Winter TADS Jam 2023 - Review Period Open

The Winter TADS Jam submission period is now over.

The review process has now begun. Alas, there is only one entry.

Trenchline is set in a war zone similar to WW I. I have only begun to play the game. This is the author’s first release but looks quite good.

Please review. Positive feedback much appreciated.

Thank you.


110% here for our TADS community! Expect me to play the heck out of this game, especially if it’s JJMcC’s first release!


I believe it is his first game! And I helped test it, so I can attest that it’s fun and well-made - definitely worth checking out!

(I’d also note that the sole entry in last year’s jam was @jnelson’s debut, which was a strong game in its own right and looks even more auspicious now that According to Cain came out to such success… I’m just saying, it’s worth keeping an eye on folks who enter this jam, even if there aren’t a lot of them!)


People, I just started this game, and have started mapping as I go. Some stuff came up, so I need to put this on pause for a moment.

However, despite how little I have seen so far, I recommend you play this game. It doesn’t matter if you know much about World War I or not. This is a hellscape that is open for way more people than early-1900s history fans.

This author’s writing style is very excellent so far.

I plan to do a full review after properly playing this, but what I have seen so far is worth a recommendation. Get in this trench with me, and find a way to survive.

Let’s go!!

EDIT: Is @jjmcc on here? Yo, I am studying your writing style in this game to improve my own. Seriously. Cannot wait to get back to this game.


Review: Trenchline by Jeff J. McCoskey


A trope in WWII movies/games that always sparks a feeling is, pinned down on the beach, the guy lugging along a bulky radio unit, screaming hopelessly to command, as if somehow there was a reason they put a telephone on Omaha Beach, as if there is anything you can say from the end of the line. The illusion of connection evaporating; you are on your own in metal shrieking.

Trenchline, a WWI/WWII hybrid with names changed to protect the guilty, dwells in the ambiance of this mood, dropping you off right amidst that loneliness: ““Mercenaries make easy money,” your army buddies said. “It’s all scowls and shows of force. It’ll never come to real fighting.” Well, they’re all dead now, and here you are. Stranded deep in a war zone, running from the fascist government, in a country you hadn’t even heard of two months ago.” Alone in a trench, watching “A memory of a forest, slowly being transformed by fascist artillery fire to a barren moonscape”, you scrabble around the rubble to find the pieces to fix the damaged radio to call in artillery support, so you can retreat from the position.

Wandering an emptied setting which is usually hectic with crowds, such as a trench in a war, creates that uncanny ghostliness that fogs over so many IF games, with piecemeal puzzling breaking up the implied reality into a jigsaw puzzle, but Trenchline manages to keep itself grounded through its rigorous focus on a single setpiece puzzle: fixing and working the radio. Salvage some wire, tie it around a tripod, get a signal, search out a page that gives you frequencies and callsigns, figure out how to read it, all these steps keep you hurrying from one task to another as “Your ears are hammered by a sustained rhythm, as if you were inside the drum of an angry god.” The puzzles solidify into the breathless tactility of the trenches, with your link to the outside world as tenuous as those no longer here to work it. Although the puzzles mostly work in this vein, for some reason the tripod seemed to move all around the map once I got it tied to the wire, and having two unrelated wires invited disambiguations that flattened the mood a bit.

Where the game works best is when, operating the radio, you get a chance to play in character. You can’t just start speaking on a military frequency, instead the game insists on protocols: ““>this is u71 over / “This is H43, go ahead U71, over.”” Here you get to meld into the war chatter, navigating a conversation puzzle which, while fairly straightforward to solve, offers many enjoyable deadends. Indeed, if you really get into character, you can elicit some colorful responses: ““H43 this is U71, merc unit devastated by enemy action, request…” / You are interrupted by an infuriatingly bemused voice. “Roger, U71, their attack held the Army’s attention as planned. Now we don’t need to pay the balance! Viva la Revolucion!”” But, if you think like a soldier, call in the artillery support you need, you can feel the machinery of war rumble to your rescue: “““This is U71, enemy artillery fierce, request suppressive fire, over.” / “This is G39, understood, checking fire priorities, break.” The silence is shorter than you would have guessed. “U71 this is G39, priority approved. Triangulating enemy battery location, over.” There is a much longer, pregnant pause on the line before it is finally broken by, “G14 this is G39 shot, over.” / A new voice, labored from exertion blares from the speaker. “This is G14, shot out.” / “Splash, over” / “hooo Splash, out. G39 this is G14, left 300, fire for effect.” / “U71 this is G39, time on target 2 minutes, you got 10 minutes of cover. Good luck U71, out.” / The close air of the bunker becomes charged in the sudden silence from the radio.” Ten minutes? You better start running.

If only to keep pace with Trenchline, which knows what it wants to accomplish and gets there quickly. It doesn’t quite mettle up to a mood as intense as its intent, but nevertheless settles amicably enough in its slyly semiserious style. For what I think is a debut, the author shows a lot of promise and craft, so one can only be thankful for fos1’s efforts to keep TADS vibrant having brought forth fruit like this.


EDIT: Is @jjmcc on here? Yo, I am studying your writing style in this game to improve my own. Seriously. Cannot wait to get back to this game.

That’s very generous of you, thanks. I am ok if you have cause to reassess this by game’s end. :] I mostly hang out on the TADS board, after my inaugural IFComp reviews.

I really am humbled by the welcoming of the IFComp and TADS communities and so glad those neurons connected in my brain at long last! This is my first release, but has only charged me further to not have it be my last. Thanks so much, all.


Just played and enjoyed (and I am not usually a fan of wartime settings at all). The radio puzzle was really fun.


Maybe that can be Winter TADS Jam’s calling card: A low-pressure comp/jam to encourage folks to try out TADS and see what it’s capable of. I think it was always intended to be that, but let’s shout it from the mountaintops.

One aspect of IF Comp is that you’re not supposed to discuss your game prior to entering it. Perhaps Winter TADS Jam could go the other direction: Encourage potential applicants to discuss their games on this message board, so others can offer advice or pointers on how to realize their concepts. (Sort of like how SeedComp has two rounds, idea followed by implementation, but less formal.)

I don’t think that makes the jam any less significant! After all, IF Comp started as a way to encourage more people to write IF, and it succeeded beyond expectations.


That has always been my goal. To encourage writing and development, in TADS specifically but IF in general. And always with a casual, encouraging atmosphere.

Maybe over time it will develop?



Okay, I have survived to the end of the game! That was amazing!!!

Will write a full review later, but I’m off to rate it now!

If anyone sees this: Play this game.


Let time slip away from me a bit, but wanted to thank @fos1 for encouraging me to submit my toy, and everyone that playtested, played, rated and reviewed Trenchline. I am grateful for all the time and mindshare you gave it, and hope I can leverage the feedback into my next effort. You all rock, thanks so much!

Coffee is lovely in my TADS Jam mug, even from a field of 1!


You are helping to keep TADS alive. It is such a rich and capable language.

Thank you.