Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game is a meta co-op (some co-op elements and some competitive elements) psychological survival board game for 2-5 players. Each player assumes control of their own colony of survivors in a world where most people are either dead, dying, or already zombies.
Players all work together towards one common victory condition which includes goals such as finding food, scavenging for supplies, fighting off threats, resolving crises, and more. However, for each player to win, they must also complete their own personalized secret objective. These secret objectives may include things such as one player attempting to sabotage the win, vengeance against other players, or a dangerous obsession.
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Pro Exciting risk-reward system
Sometimes performing an action can be risky. Typically, when moving or attacking you need to roll the 'exposure die' (you could get frostbite, receive a zombie bite, or have nothing happen). This means that it can be risky moving around to different locations. Each location has its own strengths and weaknesses, with some being very rewarding. Deciding whether or not the move is worth the risk makes it a very exciting system where you'll always be weighing the benefits and drawbacks of every single movement.
Pro Lots of tough choices to make on a personal level
All players attempt to survive together, fending off zombies, gathering supplies, and working towards a common goal. However, each player also has their own secret side-objective ranging from saving the most survivors to hoarding certain items and even betraying the group. Playing for the survival of the group while also juggling your own secret goals can result in many tough personal choices. Do you share resources with the group or keep them for yourself? Do you go off and scavenge supplies for personal gains even it means leaving the group weakened? Do you save that survivor or just let them die because it's one more mouth to feed?
Pro Survivalist theme of the game is very well integrated
The survivalist theme shines through in each and every tough decision, gameplay system, and objective the game throws at you. Most of the world is dead, the environment is extremely hostile, there are zombies everywhere, and one wrong move can be the difference between survival and death for you and/or your group. Do you work towards the goal of the group, or do you sabotage them for personal gains? Do you hoard resources or share? There is an endless list of choices that have to be made. Overall, it really feels like a true survival situation that sucks you in.
Pro Random scenarios and decisions add replayability
There are a couple of gameplay mechanics that add a very random and deadly element to the game that really affect how the game plays out. Since they are completely random card draws, each game session will be unique its own way.
At the start of each player's turn, another player draws a 'crossroads' card for that player. Each crossroads card has a trigger - sometimes it is triggered by an action that they player could take, where they are located, or which players are in the game. These cards typically offer a choice between two options, and can drastically sway the game for better or worse.
Also, each turn a 'crisis card' is flipped, showing the current crisis for that turn. If the players can't work together to overcome the crisis (or the betrayer sabotages it) really bad things happen which put the whole group in immediate danger.
Pro Unpredictable actions help keep things exciting
Most actions (searching, moving, etc) are based on a random dice roll, making it very difficult to plan ahead. Instead of a set number of actions per turn, you get one dice plus one additional dice for each character you control. Based on what you roll on the dice, you will be able to perform various actions. Since you're working within the constraints of each roll, each turn will present new opportunities or setbacks. This helps things stay exciting throughout.
Pro Great for quick games
Each game lasts about one to two hours, making it a great game for when you want to get involved in deep game that doesn't overstay its welcome.
Con It may be long and slow, with unexperienced players
As with many board games, new players may have trouble comprehending all the rules. Additionally, sometimes tough decisions need to be made. Newer players won't be aware of the nuances behind every choice and may need things explained to them.
Con Limited actions, especially towards end game
Some of the rules and effects completely discourage movement, such as an unlucky exposure roll that could cost you the game. Near the end game, zombies may fill up in an area and make it very difficult to clear them out, effectively reducing the map size and your access to resources.
Con Predictable enemies
The zombies are very predictable. You know when and where they will spawn, as well as who they will attack.