Dead of Winter: The Long Night Review

Can you survive the harsh, relentless onslaught of the zombie apocalypse? Where more than just the shuffling dead pose a threat. Dead of Winter The Long Night asks you to do just that!

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Dead of Winter The Long NIght  from Plaidhat games – the standalone expansion to Dead of Winter, is a co-operative board game where your group must work together to complete an overall objective in order to win the game, but they also have their own secret mission too. It could be something like hoarding food, or it could be something a little more sinister as you can have a betrayal objective given to you, where you work in secret to bring down the group.

I won’t go in to detail on all the rules because there are quite a lot, instead a quick overview of the main points.

Players start the game controlling two characters, assigning one of them (with the highest influence) as your leader and the other as a follower, you get a die for each character you have plus one extra, you will roll these at the beginning of the round and can then use them to spend on performing various actions on your turn like attacking zombies and searching locations. Some actions don’t require the use of dice i.e. handing off cards and moving to new locations. Each character has a value for attack and for searching and in order to perform these actions you must ‘spend’ a die equal to or higher than the value shown on their card.

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When you star the game you will have your objective as a group, but you will also draw a crisis card at the beginning of each round which will give you certain criteria to meet during that round – something like gathering food for every non-exiled survivor. If you fail, the consequences could be pretty bad, if you succeed, well you just survive a bit longer really. The player to your right will also draw a crossroads card, these cards have mini scenarios on them that may or may not come in to play during a players turn. You read the italicised text at the top to yourself and if that condition is met you then read the rest of the card aloud to the group, you then have a choice – as a group, to make, and take a vote.

Dead of Winter is a punishing game, it feels like it wants you to lose. You have a set amount of morale when you begin your game and if that drops to 0, you lose. You lose morale any times someone dies – player controlled or otherwise, you can also lose morale by failing objectives. Every time you move to a location you have to roll a die for exposure which can leave you with wounds or frostbite – if you accumulate 3, you’re dead! If you get one bite, you’re dead and it can potentially spread to another player and guess what, they’re dead too. Like I said, punishing!

However, each character does possess has a special ability that can help you along the way, this can range from things like not having to roll for exposure when you move, being able to attack with rolling for exposure and if you plan properly – and get a little lucky with characters, you can avoid total catastrophe.

The Long Night introduces some new mechanics to the original Dead of Winter game. The most notable additions are the new Raxxon and Bandit modules you can play with. Raxxon pharmaceuticals are the ones responsible for the outbreak and the laboratory is a new area that you can visit. Essentially Raxxon is high risk high reward, you can search there but there is always a risk that more deadly zombies will break free. In order to contain them you will need to spend die.

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Raxxon cards

The Bandits kind of act like NPC’s, they ‘search’ locations at the end of rounds and take items back to their hideout. You can visit this location like any other, but when searching or attacking you must roll a die and consult the location card to see what happens when a specific value is rolled. The bandit hideout feels more like a high risk standard reward, but the difference is, is when item cards are placed at the hideout, they’re placed face up, so you know what’s there.  Also if a player becomes exiled and the bandit module is being used, that player becomes leader of the bandits, which is really cool!

Other new additions are the Graveyard board, unruly helpless survivors – they take more of your food, despair tokens – act like wounds, explosive traps  and the improvements module that lets you upgrade your colony to grant you bonuses. I actually found that the improvements didn’t really feel that beneficial, firstly we never really found many tokens to make upgrades and secondly, if we were in a position to make an upgrade it was already close to the end of the game.

20170224_190504.jpgWe’ve only succeeded once, and even then it was only a half win as I was the only player to complete both objectives I was given (purely by fluke) the other two completed one objective and the last had a betrayal objective, so they obviously lost. For us to win though we had to basically abandon our home shelter and had zombies almost overrunning every location, had we not succeeded on our final round we would’ve lost as we were about to be completely overrun which would’ve resulted in everyone dying and morale hitting 0. It was a complete Hail Mary move but it did pay off.

Yes, Dead of Winter feels pretty punishing and you always feel up against it, but it’s still a very enjoyable and rewarding game, the constant threat of the zombies, exposure and the potential betrayer keep you on your toes at all times, but when you succeed, the sense of satisfaction is that much better. Plus the addition of the crisis and crossroad cards every round always mix up your tactics and approach for the coming round. They can completely change what you were thinking of doing. A few times we decided to take the hit on the crisis cards and not work towards completing them as you can see what the failure result would be and you might be able to manage that.

My only real criticism is with the dice rolling. Depending on how you roll pretty much determines how well you do, if you roll high numbers you have a better chance of searching and attacking, but low numbers makes life a lot more difficult. I know that this is the case in many games, but with unforgiving nature of Dead of Winter a bad roll can really make things difficult.

I can see Dead of Winter The Long Night being a fairly regular game at our table, it takes a while to get setup in the first instance, but once you’re going games can quite quickly pass you by and resetting, if you wanted to, doesn’t take long. On the surface it might seem daunting with so many different cards, pieces and rules to get your head around, but once you’ve played a few rounds it quickly becomes fairly simple to play.

The quality for The Long Night expansion has been upped, with the location cards now being actual card board, they’re nice and robust – the quality overall is really good, it’s just a shame that my copy didn’t have any dice with it… and you need a fair few with all players having to roll at the same time.

Dead of Winter The Long Night is a great co-op game, and a great zombie game that offers a lot of depth in play and strategy with loads of replayability. You can track down a copy here.

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4 thoughts on “Dead of Winter: The Long Night Review

  1. I played this once at my games club, but the person who brought it didn’t teach it very well sadly meaning I wasn’t too sure how to play. I could certainly see the appeal and I bet it could be great fun to play.

    • Personally I do kind of hate learning a new game, mainly because it means I have to explain it to multiple other people and I always miss something or forget. There is quite a bit to learn with this one!
      I’ve got Seafall to teach to 4 others next.

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