The other night I got to together with my regular group of tabletop gaming buddies and tried Dead Of Winter for the first time, and it turned out the Zombie Apocalypse was a lot of fun. Dead of Winter is a co-operative game where each player controls a group of survivors looking for resources while trying to stay alive.
How it works – Each player is given a few survivors and a secret objective at the start of the game, which could be to betray the rest of the group. The whole group is also given an objective to work towards as a group. The game is over when the main object is completed, the groups morale reaches zero, or the round limit is reached. A basic turn has a crisis that arises (such as a need for extra food) feeding your colony, and keeping zombies from over running the colony and other local locations. You will send out your survivors, all of which are unique and have varied abilities for searching, fighting zombies, and special actions to search locations for guns, fuel, food, and medicine… while trying to keep your survivors alive and your colony from being over-run.
Why it works – There are many different objects for a win so no game is exactly the same. The part that makes it so enjoyable are the secrets each player is given. Knowing one player may be the traitor makes it tons of fun… but what makes it even better is that everybody has a secret objective. That means that just because someone is acting fishy doesn’t mean that they are the traitor, and you have to work together.
Another aspect that make this game great are the crossroads cards. These are cards that are drawn as each player takes their turn. If certain (unknown to the player whose turn it is) criteria is meet a random event will occur, and they can be both helpful or really messed up for the group. One card has a player being forced to have one of their characters shoot themselves in the face or perform an action that would cause each location to add another zombie.
Lastly, the unique character cards are great. You can have a soldier that is easily able to kill zombies, a nurse that can make an extra search at the hospital, a janitor that will keep the colony clean and and raise morale, or even a pirate that can steal an item from another player. The broad spectrum of different characters makes for great strategizing between players.
This game is so much fun, and while it takes a little bit of an investment to learn all the rules, it is easy enough to pick up once you get rolling. I can’t wait for the next time I get together with my friends to stave off the undead masses. It is the perfect mix or team work and paranoia in what so far has felt like a perfectly balanced game.