Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Two out of three (Dead of Winter)

A few days ago I bought a new board game. The only reason for buying it was to fill my gift card voucher for local gaming shop. Well, of course I was interested in a semi-cooperative survival game, too. But the main reason was the voucher...

I feel so ashamed.

Anyway. The voucher is filled up now, no more spontaneous random board games for me.

The game in question is Dead of Winter: a crossroads game.

It's a zombie apocalypse game, which is somewhat of a over-used genre. I guess the genre itself will soon rise as a zombie to have vengeance upon other game background setting, spreading its disease and multiplying in the process. Perhaps it has already happened?

But this write-up serves as the purchase post as well as details about two first games played.

First was a two-player game to get in touch with the rules. In two-player variant game isn't semi-cooperative at all, you got no personal goal to achieve. And considering the game mechanics it'd be quite foolish to include the secret objectives. First player would always be able vote the other player into exile.

Rulebook recommends the "We need more samples" scenario as the introductory victory condition, so that's what we played. One of the players had the ninja survivor in the initial group, which eased the game immensely. Other survivor group had the cook with them, so two seemingly most difficult aspects of the game were already taken care of: killing zombies and providing food for the colony.

Despite having good survivors for the job, we did manage to get some people killed. Note to self: it's not a very good idea to bring four survivors to a single location and cause some noise there. That's just asking for trouble. No, not asking... that's demanding for trouble in harsh tone, stressing every word.

Frostbite also surprised us with its lethality, as the gangrene that kicks in doesn't stop until the survivor is dead, or the frostbite is cured somehow.

Well, we did win that game, though, and we even had a couple of morale points and rounds to spare.

Game 2:

Next day it was time for three survivor groups to duke it out, this time with secret objectives.

Main objective was again "We need more samples", but because of three groups we needed nine samples now.

There were doctor and the nurse in one group, sheriff and waitress in another and janitor plus construction worker in the last one.

It wasn't a very good start when the colony failed in the very first crisis they faced, which was Zombie Surge. Colony got six survivors and every non-colony location got one. Second round's crisis was even more zombies, and had it failed colony would have gotten eight zombies and non-colony location one additional zombie. That one was thankfully prevented.

My own personal objective was to complete main objective and have four any items cards in hand. Not too hard to complete, I thought. Sheriff also felt like a good candidate to grind some zombie samples. I guess he mauled the zombies too badly to be used as any kind of a sample, though, because he scarcily succeeded in extracting samples from even half of his kills.

Starting from round three everything started to go all kinds of wrong, when illness crisis card was failed, and after that we got a starvation counter. Construction worker and janitor both eventually died to exposure, and doctor was bitten by a zombie. She was alone in a non-colony location, though, so nobody else contracted the disease.

Doctor/nurse group started attracting a lot of other survivors to the camp. And worst of all - a lot of helpless survivors. We were already starving! Either we'd need to win really fast, or the colony would need to go full cannibal holocaust, which would surely drop morale to zero and below.

Victory was not that far away, though. When morale was at 2 we already had eight samples. Only one more roll of 4+ from killing a zombie, and we'd do it. But no. Doing some quick maths only some random effect from Crossroads cards could give us a chance at victory, since we had continuous morale drop going on from starvation token.

So all was lost. Disease run rampant, hunger tormented the colony and zombies were coming in from doors and windows. Colony died, and all survivors lost.

Or did they?

Now departed doctor and the nurse group had been cleverly playing their betrayal victory. Not even once had they given wrong cards to fail at crisis, and they hadn't attacked anybody. In fact they had only rescued a lot of people... helpless survivors, even. That were eating the morale away. That did raise some suspicions, but on the other hand situation was so very desperate that it didn't feel that disadvantageous for the colony to fish in additional survivors, who might have an ability that would let the game continue for that one critical turn...

So, the colony lost. But a tyrannical despot of a small traitorous group of survivors barricaded themselves into the hospital (or library?) and won the game.


  1. Got to say, one of the best games ever. Never before I've had such satisfaction about playing as a double agent. I don't even like zombies as a concept, but they don't seem to play too large part in this game.

    I'm eager to play this again someday and those other 2 are interested too. So 4 player games are a possibility in the future. Ashaming voucher or not, I think that this is one of the better investments in your board game collection.

    1. Oh my, a comment! But yeah, there seems to be a lot of potential in Dead of Winter. Semi-cooperative nature with mechanics that encourage mistrust between players is brilliant.

      The only real downside seems to be that cannibalising survivors isn't possible in the rules. House rules incoming... (not...)