For this year’s Solo Gaming Appreciation Month, I decided to do what I usually do and roll three of the challenges into one: try out a new game that involves map-making (possibly analog) and then review it. Well, turns out there’s a game I heard that is basically that: The Quiet Year. I heard quite a bit about this game and I feel like this would be a good time to finally play it.
It’s one of those games that have physical properties to them. In this case, a deck of cards and tokens are needed alongside the rules and dice. There’s also, as the above paragraph implies, paper and an index card required. I’ll be drawing the map on GIMP and will have a separate document for the index card.
So, the plot for this game is that, after warring with a group called the Jackals, a village is given one quiet year (hehe) to themselves before winter comes. When it comes, it will bring with it things called the Frost Shepherds. I imagine these would be akin to the White Walkers from a Song of Ice and Fire or, if we want to be obscure with the references, the Ice Jester’s forces from Feast of Legends.
Right out of the gate, the small rulebook I can keep in my pocket is a really nice, step-by-step guide for learning how to play the game. Easily a good way to help get the ball rolling for solo play. One section was very thought provoking, as it tells people to “dispassionately introduce dilemma”. This basically tells me that there’s more to this game than “hehe, draw stuff” like I had originally thought.
Speaking of, my instruction is to now draw the map based off details and already, we’re gonna need to do a variant because there’s no group, just the solo. Rather than “each player adds a detail”, I’ll instead apply it as “four details about your map”.
So, here are my four: The village is inside a naturally made crater. Man-made stairs were placed to get to the surface, alongside aural shields to protect them. The last detail is that, each house contains ten people. So, already we have protection from predators as an Abundance, perhaps what powers it is a Scarcity. Food and water, I think it might be normal levels.
Alright, so, let’s begin with a card drawn. I decided to, aside from shuffling Aces to the top of the deck, leave the cards as is. This is to “seed” the game. Second, I’m not entirely sure how exactly the card draw sequence works. The game’s rules imply I go through each of the Season decks, working my way through each until I get to Winter: the endgame where its “game over” card is. I think, for the interest of time, I’ll go through at least five cards per season with the exception of Winter, which I will play until I get to the card.
The card I drew asks (well, it’s two questions, but I can pick one) “Are there any distinct family units in the community”. To which I answer, there’s most definitely. Most of the houses were made with large families in mind. Some have multiple families living in the house, but the ones that have one large family are denoted by a larger, shinier roof. I wasn’t sure how to properly convey this, so I did a sort of tail thing on three of the houses with the silver color.
After that, I have three actions: Discover something new, hold a discussion, or start a project. As you might see, I can’t exactly hold a discussion by myself, but I want to keep this a viable option… Perhaps I can have a “shadow” action be taken (not actually taken by me but rather by the game) and then take an action myself. That way it’s not just gonna be me picking one thing and moving on.
So first, the shadow action: it’s going to hold a discussion with me. I’ll assume this is one of the families I’ve established… Let’s call them… Tiedal.
- Conversation Mood: (Assuming they’re family to the community, so Loved) 54, Sociable
- Conversation Bearing: 1 & 6, compromise.
- Conversation Focus: 82, Current Story.
So… something happened that is making the family open a discussion asking people to compromise. On what, though? Time for a detail check by means of Mythic Variations 2.
- Detail: 6, Fear.
- Meaning: 11 & 72, Persecute Adversities
So, obviously, the Tiedal Family want the community to compromise when the Frost Shepherds come. We know not of what they are and the game asks that we do not discuss it until the game ends. That said, given how they’ve feared these entities and request that we simply play nice with them, it lends a hand to them being White Walkers.
As for why they want to persecute a misfortune, what better way to ensure the peace of a community than to compromise to them. Maybe sacrificing people to hold off death for another year?
Whatever the case, my response to that is “if we can properly defend ourselves, we don’t need to do anything with these guys”, so I begin a project to mine out the remaining crystals so we may have them on hand for when we need to supply the shields. I’ll ballpark guess that this will take at least three weeks to fully extract the crystals.
So, onto the next week. I’ll give each season four weeks. As for why they transition quickly? Climate change.
