Board Game Review The Quiet Year by Avery Alder

By Elliot Clark
Play Time: book
4 hours (with optional rules for a 2-hour game)
2 – 4 people
Themes: Map-Drawing, Narrative, Cooperative, Indie.
$6 (PDF only) or $25
(physical booklet + specialized cards)
Using a standard deck of cards and a short pamphlet of rules, The Quiet Year, by Avery Alder, offers its players “an opportunity to build something”. True to form, even before a single card is drawn, the group of players creates, from scratch, a small community of survivors and what will be their refuge. These can include anything from a group of fleeing city-dwellers camping in a forest, the last survivors of an alien race hunkering down on a remote asteroid, or refugees of a war seeking shelter in a bombed-out city. The rough environment is drawn on a blank piece of paper, now the map, and each player contributes one additional piece of terrain. Once the setting has been established, a card is drawn, and the year begins, each of the 52 cards in the deck corresponding to one week of the year and one of two possible events that will befall the community. On their turn, each player must interpret one of the events for their card as they feel will be most interesting, and then narrate how the community reacts. In addition to narrating their week’s event, the player gets an opportunity to further develop the map by adding and drawing new features, or by narrating how the community begins work on new projects.
As the year progresses, the seasons change, and with them, the type of questions that the cards ask. Beginning the game in Spring, the players shape the community and its identity; in Summer the community must find ways to work around small internal conflicts and difficulty with projects; Autumn brings disaster, threats from outside forces, and deaths; finally, Winter brings explicitly difficult choices, loss of important resources, atrocities, and most importantly the “Frost Shepherds”. The Frost Shepherds, randomly placed amongst the 12 other cards of winter, are an imminent threat known only to the players. As with most things in the game, what they are exactly, and what they do, is up to the players, but regardless, the game ends with their arrival.
For examples of play, the podcast Friends at the Table, specifically the episodes “Marielda 01: The City of Light Pt. 1” and “Marielda 02: The City of Light Pt. 2”, shows The Quiet Year being used to create a setting for a different table top role-playing game. From the Jackals to the Shepherds also chronicles the events of a game but does so by narrating the events as the story alone, not mentioning the rules or cards drawn.
A free, alternative ruleset is available from the same source as well, focusing more heavily on decolonization and emotion. It is played as a group of “monsters” reclaiming their home after its colonization and working to heal themselves as well.
A PDF of the rules and card events can be purchased for $6 at Avery Alder’s site:

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