I recently bought Winter Tales and had my first two games with five friends last night. It was kinda fun, but we really felt like we were missing something or misinterpreting the rules somehow.
The problem was, that we found it exceedingly difficult not to play the game in a gamist manner. Most of us have played pen and paper RPGs and are not averse to storytelling, and we were all well aware that the main focus of Winter Tales is to tell a coherent story. However, the way the game is designed, pitting two factions against each other, obviously means that players will do what they can to ensure their side is victorious.
The main issue in this regard, to us, arose during quest battles. Player 1 would start a quest and the five other players would then try to affect it with story cards. The thing was, story cards all went into one big pile, and everyone could see how many cards each side had gathered. This meant that the last few players could always tell their story and weave in just enough story cards to win the quest.
The rule about the active player being allowed to throw in one (and only one) last story card to wrap up the story likewise seemed useless, since one story card would never be able to impact the results anyway.
Additionally, since a player can pass on activating a character during other players' turns, we always ended up with one ready character and one open quest. This meant that the player with the last ready character could wrap up the game by activating that character, starting the specific quest and ending it immediately, since no one else around the table would have a ready character (or a character in that quest location). This guaranteed an automatic memory favoring whoever ended up with the last ready character.
On a final note, the game is supposed to consist of several chapters; whenever a player activates his last ready character and finished his turn, the chapter ends and a new one begins. We played the game twice, with 3 and 4 memories, and during both games we finished the final memory during the first chapter.
All this leads me to conclude that one of the three following is the case here:
A) Winter Tales wants its players to focus on the story and not actively try to win the game. However, elements such as the opposing factions and the battle/trap mechanics lead me to believe that the game does in fact expect its players to attempt to win.
B) Winter Tales is a poorly designed game. Since the game is still relatively new I guess this could be possible, but the reviews lead me to believe that this can't possible be the case.
C) Our group misinterpreted the rules or otherwise missed something important. This is supported by the, quite honestly, poorly worded/translated rule book, and is what I hope and expect to be the case.
Thus, my questions are these: is C the case here, and if so, what did we misunderstand?