What: Explore the Story of your community with just paper and pencils.
Players: 2 -4+
Time: 180 minutes (can be split into sessions)
People: An interesting story telling game for a group or couple
Available: Directly from the makers here
Why we recommend it
The Quiet Year is a game about struggle, ethics and drama. It has made me debate the ethics of child labour, I’ve fought off a strange clock tribe and watched the melodramas of a mountain community who couldn’t decide if pigs were for milk or slaughter. This is the only remaining artifact we have of our community – a map we created together. It shows the final state of our world before The Frost Shepherds came.
Our world was flooded and our community of 80 was left stranded on a small volcanic island. We had harnessed the great fiery volcano for its geothermal energy but had a deep shortage of boats that left us stranded. Setting the tone of our hipster world, though, was our other great scarcities: we were very low on cucumbers and yoghurt!
To the north of the island, a great crystal prism of mystery. Ancient ruins sat beside it and former skyscrapers peaked out from the ocean miles off shore. These great mysteries were offset by the island of micropigs, which was the first place our group and community found disagreement.
I guess you’d call it a role playing game, except you aren’t playing the role of any character your group is playing as the community itself. Like scientists introduces problems and dilemmas for them to work through.
The game takes place across 52 turns, 1 for each week of the year and 1 for each card in the deck. They pose questions and problems to help expand your world “What natural predators roam this area, are you safe?” read the first card.
You can then do one of three things, start a discussion, start a project or discover something. “We discover an island of micropigs,” Jasmine declares.
This is what instigated the group’s first discussion. The only time you are allowed to talk freely about the community and your thoughts is when someone takes their turn to pose a question. “Should we eat the pigs?” I asked. Everyone was given 2 sentences to sum up their feelings and no follow up. The group was divided on milking vs slaughter. Just like real life, these community discussions are messy and without conclusion.
To advance your community and the story of your year you can start projects. A project was started to build a bridge to the island of tiny swine. Jasmine took a contempt token from the pile. A passive aggressive nonverbal way of showing your disapproval of the community’s direction. The contempt in front of each player is a reminder of how divided or aligned you are as a group with your projects.
Over the course of spring we built a small farm, began to fish, and even debated the ethics of continuing the child labour in the geothermal energy plant. It must continue, the grown ups have bigger things to do. Oh and “Jugs on the roof” was opened, for milking the pigs. Jasmine put her contempt token back into the centre to show she was satisfied.
A strange clock tower was seen amongst the waves and shortly after we discovered it, they arrived. The Clock People.
They only wanted one thing, access to the portal at the base of the crystal prism. It was broken but when repaired could take them to another world, away from this flooded wasteland.
Whilst the community discussed their next steps of peace, war or indifference, smaller scraps broke out. A Quiet Year explores both these macro and micro moments, letting small vignettes play out, almost entirely in the player’s control but somehow feeling organic and discoverable. More like dusting the dirt away from a long lost artifact than crafting a statue of your own design.
The clock people would war with us, smashing our welcome party and an arms race ensued. At one point a dragon was even discovered and started his training to join the cause before falling foul of a disease that began to sweep the island.
There is nothing like a common enemy to unite foes and when the “your face falls off” plague began to spread, we had to work together to eradicate it. In the ancient library we discovered the long lost science of vaccination but we also found out more about our world. These clock people were previously known as “Cockneys”. The world was beginning to make more sense. It was a sunken london and the clock tower of Big Ben now a place of worship.
We were deep into winter and only weeks before the portal repair was completed and saving us all the game was over. A bridge to an innocuous looking island had been completed and with it came “The Frost Shepherds”. And that was it, it was over. Our sort-of-quiet year was over.
The Quiet Year is messy; a game of deliberately loose rules and minimal objectives all designed to encourage you to find your own way and explore whatever topics you wish. Be that surreal or comedic melodrama, philosophical questions of morality and ethics or just enjoying the creation of a world. A game that lets you create your own world rather than watching someone else’s. Ideal for a small group looking for something a little different on a Sunday afternoon.
You can print your own version and play with a deck of cards or order the box here