When Plaid Hat Games released Dead of Winter in 2014, a lot of the gaming world was skeptical about yet another zombie survival game. Then we started playing it…and never stopped. Between the Crossroads narrative mechanic, the competitive-cooperative victory conditions where you are always unsure whether one of the party is secretly working against your interests, and the constant threat of all manner of crises, Dead of Winter quickly became a fan-favorite. Additionally, an appearance on Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop helped boost its exposure. In 2016, Plaid Hat released the standalone expansion The Long Night.
The first important thing to know about The Long Night is that you don’t need Dead of Winter to use it. It’s a standalone expansion with all-new characters, locations, resource cards, and victory conditions, plus there’s a new Crossroads deck with new stories to tell and decisions to agonize over. If you want to just use The Long Night as your base game, you’ll have a very satisfying play experience similar to that of Dead of Winter. You’ll still need to worry about scavenging food for the colony, searching locations without making too much noise, barricading zombies out, and getting rid of waste, all while attempting to acquire whatever supplies or other resources you need to achieve your personal goal and that of the colony. If you’re a veteran of Dead of Winter, the play will be familiar enough to be easily approachable, but with different characters, Crossroads cards, goals, and a few new toys like explosive barricades and consequences like ‘desperation’. On its own, that would be enough to warrant getting the game if you feel the contents of Dead of Winter are getting stale for you.
However, The Long Night introduces multiple expansion options that can also be introduced into your campaign regardless of which base set you use. The Bandit Hideout is a location that generates bandits who take up zombie slots in your colony. Ignore them long enough, and they’ll start stealing your supplies back to their Hideout. On the other hand, you can go searching the hideout to take it back (and then some)… if you’re willing to risk it. Additionally, if you get exiled from the colony, you can take over leadership of the bandits and retrieve some of your own.
The Raxxon building is the home of the obligatory evil science corporation and its horrific experiments (that probably unleashed the zombie plague in the first place) where you can find some really useful tools (like drones, portable barriers, and a zombie-proof character) there when you search. However, Raxxon also generates super zombies that do more than just try to kill you when you attack them. One steals your stuff, while another increases your despair, and so on. The fact that each of these special zombies is unique and has a backstory does a lot to make them more than just the interchangeable hordes from the original game.
Finally, The Long Night introduces improvements to your colony that you can build with the junk you invariably find. Even something as simple as a fireplace can make life a lot easier for your intrepid band of colonists, letting you remove frostbite simply by going home. While you probably won’t build more than one or two of the improvements to your colony over a game, incorporating them is so simple and low-impact that you’ll probably want to just from a flavor standpoint.
The advantage to all of these expansion options is their modularity – if you don’t like one, you don’t need to use it. Some players felt that the tech available at Raxxon made it too easy to defeat zombies, even with the addition of the super zombies. If your group feels that way, you can simply decline to add that module to your game. Even if you don’t use any of the expansion options, The Long Night is a perfectly fun and playable variant of Dead of Winter.
Components are the same level of high quality we expect from Plaid Hat. The art is thematically similar to the original Dead of Winter, so mixing and merging the two isn’t jarring. The location cards have been upgraded from paper to card stock, a welcome change from the original. Finally, one of the playable characters is a chimpanzee. If that doesn’t sell you on The Long Night, nothing will.