So, next prompt has it that a young boy discovers something in the ground. Detail check time!
- Detail: 15, Favor thread.
- As I am not keeping track of Threads, I’ll say the discovery has to do with the project itself.
- Meaning: 39 & 56, Bestow Wishes
Oh boy. So, the kid digs up a magic lamp where it summons a genie who could grant wishes. Now to determine the Shadow Action… It’s to start a project. I’ll ask a base 50/50 question:
[Q: Does it have to do with the genie? A: 11, no]
No and we’ll do a random event.
- Event Focus: 13, NPC Action (Tiedal Family)
- Event Meaning: 85 & 71, Negligence (of) a representative.
Welp, the Tiedal Family’s starting a project where they’ll sacrifice someone to keep the Frost Shepherds from coming. Will take about a week to accomplish. Meanwhile, I’ll start a discussion with the Genie and ask what it can do.
We’ll go with basic genie rules where he’s tied to the master and he grants three wishes per master unless otherwise freed. And for the sake of the plot, we’re going to apply the three rules as seen in Aladdin. I’ll ask if the loophole of passing the lamp around when we’re done wishes.
[Q: Are we able to just pass the lamp around? A: 12]
No. Once the three wishes are up, the Genie will straight up fly out of where he currently is and is out of there. As such, he’s tied to the boy (who we will name Laddie) and thus, he gets to make the wishes.
[Q: Does he make a wish now? A: 45]
No, he’ll hold onto it. Well, next week then.
So, the card that’s drawn is “What’s the most beautiful thing in this area?”, to which there’s one idea: a sole flower that blooms out in the desert in spite of its harsh conditions.
So, projects get done. We extracted the crystals which will hopefully last us for at least until winter. Meanwhile, the sacrifice is completed.
[Q: Does this sacrifice actually work? A: 60]
It does. It’s a bit of a shock to me as well, but the sacrifice seems to appease the Frost Shepherds enough. We won’t see the actual effects until the end game. Meanwhile, the Shadow Action is to discover something new.
[Q: Does it have to do with the flower? A: 64]
So, it does. Detail Check.
- Detail: 4, Anger.
- Meaning: 30 & 15, Break Innocent.
Our collection of resources has resulted in the rooting of the flower being disrupted and, unless we do anything about it, it will wilt. At that point, I will devote a project to try and preserve it…
[Q: Is a wish spent to save it? A: 11]
No and we get a random event.
- Event Focus: 69, PC Positive
- Event Meaning: 28 & 25, Separate Friendship
Hmm… How would this be a positive thing? I guess it would mean that we were able to find it out in the nick of time and our project will be resolved next week. Speaking of:
So we get an omen… Bad or good?
Huh, a good omen. Okay, what is it?
- Detail: 18, Calm.
- Meaning: 11 & 40, Persecute Exterior factors
[Q: Are those exterior factors the Frost Shepherds? A: 72]
So, the omen was made during the sacrifice and it says that the Frost Shepherds may be defeated, but we must not give into our emotions. We’re not sure what the consequences are, though. Shadow Action is to start another project.
[Q: Another sacrifice? A: 3]
No, this time. It’s a project pertaining to starting a sort of meditative retreat. Maybe it has to do with the flower. Relaxing by the flower for about six weeks. Meanwhile, I’ll have a conversation with the Tiedal family commending them for the sacrifice, but also warning them of possible contempt.
So, prior to finding out that Play Every Role has a generator for NPC responses, I figured to use UNE for this. I’ll make a simple NPC Mood roll (using Loved for this), but anything beyond “Neutral” is ‘yes’ and anything below neutral is ‘no’. Neutral means I will use Play Every Role for the deciding factor.
So, yeah, they heed my warning about not pissing off the locals with their sacrifices while I’ll put a word in that these have a potential to work, we just need to put our backs into it.
Now would be a good time to try and work in Contempt. So, there’s a mechanic where, if a person does something you disagree with, say they build a project that you don’t agree with, you can take a token of Contempt. Does it impact anything, gameplay wise? Not really. It just sits there in front of you as a symbol of disagreement.
