Platform: Steam Deck
Time to Finish: 14.1 hours
Wintermoor Tactics Club is a mix of Strategy RPG and Visual Novel tacking place at a boarding school in the 80s. The story centers around the “Tactics Club” which is a D&D club (or Curses & Catacombs as it’s named in game). You play as Alicia, a member of Tactics Club who just wants to play C&C with her two friends Jacob and Colin. The principal of the school has other plans. He announces a mandatory snowball fight tournament to find the “Ultimate Club” on campus. The catch? Any club that loses must disband…forever!
I picked this one up in this year’s Steam Summer Sale. Every once and a while I’ll get the urge to play a turned-based, strategy RPG and I have very few in my library. I was also looking for more games to play on the Steam Deck. I’m happy to say I played through this entirely on the Steam Deck and didn’t run into a single issue.
Things I Liked:
The Strategy Parts: Wintermoor Tactics Club is split up into two parts. There’s the visual novel aspect where you walk around campus talking to people and doing side quests and there’s the strategy parts where you’re either playing a battle in the Curses & Catacombs campaign or participating in the snowball tournament.
Each character has their own set of skills that you can employ to beat each mission. Each mission is scored on different elements such as how many characters died, how many turns you take, and how many special powers you’ve used. I found myself replaying encounters a few times to try and get a perfect score.This made the strategy parts feel more like a puzzle than an one off battle.
The Side Quests: There are a ton of side quests to do between battles and the snowball tournament rounds. These are given out by characters around campus and usually have you find another character or an item on campus to complete them. These are totally optional but doing them does unlock perks for your characters, some of which are pretty powerful, so their worth doing. Each character around campus has their own personalities and you run into the same people over the course of the game. I found myself running the side quests just to learn a little more about each person.
The Soundtrack: I appreciate a game with good music that sets the tone for the game and really meshes with the setting. While it’s not a soundtrack I’ll probably listen to on it’s own but the music fits so well with the quirky, lightheartedness of the game.
Things that Could Have Been Better:
The Mission Scoring: Like I mentioned before, each battle is scored on different facets like damage taken, turns taken, and characters knocked out. One of the categories I was constantly missing was number of Tactics Powers used. Tactics Powers are special abilities that each character has that either do a lot of damage or add a lot of utility to the fight. There’s a “Tactic Points” bar that fills up after 5 normal attacks (there are some perks that make a character generate 2 tactics points but I didn’t use those much). Once the bar is full you can use a tactics power. The problem I kept running in two was that missions wanted me to use 2 or 3 Tactics Powers per fight and I only usually needed one to beat it. On the one hand, it did make me think about encounters differently as I tried to use multiple tactics powers. On the other, it felt like I had to draw a lot of fights out just to satisfy this one requirement.
Wintermoor Tactics Club bridged a gap for me that I didn’t know was there. Before, I was playing mostly exploration games with little to no combat. It had the same lighthearted themes and style as those more casual games but also offered a more challenging game play experience. After finishing it, I find myself leaning more towards playing some more mechanically challenging single player games.