A to Z Gaming: Dead of Winter The Long Night

We tried to survive winter nights during the zombie apocalypse in Dead of Winter: The Long Night – the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Dead of Winter: The Long Night
Players: 2-5
Time: 1-2 Hours
Designer: Jonathan Gilmour, Isaac Vega
Artist: Gunship Revolution, Joshua Panelo, David Richards, Fernanda Suárez, Peter Wocken
Publisher Plaid Hat Games

 

Dead of Winter: The Long Night is a semi-cooperative game where players are trying to keep their colony alive through some cold winter nights after zombies have been unleashed on the world. As a group, players are trying to meet a main objective, which changes from game to game. Individually, each player is trying to meet a private objective, which the others are not privy to. The game is played in a number of rounds, determined by the main objective card. A player wins if they accomplish their objective by the end of the game. Depending on the game set-up, there is a chance that one player is a betrayer – their private objective includes failure of the main objective and an additional task. For the non-betrayer players, their objective is the success of the main objective along with an additional task.

Players each start the game with a number of followers – three in a 2-player game, two with higher player counts. The game area consists of the colony, where all followers start, and six outside locations – library, police station, grocery store, school, gas station, hospital. These locations represent places where players can search for items to help them survive.

Each round, players first reveal a crisis card – this represents something that must be accomplished that round, often collecting medicine, food, or gas cards. Then players roll their action dice – one for each of their followers plus one. Starting with the start player for that round, players then take actions. This can include moving a follower to a new location, searching for items at a follower’s location (outside the colony), attacking zombies (or other survivors) at their location, building barricades, and cleaning up the trash. Players can add food to the colony (with food cards found at locations), contribute cards to the main objective (played face-up) or contribute cards to the crisis (played face-down – this is one way the betrayer can mess with the colony).

After all players have used their actions, there is a colony phase – the crisis is resolved, for better or worse, the colony is fed, the trash is checked (too much and morale goes down), and zombies are added to the colony and external locations where survivors are present. Finally, the main objective is checked – if met, the game ends; otherwise, the round counter is moved down, first player token moves, and it all starts over again. Alternately, if the round counter goes to zero, the game ends and players check their secret objectives.

Besides running out of food, failing a crisis, or getting overrun by zombies, other terrible things can happen when players move to a new place or attack zombies.  When these actions are taken, they need to roll the exposure die, which can do nothing, cause a wound – either normal or frostbite – or cause a bite on that follower. Followers die when they get their third wound, and frostbite gives the follower a wound every round after they get exposed. A bite immediately kills the infected follower follower, and will spread if there are others at the same location. Each character that dies causes the morale in the colony to go down. If morale goes to zero, the game is over.

Dead of Winter: The Long Night is a standalone expansion for Dead of Winter. It adds optional modules that can be done one at a time or all together. These modules include a means to build upgrades for the colony, raiders, and Raxxon – an additional location that can spawn uber-zombies.

Our friends introduced us to the original game a few years ago, and I found it game so engaging that I didn’t care that it was “yet another zombie thing.” We bought the expansion so that we could play with either set and mix and match the components. My one complaint about the expansion is that there are not enough main objectives to choose from. I’d really like a way to buy the cards for the original game without buying the full game. It’s a minor thing, and maybe I’ll eventually get a copy of the original used or on sale.

I actually like the game just as much (possibly more) when there is no betrayer. The game is hard enough without it. I do appreciate that it adds some additional “peril” to the game, and distrust between players. It may also help mitigate the “alpha player” syndrome that can happen with some cooperative games – this can happen if there is an overbearing player who tried to dictate what everyone does. With the betrayer, you simply can not show your cards to other players. There is still discussion of the best move for each player, but the others can not dictate the moves of any given player. I’m just not sure the betrayer is needed for most of my games.

Other than that, I like the tension of the game – balancing leaving people at the colony with moving to the other locations while trying not to get exposure and keep the zombies at bay. Do you want additional followers? Well, then you might need to pay additional food or risk more zombies than you can handle.

I also like that you can choose the main objective based on how long you want the game to be – some are “short”, just ~4 rounds, while others are longer, clocking in at 6 or more rounds. You can also choose not to have a betrayer, or to make the betrayer more or less likely based on how many secret objectives you shuffle before handing them out to players.

There is some element of luck – the shuffle of the cards and the roll of the exposure die – but this can be mitigated with some special powers. Some characters can grab extra things when they search specific locations, or you can “make noise” at a location to look at an additional card in the deck. This can attract zombies, though, so you want to use that power judiciously. You also have the option of using gas when moving to new locations, which eliminates your chance of exposure. And there are weapons you can use against zombies (found at selected locations) that eliminate the need to roll for exposure when fighting.

All in all, a fun, enjoyable, tense game.

How is it as a 2-player game? It’s good as a 2-player game. The game is played without a betrayer (it’s hard enough), and each player starts with an extra follower so they get additional actions on their turn. I find that I prefer higher player counts, just because there is more interaction and discussion about what actions to do next, but it plays just fine at two.

How about the art and component quality? There are A LOT of components in this game. The cardboard chits are good quality as are the zombie and follower standees. I do wish the standees could fit in the box with their plastic stands attached, because the bottoms of the cardboard standees starts to shred after a few games from the strain of attaching and removing the stands. The boards for the colony and outside locations are a nice heavy cardstock/cardboard; however the player boards themselves are a bit thiner than I would have liked. I’m always afraid they’re going to succumb to the box. (Though I now have The Broken Token insert for this one, so that’s less of a danger.)

I love the art. The characters are all unique and match their occupations and descriptions. There are only so many zombies, however, which I understand – they’re generic – but clearly less love went into them than the followers. Oh, and the cards are fun – be sure to read the names of the cereal and books.

Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely yes. It doesn’t come out as often as I’d like – but that’s mostly because you need the right game group with enough time to play. I really like it when it does come out.

 

 

 

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