Sunday, May 19, 2024

Dead by Daylight: The Board Game Review — Hooked from the very beginning

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that Dead by Daylight pretty much became my life during the COVID-19 pandemic. When I wasn’t playing Dead by Daylight, I was thinking about it.

The strategy, the fastest way to get generators done, what time I should get up in the morning so I could get a game or two in before starting work. I lived and breathed Dead by Daylight.

So, as you’ll no doubt agree, I was especially prepared to review the Dead By Daylight board game when it was released earlier this year.

Designed by D. Brad Dalton Jr. and published by Level 99 Games, Dead by Daylight: The Board Game captures the spirit of the video game so effectively that, after playing several hours with it, it wouldn’t be a lie for me to say that I’ve found myself wanting to play this as much (if not a little more) as the video game.

Dead by Daylight Board Game
Image Source: Gamefound

Much like its video game iteration, the aim of the game is for the Survivors (a team of 2 playing 2 characters each, or 4 players overall) to escape by completing 5 generators and opening the exit gate. As for the Killer, the goal is even simpler: put all 4 survivors out of their misery by placing them on a hook and sacrificing them to the Entity. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

What you get with the board game are 13 detailed minis featuring the original Killer and Survivor cast of Dead by Daylight. I purchased the Collector’s Edition of this game, so it came with 20 additional minis (10 Killers and 10 Survivors) to round it out as a roster of 33 playable characters. Since the board game’s release, more Survivors and Killers have come out, but the board game goes up to the release of Chapter 19: ALL-KILL, featuring The Trickster (Killer) and Yun-Jin Lee (Survivor). If you’re a fan of the later Killers and Survivors like myself, you’ll be very pleased to hear that they (and their perks) are available.

Let me say that these minis are all brilliantly detailed. As a Yui Kimura fan, I was excited to crack open my Collector’s Edition to see how intricate her mini was, with details like her goggles and the ‘good luck hachimaki’ she wears around her wrist, standing out loud and proud. This goes double for the miniature hooks and generators, with only a small bit of damage on one of the generator’s pistons. Overall, it’s not hard to see just how much work has been put into making the board game feel like its video game counterpart. Level 99 Games did a fantastic job at it, so much so that I’m scared to ruin the minis with paint, because professional artist? I am not.

Alongside additional perks and minis in the Collector’s Edition, there are also 2 more huge maps, for a total of 4. Each map is based on one of the maps in the video game and comes with a selection of segments identifiable by unique locations within said map. Each segment has up to 3-4 tokens on it, which can represent a locker, token, hex, generator, chest, or even an exit gate.

Dead by Daylight Board Game

At the start of the game, all of these tokens are flipped over and cannot be interacted with until someone moves into that space and flips them over. Personally, I found this a great way for Killers to pressure Survivors from the get-go, while also effectively kicking Survivors into moving everywhere they can to flip over tokens, stock up on items, and collect bloodpoints to give them an edge against the Killer. It may not be a picture-perfect representation of the video game, but it captures that intense feeling of wanting to get stuck in and escape.

But first things first. Players must decide where they’re going to start on the map through the use of rolling a die. The die goes from 1-6, with one side representing a skull (a critical fail) and one a 5 (a critical success). The players then position their character on the segment that represents the side they landed. This can be a shaky moment, as players can land in the same place as the Killer, or be in reach of their unique powers if they so happen to be playing Killer with range.

Once players have found out where they start, they enter into the planning stage. Here, Survivors and Killers must pick movement cards telling them where to go. For a Killer trying to track Survivors, this can feel like guesswork in trying to find out which place to go first with their movement cards, but that’s what makes it such a thrill in the first place. Once movement cards have been decided, Survivors, who can move and interact per round, start first, leaving the Killer last. Killers can move and interact twice, meaning they can both slash at a Survivor and then dilly-dally onto the next area to kick a generator. Once a Killer and the Survivors have finished their round, it returns to the planning stage. This continues until the Survivors either power up the generators (with die rolls representing whether they are successful or not) or the Killer earns enough sacrifice tokens to win the game.

As a board game, this version of Dead by Daylight is much slower. But what makes it shine is the level of choice. My first game as The Nurse had me mopping up my friends lickety-split because I was able to move through pallets and breakable walls thanks to her unique ability, further highlighting the amount of power I had in steering the game and my unfortunate victims to a grisly, gruesome end. My next game was as The Doctor, who could use his electrifying powers to give players a status effect called Madness, meaning that with each roll of the dice, they would need to use the Danger Die instead of the regular, making their skill checks near impossible to succeed in.

Dead by Daylight Board Game

But as overwhelming as playing Killer can be, Survivors are far from helpless. Not only are they able to plan with one another (though they can’t hide said plans from the Killer, something which my friends found hard to reconcile with), but they can equip themselves with items, hide in lockers, and throw down pallets to stop the Killer from catching up with them. It’s a lot of guesswork and preparation on both sides, which can feel stressful or exhilarating, depending on your role.

What does remain consistent is just how much fun it is, all while capturing the beats and features that make Dead by Daylight so great to play. It may be slower, but once you’re in the game playing your favourite Survivor or Killer, deep in the nitty and gritty, it feels just as intense as the video game.

My one complaint? The Collector’s Edition box is far too big to carry around with you in a public setting which, considering my love for board game cafes, was a real bummer for me personally.

Overall, I can’t compliment this board game enough. It has everything that makes Dead by Daylight special, and it doesn’t even require an internet connection to play it.

You can purchase Dead by Daylight: The Board Game now via gamefound.

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