I really like Project Winter, at least in theory. It’s a classic hidden role multiplayer affair, where you’re ostensibly Doing A Survival: there’s a bunch of you stuck somewhere arctic, trying not to freeze or starve in a log cabin while also accomplishing tasks like repairing radio transmitters, with the eventual aim of summoning an escape helicopter.
But as Matt put it in a recent post, “really it’s about luring your friends into the wilderness so you can murder them“. Because of course, not all of your group of survivors are goodies. One or two of you, depending on how many are playing, will be secretly designated as gits, and will spend the whole game trying to ruin everyone elses’ chances of rescue.
There are many ways to sabotage things, from straight up battering people to death in a blizzard, to poisoning the soup in the cabin so everyone starts getting poorly and crapping themselves. And there are many mechanics in place to allow traitors to conspire, and hinder their identification by the goodies, from a voice chat system that only works when characters are close together, to events that occasionally turn everyone into anonymous, identical rabbits. And of course there are mechanics to interfere with those mechanics, such as radios that allow people to talk in secret even though they’ve been separated for suspicious behaviour, and so on.
Like many of the best multiplayer features, these systems aren’t impressive so much for what they are in themselves, as they are for the human metagame they enable. Whether you’re a traitor or not, Project Winter is a game about constantly analysing everything about your social situation in the hope you might get a step closer to a useful conclusion, and it therefore involves thinking about a lot of different things at once.
And I suppose that’s why I’m yet to warm to it like Matt has. Rounds are short, and the action is fast, and in all the limited runs I’ve played, I felt constantly behind the curve in terms of knowing what was going on. I was learning the game systems, playing a survival game, chatting with seven other people, and trying to solve a murder mystery all at once, and that made it hard to do anything but act near-randomly, flailing haplessly through rounds until their abrupt endings.
I suspect practice will make perfect, however, and I just need to play some more. After all, if I managed to master Space 13 (well, nobody masters SS13, but I at least wrestled it into temporary obedience), then I’m sure I can figure out Project Winter.