Review – Wintermoor Tactics Club


Developer: EVC
Publisher: Versus Evil
Genre: Visual Novel, Adventure, Tactics
Platforms: PC
Rating:  n/a
Price: $14.99

I first described Wintermoor Tactics Club to my writing team as a game that would appeal to Harry Potter fans. I was mistaken; this is a game for fans of Dungeons & Dragons first, with secondary characteristics appealing to fans of games derived from Tactics Ogre, such as Final Fantasy Tactics.

Content Guide

Scarlet’s tarot cards and Ms. Cleo impersonations are all performative, not substantial.

If I had my way, Wintermoor Tactics Club would fall in the T for Teen category. It is a game that EVC intentionally developed for younger audiences, though it ever-so-slightly delves into a few topics that I think are appropriate for mature youths. Violence is hardly that, as attack animations are cartoonish and not even as violent as a Looney Toons bit. All profanity appears as grawlixes, except for one character dropping a d–n. As Wintermoor Academy is a high school, the campus is sober and drug-free.

Fight the power, Jacob!

While the game manages to shoehorn people who identify as furries, with one adapting the third-person pronouns “they” and “them,” students on campus manage to abstain from all things even remotely resembling sexual curiosity. In that regard, this game is not quite YA material.

Pious gamers should know that at a certain point in the game, an edgy, evil-aligned character named Baphomet will join the party. They flaunt a nascent affinity for the demonic, though this is to be taken no more seriously than another early acquisition who is sympathetic to the paranormal. Likewise, characters might mention Christmas in one sentence, then Hannakuh or Buddhism in another.


Is this breaking the fourth wall?

Protagonist Alicia wakes up one morning and reports to the classroom where her friends—members of the titular Wintermoor Tactics Club (I will use “WTC” to differentiate between the in-game club and game’s title, which will be in italics)—meet to play Curses & Catacombs, a fictional version of the thoroughly-trademarked Dungeons & Dragons. After fulfilling the basic mission of locating a missing member, the club plays a few rounds before the school intercom interrupts their session. After reporting to the school auditorium, the cohort learns that their school, Wintermoor Academy, is hosting a snowball fight tournament. As WTC consists of nerds rather than jocks, their Dungeon Master, Colin suggests that they approach these snowball fights as they would a session of C&C (not to be confused with the legendary Westwood/EA RTS).

Manipulation 301: Problem-Solving Via Intellectual Passive-Aggression

Wintermoor Tactics Club sits plays with multiple conventions simultaneously, situating it in a discordant assemblage thematically and functionally. The protagonist, Alicia, is supposed to be in high school, yet her decidedly youthful rendition makes me think about a slightly older Nyah from Little Bug. She strikes me as more than precocious, but an old soul trapped in a fourth grader’s body, as she goes around the school solving problems like giving her anarchist friend, Jacob, ideas on how to vandalize the school, or suggesting politically-correct ways for the History Club to reenact events without tokenizing Batu’s Mongolian ethnicity, or reporting to a generic NPC the opinions of several girls on campus as to why she has no friends (spoiler: she has zero emotional empathy).                                          

Cheered mentally-out-loud during this conversation. I might scream out loud if I encounter another conversation about C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, or Sanderson. THERE ARE OTHER AUTHORS! AND READ MORE WOMEN AUTHORS TOO!

Translating tabletop game mechanics into a “real world” physical activity is as silly as it sounds, but the game expects players to accept this with a straight face; the farce wanes as characters unlock items and super abilities called tactics powers during the adventure and exploration phase of the game, and during WTC’s C&C sessions, respectively. The WTC can then use these items and powers during the simulated snowball fights.

I would imagine that throwing bombs in a snowball fight would get you arrested for…well, several charges would be pending.

How does Jaina’s C&C avatar, the pyromancer, gaining her AOE and chaining “confusion” tactics power translate from a tabletop game into a snowball fight with other clubs? Wintermoor Tactics Club accomplishes this by no other means than the Law of the Game Says.

I’ve yet to meet a man who describes another man as shy, let alone himself.

I cannot psychologically overcome Wintermoor Tactics Club‘s fundamental problem of expecting players to accept story bits or gameplay elements at face value. While I understand that this is a game that is supposed to be lighthearted or heartwarming, I might have given the game the benefit of doubt if I could discern its target audience. The background music that plays while Alicia moves around campus suggests innocence and whimsy, yet while this music plays, Alica picks up on the fact that Duncan refers to his associate in the Animal Identification Club as the gender-neutral “they,” and she adopts this correction without fanfare. EVC’s nod toward acknowledging gender-neutrality disrupts an erstwhile complete absence of sexual expression given the absence of any couples. Raging hormones during teenage years is hard science, notwithstanding allegorical horrors of acne or inopportune arousal. SonicFox has been establishing his reputation for years (using his platform as one of the best players in FGC history for amplification) while doing LGBT advocacy; similar gestures in Wintermoor Tactics Club are unearned box checks.

