I’m not gonna name any names here, but someone may have forgotten what day it was and never scheduled a blog post to go up. Whoops. Regardless, I want to talk about a game that I got to play a couple of times over the past few days called The Quiet Year by Avery Alder. The Quiet Year is a cartography-focused, world building game for 2-4 players that heavily relies on improvisational skills and social contracts between friends that will inevitably be broken. It’s a ton of fun.

Without getting too deep into the mechanics, the long and short of The Quiet Year is that you and your buddies will draw cards from a deck that have prompts on them. Those prompts will ask you to change or expand the lore of the world in some way, and whether that change is borne out of triumph, failure, happiness or misery, the world you create is constantly evolving whether you like it or not. It’s this beautiful mixture of cooperation and chaos, asking you and your friends to represent a burgeoning community and its occupants for better or worse. Some people may value sustainable lifestyles while others might want militaristic might, but you need to speak for and represent all aspects of the community because you never know what’s going to be thrown at it. There’s a lot more to it than this paragraph can describe, so I recommend you look into it if anything I just said sounded interesting.

If none of that grabbed you, maybe a story about the game of The Quiet Year I’m playing will pique your interest.

It all starts on an island with a fresh water spring, a volcano and a forest. The small, then unnamed community of settlers had just escaped from some sort of devastating encounter in their previous home, and decided to set up shop here on this seemingly abandoned landmass. They soon discovered that this island was part of an archipelago, and another island that kind of looked like a big avocado was spotted to the southeast. That’s when the trouble began.

Artwork from The Quiet Year

While we don’t know what the lives of these people were like before they arrived here, they were awestruck by the sight of a massive idol that was built on the coast of what is now officially called Avocado Island. A jewel encrusted giant man made of wicker could be seen towering over everything and was surrounded by a few abandoned huts, leading some to ask “how did we only just see this?”

A profoundly upsetting amount of citizens on the island began to worship the wicker-man pretty much from the moment they laid eyes on it, which basically meant that everything the community did was in service of praising this unknown structure. Idolatry had gripped our little community so tightly and so quickly, that I instantly became painfully aware of how easy it could be to fall into a cult. A fascination with the wicker-man and their various gemstones led to a search for more gems that apparently granted people the ability to cast magic should they shake the stone strongly enough. This led to the development of a fleet of heavily armored ships that basically had big, enclosed slingshots on them that would shake fire spells in the direction of enemies.

I should mention that at this point we’d basically run out of reliable food sources, didn’t have anything more than tents for shelter, and only had a community of Vineyard Vines-wearing boat captains who looked down upon anyone who wasn’t them. A small, slightly deadly riot occurred which led to the eventual fleeing of these boat-bros, leaving only those who attacked them, the followers of the wicker-man, to themselves. Definitely a great situation that isn’t troubling in anyway whatsoever.

I swear this all makes sense

While everything was admittedly funny, our community was in shambles and spiraling out of control. Some people in the community were doing everything they could to push food production and shelter, but most of them were pretty hellbent on pleasing the wicker-man. Unfortunately for them an ill omen in the form of a storm came through and ravaged basically the wicker-man and nothing else, not even the small and seemingly abandoned huts that were constructed around it. What a weird thing to have happened.

In response to this, the community dedicated more time and effort to this damn wicker-man and his whole deal, going so far as to spy on the now returned and mysterious inhabitants of the huts around its demolished base. These people apparently knew of a legend that told of how to have the wicker-man reconstruct itself through the usage of more of these fucking gems. This led to even more time and more effort spent on learning about this thing that, while mysterious, literally isn’t helping the community in any real way aside from giving them a weird sense of faith.

The wildest part about this all is that we’re only halfway through the damn game. The Quiet Year, as its name implies, covers a community throughout the course of a year but can be cut short if the wrong card is drawn in the winter. Once that card is drawn the game ends. What I’m saying is that all of this wild-ass shit only happened during the spring and summertime months. As the seasons pass, the card prompts will get nastier and nastier, so the shit we’ve cobbled together here are representative of the “easier” months of play.

One last thing that’s worth mentioning about our game in particular is that like most folks, we aren’t artists. So our first and main island may have looked more like a butt than anyone initially intended, but boy-howdy did we run with it. Towards the end of our first session we finally landed on a name for our island. We called it Dolius. Apparently dolius is the Latin word for butt, so there’s that. It was a fairly nuanced name for our ass-island, but rest assured that a more silly name was given to the volcano. That volcano was called Posterior Peak and we once threw an old man into it, not just because he was a shithead, but because that’s what the wicker-man would’ve wanted.

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