Thursday, April 18, 2024
Gayme of the Week

Gayme of the Week: Wintermoor Tactics Club

Despite being reminded time and time again by people on the internet, my first look into tabletop role-playing games is how beautiful they were at allowing people, particularly queer players, to express themselves. We, the LGBT+ community, have always been outliers, against the social norm, and have often banded together in order to form a community that we can feel a part of. It’s that sort of thinking that makes me look at Wintermoor Tactics Club and say ‘yes, this is a queer game.’

Wintermoor Tactics Club, a game developed by studio EVE and published by Verus Evil, is set in the prestigious boarding school of Wintermoor Academy. You play as Alicia, a shy, but creative girl who likes spending her time playing Curses & Catacombs (C&C) – this world’s version of the ever-popular, Dungeons & Dragons. She’s joined by your ‘typical’ C&C nerd, Colin, and Jacob – a teen who really just wants to kick fascists in the nuts and (spoilers) may actually be Banksy?

Anyway – you start the game playing a regular old session. It’s here where the tabletop inspired video game really throws TTRPG players into a familiar setting – strategy, statistics, magic, and some good ol’ fashion dungeon combat. You have your typical classes, Paladin, Rogue, Wizard and the game is quick to explain the pros and cons of each class right at the beginning, though really, even if you don’t understand it at first you will by the end of the first chapter. You’ll be playing these ‘battles’ a lot as the story progresses.

The introduction of the three main characters of the cast, alongside their C&C characters was enlightening from a queer perspective. All three are outcasts in the sense that they don’t belong in any of the other clubs in Wintermoor Academy, and thus are drawn together to shape themselves in a way that they are able to express themselves: as heroes. For example, Colin’s character is much more brave and gallant, Alicia’s wizard is more confident, and Jacob is…Well, Jacob is himself.

However, the main cast isn’t the only club in Wintermoor Academy, but if Alicia and co’s eccentric Principal gets his way, they might as well be. You see, the Principal decides to ‘thin the herd’ by coming up with a snowball fight competition. The prize is simple: your club will become the Ultimate Club, and the rest of the Academy’s clubs will be ground into dust. As if they never even existed. It’s at this moment that instead of becoming ‘just the same as everyone else,’ the clubs all become outsiders within their own right. What their fighting for may well be the same goal, but their reasoning is far from being heterogeneous. It’s what makes the stakes feel so unforgivable – the punishment is what you get for daring to be different, whether it be because of your club association or just who you are in general. Of course, there’s more to it than just that, but you’ll have to play the game for yourself to find out more.

So, let’s talk about the non-subtextual queer representation that is in Wintermoor Tactics Club because, as is normal with almost all the D&D games I play, at least two TTRPG players in a group are queer. The Tactics Club is no exception to this, as when you later recruit members Jania and Baphomet, it becomes quite obvious that the two have a crush on one another. Unfortunately, this content is lost to you if you don’t do the side quest between the two of them which in all honesty seems a little naff to me. While it does give the player a choice, something we all love in visual novel games, it doesn’t seem fair to hide that information away from the main questline. Grievances over that aside, though, Baphomet and Jania’s relationship with one another is quite sweet. It brings out the best sides of them – Baphomet’s caring side, and Jania’s reserved, but enthusiastic demeanor.

Wintermoor Tactics Club also introduces a non-binary character called Avery, who uses they/them pronouns. Considering that the game is set somewhere in the mid-1900s, the nod at non-binary folks still very much existing at that time was pretty good. It’s a shame then that the character in question believes themselves to be a snow leopard. No, I’m not kidding. In some ways it fits with the jokey, whimsical tone that the game adopts at times, but it feels very strange that the token non-binary character actually doesn’t believe they’re human at all. Though I will give the game some credit, it doesn’t have Alicia or any of the other cast feel that the character using these pronouns is weird, and they quickly adapt to using the pronouns too with zero awkwardness.

Overall, I liked Wintermoor Tactics Club. Though I find the queer subtext of the game far more fascinating and respectful than the actual text, so that’s something to consider if you decide to go buy the game for yourself.

You can grab Wintermoor Tactics Club on the PS4, Xbox One, PC, and the Nintendo Switch.


Gayme of the Week is a weekly column by Aimee Hart about indie LGBT+ games that she’s played and what she loves about them. If you’ve got any recommendations, be sure to contact her on Twitter (@AimemeRights) or email (aimee@gaymingmag.com).

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.