Dead by Daylight: The Board Game Review - Survival Horror That Gets Better The More You Play

Dead by Daylight looked to capture the spirit of classic horror franchises like Halloween and Friday the 13th, and now Level 99 Games is attempting to capture that same spirit with Dead by Daylight: The Board Game. Just like in the original video game, the board game version is a mostly cooperative affair that has players looking to start generators around various locations to power the exit gates, allowing you to escape. I say mostly because one player will play as the killer, attempting to sacrifice the Survivors and ultimately win the game. The game succeeds in building the necessary tension on each Survivor's turn, as the Killer can quickly get on a roll if you're not paying attention, and yet the Survivors have a bevy of handy abilities that can help keep them one step ahead. Dead by Daylight: The Board Game embraces its theme and brings players into the game with ease, and those who jump into this survival scenario will not regret it in the least.

Level 99 and designer D. Brad Dalton Jr. did a fantastic job fitting the various components and overall aesthetic to the theme, and credit especially goes to graphic designer Davy Wagnarok and sculptor Sergei Popovichev. The miniatures of the Survivors are all good, but it's really the Killer miniatures that stand out, and the creepy artwork on their Identity Boards helps bring them to life. Even the board, Movement Cards, and Prop Tiles contribute to the dour motif. That said, the Generator Progress Tokens feel too large for the smaller Generator Tile, and in the area of nitpicks, this might be one of the most oversized First Player Markers I've ever had to use, and I just never understand oversized First Player Markers.

(Photo: ComicBook)

Once you pick your location (through a double-sided board) you and the other players roll a Skill Check Die and place your Survivors, and the Killer player does the same. Then you all strategize and figure out where you want to go through Movement Cards, and since you can only move once per turn (without taking a Bonus Action), you need to really consider your move and what it allows you to do while also factoring in where you think the Killer might move to. That's because you won't be able to see the Killer's Movement Cards (without a special Perk allowing you to do so) and the Killer gets to take two actions instead of just one each round. This push and pull is the central mechanic that helps build the tension and cultivates the gameplay's risk vs reward nature, but it's the variability that really makes this all shine.

(Photo: ComicBook)

The game may only have two locations to play in, but there's so much replayability built into the game that even after several plays you'll still find new elements to spice things up. This is partly due to the Survivors, who all have three different Perks at their disposal. These base Perks are for the most part incredibly useful and shake up your play style, but if those don't appeal to you, there's an entire Perk deck that you can choose from to find Perks more up your alley. You might not use them every round (even if they cost 0 to use), but they are essential to keep you away from the killer and on the road to success. The same goes for the Killer, who has his own unique Power and three Perks to choose from, and it's just as important for the Killer player to keep these in mind when taking your turns.

The number of options at your disposal is impressive. You can heal your teammates as an ordinary interact action, but some Perks allow you to heal in other ways. You can also block the Killer's path with Pallets and hide in Lockers when a Killer enters your area. The Killer can then interact with that occupied Locker, either destroying it or wounding you after a skill check. Crows can be used to give Bonus Turns to Survivors, but Killers can take them out and net Bloodpoint Tokens. While you're trying to get Generators started 3 times, Killers can reset that progress, and then Killers have their own innate powers that can lay traps, charge foreword with Chainsaws, cause Madness, and more.

(Photo: ComicBook)

The back and forth of it all as you try to outsmart the Killer while the Killer tries to anticipate your moves is incredibly fun and addictive, and the more comfortable you become with the Perks and Killers abilities the better that experience becomes. Level 99 has also done an exceptional job of balancing and counteracting abilities and play styles, so while it will be challenging to survive, you do always feel like you have a valid shot to make it happen. Likewise, the Killer is outnumbered, but you still feel empowered and able to achieve the end goal.

(Photo: ComicBook)

Between the 7 survivors, 6 Killers, two locations, and Perk Decks, the amount of content in the box is impressive, and I had a truly fantastic time on both sides of the encounter. I personally enjoyed playing on the Survivor side more but still had fun on the opposite side too. I would have loved one additional location in a dream scenario, but the two in the core box are more than enough to hold you over for some time thanks to the other factors and abilities in play. Dead by Daylight: The Board Game is a breeze to learn and gets you into the frantic action quickly, and once you're in I doubt you'll want to stop playing anytime soon.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Published By: Level 99 Games

Designed By: D. Brad Dalton Jr.

Graphic Design By: Davy Wagnarok

Sculpting By: Sergei Popovichev

Dead by Daylight: The Board Game is available in stores now.

Review copy provided by the publisher