Dead of Winter

Fight for Survival

Even once you know what you need to do to win a game of Dead of Winter, there are countless twists and turns along the way, commonly arriving in the form of crisis cards. A new crisis card is revealed at the beginning of each round with a challenge, whether that’s a
Fuel Shortage

or a
Zombie Surge.

In each case, players must work together to contribute a specific type of item to combat the crisis, but all contributions are made in secret, making this the perfect opportunity for a betrayer to sabotage the community.

If you’re going to find the items that you need to stave off a crisis, however, you’ll have to send your band of survivors out of the colony to nearby locations, such as the school or the grocery store. Each turn, you’ll roll a number of action dice, and by allocating those dice, your survivors can kill zombies, rummage for items, set up barricades, lure zombies to their locations, or perform other actions.

By spending one of your action dice, you can slay a zombie at your location!

The locations outside the colony walls offer the cards you need to stave off crises, fulfill your objectives, and give your survivors the edge in the frozen hellscape of Dead of Winter. Of course, venturing out is not free from risk. You’ll be coming face to face with the undead, and you’ll need to fight to keep your supply lines clear. Battling zombies or moving between locations forces you to roll the exposure die, which can lead to a wounded survivor or worse, a deadly bite that could spread the zombie plague through the entire colony! Danger is everywhere, but if you’re not willing to take a few risks, the colony may be doomed long before the snow melts.

II. Colony Phase

During the colony phase, resolve the following 7 effects in order.

1. Pay Food

Remove 1 food token from the food supply for every 2 survivors in the colony (rounded up). Remember that helpless survivor tokens count as survivors for this purpose.

Note: Survivors at locations other than the colony do not count towards the total number of survivors in the colony. They are considered to be foraging food for themselves and so do not require food be paid from the supply.

If there are not enough food tokens do the following in order:

  • Do not remove any food tokens.
  • Add a starvation token to the food supply.
  • Decrease morale by 1 for each starvation token currently in the food supply.

3. Resolve Crisis

Shuffle the cards that were added face-down to the crisis during the player turns phase. Reveal them one at a time. Each item card added that has a symbol matching a symbol in the prevent section of the crisis is worth 1 point. Each card that doesn’t have a symbol matching a symbol in the prevent section of the crisis subtracts 1 point. After revealing all of the cards, if the combined point total is lower than the number of players then immediately resolve the crisis.

If the point total equals or exceeds the number of players the crisis is prevented. Additionally, if the point total exceeds the number of players by 2 or more the colony gains 1 morale.

After resolving the crisis, remove all cards added to the crisis from the game.

4. Add Zombies

Add 1 zombie to the colony for every 2 survivors (including helpless survivors) present there (rounded up). Add 1 zombie to each non-colony location for every 1 survivor present at that location. One at a time remove each noise token at a location and roll an action die for each. Add a zombie to that location on each roll of 3 or lower (see Adding Zombies on next page for details on adding zombies to the colony).

7. Pass First Player Token

The first player passes the first player token to the player on his right. A new round begins starting with the reveal crisis section of the player turns phase.

Adding Survivors

Some game effects will cause a player to add a new survivor to her following. Whenever a survivor is added to the game, its corresponding standee is added to the “Colony Occupants” section of the colony board. The player who controls the new survivor may use that survivor during her turn, but does not roll an additional action die for it until the roll action dice step of the player turns phase.

If there are no empty survivor spaces remaining at the colony, then players cannot trigger crossroads cards that would add survivors (including helpless survivors) and cannot play item cards that would add survivors.

Adding Zombies

Whenever adding zombies, they are added 1 at a time until all zombies that need to be added have been added.

When adding zombies to the colony, always place the first zombie on any empty space in entrance 1, the second zombie on any empty space in entrance 2, the third zombie on any empty space in entrance 3, etc. until all of the zombies that need to be added have been placed.

When adding a seventh zombie, place it on any empty space in entrance 1 again, an eighth zombie on any empty space in entrance 2, etc. If there are no empty entrance spaces in the entrance the zombie would be placed but there is a barricade token in one of those spaces, destroy that barricade token and remove the zombie that would have been placed.

If there are no empty spaces and no barricade tokens, the entrance has been overrun, remove that zombie and kill the survivor at the colony that has the lowest influence value. If there are only helpless survivors at the colony, kill a helpless survivor. If there are no survivors at the colony remove the zombie that would have been placed without further effect. Every time a survivor is killed (including a helpless survivor), decrease morale by one.

When adding zombies to non-colony locations follow all of the same rules, except there is only 1 entrance to place zombies in so all of the zombies are placed in spaces at that entrance.

See Example: Adding Zombies to right.

In the rare case that players ever have to add zombies and there are no more zombie standees left, use the zombie tokens included in the game to add the additional zombies.


Place the colony board in the center of the play area and place the 6 location cards around it as shown or as best accommodates your table. Each player collects a player reference sheet.

Players may decide which standard main objective they would like to play or pick 1 randomly. Place the main objective card in its space on the colony board and set up the game board according to the main objective’s setup instructions.

Shuffle the non-betrayal secret objective cards and set aside 2 (facedown) per player. Return the rest of the non-betrayal cards to the game box. Shuffle the betrayal secret objective cards and add 1 of them (facedown) to the non-betrayal cards that were set aside. Return the remainder of the betrayal secret objective cards in the game box. Shuffle all of the set aside cards together and deal 1 to each player. Return the remaining secret objective cards to the game box without looking at them. A player cannot reveal his secret objective card to other players.

Shuffle the crisis cards and place the deck on its space on the colony board. Shuffle and make decks of the survivor, exiled objective and crossroad cards and place the decks off to the side of the play area.

Important Note: Some crossroads cards have mature themes like sex, language, suicide, alcohol use, etc. These cards are marked with this symbol. Players may choose to remove these cards prior to the game.

Shuffle all of the starter item cards and deal 5 to each player. Return any remaining cards to the game box. Separate the remaining item cards into separate decks according to their location. Shuffle each deck and place it on its corresponding location card.

Deal 4 survivor cards to each player. Each player then chooses 2 to keep and returns the others to the deck. Re-shuffle the survivor deck. Each player makes 1 of those 2 survivors her group leader, placing it in the respective space on her reference card.

The other survivor is placed in the player’s following, below their player reference sheet. The corresponding survivor standees for each player’s survivors are added to the colony.

Separate the remaining standees and tokens placing them within easy reach of all players. The player whose group leader has the highest influence value receives the first player token and will take the first turn of the game.


If the players vote in favor of exiling a player, the exiled player must immediately draw 1 exiled secret objective card. This card will adjust his secret objective. The exiled player must move all of the survivors he controls that are in the colony to non-colony locations of his choice. Those survivors follow all of the normal rules for movement, except this move does not count as the 1 move survivors are allowed to make during his turn. Some new rules apply to the exiled player:

  • The exiled player cannot add cards to a crisis.

  • When the exiled player is directed to add helpless survivor tokens to the colony those tokens are not added.

  • If the exiled player plays a survivor item card to add a survivor to the game it is placed at a non-colony location of his choice rather than at the colony.

  • The exiled player cannot spend food tokens to increase his action die results, but may play food cards to increase an action die result by 1 for each food card played rather than carrying out the effect listed on the food card.

  • The exiled player cannot vote.

  • The colony does not lose morale when a survivor the exiled player controls is killed.

  • When the exiled player plays a card, instead of placing it in the waste pile, he removes it from the game.

Important note: If at any time during the game there are 2 exiled players and neither had a betrayal secret objective, morale immediately drops to 0.

Killing Survivors

  • When zombies overrun a location entrance a survivor is killed.

  • When a survivor has 3 or more wound tokens it is killed.

  • When a survivor is bitten it is killed.

  • Some card effects may kill a survivor.

When a survivor is killed, remove its survivor standee from the game board, decrease morale by 1, and place its survivor card in the removed from game pile. If that survivor had any cards equipped to it and that survivor is at the colony those cards are added to the hand of the player that controlled that survivor. If the survivor is at any other location those cards are shuffled into that location’s item deck.

If a player’s group leader is killed (or otherwise lost), she must choose a survivor from her following and make it her group leader.

If a player’s last remaining survivor would be killed (or otherwise lost), that player immediately removes from the game all cards in her hand, draws a new survivor card, adds it to the game, and makes that survivor her new group leader.

If a helpless survivor is killed (by the effects of a card or as the result of a zombie overrun where there are only helpless survivors in the location), remove a helpless survivor token and reduce morale by 1.

