Dead of Winter: The Long Night Characters: A Closer Inspection
Dead of Winter: The Long Night is an interesting game. In it you start off with a set number of characters, setting out to survive through the winter. You need to scavenge, keep morale high, and keep your motley crew of people alive though the zombie apocalypse.
Dead of Winter does what it does incredibly well, and has received a fair amount of acclaim over the past few years. There are two versions of the game – the base Dead of Winter (currently ranked at 76th best game of all time on BGG) and the stand alone expansion Dead of Winter: The Long Night. The Long Night can be added on to the main game, allowing for up to twelve players, or it can be kept separate, with its own expansions within the box.
Both games are designed by Jonathan Gilmour and Isaac Vega.
Fairly regularly, on this blog, we like to take a closer look at board games and break down key components to see how they stack up. Today, I thought it was turn to look at the Dead of Winter characters who appear within The Long Night expansion/version of the game. There are 20 of these in total, and they have proven to be quite interesting.
In Dead of Winter: The Long Night, and (coming to think of it) in Dead of Winter, characters have a base set of statistics. These are influence, what they need to attack, what they need to search (both relating to dice results needed to perform actions) and then they have a base skill/ability.
The 20 characters also each have their own name and thematic occupation. In Dead of Winter: The Long Night there are also two characters who have abilities that reference additional The Long Night modules. Those two characters are Blue, the test monkey from the Raxxon expansion, and Melissa Gupta (the Mechanic Engineer) who appears in the Improvements module.
For the sake of this analysis, I’ve kept them both in.
Why analyse Dead of Winter: The Long Night and not the Dead of Winter characters first? Well, it’s for a very simple reason. I haven’t played the base game yet. Hey, I’m only human. We bought The Long Night first so I’m starting with this – insert smiley face emoji here.
One of the big questions is – why do this analysis? Well, in Dead of Winter: The Long Night you get dealt four character cards at the start of the game. In a game with three or more players, you pick 2 to keep. With a two player game you keep 3. This means there is an element of choice, and this is where an analysis like this could come in handy,
So, who are the core Dead of Winter characters in The Long Night? Well, let’s take a look, shall we?
The Dead of Winter: The Long Night Characters
As mentioned above, there are 20 characters in total in The Long Night. The table below shows the key stats of each of the characters, not going into their special abilities (not now at least).
As you can see, those are listed in Influence order. The attack and search values are, in this case, what the character needs to spend on a D6 in order to do the associated action. So, taking Blue as an example (since he is bottom of the list) he needs to spend a 1+ to attack. He needs a 2+ to search. You get the idea.
What we can do with the above data is actually really interesting (if you are into that kind of thing, which luckily for me, I am). Firstly, we can graph the obvious. We can show who the most influential characters are in the game. Influence is important because it determines how the spread of disease works within the game. If you get zombified, you get zombified from the least influential to the most. Sorry Blue!
So, first, let’s look at the above in a slightly more digestible format.
That is slightly easier to digest. The average influence in the game is actually 40.5, and as you can see, 10 of the 20 characters are above that mean. The median is also around that mark, which shows there really is a good spread of influence throughout the Dead of Winter characters in The Long Night.
To point out the blindingly obvious now, since we have looked at the data in two formats, Nadia Rivers is the most influential. Blue is the least. Everyone else fits somewhere in between.
Okay, all clear on that.
The next thing we can look at and represent in a more visually appealing way is actually the attack value. As explained above, the attack value is actually what the character needs on a dice to successfully attack zombies.
What this means is that the lower values are actually better here, and represent a higher chance of being able to remove zombies off the board.
There are three characters who are much better at attacking in The Long Night than the others and those are Lily Mae, Anita Wallace (who is a bit of a loose cannon during the game, but more on that another time) and…Blue! #TeamBlue!
The mode is actually 2+, which is a pretty good attack value, with Emma Han and Cole Winters being the weakest. They can only attack on a 6+, which is pretty poor.
The average (mean) is actually 2.6+ which again, is actually a really positive result.
We can do the same kind of analysis with searching to get a graph like the below –
As we can see, the tables have now turned.
Okay, so there is a really interesting point here, and that is there are 3 characters who cannot fail to attack. There is only one, Cole Winters, who cannot fail to Search. This helps increase the average score to 3.2+, a score that is distinctly higher than with attacking.
When attacking we see Kumar Sen come in last. Emma Han, who was one of the weakest attack values comes in with a fairly average score when searching. That’s kind of disappoint for her. I would give that student an A for effort but a C- for actual usefulness.
The Numerical Value of Dead of Winter: The Long Night Characters
Taking the three statistics, it is actually possible to come up with a formula to judge the overall strength of a character.