For a game with friends, this may seem like window dressing for an already good-looking game, but in a solo game, this makes things rather interesting.
Already, we’re edging towards a tense situation where we might actually need to rely on human sacrifices to delay the Frost Shepherds and the ethics of sacrificing one life to save a thousand. I can’t exactly interact much with the village outside of being a scientist throwing stuff to the wall to see what sticks at worst and being a sort of village elder who decides things at best.
Contempt would create the tension we need for decisions to have more impact. For each token of Contempt that the NPCs receive, their stance on me lowers. Once they get to “hostile”, they’ll start actively going on their own accord and won’t stop until I resolve their Contempt. If I get five Contempt (to bump to Hostile), then what I’m able to do is act before the Shadow Action, symbolising how I’m taking a stance and now it’s their turn to react.
Think that’s a good enough solo twist to the Quiet Year.
Onto the next week: “What belief or practice helps unify the community?” Well, it’s obvious. You know, it’s kinda like that old story about the dragon who gets daily sacrifices. So, this kinda breaks the rule of “no talking about the Frost Shepherds until the endgame”, since we’re now planning stuff regarding us delaying and even possibly making weapons against them. The next Shadow Action is a discovery.
- Detail Check: 11, Focus PC
- Detail: 59 & 35, Agree Legal.
So, I guess this means that the new thing discovered is a courthouse. We’ll do a second project of sending some men far out to gather information on the Frost Shepherds. This will also take 6 weeks.
And with that, we shall go into Summer, where we find that a contingent wants their voice to be heard. They were the ones who built the courthouse and now we’ll find out who they are. The head of this group is a (roll… 94 & 83) passionate serf. What do they want? Well, (roll… 95 & 28) they want to realize the elite.
[Q: Are the Elite the Tiedal Family? A: 37]
So, the elite here is a second Family, perhaps one that founded the place. Seems they want the attention that the Tiedal family has. The shadow action is to discover something.
- Detail Check: 3, Anger
- Detail Meaning: 69 & 41, Ruin Advice
Hmm… Ruin makes me think of ruins, so let’s add some descriptions to that. [70 & 80] Mechanically Reassuring…
So, it used to be a destroyed factory and from eye-witness reports, the “goods” there were robots. This invites anger because, say it with me now: robots destroyed the world.
… The more I play this, the more this is becoming Power Rangers RPM but replace Venjix with the Frost Shepherds and have Melisandre’s cult from Game of Thrones be major players. You can’t spell Solo RPG Voyages without Gonzo.
Alright, so I’ll hold a discussion with this elite family, the Wabe Family. Namely, I’ll ask what they want.
- NPC Mood (I’ll give them a contempt token because they were very unimportant last season, so Friendly): 37, Neutral
- NPC Bearing: 5 & 1, questions
- NPC Focus: 68, knowledge.
Hmmm… I think I know what they want to ask. They want to ask me what I know about the Frost Shepherds.
[Q: Do they? A: 50]
They do not. I’ll reply that I do not know as well. The only people who know are a bunch of crazy cultists whose methods seem to work, so we’ll go grill them and see if they know.
Oh boy. So, we all don’t know anything about the Frost Shepherds. This will earn some contempt from me as well as giving the Wabe family contempt. To be fair, the rules of the game say that they should be a mystery until the end, so this is the will of the dice at this point.
Our next card does no prompt, instead summer is fleeting and we must discard the top two cards of the deck. But, to make up for this, we can do two actions this week. Shadow Action goes off twice first. First a discussion and then a discovery.
There’s three people we’ve met so far, so I’ll roll a d4. 1 is for the Tiedal Family, 2 is for the boy with the lamp (so Aladdin’s involved in our Game of RPM universe), 3 for the Wabu Family, and 4 for a new character.
Boy with the lamp is up, who has a loved relationship with us.
- NPC Mood: 35, Sociable
- NPC Bearing: 7 & 9, obscurity
- NPC Focus: 26, last action
He asks us about whether we should keep the fact that we know jack about the Frost Shepherds in the dark. Hmm… That’s what I will want to find out. Meanwhile, there’s a discovery.
