Dead of Winter is a meta-cooperative psychological survival game. This means the players are working together toward one common victory condition--but for each individual player to achieve victory, they must also complete their personal secret objective.
This secret objective could relate to a psychological tick that's fairly harmless to most others in the colony, a dangerous obsession that could put the main objective at risk, a desire for sabotage of the main mission, or worst of all: vengeance against the colony!
Certain games could end with all players winning, some winning and some losing, or all players losing. Work toward the group's goal but don't get walked all over by a loudmouth who's only looking out for their own interests!
In Dead of Winter, your biggest enemy isn't the traitor hiding in plain site ready to throw anything away, nor is it the unending hordes of Zombies (although, these issues shouldn't be ignored), but rather the Exposure Die, the evil little 12 sided die that offers a 1 in 2 chance of ruining your day. In Dead of Winter, almost everything you do requires a roll of this die, and this is the hardest obstacle to overcome. The game also uses decks of random cards to keep everything fresh which is another degree of luck.
Depending of what side of the fence you are on, your strategy will differ. For the majority, players will need to work together decided when to take a chance and when to play it safe. Often, the game will be won and lost due to the decisions made by the team, sometimes it might be best to let a crisis go un-averted so to ensure the colony doesn't starve. If you are the betrayer however, you are going to need to focus on both your end goal, ruining the other players chances of winning and of course remaining hidden. Due to the way turn order rotates, each player is given a chance to take a 'double turn', this is a great time to make some big moves towards sabotaging the other players hopes of survival.
While the game is rated on the heavier side of the scale, the game doesn't actually have too much going on. Quite simply all you will find yourself doing on a turn is playing cards, searching for more cards and killing zombies. There are other action that can be taken and the game is quite fleshed out, but its never too much for the player to handle at any one time. Someone being on top of the core mechanics of the game will help avoid constant referral of the rule book.
The game is always so randomized and never fails to feel fresh. When picking random starting players, random objectives and drawing from a large pool of crossroad events, you will be hard pressed to find the game stale. That being said when you come across a crossroad that has already embedded itself in your memory, you might find it lackluster to already know the outcome of the card before a decision is even made.
The components are fantastic, the game comes in a sturdy box with gorgeous artwork and everything inside is just fantastic quality. The standees of both the characters and the zombies are wonderfully designed, the tokens in the game are clear and stunning in there presentation and the game has got to win the award for "Coolest First Player Marker Ever!".
The game has a decent weight to it but the game is actually quite easy to teach to anyone willing to invest into it. Dead of Winter is a mostly thematic game so a lot of the game play revolves around decision making and pure luck rather that calculated min-maxing. The only struggle you might have is the introduction of the Traitor mechanic which may go over the heads of players not well versed in games such as Werewolf or Shadows Over Camelot.
The game does work from 2-5 players but honestly if you are going to play this, I think it is at its very best at 4 or 5 players. Not only does this give more room for the Betrayer to hide, it also greatly improves on the odds of the Good players being able to win an already immensely hard game. If you only have 3 players there are much better suited games that you should play so leave this one on the shelf until someone else comes around.
Dead of Winter hinges off its story telling, the game requires you to invest into the story being weaved by the decisions you make and the crossroads that come up. Every scenario starts with a small snippet of story that sets you up and in our plays we have found that everything carries so much more weight when we have invested into the characters and who they are behind the little bit of text and portraits on the cards.
Dead of Winter is a must have for anyone serious about Board Gaming, the game is a masterpiece and brings a fresh idea to the Zombie apocalypse genre. If you are looking for a good 5 player game, don't go past this one!
Have you played Dead of Winter? Do you agree with our review? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below and please like us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram!