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Tabletop Game / Dead of Winter

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"All of our hard work has rewarded us more than I could have hoped. Yesterday this was a refugee camp, and today it’s an honest-to-God town. When people call it the Colony, there’s no bitter irony in their voices, and that speaks volumes. Only problem is, all of our hard work has brought down a swarm of the dead upon us. Each day brings new invaders to our walls, and they wander the streets in town waiting for a living morsel to present itself. If we can just figure out a way to kill this swarm, build up our defenses and hopefully stop attracting more of them. Sure, we’ll probably be dealing with stragglers for the rest of our days, but anything would be better than the horde we’re dealing with now."
'Home Sweet Home' Main Objective Storyline, Dead of Winter

A survival/horror cooperative Adventure Board Game set in the dead of winter during a Zombie Apocalypse, where players must achieve personal goals and keep the community of survivors alive until spring. Designed by Isaac Vega and Jon Gilmour in 2014 for Plaid Hat Games, it is the first of a planned series of games that uses the Crossroads system.

Can be ordered via the official website or found in your local gaming store. Plaid Hat Games has also put a PDF of the rules on their website.

2-5 players select a Main Objective the group must achieve before the game is over, as well as Once Per Round Crisis Card to resolve before the round is finished. Players select 2 or more Survivors to control on the board, moving them from the relative safety of the Colony and venturing out to forage and fight in the dangerous locations of the town. However, players also have a Secret Objective for themselves to achieve by the end of the game, which could be as harmless as collecting lots of tools, or as malicious as seeking to destroy the colony from within, and which the player must also achieve if they are to win. Food is running short, trash is piling up at the Colony, characters are getting frostbite, and worse, the zombies are massing at the doors and smashing through your barricades.

The goal is survival, but not everyone can make it until spring.

An expansion was teased by founder Colby Dauch. This expansion, "The Long Night" was released in 2016. A second expansion, "Warring Colonies" was announced in May 2017 and was released on October 12, 2017.

In 2017, Oni Press started publishing a comic book series based on the game called Dead of Winter.

Not to be confused with the chilling 1987 Gothic Horror film. Also not to be confused with the Dead Winter webcomic, which hilariously enough is also set in a Zombie Apocalypse.

Dead of Winter has examples of:

