The weather outside is growing colder, its nearly Halloween, and one of my favorite TV series is back with a new season. Now I think is the perfect time to introduce something that combines all three of those into a wonderful board game night. Welcome to TAY Board Game Night. Each week I bring you a new board game to try out, throw in a short blurb about why you should play this game, and then highlight some alternate playstyles or expansions for you to try. This week is Dead of Winter!
Dead of winter has you and your friends taking control of several survivors banding together in the zombie apocalypse. Each survivor has their own skills, abilities, and each player will be working to gather supplies to keep each other alive. You’ll send your survivors out to gather supplies, and kill some zombies to keep the colony safe. You can die, get bit, or find your run come up empty. Fairly standard zombie stuff so far. However, zombies and starvation aren’t the only thing you’ll have to deal with. Things are getting cold, real cold, and you’ll need to worry about frostbite as much as the zombies, and worse there might be a betrayer in the group.
Each player is going to have their own hidden objective, in addition to the main objective for the colony, which they need to complete to win the game themselves. Most of these objectives are fairly simple, like holding back a certain amount of items, but will always cast some doubt as to whether that player is being cautious, selfish, or outright endangering the colony. The reason for the latter of those results is because there are Betrayal objectives that have players completing objectives secretly to sabotage everyone else. Loyalists aren’t completely defenseless, however, and can potentially exile a player from the colony. They’ll have to be careful about it though, sending survivors out means less ‘income’, and sending out a loyalist will certainly be heartbreaking in the end.
Dead of Winter does what I love most in board games, and that is throw up suspicion and doubt to really bring a social component to life. Other games do that too, but the dangers present in Dead of Winter make it feel much more subtle, as opposed to an inevitability the non-betrayers have to prepare for. There are so many things to keep track of and upkeep, that you’d be forgiven for not paying too much attention to one player or another’s questionable actions. If you want a cooperative game with some twists, Dead of Winter is just that. The game just marries the narrative with the results so well.
Zombies in other media might be a bit played out, even board games have seen a glut of zombie-themed cardboard infusion. Dead of Winter is one of the games that plays so well, that you can easily forgive its zombie tropes. Besides, its almost less about avoiding being bitten by the zombies, than being stabbed in the back.
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