FTW Staff Picks - Dead of Winter
For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Designer: Jonathan Gilmour & Isaac Vega
Player Size: 2 to 5 Players
Game Length: 60 to 120 minutes
For fans of: Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Shadows Over Camelot, Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game
Back in 2014, we had just opened FTW Cafe in early November. We were playing a ton of games and there was a lot to be excited about. But no game felt as big as Dead of Winter at the time. Plaid Hat Games had previously release Mice & Mystics to some success, but even they probably couldn’t predict how big Dead of Winter would end up being for them. Nowadays the Plaid Hat Games label is a considered a seal of quality and it all began with our favourite game of 2014.
In Dead of Winter, players attempt to survive a post-apocalyptic world starved for resource and order. To begin each game players are given a Secret Objective for them to complete in order to win the game. Among the Secret Objectives is a Betrayer card who must complete their personal objective alongside sabotaging the rest of the colony, without getting caught. Each game is assigned a Main Objective for the players to complete together. Morale is the life tracker of Colony. Each game is assigned a set number of rounds for the Colony to complete the Main Objective. The game ends when either the Main Objective is completed or the Colony’s Morale is reduced to zero. Any players who were able to complete their Secret Objective are declared the winner(s) of the game!
There is a ton of moving parts in Dead of Winter. Keeping track of it all can be a bit overwhelming at first, but it keeps players engaged at all turns of the game. Recognizing the behaviour of the other players is key to sniffing out any possible Betrayers. Compromise is a big part of the game as well. Sometimes you have to sacrifice parts of your Secret Objective to help advance the Main Objective. Every player has their own moral compass on whether doing things for the Colony matter more than doing things for themselves. And as a wild card to every turn there are Crossroads cards to add narrative to the experience. Altogether everything about Dead of Winter helps to create a truly immersive and thematic game.
Following its 2014 release, there have been two expansions to build on the Dead of Winter experience. And while they made the game feel a little bloated, the addition of new characters and Crossroads cards are the real reasons to add them to your collection. It had been a while since I last played Dead of Winter, but I brought the game out again just last week and it holds even today. Plaid Hat Game recently released a spiritual successor called Gen 7: A Crossroads Game. While we haven’t checked it out, it may be time to finally give it a look.