Front Page

Content

Board Games

Forums

Site Tools

Submissions

About

You May Also Like...

O
oliverkinne
August 07, 2020
AL
Andi Lennon
August 06, 2020
O
oliverkinne
August 06, 2020

Swatch Board Game Review

Board Game Reviews
W
We-reNotWizards
August 05, 2020
W
We-reNotWizards
July 29, 2020
AL
Andi Lennon
July 29, 2020
T
thegiantbrain
July 28, 2020

Kemet - Review

Board Game Reviews
O
oliverkinne
July 27, 2020
MT
Matt Thrower
July 26, 2020

Play Matt: Miremarsh Review

Board Game Reviews
MB
Michael Barnes
July 23, 2020
O
oliverkinne
July 17, 2020
MB
Michael Barnes
July 16, 2020
AL
Andi Lennon
July 15, 2020
MT
Matt Thrower
July 13, 2020
O
oliverkinne
July 10, 2020
MB
Michael Barnes
July 09, 2020

Louder than Bombs - The Quiet Year

AL Updated July 01, 2020
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
933 0
Louder than Bombs - The Quiet Year

Game Information

Designer
Players
1 - 4
There Will Be Games

The Morning broke softly over the shining city of New Sodom. As the all-consuming struggle with the Jackals receded into our collective memory, we looked with faint hope upon the year ahead of us. A year to regather and rebuild. A year to find ourselves and define our purpose in the absence of struggle and defiance as our pragmatic poles. A year in which to live.

We gathered to give thanks to Lilantha, watching over the lake and plotting our new dawn.

First emerging in 2013 and still steadfastly in print to this day, The Quiet Year by designer Avery Alder is perhaps the most lauded and influential in a series of games by her ‘Buried Without Ceremony’ imprint that seek to explore the themes of community, relationships, doubt, queerness, and the collapse of civilization within the parameters of storytelling and emergent play.

Quiet Year 01

To that end, The Quiet Year takes players on a guided experience in narrative interaction that is freeform in its execution, simple in its mechanics and wildly deft in its potential to engage. By embracing the storytelling possibilities inherent in the art of cartography and combining them with a shared narrative roleplaying experience, the prompts it offers as your guideposts on this personal journey are both vague enough to enable a startling array of outcomes, and import-laden enough to give those outcomes real weight. As an experience, it sits before you like a mirror – echoing back what you bring to it, and equally at home with levity or leaden weight.

Skepto knew Lilantha wasn’t real. The poisoned fish that had rendered their populace barren weren’t a blight visited upon them by their lack of faith any more than their ceremonial dancing guaranteed the fecundity of the harvest. That incessant dribble of ichor from the abandoned powerplant up-stream was the culprit. Anyone could see that. Aritha and the others were cloth-eared in their insistence and so bound to tradition that it would surely spell their doom. Only Janus had the vision to see them through the encroaching march of seasons, her ingenuity at crafting the waterwheel had improved their lives immeasurably, though she remained sidelined by the council, dismissed for her lack of faith. Skepto tensed as he turned towards the great hall, the burning conviction of a decision made uncoiling in his belly.

Available as either a simple PDF download or in a delightful physical edition shipped in a slight hessian sack, The Quiet Year is the assured antithesis of the current zeitgeist-straddling obsession with bloat and boxes. All that is required to play is a sheet of paper, pen or pencil, a few six sided dice, a deck of ordinary playing cards and perhaps a fistful of buttons (made for purpose seasonal event cards and a scattering of repurposed craftshop beads, respectively within the physical edition).

The game tasks you with shepherding a settlement of survivors and weathering the events of the titular quiet year taking place between the rock of their unexplored conflict with the Jackals and the hard place of the looming arrival of the foreboding Frost Shepherds. Play commences by drawing the bones of the settlement on a shared sheet of paper, passing the pencil as ideas unfurl and a rudimentary backstory is conceived. Our own inaugural outpost of ‘New Sodom’ found purchase upon wooden pontoons floating atop a poisoned lake, replete with runways crisscrossing between huts and halls, and the sad marsh-laden potato plantation that crested the lake’s edge. Fish were in abundance, shelter was scarce, and there was much work to be done.

Quiet Year 02

The fiery tail of the comet split the sky like a sheet, sending the burgeoning population into paroxysms of wonder and speculation. Wide- eyed and slack-jawed we traced its arc to impact as the factions that had developed and now threatened to leave us riven both pondered its arrival and spun theories to help fold its arrival into their existing agendas.  

