Dead of Winter The Long night unboxing and Review from Plaid Hat Games

Zombie games, they are still a thing going strong, even after so many variants and years of them it seems we have not yet tired of the walking dead.  The Recent Hit Z Road From Asmodee Games tried a different approach to the zombie games, and proved to be great fun.  for straight up fighting the hordes and dodging around its hard to beat Zombicide from Cool mini or Not.  So with Dead of Winter The Long Night, is there enough space on your shelf for another Zombie game? Stick with us and see......

Dead of Winter is a meta-cooperative psychological survival game. This means 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. This secret objective could relate to a psychological tick that's fairly harmless to most others in the colony, a dangerous obsession that could put the main objective at risk, a desire for sabotage of the main mission, or (worst of all) vengeance against the colony! Certain games could end with all players winning, some winning and some losing, or all players losing. Work toward the group's goal, but don't get walked all over by a loudmouth who's looking out only for his own interests!

"Crossroads" is a new series from Plaid Hat Games that tests a group of survivors' ability to work together and stay alive while facing crises and challenges from both outside and inside.
Its for 2-5 players in a small, weakened colony of survivors in a world where most of humanity is either dead or diseased, flesh-craving monsters. Each player leads a faction of survivors with dozens of different characters in the game.
Dead of Winter is an experience that can be accomplished only through the medium of tabletop games. It's a story-centric game about surviving through a harsh winter in an apocalyptic world. The survivors are all dealing with their own psychological imperatives, but must still find a way to work together to fight off outside threats, resolve crises, find food and supplies, and keep the colony's morale up.

It really is less of a "Zombie" game, though they of course feature hugely, its more a game focused on survivors working together to do their best to simply, well survive.

Dead of Winter has players making frequent, difficult, heavily- thematic, wildly-varying decisions that often have them deciding between what is best for the colony and what is best for themselves.

Dead of Winter: The Long Night is a standalone expansion for Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game that introduces the Raxxon location where horrible experiments will spill out into the town unless players can contain them.

The line "What would you do to live" on the back, its not just a bland statement, this relates to the crossroads cards that force hard decisions on you, not just in game terms, but it makes you question your moral standing as well, i mean one option may be "better" in game terms, but can you morally live with the choice? Do not worry we shall be looking into the crossroads part more later.

This is not an expansion of the Original Dead of Winter, well it is in a way, but you do NOT need the Original Dead of Winter to play this, though you can combine them for more options.  This is its own, Stand alone game, ready to play straight from the box, you don't need to have played the previous version.
Take a look at the component list,  you get a whole world of goodies in this box, so make sure you set yourself some time aside if you are intending to play straight from the box.

The game has players at a new colony location trying to survive with new survivors against brand new challenges. Can you handle being raided by members of other colonies? Will you explore more and unravel the mysteries of the Raxxon pharmaceutical location to find powerful items but release stronger enemies? Or will you upgrade your colony to help it better withstand the undead horde? These are all choices you will get to make in this new set, and if you want, you can mix in the survivors and cards from the original set to increase the variety even more.

Thje game works in a clever way with expansion modules... You get your base game experience, then you cand "plug in" expansions like Raxxon, the improvements module, or Bandits, so you can play with all, some or none of them.  You also get scenarios in the book that guide you through how they all operate which is great as it eases you into them.

So lets take a little look and see what we get.........

 You can see you really do get a ton of stuff in the box, its a heavy beast, but then its full of goodies.... cards, dice and a lot of punch out tokens that are going to need doing, and characters put into their plastic standees.  Make sure you put aside plenty of time for this.
 You get these rally handy player guides that have slors for evething, and a asummary of the turn phase, colony phase, and of course what actions you can take.  This is great as its all clear in front of each player so you make sure each phase has been completed.
The main colony board itself is a lovely thick fold out board, with everything nice and clearly marked.  I really like the weathered effect on it, adds a lot of character to the experience of playing it.

