Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ghoulish Games - Dead of Winter

Published by Plaid Hat Games, Dead of Winter: A Cross Roads Game is a semi-cooperative game designed by Jonathon Gilmour and Issac Vega. The game is set in a post-apocalypse during the harsh season of winter. Players take control of several various characters living within a zombie infested colony, doing their best to survive by working together.

Every session of Dead of Winter begins with the players randomly determining the colony's main goal. This will be the major objective the group is trying to complete over the course of the game. It will also determine the number of rounds the game will last and the group's starting morale, which must never hit zero of the players will lose.

During the game, the players will have to deal with a series of crises that will make things much more difficult, During their turns, players will be able to explore a handful of locations nearby the colony, gather food and strengthen the defenses of said colony, kill zombies, and many other actions. Once the round is over, they will check a few things to see if they lose morale, begin to starve, or make things harder for themselves in the rounds to come. The game ends if either the players A) complete their main objective, B) finish the given number of rounds, or C) run out of morale.

While this might sound like your typical cooperative game, Dead of Winter has two elements that really make it awesome: the Secret Objectives and the Cross Roads deck.

At the beginning of the game, players are dealt a Secret Objective card. This gives them a specific objective they need to complete before the end of the game to personally win. However, like Shadows Over Camelot, there is a chance that one player might end up with an objective labeled "Betrayal", meaning they are secretly working against the others. Because these are secret, a slight sense of paranoia creeps in as the game goes on, causing you to question everyone's motives. You'll find its difficult to trust even your best friends during the zombie apocalypse.

The Cross Roads deck is a unique element that happens each turn during the game. When a player starts their turn, the person to their left draws a Cross Roads card, which has a special event printed upon it and a condition that must be met for that event to trigger placed at the top. These events generally create interesting moments within the story of the game and present players with difficult decisions. One card might have you kill an helpless survivor to scare the others into not starting a riot, while another might have you choose whether to save someone who's hurt or take their stuff and leave them to die.

While Dead of Winter is a fun and very tense game, the inclusion of these secret objectives and the Cross Roads deck make it a fantastic experience. This might be my favorite game that came out last year, and I've enjoyed each time I've managed to play it (even though I've only won once). I would even dare to say it's probably my favorite zombie board game because it's the only one I've played that actually feels like a zombie movie.

Those of you who've not played Dead of Winter should change that immediately. Go down to your local game store, grab it off the shelf, and purchase it now. You will not regret it.