Dead of Winter is pretty much my favourite game of all-time. By all-time, I mean since I began playing board games that strayed from the mainstream around seven months ago. So, not that long really. But, when news surfaced that the game was to get a standalone expansion, my excitement levels rocketed.
Last night I finally got, Dead of Winter: The Long Night, to the table, and now I feel I can offer some thoughts on the game.
For those unfamiliar with this game, Dead of Winter, plunges players deep into the heart of some cold season zombie slaying survival action, complete with scavenging runs to nearby stores and buildings, a constant hunt for food and fuel, genuine characters, and wonderful little slices of storytelling. And what’s more, all this takes place under skies clouded with uncertainty that one amongst you may just be a traitor. It’s a little bit special.
With the welcome release of, The Long Night, Plaid Hat Games have pulled off quite a feat. They have managed to add layers of depth to an already deep game, whilst somehow keeping things from becoming an over-complicated and drawn out affair. If I had one I would doff my own plaid hat in their general direction.
What The Longs Night delivers is what I would describe as Dead of Winter 1.5. This isn’t a successor to the original, but is more a case of an upgrade, like snagging some additional down load content straight in the retail box. However, because the game also brings entirely new characters and crossroads cards (these little cards come into play under certain circumstances and place players into a quandary), alongside the actual new content, it makes it a very worthwhile purchase to sit alongside the original game.
The new content comes in various sizes and each offers a differing impact upon play. Additional content can be played or left out of the game as the players see fit. For our play we used all new aspects to try and understand if it would impact negatively on the pace of play, or simply fit seamlessly into the action. Joyfully I can report that the latter was true.
The biggest of the new additions to Dead of Winter comes in the form of two new locations. The Bandit’s Hideout, and Raxxon, do more than just offering further areas for our scavengers to find rewards for the colony. They each bring quite significant effects into play. Adding a human threat to the mix via the bandits is a great move. It kind of ties into the way The Walking Dead has moved to a place where the human threat now far outweighs that of the zombie hordes. Bandits can show up at locations the colony members are at and change the focus of the player’s actions. Players can also raid the bandit hideout but do so at their own risk, a much elevated risk from the general scavenging runs to places such as the library and gas station. Bringing this human threat into the game is a very simple process, but it’s one that adds a wonderful layer of detail to play.
Then we have Raxxon. If adding bandits is in part a nod to The Walking Dead, then Raxxon, a former base where strange experiments were carried out, brings a taste of Resident Evil to the table. A trip to this long forgotten place offers great reward to the colony and its cast of curious characters, but, one wrong move could unleash something terrible. In the original Dead of Winter all the shuffling undead were pretty much uniform. Aside from the different artwork depicting zombie types, the actual impact upon play was the same across the board. However, Raxxon holds something a little spicier. What spills out of this place should things go pear shaped are creatures such as the huge wobbling frame of the Spewer, or the two headed abomination that is the Hydra, perhaps you might awaken the lizard-like Hunter, or maybe it’ll be the haunting dead eyes of the Siren that comes to your door. These are just a few of the additional zombie types that inhabit The Long Night, and although it takes the tone of the game away from the likes of Night of the Living Dead, and edges it towards videogames such as, Dead Rising or Left 4 Dead, it works like a dream…or perhaps that should be a nightmare.
Elsewhere, players can now upgrade elements of the colony, and there is a graveyard to place those lost to both the zombie, and now human, threat, but generally the game still largely consists of the same gameplay and mechanics as the original. And I love it!
It was great to have a whole new cast of characters to play, it’s cool that additional content can be used and dropped as fits the players, it’s equally cool that both sets can be used together, but the main thing for me that gives The Long Night my own seal of approval, is that it still plays at the same solid pace even when all the new stuff is thrown into the mix.
For me, the best zombie survival game out there, in fact, one of the best games out there regardless of theme, just somehow managed to get a little bit better, and that made this purchase worth its weight in gold.