All the location boards feature lovely and thematic artwork, that draw you in, and the spots on the board for all the relevant tokens and decks are discreet and fit the theme whilst being efficient at the same time.

The Character art is excellent, and the standees are really nice quality with art on both sides, yes some people may say they would have preferred miniatures, but that would have made the cost and box side ridiculous, so this is perfect for me, in fact i think i prefer it, as i do not need to paint them as they look great straight out of the box.
You get a vairety of plenty of tokens, all nice quality, and zombies, including some of the "new" type of zombies that you only use in the Raxxon module.  Instead of the slow shuffling undead you will encounter, well, as well as rather that instead of... new mutated zombies, big hulking brutes, fast creatures, extra nasty ones, all sorts! but if that's not your cup of tea, you do not have to add the expansion module in to play.
The rulebook is nice and clear and easy to follow, and walks you through the game.  With the reference cards each player has it wont take you too long before you do not need the book at all.
The rules are full of beautiful artwork, which is perfect in keeping in theme with the look of the other components.

When you set up Dead of Winter, it depends on which main objective the players choose. You will be working together to complete this  objective but each player will also be working on a secret objective as well, which may be counter-productive that makes them a betrayer of the group. Once all players have received the standard starting resources as characters and followers are dealt randomly with you picking a pair from a selection of 4.

Each round is made up of two phases, the Player Turns Phase and the Colony Phase. During the Player Turns phase players will be rolling their action dice simultaneously to determine what actions they will be able to perform on their individual turn. The number rolled on each die must match or exceed the required amount to perform different actions, based on each character's requirements.  All of these are clearly shown on the character sheet, and of course you have your handy reference card as well.  There are things you can always do, like build a barricade at the colony or a location if you are there, these stop zombies building up there so can give you a bit of respite.
Next,  players will use all of their action dice to complete actions such as killing zombies, searching in locations outside the main colony, or building barricades to help protect survivors. There are also several actions available that do not require an action die. These actions include moving from location to location, sharing item cards, and helping to resolve crises that occur throughout the game,  Some tasks in the game will require players to roll the Exposure die (the funky red one) to see if they have been wounded or bitten by a zombie. If a character receives three wounds or one bite they will die. 
There are ways to heal yourself or others if wounded but bites will kill you immediately and may even spread from character to character so you will want to be careful of that! Once all players have had an opportunity to finish their turn, the Colony Phase begins.

During the Colony Phase you deal with things like upkeep, ensuring there is enough food to feed the survivors, and not too much waste! yes you have to take out the trash in this game, or you will lose morale, and that is bad.  You also check to see if you have completed the main objective of the game. If not, move the round tracker and pass the first player token counter-clockwise. If the players have completed the main objectives players should reveal whether or not they have completed their own secret objectives as well. All players that have completed their secret objectives are considered winners. Any players that have not completed their secret objective does not win.
Crisis cards happen.... The crisis require resources to be dealt with, usually things that the colony needs to survive and the players need to win. Some of them are: Blizzard, which demands fuel equal to the number of non-exiled players; Raiders, which demands food; Zombie Surge, which demands tool cards. If these are not resolved the crisis will usually lower the Moral of the colony, but if the players are able to not only deal with one, but also overachieve on its requirement, a benefit (also, usually on Moral) is gained. If at any point players complete the final round of the game but not the main objective OR the morale track reaches 0 all loyal players lose.