  • Always Male: The expansion has the special "Tank" zombies, which, according to the backstory, can only be men.
  • Anti-Hero:
    • Your Survivors might make some questionable decisions. As a group, the Colony might vote to deny shelter to people seeking help, exile their own, or any number of morally grey acts. However, you cannot kill helpless survivors and being too callous brings down the morale counter.
    • The secret objectives may force the player to act suspiciously or against the best wishes of the colony, like hoarding medicine, gasoline or food. Without these objectives, the player loses even if the win conditions for the group are met. Of course, this is intentional so that innocent players may look like a traitor.
  • Arbitrary Mission Restriction: If the main objective is completed successfully before a loss condition is triggered, all players collectively win the game. However, each player also has a hidden individual objective. A player can only achieve individual victory if the group mission is successful and the player fulfills their own objective. Many of these individual goals can go counter to the group goal, since they can require the player to hoard vital supplies or play in a sub-optimal fashion, while still trying to achieve the group goal. This is Inverted if a player gets a Betrayer objective, which means that they can only win if they fulfill their individual objective and the group fails.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Survivors with a better attack score tend to have higher influence.
  • Ate It All: One Crossroads card has a new survivor arrive at the colony with a very fat friend. If the friend is allowed to join, he eats the colony's entire food store. Otherwise, you lose a point of Morale and gain five food tokens...
  • The Atoner: An exiled traitor can actually get a new objective that requires the colony to survive. The card? Atonement.
  • Becoming the Mask: Felicia Day's hat. She becomes any character on a Crossroads card provided that character isn't already present.
  • Boring, but Practical: Several survivors' abilities don't do anything interesting for them, but shift the odds in ways that can keep the colony afloat. Examples include Loretta Clay creating food tokens, Nadia Rivers letting each player replace a die roll, and Brandon Kane clearing the trash heap more efficiently.
  • Butt-Monkey: If Forest, the Mall Santa, is kicked out, morale goes up.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Every survivor's former profession factors into their special ability and their skills at searching for items and killing zombies. People that drive for a living don't roll for exposure when moving, medicine-related professions can heal wounds, soldiers and prison guards can kill zombies at range, etc.
  • Damage Typing: Survivors can suffer regular Wounds, Frostbite Wounds that deal Damage Over Time until they're healed, and Despair tokens. Some effects only affect specific types of harm; in particular, Despair can't be removed by normal healing, but can kill a survivor just like physical harm.
  • Deadly Scratch: One Crossroads card has a survivor meet a stranger with a cut on his arm. He laughs it off, but the player has to choose whether to let him into the Colony and roll the dice against an outbreak there.
  • Death as Game Mechanic: When a character dies, Morale goes down - as the game is lost if Morale ever gets to zero, this is usually bad. However, one character is so useless that if you kill him immediately, the group actually gains morale (though that player now has one less character to control). Also, if one player is the traitor themselves, they can only win the game if the rest of the group loses, so 'accidentally' letting characters die can be a very useful way of achieving that.
  • Despair Event Horizon: In the Long Night expansions, Despair tokens can get added to survivors, which are basically wounds that can't be healed except in exceptional circumstances. Presumably racking up Despair or taking a Despair as a final wound results in the survivor being Driven to Suicide.
  • Disaster Dominoes: One person getting a bite could lead to more and more infections and deaths, which lower morale for each death. One can easily spiral into a game over.
  • Divided We Fall: Everyone has a Secret Objective which usually involves the main scenario being resolved (with the exception of traitors), but everyone has their own hidden goals which can act against the interests of the colony or even hinder things for them.
  • Driven to Suicide: Implied to be the case when a survivor dies to a Despair token.
  • Everyone Is Bi: A crossroads card implies that two characters are lovers and can spend their time either arguing (creating noise for the zombies) or having sex (preventing them from searching). This is regardless of the genders of the survivors, they just need to be alone together. (It can be especially embarrassing if one of the partners is a dog, monkey or Forest the Mall Santa.)
  • Evil All Along: Traitors work to destroy the Colony from within. If the players don't expose one, they're only revealed at the end of the game... sometimes as they claim victory.
  • Evil, Inc.: Raxxon Pharmaceuticals, who created the zombie plague.
  • Expy: Edward White is a rather obvious one of Walter White. John Price, subsequently, is one of Jesse Pinkman.
  • Fat Bastard: The Glutton traitor. The victory text says the traitor enjoyed watching their belly grow as everyone else's shrunk.
  • Gasoline Dousing: The Long Night expansion adds fuel cards that can also be used to kill a zombie instantly without resorting to combat, bypassing the risk of injury or infection.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: Mike is a zombie fighting ninja, complete with black outfit.
  • Gray Is Useless: "Helpless survivors" have grey silhouette tokens and can't work for the Colony, whereas player characters have names and full-colour portraits.
  • Guest Star: Felicia Day is a promotional character. The expansion has Rich Sommer.
  • Guns Akimbo: You can equip as many guns as you like to your Survivors, but beware, if they die, all those guns get shuffled back into the deck.
  • Harder Than Hard: Every scenario comes with an alternate version that ups the difficulty with factors like a stricter time limit, more zombies, and more stringent victory conditions.
  • Harmless Freezing: Inverted. Players with frostbite will suffer Damage Over Time until healed or dead.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: If a Survivor at a location is bitten and dies, the infection could spread to the other Survivors at that location. A Survivor can roll and take the 50% chance of surviving, or they can kill themselves to stop the infection from spreading further.
  • Hold the Line: Everywhere that the survivors can be, zombies will pile up outside and threaten to overrun the position. The colony practically requires at least one dedicated defender to hold the line.