Note: Some card effects remove survivors from the game. This is not the same thing as killing a survivor. You do not lose morale when removing a survivor unless the card directs you to.

A Fork in the Road

If the apocalyptic plot in your game of Dead of Winter is told across the crisis cards, your objectives, and the actions that your survivors take each round, the individual story moments are plucked out by the game’s crossroads cards. At the start of every turn, the player to your right will draw one of these crossroads cards. Every crossroads card has a specific trigger, and if that trigger happens during your turn, you’ll have to face the choice on the crossroads card.

You may have to choose between venturing out in a blizzard or staying safe at the colony. Perhaps you need to decide if the colony will spend the food to have a real Christmas celebration. Or maybe you must weigh whether or not you’ll allow a flatbed of refugees into your community. Every player must weigh their own objectives carefully in light of these crossroads cards, and no decision is as simple as it first appears.

Game Components

  • 10 Dual-Sided Main Objective Cards
  • 24 Secret Objective Cards
  • 10 Betrayal Secret Objective Cards
  • 10 Exiled Secret Objective Cards
  • 30 Survivor Cards
  • 5 Player Reference Sheets
  • 1 First Player Token
  • 25 Starting Item Cards
  • 20 Crisis Cards
  • 80 Crossroads Cards
  • 25 Wound Tokens
  • 6 Starvation Tokens
  • 2 Track Markers
  • 20 Police Station, Grocery Store, School Item Deck Cards
  • 20 Gas Station, Library, Hospital Item Deck Cards
  • 20 Helpless Survivor, Food, Noise, Barricade Tokens
  • 30 Zombie Standees & Survivor Tokens
  • 60 Plastic Standee Stands
  • 1 Colony Board
  • 6 Location Cards
  • 1 Rulebook
  • 30 Action Dice
  • 1 Exposure Die

Deeper into Winter

If you’ve already played and love Dead of Winter, there are plenty of places you can go from there. For starters, you may explore Dead of Winter: The Long Night, a new standalone expansion that can be played on its own or integrated into the core game. The Long Night ultimately offers more of everything that made Dead of Winter an epic struggle for power and survival, including a new colony full of new survivors and new gameplay elements. You can fight off bandits from another colony, build improvements to your colony, and most intriguingly, unravel the mysteries of the new Raxxon Pharmaceutical location, which is full of Raxxon’s twisted human experiments that show up in the game as disturbing new enemies.

And finally, you can enjoy Warring Colonies, an expansion to both Dead of Winter and The Long Night with new survivors, items, crossroads cards, and crisis cards. Additionally, if you own all three, you can play the epic colony vs colony variant for four to eleven players! With a wealth of new content and variants for you to explore, Warring Colonies ratchets up the intensity as the world grows ever colder.

The Good of the Colony

Every game of Dead of Winter invites you and your fellow survivors to tell your own harrowing tale of survival in this wintry apocalypse. It all starts with the main objective for your colony. Each main objective has unique setup instructions for this specific scenario, and it tells you the victory condition for the colony—whether that means setting up camp and barricading your colony or venturing out to collect enough medicine that you have a chance of finding a cure to the zombie plague. Importantly, however, this main objective does not tell you how you—the individual players—will be able to win the game.

End of the game

When the game ends for any reason, if a player has completed his secret objective he wins. If he has not, he loses. Some players may win in a game that other players lost; there can be multiple winners. It is also possible for everyone to lose if no one has completed his secret objective when the game ends.

The game can end in a variety of ways:

  • If the morale track reaches 0 the game ends immediately. Do not check to see if the main objective has been completed.

  • If the round track reaches 0 the game ends immediately. Do not check to see if the main objective has been completed.

  • The main objective is completed.


During the game players may be given the option to vote with a thumbs up or down, either because a player initiated a vote to exile or because a crossroads card called for a vote to be cast.

Players may take time to deliberate before casting their vote. Once players are ready to vote, count down from 3, with every player simultaneously casting his vote on 0.

Card Text

When a card effect contradicts the rulebook, the card effect takes precedence. If 2 game effects would ever seem to trigger simultaneously, the first player decides in which order they will resolve. An item card cannot be played to interrupt an effect currently taking place.

Example: A medicine card cannot be played to prevent a wound, it can only be played after receiving a wound, so if a survivor receives their third wound they cannot be saved by playing a medicine card, they will be killed.

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