When you are out in a location you could search for something, as each location has its own unique deck, adn you need to ensure you have enough food each turn to feed the colony, or you will start to starve and morale will drop.  You may also find things like gasoline, or weapons, its all down to the luck of the draw.
Leaving the colony and moving to other locations inst all easy! that's another time you roll that nasty old exposure die, which is rolled every time a character moves or attacks a zombie, it has four possible results: blank, normal damage, frostbite damage and death (tooth, meaning the person is bitten). Frostbite works as damage, but also gives damage at the start every round to the character that has it. The character dies if he has three damages. If a character or helpless person in the colony dies (for any reason: bitten, damage, event) the Moral drops 1 for each death.  There are ways to heal frostbite though, if you are lucky, but do not count on it.  If your main survivor dies, you then take over with another member of your group being "promoted".
Crossroads cards are one of the core experiences of the game, these events that you must choose for the options presented, testing you on your ability to make tough choices from a game point, and moralistic point too.... can you live with what you have done?   You wont find out the results of your choice, until you do them!  They may say things like if X character is in play, or in the colony, then give you the options such as pay x fuel, or x food, or other choices.... the results can be good, bad, neutral, but they are told in a story format, helping you create your own saga of survival, and build your characters background through the tough choices they make in game.  I love this part of the game, there are so many of them to pick from, and not knowing the outcome makes them much harder choices.  There is also a special sealed pack of "adult content cards" and i mean, the normal ones are pretty dark and nihilistic (but i like that) these though... cover even darker taboo subjects, but i do not want to spoil them. They are in the pack so you can decide to include them or not.

You can vote to exile a player if you think they are a traitor, at thwich point they can not return to the colony, but only roam outside, at which point they can either attack other players, or help out clearing zombies out the way, depends i guess on your mood, and how resentful you are.....

Taking a look at the three add on modules......
The improvements module is the smallest, it's a selection of cards that you can build and add to the colony to gain special effects and bonuses.  fireplaces to bedding to the DVD player to keep peoples mind from the hideous death of the world outside and each gives their own varying benefit to the colony.
The Bandits module have  bandits appearing at random locations taking up spaces for zombies. They don't attack survivors but take up space your survivors could go in, and left to their own devices they steal item cards from the locations and pile them face up on their own board at the bandit hideout. Players can go to the camp to steal or battle for those stolen cards to bring them back.  Its a very simple addition, but again adds some nice variety to play the fact these are all optional is a massive plus point.

Lastly, the Raxxon module. If you have played Resident Evil, imagine Umbrella corp and you are pretty much there. It's a special facility which contains items created from all sorts of weird and wonderful things, some may well break your immersion in a "real world" setting, but they are super powerful.  There are also different colour pills that  grant different powerful effects, but also potentially bad side effects so its a risk.

So you get good things from Raxxon right? well.... there are also the special zombies. Every turn there is a chance for a new unique zombie to break out of containment and appear at the other locations. There's a wide range of them and essentially you have to go to Raxxon and use un-allocated action die matching the code to stop them escaping. Doing so allows the players to vote on whether they stop the special zombie getting out or reduce the number of regular zombies appearing elsewhere, or try to deal with this "super" zombie out there.  Each has an experiment log story about them giving you some lovely thematic background, and when you attack them, you roll a die and apply the encounter effect depending on their unique abilities.

The game is dripping in theme, it really feels like you against everything as crisis cards are coming up that you need to deal with, or cross road cards ( i have deliberately not gone into much depth on them as you WANT them to be a surprise) it doesn't feel like you fighting the zombies as an all star action hero, but then that's not what this game is about, you feel like you are just hanging in their and surviving.  Its hard to know who to trust, as when players contribute to the crisis the cards are shuffled so you never know if someone has delibartley thrown it, and even then you are never sure who it was.

It can be a bit of a table hog when its out with all the locations and card decks, so just make ure you have enough space set aside to get the most out of it.

something this game has missed is its playable solo, true you do miss some of the finer points, such as betrayers, but it can still be done, and is still very much fun, but it shines certainly with 3 or 4 players where there is the sense of tension and fear..... and worry if there is a betrayer, plus co-ordinating actions to get the best results.

I love it... its bleak, depressing and nihlistic, and the greatest challenge is staying alive, you will not out there gunning down everything that moves.... it so heavy n theme, and the crossroads cards add massive replay value, and help you create your own story as you play it out with differening results with each turn of a crisis card, or crossroads choice.

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The game has an RRP of £54.99, so go find your Local Game Store and join the challenge to survive the Long Night.


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