DoW GAME REVIEW
After finally waiting for what seemed like an eternity for Dead of Winter to hit the U.K, it finally arrived last month.
A good friend of mine pre-ordered a copy when this game was announced on the Bored? Game! Facebook page and on receiving it set about getting together a group of survivors to give it a go and invited me along.
Dead of Winter is a semi-cooperative game that takes place after a zombie apocalypse has ravaged the world. Players take control of survivors in this world, struggling to live out an existence as best they can. The survivors need to keep the hordes at bay and make sure the colony is safe and fed. The zombies will keep coming and bad things will keep happening to the colony, until either the survivors complete their shared objective, the turn marker hits 0, or the colony's morale falls to 0.
Once the initial set up of the board is complete you are handed 4 character cards, you can only choose 2 of these and the others have to go back into the deck (more can be drawn later when certain cards are revealed when searching locations or your initial characters die) It is best to pick a character with a high leadership skill as this will help you against getting killed by zombies more if your location is over-run, but it depends if you want a character for his/her special skills and abilities that can help everyone, such as being a doctor who can heal peoples wounds, a cook who can provide food, there is even a pirate and a stunt dog.
After characters are chosen, and the main scenario 'common objective' has been picked, you are then given a 'secret' objective card, this is your own 'personal' mission you need to accomplish to win the game as well as the main objective! This is the crux and most fun bit as no one knows what your plan is, it could be for the good of the colony...or very bad to meet your own evil requirements! These objectives most often have a bulleted list that includes the group completing the common main objective, but also some other conditions that must be met that will likely make the group's completion of the main objective more difficult. Even if the main objective is competed, players can only win if they also completed their individual objectives as well. The great thing about this system is that there are also betrayer objectives. These objectives require that the game end not because the main objective has been completed, but because the colony's morale has fallen to 0. The game also includes the option to exile players from the game if they are suspected of being a betrayer, or on the flip side, a betrayer wanting to get someone exiled to take the heat off themselves. Exiled players still take a role in the game but cannot help the colony or take part in votes.
In a players round, you roll your D6 action dice, dependant on how many character cards you have in play depends on how many dice are rolled. Dice are spent in order to take actions with their survivors. These actions are things like searching locations in order to gain resources or items, fighting zombies, or building barricades. Each character has a set amount of variables written on their card to show what numbers on the dice are needed to perform said actions. Searching can be done successive times without having to use dice and look at multiple cards so you can then pick which one you want, this is good if you are after something specific that you need to help the colony, the only draw back is that you make noise, for each successive search you do without using your action die, a noise counter is placed on the location and this will attract more zombies on the zombie phase of the game.
Moving from one location to another or fighting a zombie is a risky business, on doing this, unless you have certain special items or weapons, you need to roll the exposure dice. This certainly creates a source of tension in the game and can make you think twice about making certain decisions. On our second game both of my characters died on my first turn as they got infected after getting bad rolls on this dice!!! The exposure dice itself is a D12, on about half of the sides is nothing - which is what you'll be hoping to see each time you roll it. On the other half are bad things, which cause either normal wounds, frostbite wounds, or instant death (infected).
The last twist in the game is the deck of Crossroads cards. At the start of each player's turn, the player to the right of them draws a Crossroads card and reads it. Each Crossroads card has a condition on it, which the reader of the card does not reveal to the current player, unless the player fulfills it. These cards contain conditions like, "If the current player controls a survivor at the Police Station, read the following:" and the rest of the card has a bit of story, and then a decision. The player (and sometimes all the players) then need to decide on their course of action concerning the story, and deal with any consequences that decision presents.This mechanism is quite good and works really well putting more depth and storyline into your game experience. It creates a weight to each player's turn, since they want to go about the things they want to do but knowing that they might be interrupted at any moment by the player holding the Crossroads card.
Dead of Winter is a great game. There is certainly a lot going on once you start, but not so much to make the game a slog or drag, once the rules are picked up turns can go fairly quickly. As the players get to grips with the rules, the narrative of the story really starts to shine through. The tensions of the individual objectives, the Crossroads cards, the exposure die, and the fact that its a pretty tough cooperative game to begin with all make for a seriously engaging experience. The way Dead of Winter puts a narrative to your game is something I find really unique and sets it aside from a lot of games out there, it's also great to build a background story and give your character something to make them feel more personal to you and let your imagination go. The only gripe I can give Dead of Winter, is the fact that the rule book is ever so slightly badly written in places and a little hard to understand, this was the only reason it lost overall Bored? Game! marks out of ten.
Last but not least, this game is probably the only board game I have known or played that has a sex scene in it! Yes, one of the storylines can take you down that route, but thats for you to find out ;)
Bored? Game! rating 8/10