Hey guys! Just recently got this game, and I am so thrilled. It's a bit ironic that I ordered it for Christmas, and got it in time for my Birthday, so that worked out OK. I gotta say, this game is amazing.

Part 1: The Unboxing
So receiving this game, something instantly popped out at me. This game is drop-dead, hands down, no doubts about it, one of the most beautiful games released this year, By that, I mean the game itself looks brilliant. The finish on the front cover is gorgeous, so that already stood out. The front cover already looked better then most games. I know they say don't judge a book by its cover, but that's kind of hard when the cover is this good looking! My excitement did not die down as a I opened the box. The artwork was amazing. The artist is a truly talented and skilled person. All of these characters just pop out at you as you look at them, which is a good thing. The artwork on the items, locations, and crisi cards is just as magnificent. Also, the bags. While I was wowed, I was stinking to myself, "Damn, this is a lot of parts, how I am I going to -..." And that's when I saw it. The glorious wish that every gamer wishes when they get a game such as this. A bad filled with other plastic bags. I think you guys know what I'm talking about - a great game that gives you sh*t for storage is very frustrating. But I got plenty of bags - enough to store every piece of the game with room to spare, and if you don't mind mixing pieces up a bit and taking some time to align the character cutouts, you can even fit the cards in as well. This game came with a lot of components, which is usually off-putting, but not here. Simply by looking at the board and back at the pieces, I could already tell what was what and could make a an educated guess about how it was used. Simple, beautiful, amazing. Opening this game in of itself was a pleasure.

Part 2: The Theme
Just like the body of the undead ghouls that haunt that fictional world after Thomas Heart is done with them, this game is oozing. But not with blood - this game is oozing with theme. This is due in large part to crossroad cards and the exposure die. Crossroad cards are so interesting, as they can truly define who your characters are. Instances where you have the chance to save a character, or let them die in favor of collecting things to use. Where you have the chance to add some difficult objectives to the main objective, but for a large amount of firepower you couldn't get otherwise. And every crossroad card for a specific character is great. Some are delightfully dark, like Sophie Robinson or the teen I can't remember the name of. In both of these, you encounter the character in question in mortal danger, and in both instances, you can either save them for their skills or let them die for their stuff. Some are hilariously light, such as Sparky the Stunt Dog (who has a great tendency to lighten everything he's involved in, which a dog should do), who gets to arm himself with a machine gun and either mow down 8 zombies or boost morale, because "Hey, Sparky has a gun!" The ability to safely sabotage crisis cards is great, because the betrayer can work a bit without giving anything up. And now for the exposure die. That little piece of plastic can, believe it or not, create a ridiculous amount of tension. You have a 1 in 12 chance of instantly killing your character - for moving (or attacking, which is a bit more expected). I don't know whether it's the great art, the fact that the characters are actually built a little bit by the crossroad cards, or some combination, but you actually get a little attached to your character. When, BAM! He's dead. No second chances. No mulligans. No nothing. It's cold, brutal, and relentless. In other words, I love it. Every zombie game needs that - the feeling of dread, knowing that death is waiting with open arms around every corner. I become tense as a guitar cord every time I pick up that die, or even when someone else picks up that is moving to a location I'm standing at. And that's great. It feels like I really am struggling to survive the zombie apocalypse. The theme this game offers is amazing. I feel sort o flike I'm playing Walking Dead in board game form. Wouldn't it be great if the betrayer ended up getting the mayor? It would feel just like the Walking Dead.

Part 3: The Gameplay
Having a pair of games under my belt, I am by no means an expert in the gameplay of Dead of Winter. However, I can safely say some things. The game tries to do a lot of things, and does all of the main things (and then some) beautifully. The mechanics are smooth, and the large turn blocks are actually great, since your actions can heavily affect what your allies have and will do in future turns. Crisis cards in particular are great, as they make collecting fairly hard, especially if there is one person actively trying to drop the morale. The zombies are suitably hard to kill, or rather, killing them is suitably dangerous because of the exposure die. I also love crossroad cards, of course, which are all brilliantly designed. All of the other mechanics are standard for this type of game, which is really good. The designers paid their dues, and created some [email protected] new ideas that shine in this game. The others are simple, well known, and fit nicely. It adds an element of simplicity that makes the game much easier to teach and play than some others. I'm talking about mechanics moving, attacking, resolving the different effects that your actions have on the colony, etc. They are straightforward, simple, and make sense. The Waste Pile and Food Pile pressure you a lot, especially when you have a crisis coming up that may or may not be sabotaged. I love how gameplay actually becomes better as you near the end - it doesn' slow down. Often, this is the final chance for everyone to finish their objective. It's also when the betrayer generally makes their move. It'a great game, with fun mechanics that strike a good balance between fresh new ideas and simple old ones.

Part 4: Balance
Balance is probably the biggest and only issue this game has, which is great, because this game is pretty balanced. Some of the secret objectives are harder than others, and combined with certain main objectives, winning can be a monumental task. The exposure die also is a bit unfair, as my brother was thrown off from this game when both of his characters were bitten early on. However, both of these decisions seem to be made in favor of strong theme, and I prefer it over the minimal effect on balance it has. Usually, the die won't screw you over so bad. And usually, if winning is very hard for you form the start due to the secret objective, it's generally hard for the other players as well.

Part 5: Ratings

Aesthetics: (10/10) Beautiful game, the artist is great, and the game in general is gorgeous.

Theme: (10/10) Thematic, because it brutal, difficult, relentless, and cold. Just like it should be.

Gameplay: (9/10) Fun, engaging, simple gameplay with few hitches. Great game

Balance: (7.5/10) Luck can screw you over in this game, which is a bit unfair. Other than that, though, it's beautifully balanced.

Overall: (9.125/10) Great game, I'd highly recommend. I can't wait to play it again!