[Q: Is it a wish? A: 13]
- Detail Check: 17, Happiness
- Detail Meaning: 60 & 99, Abuse Anger
Seems a group of people have taken it upon themselves to start a project where they salvage the robots to see if there’s anything useful, knowing it will piss people off. I’ll start a project myself, where we try to figure out just how these sacrifices work. I’ll give each of these three weeks. I’ll also hold a conversation with the Tiedal Family to see what kind of magic they can work with.
[Roll: 35 on the Loved Row]
They feel confident enough that they can delay winter by a few weeks. I’ll wait for the results to come back before I can invest in that.
For now, though, we go to next week. Here, we see that we’ve gotten an abundance of items: Robots. While we haven’t gotten the full supply from the finished project, we got a few operational drones to help clean the place.
This week’s Shadow Action is another discussion. D4 again.
Tiedal Family wants to speak to me.
- NPC Mood: 53, Sociable.
- NPC Bearing: 1 & 1, intent
- NPC Focus: 10, parents
Hmm… Perhaps I’m talking with a younger member of the family this time around.
[Q: Is their intent bad? A: 76]
Yes, it is. I presume that they are opening a discussion with me to overthrow the patriarch of the Tiedal Family.
[Q: Is this because of the sacrificing? A: 48]
No, this is for a completely different reason. She (I rolled a dice to determine gender) believes the Wabu family holds more credit to being the ones in charge and the sacrifices were merely just the Tiedal family just showboating. I’ll advise her feelings for now, but tell her that I need to find something out first before I could possibly help her. Now to see if she respects this decision.
Yeah, that’s going to be a big fat nope on that. Well, that’s her action and now for mine. I don’t want to tip off the Tiedal family just yet, so I’ll instead discover something: the boy has made his first wish.
- Detail: 18, Calm
- Detail Meaning: 22 & 66, Befriend Fears
… Oh no. Oh. No. No. No…
His first wish is to befriend the Frost Shepherds. We won’t know the full consequences of this until winter, but this is something we need to put a pin in…
And with that, summer has ended and we move into fall. The first card drawn has me try to figure out what I want to do… Prolong one project by a d6 roll or make every other project fail… Out of all the projects I need to get done the least, robots can take an extra 6 weeks. The shadow action tells us why that’s the case:
- Detail: 7, Disfavors Thread
- Thread Focus: I would assume the robots.
- Detail Meaning: 4 & 58, Fight Stalemate
In other words, their discovery of the robots led to a battle against them. Well, in that case, I’ll hold a discussion to see whether we should pull the men out of there or if we should pacify the robots. I’ll be setting the mood to neutral due to a mixture of people already having some contempt.
They rather we just leave them to their fates. Can’t blame them, robots put us in this mess…
But, as next week’s card shows, I just can’t let that happen. I drew a card that has me choose between failing a project and losing an abundance or have people die. So, the project was a bust as I formed a group of people to bring the men back. We lost use of the robots, but the important part is that they survived.
By this point, we’ve finished two projects, finding out the validity of sacrifices and the meditative retreat.
[Q: Do the sacrifices work? A: 85]
[Q: Did the retreats work? A: 63]
… I didn’t choose the cult life, the cult life chose me. These sacrifices seem to appease the Frost Shepherds and thus, delay their arrival by a week which buys us more time. Second, the meditative retreat’s success means that now, people have just adjusted to life with this new idea in place. In other words, we basically became Aztecs if the Sun God was icy.
Shadow Action is a discussion with the boy and his lamp.
- NPC Mood: 47, Sociable
- NPC Bearing: 2 & 7, turmoil
- NPC Focus: 3, current scene
The boy comes to inform me, however, that going full sacrifice mode will make things worse in the long run.
[Q: Does he make his second wish to find another way? A: 72]
Rather than let us do anything about it, he wishes to the Genie to find another way to appease the Frost Shepherds without killing people. He complies with something that we must do:
- Detail: 14, Favors PC
- Detail Meaning: 23 & 79, Judge Vehicle
I would need to build a vehicle to send the boy to the Frost Shepherds. He will be the final “sacrifice” (really, he’s just gonna live with them). Given how he asked for this way, I’m sure the boy’s chill with it. In that case, I’ll start a project to make such a vehicle. It will take five weeks to complete.
