Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game

Tagged: Game

Board Game (2014). Plaid Hat Games. Designed by Isaac Vega and Jon Gilmour.

Dead of Winter is a deceit/cooperation game for 2-5 players that takes place after a Zombie apocalypse. Players must survive each playable scenario in the game by collecting various items, succeeding at challenges and dealing with crises as they arise. Whilst the game is superficially cooperative, players also pursue their own agendas within each game, which may be contrary to the central aims. The game takes some 2-3 hours to play a single scenario.

Dead of Winter is similar in format and theme to the games Zombicide (2012), where players must collect artefacts for their characters by moving around the board, killing zombies and gradually becoming more powerful, and Battlestar Galactica: The Boardgame (2008) where players must collect items from various areas on the board and use them to resolve a crisis that arises every turn. The game is also uses the deceit/cooperation gameplay mechanic in that players may be working contrary to the aims of the central group. Dead of Winter amps up the levels of suspicion between players from simply believing that one person is an enemy by giving everyone an individual objective to fulfil. Some of these objectives may make the game harder; others may actively demand that the player betray the others.

Since this is a game in which the players effectively play against Dead of Winter itself (rather than each other) there are also multiple ways to lose the game – by failing to resolve too many crises, by running out of food, fuel, or morale or by being eaten by the zombies. Players roll dice on their turn and choose their subsequent actions, which are modified by the unique abilities that their characters possess. Characters secretly contribute cards to help resolve or exacerbate the current crisis, an element that causes paranoia amongst the player base. Unlike many other deceit/cooperation games, there may not be a player who is a betrayer, but this element of play, along with the game's aesthetic of Survival Horror encourages paranoia and mistrust. This, as much as any other part of the game, causes problems for the players who may be tempted to accuse each other of wrongdoing when none exists.

The art and aesthetic of Dead of Winter echoes a colourized version of Rob Kirkman's Comic The Walking Dead (2003-current), with the scenarios for each individual also reminiscent of the resultant television series (2010-current). The Novum of a group of survivors trapped in unfavourable circumstances is however a popular trope of many zombie texts. The game was also released at a point where zombie board games and videogames were a popular topic thanks to such games as The Walking Dead (2012), The Last of Us (2013), Zombie 15' (2014), Zombies, Run! (2012) and Zombicide (2012). More expansions of the game have been promised, with the "Crossroads" subtitle of the game suggesting a world behind the single game. [EMS]

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