Each turn thereafter during the game, players will add to the map as a kind of living diary and monument to the travails of their settlement. Using the deck of 52 cards, each of which signify a week’s passage of time and the events that transpired therein, players will take turns choosing from a selection of story prompts – triggering events and evolutions that include good news, bad news, omens, projects, policies and the many pendulous swings of your people’s collective fortune.

We commenced pragmatically, taking advantage of the clemency of spring to initiate infrastructure and safeguard against scarcity as we looked to promulgate the whims of the best and brightest amongst our settlement to help seed utopian ideals. Of course it wasn’t long before our inner storytellers had other ideas and the spectre of conflict raised its thorny head in the guise of pestilence, famine and fevered theology.

And this is what makes The Quiet Year such a compelling exercise as well as a great game. It’s a neat reflection on what makes us tick and how as a species we seem compelled to embrace entropy at any given opportunity if for no other reason than to give us something to gossip about.

For every sober and practical interpretation of a story beat we tried to ink upon our page, swift on its heels came a crescendo of spanners to gum things up with horrifying contingencies. We were gleefully, capriciously, embodying the deities of this world in a decidedly Greek fashion. We wanted our settlement to suffer, to strive, to overcome. Because it was challenging to offer solutions, because it was engaging to un-knot twists, but mostly cos it was fun to fuck with them.

Quiet Year 03

They emerged from the smoking ruin of the crater, pale and long of limb they shuffled from the underworld, disturbed by the arrival of this celestial detritus and pointing their bony fingers towards our relative beacon of plenty. With a shuffling gait they drew ever nearer, morphing from a speck upon the horizon into a terrible certainty as their caravan approached the outskirts of New Sodom. We christened them “the ‘Neathies” and in doing so robbed ourselves of the empathy required to question the wall we were hastily erecting to halt their advance.

Another central tenet of the experience on offer here is the nudges toward discussion embedded in the cards and events they portray. Debate is given a primacy amongst the elements of player agency that overshadows even the more tactile and tangible act of mapmaking, and in doing so offers a fantastic allegorical space to explore all manner of the many and varied themes and agues that plague us as both individuals and a society. The run time of your session will be almost entirely dictated by this aspect and how seriously you choose to take it. Those buttons/beads I mentioned earlier? They are your designated ‘Enmity Tokens’ which are used to keep track of virtual slights, grudges and unresolved disagreements (be they political, social, theological or personal).

I’m not saying your settlement and your stories will necessarily form analogues of real world people and events, I’m just noting how frequently such concerns are wont to surface as though we were looking for a way to broach them in a space that was comfortingly one step removed from reality – as though to rob them of the kind of teeth that often renders family gatherings such an explosive cauldron of simmering resentment. Bring it to thanksgiving is what I’m saying. If uncle Tony gets punched than he probably deserved it.

The effects of the ‘Neathblight were as devastating as they were quick. Cowering at the foot of our iron barricades, the ‘neathies had brought with them a miasmic essence that wafted over our by now emaciated people- our fields lying fallow as we diverted our energies to the wall. Wracked with St. Vitus spasms, the victims of the epidemic were compelled to craft themselves elaborate hats, even as the scalps upon which they hoped to place them withered away.  With every stitch of their bonnets they grew weaker, scores of us succumbing until, stumbling into the great hall one day – the people were aghast to see Aritha herself displaying a shockingly ostentatious new fascinator and knowing in that moment the days of her reign were numbered.

Clearly another strength the game exhibits is its ability to turn on a dime tonally. There is no situation too fraught and no supposition so contentious that it cannot be alleviated or derailed by the timely arrival of funny hats. We traipsed the ruins of a dying world for scrap, we battled hunger and our own prejudices as reason wrestled with mystery traditions, we turned on our own and strung them from pikes…but we also laughed our asses off.

Quiet Year 04

In the end I can only reiterate that the measure of the game is weighed in what you bring to it as a group. It requires a leap of faith that the semblance of structure it imparts will be enough to rekindle in you the very human act of shared storytelling, an instinct that has atrophied as we prefer to outsource our imagination to Hollywood hacks and leave our agency in hock to d-pads, rulebooks and player aids, content to vicariously imbibe other people’s tales ad-infinitum.

The effigies smouldered long into the night as the people mourned Aritha’s passing, shrouded in a scent of carbonised hats they knew would linger. As she breathed her last, a vision of Lilantha herself had appeared and the people were struck dumb with reverence. It was a sign that would knit them together with the sense that a new unity was afoot, rife with purpose. Even now the wall was being repurposed to buttress the hydroponic gardens, the sacrifices would cease and the death of Skepto would not be in vain. A whisper of excitement passed through the people with a promise that revitalised all who would listen…and the same it spoke was Janus.

