The hype is real!
Playing Dead of Winter filled a void in my life I didn’t even know that I had. Everyone raved that this game hit the nail on the head when it came to secret rolls and cooperative style games. It was lauded as a better implementation of games such as Battlestar Galactica, and Shadows Over Camelot. But could this really be true? I’ll start by saying that BSG is one of my favourite gaming experiences of all time. If you have the right group of people and enough of them, then BSG is simply sublime – it doesn’t help that I’m a huge fan of the IP. But finally, after about 6 months on my shelf I was coerced into getting it to the table. I say that because when I played BSG with Grant and some others a while back it didn’t go over very well – disinterested players and longer play time were drawbacks – so I had been extremely hesitant to suggest another game so similar in style.
Thank Heavens for Tim
He suggested it out of nowhere Saturday morning, and I, having not read the rules in 4 months, was resistant but obliged in the end. I had watched the video tutorial that the rulebook suggests and that was about it, and after probably a 10 minute skim of the rules we dove right in with the 3 of us; me, Grant and Tim.
Set up was simple enough and the secret roles were dealt out. I was initially surprised at how few ‘betrayal’ cards were in the stack that were dealt out, but in hindsight I think I like that. It make the deduction even harder because it’s entirely possible there isn’t a traitor in the game! I also enjoyed the fact that random cards weren’t added to the crisis resolution pile. If you were putting in negative cards then you have to have a really good poker face, which ups the ante of that aspect of the game.
The crisis and objectives are well done, and the three of us newbies played the short game in about 2 hours, with lots of rules referencing, so really for that player count could easily have been done in 90 mins. This is a huuuuge positive for this game. Whilst I love playing 4+ hours of BSG, I’m the only one in our regular group that does, so the play time was really appealing to me.
Crossroads Card are a Revelation
The crossroads deck is the crux of what makes this game amazing, there’s so much narrative in that deck that isn’t cheesy, and is sometimes extremely dark and provides you with pretty intense moral dilemmas at times. Of course, Plaid Hat annotated these cards that can be removed for younger groups and players, an astute move that I’m really grateful for. The cards have stipulations that are much more regularly occurring than I had been led to believe, and each card calls for the active player to make a choice, or calls for a vote amongst players. Such a simple device that works so well, with excellent narrative that isn’t a cringe to read aloud to a group of grown men!
I had to make a choice, and I chose to further the aims of the group and roll on the exposure dice after a tussle with the crazy lady. Can’t say I’m proud of my actions, but you have to do what you have to do to survive.
Other aspects of the game that are just really excellent value for your money are the sheer number of colonists and characters. Each with their own special ability that really set them apart and give them each roles to play with inherent strengths and weaknesses. It would have been easy to put fewer in the box, but sometimes that exposure die is brutal and you lose two or three characters. We had at least two deaths and almost lost the game due to a drop in morale.
Straight Up, This Game is Fun
And that’s the most important part. The mechanics are almost seamless and the rules intuitive, the action is deadly and the player interaction is heaped with tension and cruel decision making. Everything about this game was pretty much made for me, and it comes along with my highest approval! Cannot wait to get this one to the table again and make more memories of our tales of survival!