Board GamesFeature

Dead Of Winter: A Crossroads Game Review

  • Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
  • Release: 2014
  • Players: 2-5 players

We really enjoy playing Dead of Winter in our house. We like the fact it’s co-operative. Whereas I enjoy the fact there’s the possibility of a traitor. Somebody working to derail the best efforts of the party. It isn’t guaranteed, and you can opt to leave the betrayer objectives out altogether for a pure co-op, but where’s the fun in that?

Dead Of Winter is, at its heart, a semi-cooperative game. 2 to 5 players work together as a band of zombie apocalypse survivors holed up in the colony. The aim is to survive a set number of rounds against an increasingly large horde of zombies while preventing morale from bottoming out.

And that morale, which sounds like a bit of an aside, should not be taken lightly. Lose a survivor, lose morale. Fail a daily challenge, lose morale. Don’t provide enough food for your survivors and useless freeloaders, lose morale. Although the zombies are the physical, obvious threat. It’s the morale you have to keep an eye on.

The Bottom Line

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game can be a real challenge, especially if you find that there is a traitor in your midst. It isn’t a perfect game. The Crossroads cards, for example, don’t really add much to the game. And the crises are basically all the same thing.

But, the game looks good on the table, isn’t too challenging to set up and tear down, and is a lot of fun to play thanks to a genuine feeling of impending and increasing doom.


Dead of Winter Components

Dead of Winter isn’t quite a table hog, but it does have a table presence.

It comes with a thick board that is the colony. There are also six smaller external locations. The location cards are thinner and not as good quality as the main board, which is a bit annoying.

There are hundreds of cards, in various decks, a variety of cardboard tokens, 30 action dice, and one exposure die.

There are also 30 zombie standees and 30 survivor standees with plastic stands.

There is a very good amount of board game for your money, and despite the somewhat morbid theme, it looks attractive.


Dead Of Winter Objectives Cards

At the beginning of the game players randomly choose a main objective, or you can shuffle through and choose one according to how difficult you want the game to be. Objective cards have an easy and a difficult side.

Starting with the recommended “We Need More Samples” objective is a good idea. It breaks you into the game gently enough without being too easy.

You also shuffle two non-betrayer objective cards per person, plus one betrayer objective card. Deal one to each player randomly. This means with 3 players, there will be less than a 50% chance of there being a betrayer in your game.

You could decrease the number of non-betrayer objectives, or completely remove the betrayer objective according to whether you want to play a competitive co-op or a pure co-op game. In fact, there are a few Dead of Winter variations you can play if you’re getting bored or if you’re lacking the players.

Players keep their objective secret, but as well as making sure the colony survives (non-betrayer), each player has to successfully complete their personal objective to be considered a winner. This means that there could be no winners, one winner, some winners, or an entire team of winners in any single game.  


There are 30 different survivors in the game. Some are good at searching, others are better at attacking. Some have special abilities. The cook, for example, provides food for the colony every turn, while the doctor can heal survivors.

Players also receive 4 survivor cards before choosing two and returning two to the deck. These will be your starting survivors. Don’t get too attached.

In Dead of Winter, survivors die. And when they do, it doesn’t usually mean the end of the game or even the end of the player. If you lose your last survivor, you simply take another. And, during the game, you may acquire more survivors and end up with half a dozen or more.

However, I advise against doing so because you do need to feed all of those mouths.

Throughout the game, you will send some of your survivors out to locations like the gas station and the school and have them search through the wreckage. Whenever players move, they roll for exposure. A bad roll could mean getting bitten, developing frostbite, or dying completely and spreading the infection to any other survivors in the same location.

Morale And Zombies

The game really can turn quickly. One second you’re bravely sauntering over to the school, hoping to pick up blueprints to meet your personal objective. The next minute, you’ve been bitten and died, and your fellow survivors at the school are rolling to avoid dying too.

All the while, with each death, morale is plummeting.

Because this is a zombie apocalypse, you need to manage the zombie horde level too. Zombies can pile up at the colony and any of the other locations. If an area becomes overrun, the survivor with the lowest influence dies, and you lose morale. If the colony becomes overrun and there are no survivors there, only helpless survivors, one of them dies. And you lose morale.

Fortunately, survivors can be equipped with weapons ranging from knives to guns. Even Sparky the Stunt Dog can carry a couple of guns.


At the beginning of every player phase (a complete round of survivors’ turns), you draw a crisis card. The crisis usually dictates that the group gives up several of a specific card. It might be food, gas, or medicine. Between the group, you have until the end of the round to provide as many of that resource as there are players (human players, not survivors).

Cards are played face down and at the end of the round, they are shuffled and turned over. This is one opportunity for the betrayer to be able to screw the group over, playing an incorrect card and causing everyone to fail.

If you think there is a betrayer, you can play extra cards. And, if you do play extra cards, you can regain morale.


If, at any point, you believe there is a betray and you know who it is, you can vote to exile that player. An exiled player no longer takes part in the crises and cannot visit the colony. They are given a new objective to complete and the game continues. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of variety in the crisis cards, which is a shame.

Crossroads Cards

Dead of Winter Crossroads Cards

There are also crossroads cards. At the start of every player’s turn, the player to their right draws the top crossroads card. They read it to themselves. If the action on the card is taken or triggered, they immediately stop play and read the card out.

Some cards require that the group vote to choose one of two possible actions. Others are for the active player only to decide.

Some are good, some are bad.

In my experience, though, these cards are rarely triggered. Because of that, we spent a lot of time arguing over whether we should backtrack two turns because we were forgetting to take crossroads cards. Ultimately, we decided it wasn’t worth it because they probably wouldn’t trigger anyway.

And, although the cards are well written, there will come a point where you skip through the main body of text and just read the outcome at the bottom. Honestly, the crossroads cards don’t feel like they add much to the game.


If your colony of survivors manages to survive the number of rounds demanded by the scenario card before morale reaches 0, the colony has survived. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anybody has won. You must have completely your secret objective to be considered a winner. This means there could be no winners or one or more winners in any game.

Dead Of Winter: A Crossroads Game

For the most part, the game works well. You will be questioning why people are taking certain actions. Are they the betrayer or are they just trying to ensure they finish their secret objective? And the zombie threat and dropping morale do a very good job of ramping up tension while the need to work together on crises encourages conversation and group planning.

Overall, Dead of Winter is one of the more popular games in our house, and it’s popular when we play it at our board gaming group, too.

But some elements could be improved. The Crossroads deck, despite being massive, doesn’t add much to the gameplay. And the crises are basic and repetitive. The rest of the game more than makes up for these shortfalls, though.  

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