The Quiet Year is a very interesting game about creating a map with a society that lives in it. However, playing solo can be rather tricky, especially given some mechanics require other people to play. This guide will teach you how to play the Quiet Year solo, or at the very least, show you how I played it solo in last year’s SGAM.
First, I’ll assume you know how to play the game already, that way I can cut right to the points where solo play comes in. Second, get yourself an NPC or Conversation Emulator. There’s quite a selection to choose from, so don’t feel too worried about picking a specific one. So long as the emulator in question does something to create a conversation, you’re fine. If you want me to specifically pick out a Conversation Emulator for you, I used the Universal NPC Emulator. However, I would also recommend Play Every Role if you want NPC responses.
When setting up your map, determine four details about the surrounding area. You may either think of this yourself or allow a Driver like Mythic Variations 2’s Detail Check or the Tangent Zero dice to generate ideas. Once you’re done arranging the map, determine its Abundance and Scarcity. After that, play begins like normal.
That is until after you finished writing up the prompt you are given with the card. At the stage where you would normally take an action, roll a D6. This is the Shadow Action, an action taken by the game itself to simulate the world being alive. A 1 or 2 results in something new being discovered, 3 or 4 results in a discussion being held, and 5 or 6 results in a new project being started.
When the Shadow Action is discovering something new, use a Driver to see what the new thing is (it doesn’t necessarily have to be an item, it can be an event or person) and incorporate that into the map somehow. When the Shadow Action is looking for a conversation, use a Conversation Emulator to see what exactly is the issue being raised, keeping in mind that the “dialogue” is only one or two sentences long. Lastly, when the Shadow Action starts a project, you may either use a Driver for details or use what was described in the prompt to kick off the project in question. Once the project begins, either roll a D6 or determine the weeks it would take to be completed based off how difficult you feel it could be.
After the Shadow Action, it’s your turn to determine actions. Play like normal, though if you decide to hold a conversation, use a Conversation Emulator. Play continues like normal with the exception of the Shadow Actions.
This is where I would recommend a break from the normal rules by introducing recurring characters. These would mostly be advisors, but if the story or game makes way for it, other characters could lend a voice. The Shadow Action can only control one of these “characters” when doing the Shadow Action, which you can randomly determine or you can pick. Likewise, you can hold conversations with these characters to see their response. If you wish to remain faithful to how the game is intended to be played, I would advise that you do not give these characters massive, story-driven roles beyond just advisors or people who have something to say.
Then there’s Contempt Tokens. If you disagree with what the Shadow Action did/said/discovered, you take a Contempt Token. Conversely, the Shadow Action can “disagree” with your own actions and take a Contempt Token as well. This is done by asking an Oracle if you’re unsure or through intuition based off past interactions with the Shadow Action.
For instance, you’ve played your session of Quiet Year and got a good idea that a character who had heavily advocated preservation of nature in prior Shadow Actions would not approve of you chopping down a whole forest for firewood.
The Shadow Action collects Contempt Tokens as a whole, so if one character obtains a Contempt Token and another character obtains one, the Shadow Action has two Contempt Tokens. This is important because when either party amasses five Contempt Tokens (the maximum they are allowed to have at any one time), they can do what is called a Contempt Action in which caution is thrown to the wind.
Below is a list of possible Contempt Actions that you and the Shadow Action can take at the cost of five Contempt Tokens. Neither you nor the Shadow Action can take a Contempt Token in response to a Contempt Action. You can hold onto your Contempt Tokens and wait until the right time to use them. You may only take one action listed below when performing a Contempt Action.
- Initiative: This action is exclusive to you, the Player. Act before the Shadow Action as opposed to after.
- Time Skip: Discard the top card from the deck. It is not to be used for the remainder of the game. If the deck in question is Winter, check to see if it’s the King of Spades before discarding. If so, the Frost Shepherds arrive like usual.
- Cancel Project: Cancel any project on the map of your choice or randomly determined if it’s the Shadow Action. The project will be considered a failure.
- Destroy Item: Erase a detail on the map, either of your choice or randomly determined if it’s the Shadow Action.
- Introduce Scarcity: Introduce a new scarcity.
- Hijack: This action is exclusive to the Shadow Action. You do not take an action for this week and instead, the Shadow Action does two normal actions instead of one.
If the Shadow Action has five Contempt Tokens, before they take a Shadow Action, roll a D6 to determine what sort of Contempt Action they may take:
- Time Skip
- Cancel Project
- Destroy Item
- Introduce Scarcity
- Hold Contempt Tokens and instead do a normal Action.
And really… I think those are the two major things to do when playing Quiet Year solo: Shadow Actions and Contempt Tokens. Most of the other things relies mostly on normal solo Roleplaying. With that in mind, enjoy your Quiet Year. Bon Voyage, Gamers.