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Review: Don’t Walk in Winter Wood

Don’t Walk in Winter Wood is a game that I was first made aware of a few months ago when a friend linked me to their kickstarter. It seemed interesting, but at the time I wasn’t able to pledge to support it. I bookmarked the creator’s website, time passed, and I rather forgot about it. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I’m bored and flipping through my bookmarks and see a website I don’t recognise. I visit and am reminded of the game that I saw before. I had a little cash in my paypal account so I decided to give it a whirl and I don’t regret it at all.

Don't Walk in Winter Wood logoDon’t Walk in Winter Wood (DWiWW) is a game of campfire folklore legends, mystery, and horror. It’s designed to evoke feelings of being out camping and telling spooky stories after the sun has gone down. It’s apparently the second edition of this game, but I don’t really know how much different it is from the first edition aside from the art and layout. Which brings me to the very first thing you notice about the game is that the cover is really well done and tells you pretty much exactly what kind of game you’re getting into. Namely, dark and creepy and scary. The interior art follows much the same lines and is excellent. The second thing you’re likely to notice is that this is a very very short game at only 44 pages long. Part of me is inclined to dock the game for being so short, but the rest of me wonders if it really needs more than what’s there.

The reason for this is that the game is exceptionally simple. Characters have no stats. No attributes. No skills. No equipment. They have a name, a concept, and a reason to go into the Winter Wood. Players accumulate cold points, which represents the growing danger and horror they’re experiencing and when they reach six of them, they are removed from play in some way that makes narrative sense. They may be dead, they may be drooling madmen, or they may simply never be seen again. Each player needs nothing more than a single d6 to play the game. The basic rules of play are described in only 3 pages.

So, if it only takes 3 pages to describe how to play the game, what takes up the rest of the book? There’s a very short introduction to the setting up front. DWiWW is a game set vaguely in the 17th or 18th century American colonies and there’s some general information to help people think about what life was like back then. There are no hard facts listed. Even the name of the village is never given.

A lot of the rest is fluff and flavor to help you get in the right mindset for the game. Short stories and vignettes of mysterious and horrible folklore about things that have happened in the history of the village. They were very well written and interesting and probably could be turned into gaming scenarios themselves without too much trouble. They’re definitely atmospheric, entertaining to read, and a real boon to helping a GM wrap their head around exactly what sort of result you want to see occur in the game.

A large chunk of the book is advice for how to create and run scenarios for the game along with several scenarios ready to be used right away. Some of the ready scenarios are better than others. I thought that “The Curse” was by far the best written and most interesting scenario. I found a couple of them rather “meh” in the reading, though it’s possible that they play much better than they read. Even with that potential issue, there should be something there for a potential GM to run with on short notice and I think that this would be a great book to have around for spur of the moment meetups and gaming. I think it’d also be a pretty good game to use to introduce people to roleplaying games.

You can find the book’s website here: http://dontwalkinwinterwood.blogspot.com/ where you can get a print copy and pdf for $15+shipping or a pdf copy for $5. As with the length issue I mentioned earlier, this is a place where I really kind of want to take a few points away from the game. $15 for such a small book feels just a little bit steep. Because it also comes with the pdf copy (which is reasonably priced itself), I can’t complain too much but I do feel it’s worth mentioning if you’re looking to spend your gaming dollar on something more meaty or lengthy.

Overall though, I like the book and the game and I think it’s worth picking up. It’s not perfect, but then again what is? I think it’s definitely a game worth having around in your gaming library. Roll it out at a Halloween party, when your normal gaming group can’t all make it, bring it with you for when you’re killing time at a convention, or whatever. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

About

WolfSamurai (a.k.a. Aaron) has been a long time roleplaying geek, starting back with 2e Shadowrun almost 18 years ago. Through the years he’s played everything from D&D to Call of Cthulhu to Werewolf to Kult to Big Eyes, Small Mouth, and many other games. Recently he's branched into more indie fare with Technoir, Bulldogs!, Wu Xing, Dungeon World, and Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. Aaron hopes to eventually be writing his own game products as well as fiction.

3 Responses to “Review: Don’t Walk in Winter Wood”

  • Awesome! Always looking for a good horror RPG solution. Thanks for the tip, sir.

  • I love horror gaming, and if the plan is to tell stories round a camp fire, I think I’m sold! I did that in a Deadlands game years ago, with a plate of candles in the middle of the floor as a camp fire and no other light, then just let the characters scare the crap out of each other for three hours. Good times.

    Mind you, I do love scaring my players… http://shortymonster.co.uk/?p=165

  • Great review Aaron! This is on my list of games to buy soon.