With a sense of both resolution and the cyclical nature of all things, we flipped another card.

And the Frost Shepherds were upon us.

The Quiet Year and a range of other experiences are available here.

Andi Lennon


Editor reviews

1 reviews

Rating 
 
4.0
AL
1 reviews
Andi Lennon
Associate Writer

Andi Lennon is Sydney based writer, musician and soap dodger. He graduated from Wizbang University with full honours and no teeth. When he isn't feeling conflicted about Morrissey he likes to play indie games with a dubious 80's aesthetic.

You can read more of his work by visiting Mongol Cult

User reviews

There are no user reviews for this listing.
Already have an account? or Create an account
Log in to comment

edulis's Avatar
edulis replied the topic: #311619 02 Jul 2020 13:57
You sparked my interest enough to go to the website. It looks really interesting and $10 for the PDF seems like a good deal. How suitable for kids do you think it is?
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #311622 02 Jul 2020 14:33
This review gives me hope that I can get The Quiet Year on the table sometime. I bought the pdf a few years back, but I feel like maybe the physical version in the pics would be more enticing to potential players than a regular deck of cards plus the pdf.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311627 02 Jul 2020 18:08

edulis wrote: You sparked my interest enough to go to the website. It looks really interesting and $10 for the PDF seems like a good deal. How suitable for kids do you think it is?


It's absolutely ideal for kids. Although our tale featured nods to contemporary politics, human sacrifice and other not very bon mots, it really is entirely a reflection of what the players bring to it. The prompts are open ended enough that any kind of story could emerge.

I also think that it might be almost uniquely suited for children in that their imagination and sense of play is less shackled to conventional notions of a game as a product. I think they'd be even more receptive to the idea of simply creating a story together. It's probably a great educational tool too, both in its capacity to inspire storytelling but possibly even more so as a way to explore creative problem solving.

And even better, once you're done with each game you can pin the map you've made together to the fridge door :)
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311628 02 Jul 2020 18:16

Shellhead wrote: This review gives me hope that I can get The Quiet Year on the table sometime. I bought the pdf a few years back, but I feel like maybe the physical version in the pics would be more enticing to potential players than a regular deck of cards plus the pdf.


Yeah, although absolutely optional, it does form a charming little package. I had similar considerations in mind when I opted to shoulder the stupid amount of postage to get it shipped down here to Australia. The first bite is with the eyes and for people weaned on the concept of 'an experience in a box' it might make the concept more palatable. Bear in mind what you get is a totally indie take on that though, which I think adds to its charm but is unlikely to sway someone in thrall to big box production values.
It's absolutely worth playing in whatever format you choose however.
mc's Avatar
mc replied the topic: #311634 03 Jul 2020 02:44
Thanks Andi, and edulis for asking the question - when I am finally done with Kids on Bikes (we have this ongoing campaign that takes place sporadically that I really need to wrap up somehow), I will definitely take a look. Especially as my kids really got into the worldbuilding of the locations where they "Bike", drawing maps etc, but I rarely really use it - this might be a good structured way for them to get into that side of things.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311635 03 Jul 2020 02:59

mc wrote: Thanks Andi, and edulis for asking the question - when I am finally done with Kids on Bikes (we have this ongoing campaign that takes place sporadically that I really need to wrap up somehow), I will definitely take a look. Especially as my kids really got into the worldbuilding of the locations where they "Bike", drawing maps etc, but I rarely really use it - this might be a good structured way for them to get into that side of things.


How is 'Kids on Bikes'? They have a copy at a local store I keep glancing at. Is it essentially Stranger Things, Stand by Me, The Goonies etc the RPG?

The Quiet Year also has the benefit of being perfect for one shot experiences when time permits.

One of my favourite parts of rpgs as a kid was creating maps and creatures and whatnot ....actually it still is.
mc's Avatar
mc replied the topic: #311638 03 Jul 2020 06:27
I genuinely have such little experience with RPGs I don't know what I can tell you about standard RPG type things, but yeah, that's the idea. "Imagine you can ride your bike across the town, in the days before mobile phones". The world building involves everyone creating rumours about the town. You can definitely do one-shots with it, it's just that doing the world building and trying to keep my kids "in character" and used to driving the narrative in satisfactory ways, and trying to ensure that when they fail skill checks they don't get upset (that first session where a mysterious stranger bought an item from a store they wanted, and they couldn't convince the store owner or the dude to give it to them and he walked away with it, jesus christ) is hard work (especially for me the slightly reluctant first time GM) so we've been just doing sessions sort of ad hoc, maybe one a month or something, sometimes even when we are on a walk or something too. They like their characters and are kind of attached to them at this point. I'll be trying to wrap up the mystery of what the hell the adults are doing after curfew that has caused the time traveller to come back and try and change things in the next session or two though.