For this I followed the following equation in Excel –
Where “I” is the influence value, “A” is the attack value and “S” is the search value with slight modifications. Rather than the attack and search being what was printed on the cards, we’re taking the reverse. We’re not taking the number needed, but instead the number of dice rolls that pass.
So, we’re not taking 2+ as an example, we’re taking that as a 5 as there are 5 die results that will result in a successful attack or search (2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6). Likewise a 5+ is a 2, since there are two dice rolls that will result in a successful pass (5 or 6)
The upside is that this provides a series of results where influence doesn’t massively truncate the results. What this also does is mean that we’re putting equal amounts of weight on all three statistics, which may not be right; however, without knowing which is the most important for every form of the game, this is the fairest way of doing it.
When we take just the numbers into account, they are actually best for Kumar Sen, taking influence over his inability to search. Kumar is a character of extremes, having him come out with a positive result. Interestingly, we see Rosa Rodriguez come out as probably the most balanced character in the non-expanded game when it comes to the numbers, coming in the middle of most tables whilst also being one of the most influential.
Of course, this does not take the actual abilities into account. Kevin Jackson (the last in the list) actually has an amazing ability, being able to snipe zombies from literally anywhere on the board. Emma still has a pretty poor ability (she finds books), and so that probably makes her the weakest character overall – but of course, that is relative based on the precise scenario.
What About the Dead of Winter: The Long Night Character Abilities
Okay, so we haven’t taken the abilities into account so far, but we need to in order to get a full view of what each character can do. The downside is there is no way of analysing this without going down a rabbit hole of analysis I don’t have the brainpower to do.
What I’ve done is categorise each ability into a specific type of ability and mapped the characters alongside. They actually breakdown to the below –
Yes, I missed a bracket on Kumar Sen. I didn’t save the PowerPoint file I made it in, so you’re going to have to live with that sloppiness. Sorry!
So, if we take a few examples there we can get an overall feel for what the above is saying. Movement Manipulation, for example, sees three characters with abilities that fall into that category. Other characters can move from Eric Parker’s location without rolling for exposure. Fatima Maktabi can move more than once in her turn, and Hugo Valentine can ignore all results apart from a bite when rolling for exposure when moving.
Combat Manipulation involves removing Zombies from the board, Health Manipulation involves healing characters, and Improved Search involves finding and keeping things. Alfonso Ortega finds guns, Blue can keep additional items, and Emma Han can find books.
The more unusual categories include Noise Manipulation, which is being able to remove or move noise; Social Manipulation, looking at the hands of other players; Zombie Manipulation, which results in fewer Zombies being placed; Explosives being placed as traps; Dice Manipulation, involving changing dice numbers; Advancement Manipulation, which means being able to build things; and Morale Manipulation, which involves not losing morale.
Once again we can draw it up as a graph. Explosives, Zombie Manipulation, and Advancement Manipulation could fit under a defensive category, but for the sake of this analysis we’ve kept them separate.
Next, each character has limitations as to where they can use their ability. This could be in the Colony, in a Non-Colony space, at the Raxxon (oh Blue!), or Anywhere.
The majority of the abilities can be used anywhere. This is a good sign. Needless to say, if you aren’t playing with the Raxxon module, don’t include Blue in the deck. It is a bit pointless.
The question is, which is the most important? Well, now this is where the actual analysis breaks down a bit, since we don’t have data. From a pure survival perspective then there are two main actions in the game – search and attack, so you could put more emphasis on those. The search abilities however, are relatively limited in nature.
What this means is attack and health manipulation could be considered the most important, however, that again depends on the scenario.
Maybe, instead, you want to focus on Morale or hunting out any traitors. The choice is up to you.
The conclusion then is that this is an interesting breakdown; however, it doesn’t really help when saying which character is best.
Still, today I wanted to leave you with this breakdown, and although we can’t definitely say if there are characters who are particularly beneficial due to the different objectives, we can say that there are a few characters who, leaving aside their abilities, may be more useful than others.
It is worth keeping characters like Rosa Rodriguez, Kumar Sen, and Nadia Rivers into account when choosing your starting characters from the ones you have been dealt. From a pure numbers perspective they are pretty good and their abilities aren’t half bad either. Rosa removes Zombies, Kumar improves morale, and Nadia helps manipulate dice. Likewise, if you understand the dynamic of your group then you may want to choose a particularly searchy or attacky character to suit.
Personally, I try to choose complementary characters based on attack value and search. If I have one character who searches well I try to choose one that attacks well and vice versa. That’s not necessarily the best thing to do, but it is my preferred option.
So there we have it – a bit of an analysis of the Dead of Winter: The Long Night characters. What do you think? Do you have a favourite character to play? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.