Somewhere, in the Dead Of Winter, a group of survivors huddle together, trying to restore some sense of community, hidden behind the walls of the walking dead. It’s going to be a long night. That’s the premise of ‘Dead Of Winter: The Long Night’ and it’s a fairly bleak one, as you and your friends try to build your camp up to survive the new future.
Or do they?
Dead of Winter: The Long Night - Gameplay
‘The Long Night’ is a very tight, narrative-driven, mature story, atmospherically read out by your friends as you each, in turn visit various places in search of food, supplies and weapons whilst the un-dead arrive continually, like some magnetised, wriggling wall insulation, all the while threatening to collapse the walls.
The game plays as a fine balance between risk management, economics and luck as each player works towards two separate goals: one as a group, with the other players, and a private one, which can be something as simple as a challenge, with little consequence or a much more sinister one, which will see the death of others.
Get caught and you could be facing a reversal of fortune as you’re thrown out of the colony but that doesn’t mean the end of the game for you, as you then become leader of the bandits and an enemy in earnest. And while this is (possibly) your just rewards, it’s not always deserved as you can be thrown out for acting suspiciously, even if your goal is something as trivial as hoarding food.
There are several boards in the game, the main board representing your colony whilst the others are destinations, which can be visited in search of weapons and supplies. Travelling between them, though essential, runs the risk of wounding or killing the survivor (from frostbite, gunfight or tooth-bite) nearly every time. And while there are a lot of survivors (each player starts with more than one and you gain more as the game progresses), you can’t help but feel protective over them and taking their death personally, should it happen.
There’s also a balancing act throughout as inevitably, your colony grows with both useful and useless numbers and having too many survivors means a negative impact on food supplies and all the 24-hour garages are actually closed. On top of that - each turn there’s a fresh ‘crisis’ that needs addressing or bad things happen,
So, do you deal with it on your own, as a team or rely on someone else to deal with it and hope they pull their weight? – all the while reminded by the fact that your colony mates may not actually have your best interests at heart.
For all there’s an incredible amount of zombies minis (in sturdy, colourful cardboard form) in ‘TLN’ and with some great variations too, it may come as a surprise that it’s not actually a zombie-slaying game (a la ‘Zombicide’ or the cunningly titled ‘Zombies!!!’) with the zombies themselves just providing another ever constant threat to manage, as if you needed another, all coming together to set a fairly bleak scenario, which you can’t help but feel involved in.
Survival becomes instinctual, loss becomes personal and with each turn capable of triggering a card-based narrative – that personal touch adds yet another layer to the story, to pull you in even further.
Dead of Winter: The Long Night has so much worth talking about and so much to recommend it but there’s also a sense of protecting the storylines, characters and plot twists - along with keeping them ‘in game’ like a secret. However there’s also a sense of recommending the game, similar a close friend recommending the new Marvel film with a frustrating smirk, saying ‘Just go see it.!’ like they knows something you don’t know, which feels not unlike playing the game itself.
Finally, I confess, I’ve only played ‘Dead Of Winter’ once and while I really enjoyed it, I didn’t feel it was necessary to play before playing ‘The Long Night’. Also ‘TLN’ is bigger and better made, as well as having probably the coolest character in any game I’ve played; Blue – the chimp and it also comes with an extraordinary amount of ‘stuff’ - components - so much so, once you’ve pressed all the pieces out – it’s a task getting them back in the box.
From me to you: ‘Just play it!’