Halesowen Board Gamers #23 (27/08/14)

Been a while since I made it to Halesowen! Had a nice holiday away and did a week at a Brighton group then went a little further to play in Cologne (Check the last post before this one if interested in that ^^).

Aaanyhow…

Dead of Winter

This week at Halesowen had myself, Mark & Steve in a 3-Player game of Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game. The setting of the game is after a zombie-apocalypse, but the focus is on Survival, not the post-apocalyptic pests. A game ends when either the main objective (Of 10 to be chosen from in the base-game) is completed, the round track hits 0, or the ever-present and threatening morale track hits 0. Players control groups of survivors, and have a secret-objective that they must complete to win the game alongside the main objective (There is also a 50% chance in each game of someone being a betrayer, who actually wants to make morale hit 0 alongside some other secret objectives).

The story for our game started that we were actually pretty comfortable in the confines of our colony, but the ever-present Zombie threat was interfering with life going on. To win, we had to successfully barricade each location in the town by 1, and get 10 barricades down in the main colony. We also, as with all games, had to keep our colonists fed, keep the zombies out, keep out the trash and constantly fight with the ‘crisis’ which occurs each round and has to be dealt with to avoid negative effects.

At the start of each round, all players roll their action dice (Which is number of survivors they possess + 1 Dice), which are used to perform the main actions that players can take. Next, players take turns where they perform all their actions for that round before play proceeds. Before a player does anything however, the player to their right draws a ‘crossroad’ card, which are sort of story-driving cards that can sometimes trigger if the player does specific things, and are only read out at that time.

On a players turn, they can do some things which require dice, and some which don’t. Those which don’t are generally risky, or are limited by other means (Such as the number of cards a player has). Attack/Search require specific dice results (But you know ahead of time if you can do these, because the roll happens before the turns), while Barricading, Attracting (Pulls Zombies from one location to another) and Cleaning waste just requires using up any die. Without a dice you can Play Cards, Move (Rolling the evil, horrible, nasty exposure die which I’ll mention in a sec), pass equipment, request cards and vote to exile others (I.e. if you think someones a betrayer you can kick them out the colony, although they still get to play).

Some things you do in Dead of Winter require you to roll a special die, the ‘exposure’ die. This 12-Sided die, forged in the depths of mount Mordor, has 6 safe sides, but then 5 sides with wounds (1 or 2 being frostbite, which causes you to then take a wound at the start of every turn – 3 on a survivor and it dies, losing 1 morale for the colony), and 1 side has a bite. A bite is instant death for that survivor, and worse, the bite then spreads to any other survivor at the target location, who can then either suicide to save anyone else, or roll the die again – On a blank the bite effect steps, but on any other result, they die and it spreads again. The result of this? If players push their luck too much, they could literally wipe out the colony and end the game in a single turn, scary stuff!

Aaaanyway, once all players have had a turn, the colony phase begins. This consists of:
1 – Pay Food (1 per 2 survivors in the main colony, or gain a starvation token and lose morale)
2 – Check Waste (Lose 1 morale per 10 cards in the waste pile)
3 – Check Crisis (If enough cards of the right type weren’t contributed…bad stuff happens)
4 – Add Zombies (1 per 2 survivors in the main colony, and 1 per survivor elsewhere)
5 – Check Main objective (Yep…you finally get to check, after the horrible things occur)
6 – Pass Turn Marker.
7 – Round track moves down 1 space.

The Action Session Bit —

So where were we, yes, Barricades! This was a medium length objective, and we had 6 rounds to get it done in. The game started with 12 Zombies at the colony and 1 at all the other locations. Shouldn’t be too difficult – Kill a few Zombies, barricade up and we’re good.

Early on in the game, things looked like they’d go ok (Y’know…just the first turn or so =P). I went first and was able to drop a barricade into the colony & take out a couple of Zombies to clear the way a bit. After I finished my turn I realised I’d totally forgotten to contribute to the colony’s food or the crisis (Which was also for food), oops. I had moved one of my survivors to a non-colony location though reducing the food requirements. Between Steve/Mark they managed to sort out the crisis and food issue, and find some nice items.

By the next turn, things were looking dire for Steve already. (I think it was 2nd turn this happened anyway..), he got some nice items for both his survivors, then lost one of them, leaving a single survivor with night-vision goggles (So he would still have 3 action dice at least). He holed up at the police station for a while then, barricading it up more than we even needed and getting himself a nice weapon for his survivor. Mark got an extra survivor, and not long after so did I, which didn’t help as much as we might have hoped as I think the 2nd crisis was also for food! Having to feed a ton of colonists and still deal with the crisis was looking difficult (Though at least I remembered to use my food this time).

As we went on through the game we triggered a remarkable amount of crossroads cards, considering many are quite specific¬† – Quite surprising when ‘Active player has survivor x’ triggers when they didn’t start their turn with that survivor (i.e. a random draw from the 30 or so survivors gives them that exact one ^^). A crisis where we needed tools/fuel seemed easy enough, but I was last on the turn and used my fuel to move, then looked at I think 3 cards while searching and found 3 damn food cards! (The thing we were desperate for earlier, but at this particular point we had about double what we needed for the next colony phase). I should have just rolled the exposure dice and put the fuel in, could have avoided getting a morale loss and a starvation token added to the food supply from the crisis (When you can’t feed, you lose morale equal to the number of starvation tokens…)

Edit: I forget when it happened, but somewhere around here I think is when a bite effect occured as a character moved back to the colony (Might have been how Steve got down to 1 survivor actually), which also led to Mark killing one of his to stop it from spreading (A valiant effort…I’d have rolled the die and risked it ^^).

Over the next few turns I ended up with a very healthy amount of survivors (4), Steve remained on his impressive 1 survivor run (I think he got a 3rd piece of equipment too, not sure though) and Mark also got a lot of them. We kind of remembered then that we could have had him request the outsiders to increase his count, and as we’d pretty much surmised we had no traitor would have been a good idea (Mark even got to directly look at mine thanks to a crossroad card for the psychologist). Unfortunately we got to having about 2 rounds left with barely any barricades in the colony (2/10), although most of the non-colony locations were covered…We also had about 1-2 morale left and were struggling to feed, having not been able to add food and using up the double-quantity we had not long before.

Eventually Steve found another survivor, the ninja, but unfortunatey a bit late to help overly much (He did ninja a couple of Zombies though). I lost 1 of mine because I’m an idiot (I let a location overfill with Zombies which causes instant death) although I got it back soon enough. We spent much of the 2nd to last round clearing up spaces to hopefully barricade in the last turn. A stroke of luck with a crossroads card had Steve finding a Guitar and making us all so happy that we gained an action die each for the last round, (So me/mark had 6 and he had 5). The last round was tense, and we managed to get enough zombies down that we almost had time…but fell just short with me using my remaining actions to finish the barricades we needed…but couldn’t deal with the fatal morale-losing problems we had left such that we fell just short of the win.

Astoundingly close, it was a ton of fun and I can’t wait to play again, which I do believe is an opinion shared by Steve & Mark who played too. Next week we’ll hopefully be able to nab another couple of players for a full complement then kick the games proverbial arse…we can only hope.

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