It seems to my naive eyes to be at the end of things where players really get to steer things - they get to narrate outcomes and things, and you create a powered kid character ("Twelve"? "Thirteen"? ) that players control different aspects of.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311673 04 Jul 2020 00:18
Mc-It sounds fun and perfect for kids. I guess when things don't swing their way it could actually be a good softball primer for later life (although having said that I have some grown ass men I play with who often still react that way).

I'm somewhat envious of your kids though. The roles were very much reversed when I was a kid trying to get my parents and brothers to play. Parents thought it was strange and possibly evil, brothers were too young to really engage. It's a cool thing you're doing for them :)
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #311676 04 Jul 2020 08:32
Thanks for bringing my attention to this. There's so much out there that never gets a mention.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311677 04 Jul 2020 08:47
You're most welcome, thanks for reading. Indie and retro definitely seems to be my thing. There's so much cool stuff in the underground space that shoots further and wider than the high street offerings. It's great to see the variety of themes and ideas being explored beyond dwarves, hitler and colonialism. Keeps me excited for the dig.
edulis's Avatar
edulis replied the topic: #311704 06 Jul 2020 07:43
Thanks for the replies regarding playing with children. I think we'll give it a try.

I just played a session of the Bremen Town Musicians RPG with my 9 and 11 year old daughters and their mother. It is a free RPG I printed off BGG that was part of a 24 hour RPG competition. Very simple rules, where the players are aging animals that are too old to work at the farm anymore so set out to make their fortune as musicians - based on the story.

It was hot and we were all in the shade in hammocks, not wanting to move much. My 11 year jumped right in, the 9 year old was a bit more hesitate and confused by the notion of role-playing. But was soon deep in character Hee-Hawing as a donkey intimidating various woodland critters.
Whoshim's Avatar
Whoshim replied the topic: #311708 06 Jul 2020 10:31
I modified it to make it simpler and shorter for first time players. I put together a one page (front and back) set of questions from the cards. I put in 4 sets of options from each season. Then I had the players go around taking turns, in order, from the set I created.

By doing this, it was easy to jump into the game. I was able to avoid any situations that would have been more difficult for the players (for language or content reasons).

Once people get a taste of the game, I don't think that switching to playing cards and checking a paper will dissuade them. While not everyone I have introduced it to has enjoyed it, a lot of people have really gotten into it.

It really is a great little game, and well worth the money.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311739 07 Jul 2020 01:42

edulis wrote: Thanks for the replies regarding playing with children. I think we'll give it a try.

I just played a session of the Bremen Town Musicians RPG with my 9 and 11 year old daughters and their mother. It is a free RPG I printed off BGG that was part of a 24 hour RPG competition. Very simple rules, where the players are aging animals that are too old to work at the farm anymore so set out to make their fortune as musicians - based on the story.

It was hot and we were all in the shade in hammocks, not wanting to move much. My 11 year jumped right in, the 9 year old was a bit more hesitate and confused by the notion of role-playing. But was soon deep in character Hee-Hawing as a donkey intimidating various woodland critters.


BTM sounds interesting! There's a whole world of cool RPG and RPG adjacent narrative stuff out there, and much of it totally free or PWYW. Drive-thru RPG. com is an absolute gold mine and itch.io is rapidly gaining pace. There's such an abundance of ideas that break away from traditional notions of structured play out there and in a range of themes that is super inclusive. It's one of the things I remind myself of every time I start thinking that this whole internet thing was a huge mistake Hahaha. Good luck with TQY. Let me know how you go :)
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311740 07 Jul 2020 01:46

Whoshim wrote: I modified it to make it simpler and shorter for first time players. I put together a one page (front and back) set of questions from the cards. I put in 4 sets of options from each season. Then I had the players go around taking turns, in order, from the set I created.

By doing this, it was easy to jump into the game. I was able to avoid any situations that would have been more difficult for the players (for language or content reasons).

Once people get a taste of the game, I don't think that switching to playing cards and checking a paper will dissuade them. While not everyone I have introduced it to has enjoyed it, a lot of people have really gotten into it.

It really is a great little game, and well worth the money.


That's a great idea. One of the coolest things about this sort of game is how easy it is to mod to your heart's content. It really could encompass almost any setting or series of event prompts, and from there you're just a hop, skip and jump away from creating your own games and systems.