Dead of Winter is a cooperative board game most of the time. Does that mean it is semi-cooperative? No, not really. It has a betrayer mechanic, which is great because it raises a lot of doubts, but the genius behind Dead of Winter is the inclusion of self-interested goals. That’s where this game takes a leap past something like Pandemic or like some of the other board games with betrayer mechanics; everyone playing is, in some small way, a betrayer, and you’ve still, for the most part, got to work together. Sure, on occasion you’re going to get caught with someone who really wants the world to burn, but usually you’re going to get stuck with someone that has been slighted in the past that wants some revenge, or a hoarder- all of the stuff you’d expect to find in a post apocalyptic wasteland.
Lots has been said on board game sites about the overuse of the Zombie theme. To be frank, that’s a pretty silly criticism. Wizards and Elves have been done to death, heck, I’ve almost had enough of animal husbandry games. Dead of Winter also uses the Zombie theme as a backdrop, and the real danger comes from your human counterparts. The game has a heavy element of mistrust.
Dead of Winter is dripping with theme and memorable moments. You will remember the time when the psychologist was forced to equip a mop and deal with the garbage while the colony was being overrun with Zombies. Listen, people REALLY don’t want to live in filth, and your psychiatric training is probably less useful when every person you encounter has PTSD. Sure, you could try and cure some of these mental disorders, but it would probably be better for us all if you cleaned the dead zombies out of the kitchen.
WATCH OUT FOR THIS PICTURE! MINOREST OF SPOILERS AHEAD!
Let’s be honest, most games don’t deal with gender all that well. This game put a lot of effort into making the female characters memorable and interesting to all concerned. It is great that a Game Of The Year contender has strong female characters in strong positions. All that matters in the winter is whether you’re good at surviving.
The components are incredible. The art really puts you into the headspace of the world, and I’m actually quite happy that each character/zombie is a cutout on a stand. Sure, they could have made a box full of miniatures and charged $100.00, but this game is priced perfectly to bring people into the hobby, and each character is coloured and has personality. When the zombies start showing up, they are menacing and you’ll get distracted by just how much you want to go out and start kicking ass.
The Crossroads cards are a real highlight, but the less said about them the better. They are the best trigger mechanic in a coop board game I have ever encountered.
Finally, the exposure die is the worst die of all time. D20s have nothing on the absolute most evil component in any game ever. This thing just insta-kills your guys. Every time you roll it you are scared. There will be a moment in almost every game where you NEED to roll it and you NEED it to not hit a zombie bite. When you do pull this off, you jump out of your chair. This die is the epitome of HOLY SHIT.
So did I like it? Yes. Would I recommend you purchase it? Yes. Just go. Just go get it.
Is there anything I don’t like about it? I bet it could become repetitive after about 30-50 playthroughs. If you play through this game 30-50 times, I think you will have got your moneys worth. Just go buy it. Support games like this and we’ll get more games like this.