Next week, a disease rampages through the community and delays our efforts to do anything else but cure it. The shadow action is to start a project. I’ll nip this in the bud and say that the daughter of the Tiedal family has decided to take matters into her own hands and is planning to assassinate her father. I’ll do her one better. We no longer need the Tiedal patriarch so… I make the discovery that he died of the disease. I’m sure the daughter will be confused.
Next week, a project gets finished early, it’s the transport for the boy. With the Tiedal patriarch dead, there’s some doubt about whether the sacrificial methods were actually helping them given the situation with the robots and so they decided to hasten the production of the snowmobile. The Shadow Action is to make a project to send the kid out to meet the Frost Shepherds. This will be our longest project yet, at 6 weeks. In the meanwhile, I’ll do a Project that will make the daughter the new Tiedal Matriarch.
[Q: Is there any prior Matriarch? A: 94]
Hmm… Never mind. I guess I shall discuss with the daughter about what’s been happening.
- NPC Mood: 40, Neutral
- NPC Bearing: 3 & 2, comfort
- NPC Focus: 17, retainers
She approaches me and says how she feels somewhat comfortable with my presence, thinking I had something to do with her father’s death. Well, I kinda did, but I leave it vague. Any Contempt she has is gone and we move onto next week. We have an abundance of hope of the boy being our salvation.
However, a Shadow action happens and it has us discover something new.
- Detail: 5, Sadness
- Detail Meaning: 78 & 83, Cruelty of Riches.
Well, better late than never for the Wabu family to start killing the poor.
[Q: For an extra bit of irony, are they doing the very thing they were condemning the Tiedal Family for? A: 33]
No, but we get a random event.
- Event Focus: 58, PC negative
- Event Meaning: 29 & 29, Take Pain
Oh no. So, they take me and begin to torture me, since the boy traveling to the Frost Shepherds was no different to how the Tiedal family did their sacrifices. This will basically give me maximum contempt towards them and vice versa. On my end, I’ll discover that this has pretty much sent the group into a civil war because, remember, most of the community are just huge families. We are now in Winter, the endgame. What happens?
We finish our project to send the boy out, but it took all the energy we had powering our shields to do so. My action is to talk to Wabu and gloat about how we will be safe from the Frost Shepherds now. Their shadow action is to try and reboot the energy shields, which will take them two weeks.
Next week, we get a good omen, the genie returns to say that the boy has made it to his destination… Since the Frost Shepherds are on their way. Before anyone has a chance to react, I make the discovery that the robots have come to life to fulfill this final duty, the duty they were made to accomplish: destruction of the Frost Shepherds.
The Wabu Family, meanwhile, seek to start a project where they execute the closest thing they have to my player character: a scientist. This will be about one week because of how summary it is. However, the boy returns, promising protection from all harm should we let them in. We do… And we get infected with a disease where the warmth in our body is slowly robbed. The project to execute my “character” succeeds and thus I cannot take an action. The project the Wabu family does next is to try and cure the disease…
Not that it matters, because that’s when the Frost Shepherds arrive and the game is finally over…
That said, remember that the boy has one final wish. Whatever painful outcome the Frost Shepherds have towards us… He makes his final wish to make them live harmoniously with the humans and even the robots. This wish takes the form of the Frost Shepherds being turned into humans themselves, with the robots, now no longer having “kill the Frost Shepherds” in their “to-do” list, decide to live in servitude to the humans.
A little cheap of an ending, I know, but loose ends needed to be tied up. So, what happens? Well, the village lives on happily. The Wabu family are exiled for killing the person that helped them achieve this peace in the first place, the “disease” was cured by the Frost Shepherds by using the anti-bodies they’ve developed as a sort of vaccine, and humanity is secluded with a new, icy shield that protects them from predators.
And that was the Quiet Year. This has been a very long post as it is, so I will leave my thoughts on it for another post. Until then, enjoy the map and bon voyage, gamers.