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How to Play: Dead of Winter

How to Play Dead of Winter

In Dead of Winter, you start the game as zombie apocalypse survivors living together in a colony. To win the game you have to complete the primary mission and your own secret objective. However, in every game there is a chance one of you is a traitor, so you'll have to be on your guard.

Dead of Winter Set-Up

Set out the colony and locations in the middle of the table, placing the item cards at their numbered locations. Shuffle the survivor, crossroads and exile cards, then position them near the colony. Choose a main objective card, either by random selection or by picking one as a group. Follow its set-up instructions to add zombies, set the morale counter, and set the round counter. You each need a player reference sheet, five starter item cards and your own player objectives.

Take two standard objectives for each of you, add one betrayer objective before shuffling and dealing them out at random. You each need to take four survivor cards - choose a leader, and a follower from them then return them to the pile. For each survivor you have, take an action die plus one bonus die at the start. Place your player standees in the colony, and you are ready to play.

The Player Phase

The player phase in Dead of Winter starts by revealing a crisis card, working together as a team you must donate the minimum number of cards to the crisis before the end of this phase or suffer its fail conditions. All check you have the right number of action dice and roll them together before moving on to your individual player turns.

At the start of your individual turns, the player to your right picks up a crossroad card, if it is triggered during your turn the card is read out and you will have to choose between the card's different options.

Spending Action Dice

On your turn, you can spend action dice equal to your search or attack values to kill zombies, attack survivors, search locations for items. When searching a location, you pick up the top item from its deck and keep it. If you want, you can make noise to look at more item cards and choose from one of them, but each time you do this, you must place a noise token on the location, up to a maximum of four noise tokens per round for each location.

If you attack a survivor, roll the action die you spent to attack them - if it is equal to or less than their attack value, they gain a wound token, and you take a card at random from the player who controls that survivor. You can spend an action die of any value place a barricade token at a location, clean three waste from the colony or attract two zombies from any location to your location.

You can continue to do these actions until you run out of action die to spend on them.

Survivor Abilities

Each survivor has their own ability which can help you win the game. Survivor abilities vary, some of them allowing for multiple uses per turn, some only once a turn and some only once a game. Some survivor abilities may have restrictions, like only work at specific locations or requiring you to spend action dice to use them.

Other Actions

Without using an action die you can also play cards from your hand, use an equipped item, add a card to the crisis, move survivors, spend a food token to increase an action die by one, request cards from other players or hand off equipped items to a survivor.

Played cards are either equipped or added to the waste pile depending on the card. You can do these as many times as you like, although some equipped items may be limited to a certain number of uses in total or per round.


Rolling for Exposure

If you kill a zombie or move to another location you have to roll for exposure, this may have no effect, or it may lead to your survivor being wounded, getting frostbite, or being bitten. When your survivor gains three wound tokens, they die, and frostbite tokens add a wound token per round.

If your survivor is bitten, they die instantly, and the bite will spread to the survivor with the lowest influence at your location. The bite will keep spreading until one of you chooses to kill your own infected survivor to save everyone, a blank is rolled on the exposure dice, or there is no one left alive at the location.

Voting to Exile

Once a turn you may also call for a vote to exile someone, they are only exiled with a majority vote. An exiled player should reveal their personal objective card and replace it with an exiled objective card if they weren't the traitor - if they were they will find and gain an item written on the card. Exiled players have to move their survivors out of the colony, to any locations they choose. They cannot return to the colony, contribute to the crisis, add helpless survivors or vote.

If they play a survivor card, they add them to a non-colony location of their choice instead of the colony. Any cards they would add to the waste are removed from the game. Instead of spending food tokens to increase an action die by one, they can spend food cards, ignoring any effects on them. The colony doesn't lose morale when an exiled player's survivor dies, but if two non-betrayer players are exiled morale immediately drops to zero, and the game ends.

The Colony Phase

You will need to pay one food token for every two people in the colony or gain a starvation token and lose morale. You also lose morale for every 10 cards in the waste pile. Shuffle the cards that were added to the crisis, then check to see if you have completed it. If you haven't, you'll have to suffer its negative effect but if you have, for every two cards added above the number of players you gain morale.

Add one zombie to the colony for every two survivors and one zombie for each player at any other location. You'll need to roll an action die for each noise token on the board, if you roll a three or lower you add another zombie to that location. If you run out of space to place zombies, you have to kill the same number of survivors, starting with whoever has the lowest influence at that location.

Ending the Game

At the end of the colony phase check the primary objective, if you've completed this the game ends, if you haven't you need to advance the round tracker and pass the first player token to the right. The game will also end if the round tracker or the morale tracker reaches zero.

What you need to do to win or lose is written on your personal objective card, and you must complete every objective on the card to win. So even if the group completes the game, you could lose at Dead of Winter as an individual if you haven't managed to complete your personal objective by the end of the game.

Tips for Dead of Winter

There is a lot of set-up required at the beginning of Dead of Winter, but seeing as almost all of it can be done at the same time you can divide out the tasks to give you more time to play.

When choosing the primary objective, make sure to check how long it says it will take. The last medium game I played took three hours, so if you haven’t got a lot of time on your hands stick to the short games.

Dead of Winter has loads of ways you can adapt the game, from making it child-friendly to a hardcore version of the game and expansion packs. Make sure to check these out if you’d like to change up the game!

Remember to check if you can complete any of your objectives at the beginning of your player turn. It’s easy to forget about the primary mission and make the game go on for more rounds than needed if you’re not careful.

If you go online to Plaid Hat Games’ website, they have a crossroad card creator, where you can make, save and print up to 50 of your own crossroad cards at a time to make up your own devious scenarios to use with the game.