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Adding The Long Night to Dead of Winter

Adding The Long Night to Dead of Winter

This is the story of how I first fell in love with Dead of Winter, how The Long Night caused both games to fall out of favor, and what I did to make both games fun again.

My experience with Dead of Winter and The Long Night

I first played Dead of Winter around the winter of 2014-2015. One of my coworkers had brought it to a board game night, and we gave it a shot. It was a huge hit. There were lots of possible things to do, randomness that you could usually factor into your decisions, and enough mystery in secret and betrayal objectives that told a great story. It made a return at several board game nights.

It wasn't without its flaws. Playing with a large group meant that downtime between your turns was significant. The rulebook and the player sheets and the cards all seemed to have different parts of the rules. It was hard to keep all the rules in your head. There were a couple of ways for the betrayer to screw everyone else over without too much trouble — though we did find out we weren't playing with correct movement rules after the first few games. Like I said, the rules aren't the best.

Fast forward a couple years. I'd bought my own copy and had taught a few more people to play. We were playing by the correct rules now and understanding the game a bit better.

Then The Long Night was released. A new base game? All new cards and three new expansion modules? Sign me up! We soon picked it up and started playing.

The Long Night, aside from introducing more card variety, also includes three expansions: Improvements, Bandits, and Raxxon. Improvements are passive colony abilities that you can discard junk cards to build. Bandits can spawn every round and steal cards from locations. Raxxon features powerful special zombies but also powerful weapon and item cards to find.

So all these changes felt great. The Long Night includes some special main objective cards that slowly introduce the expansions in a developing story. You can also just pick a set of expansions and throw them all on the table. We played many times with Raxxon, the most different and most interesting of the expansions, and sometimes included the Bandits and improvements.

However. A couple things happened that prevented either the original Dead of Winter or The Long Night from making it to the table.

First: The Long Night's expansions are neat, but not as balanced as the parts of the base game.

Second: The Long Night has worse set up. There are more decks of cards to shuffle. You have to either shuffle in or sort out cards from the expansions. There's actually fewer survivor cards than in Dead of Winter — exactly enough for a 5-player game — so you see the same survivors more often.

Both of these reasons, along with my own dwindling free time, caused both games to sit on my shelf unplayed for months. In fact, I definitely haven't played either game in 2018 (as of August 19th).

I wanted to fix this, though.

Finding the best combination of both games

I sat down and laid out all the components from both games side-by-side. Every deck of cards available, every pile of tokens or standees grouped.

I did some simple comparisons. What were the differences in the piles: were the main objectives different? Did the character abilities only make sense in one game or the other? Could I maintain the card variety as in each game?

I also did some thinking. What were the worst parts of setting the game up? Which bags needed to be emptied, and which ones could be drawn from ad hoc?

I think I came up with a valid answer for each of these questions and created a solution to address as many problems as I could. Here's how I considered each individual part.

All the organized and labeled things went into the Dead of Winter box, leaving the extra tokens, cards, and expansion module-specific bits in The Long Night's box.

What happens next

Well, I'm not sure. Play the game, I guess.

All the organization I did makes me optimistic about actually getting it to the table before the end of the year. We'll see!

Update: Finally got this to the table in September. The variety was nice, in particular at locations like the Police Station and the Library. The bags worked really well for set up as well as tear down. We also assigned the player to the left of the current player to be the token master, which kept people focused and proved to be the best way to handle food, noise, and wound tokens. I suspect we'll get to play it again before the year is out.

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