Dead of Winter

Featured Game of the Week — Dead of Winter

Designer: Jonathan Gilmour, Isaac Vega
Artist: David Richards, Fernanda Suarez, Peter Wocken
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Year: 2014
  2–5 players     60–120 min     14+ years
Difficulty: Medium
Game Type: Survival, Zombies
Mechanisms: Action Point Allowance, Variable Player Powers, Meta-cooperative Play

Quick Overview

Dead of Winter, a meta-cooperative psychological game for 2–5 players that tests the ability of a group of survivors to work together and stay alive while facing crises and challenges from both outside and inside. Each player controls a group of survivors living in a small and weakened colony where daily survival is a struggle. The players must work together to gather food and other necessary supplies to sustain the colony of which they are part. Fuel, medicine, tools, and weapons are both necessary and hard to come by. The zombies are relentless and the nights are getting colder. The players are working together toward one common victory condition. But, for each individual player to achieve victory, he must also complete his personal secret objective. The secret objective could relate to a psychological tick that is fairly harmless to other survivors, a dangerous obsession that could put the main objective at risk, a desire for sabotage of the main mission, or even vengeance against the colony!

The Long Night, released in 2016, is a stand-alone follow-up to the 2014 smash hit, featuring new survivors, new scenarios, and brand new crises to challenge the players. Three new modular mini-expansions are included, adding new and exciting challenges!

  • Colony improvements allow you to upgrade aspects of the central colony, at the expense of taking time to construct.
  • Bandits from another colony roam the city, competing with the players for valuable resources and increasing the risk of attracting zombies.
  • Raxxon Pharmaceutical, a location veiled in mystery and disturbing tales of human experiments, hides both powerful items and dreadful dangers!

Either version can be played on its own or combined for endless variety and replayability!

Rainer’s Thoughts Score: 10/10

I am generally not a huge fan of zombie themed games. However, Dead of Winter places the focus on survival rather than the killing of shambling undead creatures. The game masterfully gives the players a taste of the struggle and desperation of a post-apocalyptic world. Unexpected events may place the players at a crossroads where they are forced to make difficult decisions, weighing their own humanity against the need to survive. … and then there is that nagging feeling that one of the players may actually turn out to be a traitor, waiting for the perfect moment to betray the others … Excellent, excellent game! One of my favorite games of all time!

Word of Caution: The game deals with post-apocalyptic survival in a way that is unsuitable for a younger audience.

Dead of Winter vs. The Long Night

What if I don’t own either game yet — which one should I buy?

Is there a need to own both?

The basic game experience is the same in both games. The Long Night is both an expansion to the original game and a stand-alone game on its own. Both versions come with all components needed to play Dead of Winter with 2-5 players. Both games offer the same excellent experience, a large number of survivors to choose from, and enough scenarios, crossroads cards, and objectives to last many, many games.

That said, if you do not yet own either game, I would recommend buying The Long Night first. The location boards are higher quality, and the game also contains the aforementioned three modules which you can integrate for even more variety and greater challenges once you have a few games under your belt.

If you already own the original game, I would still recommend buying The Long Night. As an expansion, it offers all-new survivors and crossroads cards. The location boards are now thicker and sturdier. You also get more zombie standees (which could sometimes run out otherwise). Some of the starter items and location item cards are also different. Above all, however, The Long Night adds an all-new Raxxon Pharmaceutical location, bandits (along with a Bandit Hideout location), and colony improvement cards.

If The Long Night is your first introduction to Dead of Winter, buying the original game might be a bit harder to justify, though no less recommended. If you love the game, the different survivors and the massive stack of crossroads cards is worth it. The ability to mix and match location item cards also adds a nice exploration aspect and a level of uncertainty which just further enhances the theme of the game.