Dead of Winter: A Story of Betrayal
On a recent Saturday night the weather outside was ferocious, and as rain and heavy winds beat down on my apartment I sat at a large table playing a board game. Yes, a board game. The idea of that used to make me laugh and say something to the effect of “tabletop games are for nerds”, as I smash a beer can against my head. But, I was wrong. That night my brother, two of our friends, and myself sat around the table I mentioned earlier and played a game called Dead of Winter. The dynamics of our relationships will never be the same.
The premise of the game is to work together or against the group to accomplish the goals you are given at the beginning of the game. The group has to accumulate resources and different things to make sure that people don’t die. At the beginning of the game each player is handed four character cards and they choose two to be their characters. Each character has a special ability such as the ability to draw extra cards, kill extra zombies, or in the case of a mall santa, kill themselves to increase team moral. Then everyone draws a SECRET card which reveals their personal objective for the game. In some instances you can get a BETRAYAL card which means you’re trying to sabotage the group. Most of the time teams can stay together and can everyone will have a chance to accomplish their goal, but sometimes the line of human decency gets blurred and friends turn in to enemies and brothers turn into back stabbing traitors.
As the game progresses you can add more characters to your cause, increasing the amount of chances you have to complete tasks but also providing more mouths to feed. Each round has a Crisis, and if that Crisis isn’t met than something bad happens the next round. For instance, the Crisis might be to collect as a group so many cans of gas. The only problem is if you are contributing the the Crisis you put your cards face down so players have to trust that you are doing what you said you would do. This is where the traitor can really hurt the group.
So, the game was going well and everyone was having a good time. This was our first time to play the game so we constantly went back to the rules just to make sure we weren’t missing anything. As the game progresses players sometimes make questionable moves which starts a chain reaction of doubt in their motives. A move as simple as adding more characters to your pool can give off the impression that you are trying to increase the demand for food, therefore hurting the team. My brother, let’s call him Justin, starting becoming suspicious of me after I continued to add people to my group. Every move I made was a constant interrogation as to why I was “acting weird” or “what are your motives.” Like a caged animal, when cornered I grow defensive and feel it necessary to defend my honor and also I like to argue. Justin sees that as a tell that I’m a traitor and growing increasingly more defensive because the heat in the kitchen is too much.
Before the end of the third round, Dallas, my brother’s friend, makes a strange decision not to request any food cards when he knows that we need it. This sets off a trigger in my mind as well as Jon, the fourth player who is bald, not sure why that matters but I wanted to point it out. At the end of the round we have to count the Crisis stack to make sure we met the requirement. We start counting and there it is, a GAS card. This means that someone is a traitor and all hell breaks loose.
Immediately accusation fly around the room pitting brother against brother, friend against friend, and turns what started out as a calm game has now escalated into warfare.
As the other two players go outside for a breather, me and my brother sit quietly at the table. I tell him that I think Dallas is the traitor. Justin doesn’t want to believe that his friend is our enemy so he starts again saying that I’m trying to put the blame on him when in reality I am the traitor. I give him very good evidence as to why Dallas is the one we can’t trust and every time Justin replies with “he looked me in the eye and told me he wasn’t the traitor.” I try telling him the same thing and he replies “you are very sneaky and you will do anything to accomplish your goals. Dallas doesn’t have it in him to betray us.” This continues until the Dallas and Jon enter the room.
As play continues I have the first move and decide that I’m not going to vote for Dallas to be exiled, instead I want to just make sure we keep an eye on him. I finish my turn and pass the move to Justin. He has no hesitation, and decides to initiate a vote for Exile. At this point I know, I’m screwed. I can’t vote which means if I can’t convince Justin that I’m not the traitor then Dallas will surely vote in favor of it to make sure I’m out of the game. I give one more speech as to why I’m not the traitor before the vote starts. Jon votes against exile, while Justin and Dallas vote for exile. I compose my thoughts and grab an Exile card from it’s stack. The card gives you a new objective for if you were the traitor and if you weren’t. So I look at the card and throw down my previous objective card which revealed I was not the traitor. Not only was I wrongfully convicted but I already had met my winning objective which is I had to have two books in my hand at the end of the game, my new objective I had no chance to complete before the end of the game. Justin was at a loss and he said “I made a mistake.” His words at this point meant nothing to me, as I made a mental note to check ancestry.com to make sure he wasn’t adopted.
The game ends not long after that with Justin and Jon meeting their objective and me and Dallas not. Later, while reflecting I realize that not only did I lose the game but also a brother. I will never be able to truly trust or believe in him the way I could before we decided to play Dead of Winter.