Wednesday 8 October 2014

Dead of Winter

My love for board games has been increasing over the last few months. Being able to play different games brings variety, and it keeps things fresh. Do I miss nhot have a few weeks of 40k? Very much so, but there are some amazing board games out there, as evidenced by the Sons of Anarchy review I recently published and many other games we've played. From Risk, Gloom, and Firefly to Cards Against Humanity, Dominion and Carcarssonne, we're spoilt for choice.

At Mondays club night, Gavin mentioned he was bringing along a recent purchase called Dead of Winter. Myself and Louis had a little look to try get a rough idea of what it was about when we realised we'd seen it before. Counters, the board game cafe based in Pontypridd, and who had a delightful room at Dragondaze, had this there. The guys from Counters were raving about it, saying that its their current fave game to play so we started having high expectations. Disappointment, we did not get.

Theres a wealth of tokens and cards to the game, along with some location cards and the main board that houses some of the cards and the colony. Theres a good number of survivor and zombie counters, and we quickly found Bill Murray and Danny Devito. Oh and Madonna... I'll talk about her later. We got set up and began to play. 

You elect one of your two survivors to be your leader, and place them on your player cards. Here you house your dice, equipment and secret mission. Each player draws a secret objective, some of which can be betrayal cards. These give you your personal mission as well as a team one, and influences how you play. Theres some narrative to game too, as the Crossroads mecxhanic comes into play. When a player takes a turn, the player to their right draws a crossroads card. These are event cards that are either triggered through certain survivors being in play, locations being visited, or are instant. Many of them have options too that give you a benefit but can lead to negatives too and create more longevity for the game.

As we played, I gained a couple more survivors, a good thing as my personal mission was to have the most and complete the main objective. Louis however quickly overtook me with 6-7 survivors, which in turn means more mouths to feed or fuel to keep warm. The Crisis cards keep you on your toes, and can stall your main aims. Not only in the first turn did we have to feed the colony but we had a food crisis and needed to find one food for every person, we barely passed but lost morale due to not enough food being available for the colony. Its difficult to complete fair play! Moving to locations means you get to search for items, but the more you search the more noise you create and the more chance zombies will come looking for you, its another great mechanic that has a nice blend of gambling and chance to find the right items but potentiall lose a member of your survivors. Items that can be found range from food, fuel and medicince, to weapons and equipment. One of my members gained a cook book which allowed me to add a food counter to the colony every turn. Weapons are also found, a Sniper Rifle allows the player to kill a zombie at any location, and things like baseball bats and shotguns allow the killing of two zombies for one action. 

Even though new survivors can be picked up, sometimes you have to kill some off in order to meet the needs of all. The Waitress, who reminded of Madonna, was an easy sacrifice. The truck driving Rod however, was not! Louis with his many survivors was now beginning to make it difficult to feed everyone, so Gavin mentioned that Dead of Winter allows you to 'Exile' a player. This means all of his group can only be found at locations and not at the colony, and therefore no longer need to be fed. I had three members left, and Gavin had two, so it seemed to be a wise decision. Louis now had to change his personal objective to an exiled one, so it would be to either survive in the wilderness or stall us from winning. As it turned out, we all lost in the end! Well... Kind of. We'd managed to get the main objective of killing 9 zombies, but our morale was dropped to zero and we lost. Then Gavin showed his personal objective showing that he'd won his by completing the main objective and by having 2-3 medicine in his hand. Sneaky sod!

 Frustrating, but I can't wait to have another go, hopefully with a couple more players to the maximum of five, it was great with just three of us but with five there'll be more chances of finding items we need, as well as more mouths to feed!

So after just one game I can safely say its a cracker. With the many different survivors, objective and crossroads cards theres a lot of life to this game, and with how sometimes you'll be playing co-operatively or against each other depending on what your personal objectives are you're never quite sure if you should trust someone. This brings a great element of randomness that boardgames do well with. I heartily recommend this to anyone, even if, like myself, you're not a zombie fan. The zombies are on the outside looking in, its your fellow survivors you should be more weary of!

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