting, frost biting solo experience.
Me, Myself and I:
Because of the variety of scenarios, each one with its own win conditions, the game is fresh each time you play and throwing the crisis cards into the mix, me and I never know what is going to face us each turn…myself, the pessimistic side, knows it will be nothing but bad!
I have tried a couple of solo varients but, as a personal taste, like the official cooperative vertion…and as I use the companion app, using the crossroad cards/not revealing the coice outcomes is not a problem any more. (At least one solo variant does not use the crossroad cards at all, which is a shame becouse they “mix it up” for the game.
I found this a thoroughly enjoyable title and, not really being a big zombie fan…especially the “let’s just go out slashing zombies in the most gruesome way possible”…this proved itself to be so much more than that. There are a lot of difficult decisions to make, meagre resources to manage, tricky win conditions to fulfil, moral to keep up, bitter cold to avoid, exploration (as quietly as possible because brain-dead zombies have acute sense of hearing, apparently), lunches to prepare and socks to wash. Really, there is so much going on that popping off the occasional zombie feels secondary to the adventure…except the scenario where zombie samples need to be obtained for research, then zombie slaughter is unavoidable.
Yay or Nay?
I don’t hate zombie films or zombie games but, as a rule I have a strong disinterest in them. Fortunately rules are made for breaking and Dead of Winter does just that…stumbling aimlessly towards me in search of a new brain to consume, it bites its way into a BSoMT 1d8 die roll of (7)…surprising for a zombie game
…did I mention there was a drunk shopping mall Santa?…brilliant!
…sorted. Thermals snugly in place, woolly jumper on, jeans ripped, skin a putrid grey colour…oh did I forget to mention I was bitten? Now I crave …BRAINS….BRAINS…EEEEOOOOOOOEEEERRRRRR!!!!
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
- Zero Budget Geek solo variant run-through
Solo variant on BGG https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1218236/testing-solo-variant
- Box of Delights solo cooperative 2 character run-through
- Tina The Board Gamer plays through another solo variant
- Pour tous les visiteurs francophones, Tortue Gaming joue une autre variante solo/for any French speaking visitors Tortue Gaming runs through another solo varient
- Plaid Hat Games on Twitter
- Plaid Hat Games website