While I appreciate EVC choosing to address many pressing social issues, ranging from mental health (such as anxiety, paranoia, or disassociation) to racism, Wintermoor Tactics Club treats them with kid gloves; perhaps the game was intended to serve as an introduction to some of these topics for the uninitiated. I would have preferred for EVC to go hard in the paint for a slam dunk rather than settle for a low-percentage jump shot. After all, when I say “generic NPC,” the game is full of characters that I am forced to interact with to complete side or main quests; I think I am supposed to learn who they are and their names, but the game does not linger on that character’s development long enough for anything to stick.

Nerd alert!

As one progresses through Wintermoor Tactics Club, defeating other clubs, one NPC will join the WTC. That chapter will then be more or less dedicated to learning about that new member catering to that member’s needs, desires, or problems. I have hardly learned about one NPC before the chapter ends and I am learning about another, with the game sending me on fetch quests for MacGuffins to soothe their feelings or Alicia’s. I oftentimes agree with Colin, that everyone cannot be your friend; among the social issues EVC tackles, the development team appears to have missed co-dependency.

The simplicity of the campus or overworld in Wintermoor Tactics Club is one area where the game’s “visual novel” aspects are made pain. I would anticipate a mobile or Switch Port.

By now, readers may have noticed that I have not said much about the gameplay. That is because there is regrettably little to say. Given that I am something of a strategy specialist here at GUG, when I read “tactics” in the title, I am expecting anything from games that require blessings from RNGesus like FTL: Faster Than Light to games that can be overcome with skill after severely punishing noobs before they master the game’s rules like The Wind and Wilting Blossom. The C&C and “snowball” battles in Wintermoor Tactics Club would be faceroll-easy if it were not a turn-based.

Keep calm and chain lightning. (The correct move would have been to move Anjaya closer and target the empty space to the southwest. That would have hit the third enemy near Eodwald, too.

When Colin says that Alicia’s wizard avatar, Anjaya, is OP, that has to be a wink and a nudge. Her lightning bolt tactics power does five damage, which is more than the average number of HP for most enemies, including those with magic armor. Jacob’s Roguey, the intentionally lazily-named rogue, can either OHKO or deplete half a health bar with his hook and sneak attack, leaving enemies within range of Colin’s paladin, Eodwald, to finish. Tougher, high-damage enemies can be effectively neutralized with Eodwald’s skull-crushing tactics power that reduces enemy damage output. And Jaina’s aforementioned pyromancer can cast confusion and allow enemies to do damage to themselves; they cluster up, which is perfect for Alicia to use her chain lightning attack.

Yeah, sure, edgelord.

These synergies would be fun and rewarding under most circumstances, but Wintermoor Tactics Club is designed with four “par” categories, including the number of turns players take to complete the map—usually four or less. Under most circumstances, a “par” is something speedrunners aim for—a hidden stipulation for an achievement, or one that is forced in a special scenario, such as “defeat x in y turns.” I think these categories of damage taken, tactics powers, turns taken, and players lost (which makes damage redundant) limits the game’s possibilities, as they imply that there are few “correct” ways to play. Why try all melee when the game makes the penalty for this clear from the beginning?

Because everyone (but me) likes a good meme.

In essence, Wintermoor Tactics Club lacks commitment. Spanning between RPG, strategy, adventure, and visual novel genres, the game is indecisive in articulating what it wants to be. This uncertainty spills over into character development, where the cast consists of quota fulfillment with little time for depth. Wintermoor Tactics Club is the kind of game made with all audiences in mind, but this critic would have preferred something geared toward specialists.


The Bottom Line


Wintermoor Tactics Club could have made a profound political statement, but tries for intersectionality and misses, resulting in milquetoast dilution.



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Maurice Pogue

Since picking up an NES controller in 1985 at the age of 2, Maurice and video games have been inseparable. While most children aspired to be lawyers, doctors, or engineers (at the behest of their parents), he aspired to write for publications such as EGM, PC Gamer, PC Accelerator, and Edge. After achieving ABD status in English at MSU, Maurice left academia and dedicated his writing to his lifelong passion. He is currently the Video Game Editor at Geeks Under Grace.

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