  • Housepet Pig: One random event has a dying man bequeath your character his beloved companion pig. It helps you hunt for food if you keep it; otherwise, it contributes more directly to the food supply.
  • It's All About Me: Some Secret Objectives lean this way, for example, withholding gasoline or weapons or tools from the other survivors. This can easily spell disaster for the non-traitor players.
  • Killed Off for Real: If a Survivor dies, their figure is removed from their board, their card is removed from the game, and any items equipped to them are shuffled back into the deck. In all but one case, morale goes down.
  • Large Ham: Read any of the traitor victory speeches.
  • The Load: Helpless survivors, which take up space, attract zombies, eat your food, and contribute nothing to the betterment of the colony. Implied to be either small children or the elderly, depending on what the scenario calls for (or players' interpretations). One scenario explicitly makes one of them an extremely fat guy who eats all of the colony's food — or can be made into five food chips. Bon Appetit!
  • Luck-Based Mission: The game offers a remarkable number of ways to recover from, or at least mitigate, a stroke of bad luck... yet you can still get screwed by, for example, too many food-related Crises in a row (since you always need to feed your people in addition to spending Food cards to avoid the Crisis), or by a "bitten" result on the Exposure die, or... Hell, the way the first player marker rotates can screw you over! explanation  In fact, it's quite possible for the entire colony to wipe before a single turn has occurred. (In such cases, it's preferable, because the players can shrug, and quickly reset for a new game.)
  • Mad Scientist: One of the betrayer objectives. Your evil plan is to poison the colony's water with a modified zombie virus. It turns the other survivors into unresisting zombie slaves of the scientist.
  • My Little Phony: One Crossroads card lets a male survivor find a beloved "My Tiny Horsey" figurine, to the disgust of a Grumpy Old Man back at the colony. It makes the survivor immune to Despair.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Colby's entire schtick, and how you can recruit him.
  • No Bikes in the Apocalypse: Downplayed. The bicycle messenger Hugo Valentine is immune to most hazards of travel — he can't suffer injuries or frostbite, but he can get bitten. However, it's unique to him; others who want to travel safely had better scrounge for fuel.
  • One-Hit Kill: On the 12-sided die is a tooth. If a character rolls the tooth, they die — and infect another character if they're in the same location. This can result in a Total Party Kill if in the Colony.
  • Persona Non Grata: If a Survivor is exiled, they cannot return to the Colony for the rest of the game.
  • Renovating the Player Headquarters: The Long Night introduces Improvements that grant passive benefits to the Colony or new action options to the players. Four possible Improvements are drawn at random at the beginning of the game; each can be built using certain tools, character abilities, and/or random events.
  • Pyromaniac: One of the victory conditions, "Burn It All Down", requires the colony to survive with 4 barricades and for the player to have a gas can in their inventory, implying they're going to torch the colony after the game has concluded.
  • Race Against the Clock: Unless the goal is to survive a certain number of rounds, if the round counter hits zero before the main objective is achieved, the game is lost.
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • Some of the Crossroads scenarios offer these. A basic example is either taking on both more useful survivors and more useless mouths, or turning them away and leaving them to whatever fate awaits them.
    • Getting a tooth on the die means another character in the same location is now infected, and that player has to decide to either kill him or have a 50% chance of either saving them or dying and infecting another character.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Some Traitor Secret Objectives have this as an option, some Crossroads Cards trigger events like this.
  • Serial Killer: One Traitor wants to watch other colony members die, and gets off on it.
  • Shout-Out: the "The Long Night" expansion has a number of these.
    • A findable item is a book called The Adventures of Dr. Hat Wife, a reference to noted neurologist Oliver Sacks and his seminal work of popular psychology, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.
    • A second book is entitled, The Art of Being Neither Seen Nor Heard, a joke from Arrested Development.
  • Social Deduction Game: Players work together to gather supplies, resolve crises and protect their colony from zombies. However each player also has a special victory condition, unique to them, and some of these can require them working to sabotage the colony without the other players realising they're a traitor.
  • Take a Third Option: Players can sometimes perform this trope in the face of a Sadistic Choice, especially if a certain character is in play at the time.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: One of the "Warring Colonies" objectives is "Cooperation", where both colonies must survive and combat is forbidden. Normally, the colonies are fighting each other.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: With the Long Night expansion, an innocent exile can become the leader of the Raiders.
  • Variable Player Goals: The whole point of the Secret Objectives. They add to the air of tension, as a player looking out for number one is not necessarily a traitor. It also sets the game apart from most cooperative and most social-deduction tabletop games: in Mysterium the entire team can lose but there's No Antagonist, and in Secret Hitler either the liberals win or the fascists win... but in Dead of Winter it's possible for everyone to lose, traitor and loyalist alike.
  • Villain Protagonist: If you get a Traitor Secret Objective card.
    • Some exiled objective is about waiting outside ready to kill any survivor they met.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Players' secret objectives can sometimes put them at odds with other players or the Colony's main objective (for example, if they have to hoard necessary supplies). Zig-zagged with one Crossroads card that inspires the character to set aside their personal goals and devote themself fully to the Colony's survival.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The setting. The dead walk the earth, society has crumbled, and the player characters have formed a small colony of survivors that rely on looting the remains. There are some signs of broader human activity, like traveling survivors, police running a Protection Racket, and air-dropped supplies from China, but for the most part, the Colony is on its own.