Dead of Winter Review: The harshest of winters!

The harshest of winters!

Dead of Winter is a cooperative game set in a small colony of survivors during the zombie apocalypse.  Players must work together to meet the objective chosen at the start of the game.  But be sure to watch out, there’s a chance that someone in the colony might not working for the good of the group.  Take control of survivors as you explore, loot, kill zombies and fight to survive a harsh winter.  Keep reading to find out what we think of this game in our Dead of Winter Review!

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What do you get?

Dead of Winter comes in a big hefty box.  Some of my board game boxes have gone a bit out of shape over time.  However with Dead of Winter I can’t see this happening at all.  The artwork on the front of the box is incredible and parts of it are slightly textured which both feels nice and makes it more visually appealing.

Inside the box you get a large number of cards, a main game board, several location boards, player reference cards, dice, a selection of markers and counters, and a variety of survivor and zombie standees.  All of these are of very high quality with my only complaint being the occasional scuffing of cardboard when inserting standees into the holders.

dead of winter review standees example

Zombie standees

Organisation and storage

The organisation inside of the box is both good and bad.  A major plus point is that the game comes with a number of plastic bags that allow you to separate out the components into their different types.  There are the perfect number of bags for each type of component to have it’s own bag.  However all of these bags are the same size and are rather large.  It can feel a little silly having 2 counters on their own in a big bag but it’s obviously possible to group things up and save a little space.  I ended up replacing some of the bags with smaller ones.

The insert however leaves much to be desired.  It consists of 2 areas, a card storage area and a space for everything else.  I wouldn’t mind this too much apart from the fact that the cards tend to slide all over the place.  Especially when I store this game vertically on my shelf.  There are quite a lot of cards with this game and the item cards need to be separated out into location but have the same card back leading to the cards becoming muddled.  This sliding around of cards can often cause setup times to be even longer than they already are.  It’s by no means unusable however and there are ways around it.  If you are a little hands on then you may want to check out this great foamcore insert.

How to play

Dead of Winter can be quite a long and complex game so this will only be a short overview.  We recommend checking out a play through on Youtube such as Tabletop.

Players take it in turns to control survivors living in a colony.  At the start of the game each player is given a secret objective.  It is possible that one person may also be the traitor and must attempt to make the group lose the main objective, whilst still completing their own secret objective.

Each turn players can move and search the areas surrounding the colony to find items.  These items are crucial for the survival of the colony.  For every 2 survivors in the colony one piece of food must be gathered or else the colonists will starve and morale will drop low.  Other items have other uses such as weapons or contributing to the crisis.

Every turn a crisis card is revealed.  This crisis card details an objective that must be met before the turn is ended.  Otherwise players risk facing terrible consequences!  Players contribute to the crisis objective anonymously.  This gives a traitor the chance to complete any traitorous activities they may need to complete.

As players complete actions on behalf of their survivors they must also be wary of zombies on the prowl or trying to break into the colony.  Every time a survivor moves location they must roll an exposure die.  The result of this roll could do nothing, injure the survivor, inflict frostbite or outright kill that survivor.

Another key part of the game is the crossroads cards.  A new card is drawn every turn and if the player fulfills the conditions on the card then the event is triggered.  Once the event is triggered it must be dealt with.  Sometimes this can involve the whole group voting.

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How to win

As the game progresses a series of mechanics play out that raise and lower the morale of the colony and have different effects.  The game ends once the turn counter or morale counter hits 0, or when the main objective is completed.

In order to win players must satisfy the main objective as well as their own personal objectives.  If there is a traitor in the game then the traitor must ensure that the group objective is not met and that they also meet their own personal objective.

dead of winter review locations

Location cards

Stuff I like

Dead of Winter is one of the most engaging games I have ever played.  The theme may not be for everyone, but regardless this game comes highly recommended.  The game is so tightly woven into the theme that the experience is worth it regardless of your opinion on zombies.  The tension build up and nervousness that creeps in as the game progresses help to make this an incredible board gaming experience that will suck pretty much everybody in.

The crossroads cards are an ingenious mechanic.  The sheer quantity alone is impressive.  Even though a lot of the time the cards aren’t even triggered, when they are it is always interesting.  The potential scenarios that exist on them can make you feel genuinely horrible as a human being.  For example cheering at the option to kill off a helpless survivor who tried to take more than their fair share of food, simply because it is one less mouth to feed.  The decisions really do make for a great game experience and allow for a different game every time.

Stuff I don’t like

Other than the organisation of the box insert I have no major complaints regarding Dead of Winter!  The only thing that some people won’t like is the potential for the game to change drastically very rapidly.  The exposure die for example can wipe out a survivor in a single roll.  In fact if there is more survivors in the same location, then the zombie bite can keep killing, and wipe out all survivors in that location.  Personally however I like this mechanic as I feel it plays into the theme, but I can see how these big game swings could put some people off.

Dead of Winter Review

Dead of Winter is a truly fantastic game and I love it.  It’s become a firm favourite with my gaming group and it get’s played a lot.  The interesting use of theme combined with great mechanics in the form of crossroads cards really draws players in and makes for an extremely tense game filled with suspense.  It’s the kind of game where you will truly feel your heart sink when something goes wrong and feel victory in the small things that make life just a little less difficult.

I cannot recommend Dead of Winter enough.  In fact I would probably recommend picking up the expanded edition called Dead of Winter The Long Night.  The expanded version contains the base game with extra locations and mechanics and a different set of survivors.  Then if you really love the game you can pick up the original Dead of Winter for the additional survivors and scenarios.

So pick up Dead of Winter now from Amazon and go have some zombie fun!  Let us know in the comments below your thoughts on Dead of Winter as well as your other favourite zombie games!

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