The Farrier's Bellows - The Quiet Year

Morning all! In case you missed it, there’s a new Farrier’s Bellows this week tackling Avery Alder’s map-making and community-building game The Quiet Year! We talk about survival and discovery, as well as the struggle and function of giving up control and playing from a bird’s eye view. We love this game and we hope you enjoy the episode!



Thank you for another great episode. Another game, I know a bit better and even made my own hack (to play activists occupying a space against an evil corporate).

i) One thing I want to add to your discussion about the ‘Discover something’ move: for me, that move is a fall back for the case that the Oracle hasn’t produced enough drama yet - if too few problems are left, the Director’s stance the game wants us to take sometimes allows us to use this move to introduce some fresh conflicts or challenges to the community.

ii) In my experience, the full game is too long in the standard version. I would highly recommend to play the shortened version as recommended in the rules.

iii) Especially in a game with plenty of people, the ‘Start a Discussion’ move is a hard choice to make because you usually have so much you also would like to add to the map or contribute actively to the story. At least to me and people I played with, there was a certain frustration in that, which went beyond the intended and good frustration of the game rules. So I considered to allow for picking another move directly afterwards. Then again, it weakens the intended impact of the move (no resolution after exchange of sentiments) if the player simply could make another move directly afterwards. I wonder if somebody has observed that, too, or has an idea how to resolve this, I’m curious to hear.


Great comments @Gerrit!

Regarding the discussion, I agree that fewer people use Discussion. Maybe that’s the point, in that doing things is easier than getting buy-in… which also leads to conflicts. One option is to just have a discussion once per round of play, so no one must use their turn and you’d still get more than a few discussions. These would be at a static point (e.g. in a 4 player game, once every 4 weeks, or maybe once / season would be a really good breaking point!)… if you wanted to discuss something more urgent because of an event, well, you can make them “pay” for that with their turn.

I too think the full game is too long. The “fleeting” version has you remove 3 cards from each season, so it’s slightly shorter. I like this as my default because this also provides variety, in that each game has a slightly different set of questions. Even then, at game conventions (especially if they have 3 hour con slots), I found that we do the full Spring, and maybe Summer, but then run out of time. If this is the case, I’d set an alarm for 60 minutes and 30 minutes before end time, and use those to start in on Fall and Winter, respectively… this way you get a flavor for the change in tone, and will feel like you got a full arc.

I ran The Deep Forest for kids, and wrote about it here: Here’s one part summarized around some modifications I made to the game, for kids:

  • I let the kids own their monster (Even though each player creates a monster, the monsters normally aren’t owned by any individual. However, I figured there may be some tension in this scenario. It worked out well.)
  • I stretched my kid-management skills, using moments to close our eyes to imagine things, or close our eyes to vote on how many weeks projects would take (to reduce peer pressure).
  • The kids wanted to have the monsters win in the end of the game (after I told them it normally has a sad ending), and so I told them that if they played collaboratively by listening to each other and using each others ideas to build upon, then they could win.
  • I made sure that there were fairly strict limits on their drawing area. This really helped ensure a level of fairness around the table. I think some of them appreciated that structure both as far as being able to set expectations for themselves, as well as ensure that others didn’t get to draw more than them.

Yeah, great episode. To build on @Gerrit’s comment: I usually try to use ‘Discover Something’ to complicate an existing situation. If we are already talking about food scarcity, we could discover an unusual insect that escalates this threat. This lets you add to the drama of the current moment without adding to the disparate plot threads that may or may not get resolved.


I have played the game several times, and somehow the rule that you cannot speak on another person’s turn (outside discussion) did not sink in. Each time we definitely had crosstalk during the resolution of the card and during “Discover Something New” moments. It felt cozily collaborative in the moment—the whole group understood the active player had final say. Holding to the rule of silence sounds like it makes the game more interesting in some ways and also definitely harder. More ritualized. I’ll remember it next time and try to make sure to play that way.

One thing that worked well in my Quiet Year experience: discussing genre and setting expectations beforehand. We used a version of a Microscope Yes/No palette for this. In the first game I played, the players agreed to play in a bittersweet, rural, Miyazaki-esque post-apocalypse. With the Yes/No palette, we introduced that Yes, there are dinosaurs here and No, there’s no moon or stars. That helped get our imaginations firing (and all players on similar wavelengths) before play itself began.


@Alexi_Sarge Glad you brought that up! I also like to use the Microscope Palette for this game (so much so that a friend thought the Palette came from this game, not Microscope!) It’s a great way to set touchstones, and tone, and general consensus on elements that we want to see in-game.


Listening now. Diana your comparing this game to watching an artist sketch is fantastic! I’m going to borrow that when pitching this game to others from now on. Beautiful.


Oof @zwGarth that idea of moving is great. I immediately imagined a very very large planet where it rotates so slowly that stopping and being caught in the sun for the next 60 days is death. Same for being trapped in the cold. So you have to follow this (admittedly large) strip of warm twilight, constantly.

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Does anyone have any tips for making contempt-tokens have impact in online play? The way we did it was to have tokens on the Roll20 map (red gems) that any player could grab and drag into a box labelled with their player name. It simulated the act of grabbing a token and pulling it towards yourself, but it’s easy for other players to miss and lacked teeth. As such, contempt felt kind of meaningless and most players stopped bothering with it (especially since it has no mechanical impact as such). I sort of wish contempt had some kind of minor mechanical effect…


In online play unless it is happening in the actual video it’s highly likely that it will be missed. I’d probably come up with some sort of visual sign that someone should make to show that they have taken a contempt token. Something very exaggerated…


Interesting. I’m not sure if the impact of contempt tokens is correlated with online play. I had three online sessions of Quiet Year so far. We implemented them similar as you did but simply with Google Drawings. You can find the template in the Gauntlet Play Aids folder.

In each of the online sessions, the contempt tokens were a big topic and caused some eeks and uffs for example when you introduce something and everybody else picks a token. The tokens and the map were always visible together. So there wasn’t a problem in visibility.

I had had offline sessions in which the contempt tokens didn’t click but since I learnt how to showcase them early on in a game they have always came up.


Ah that’s good to know! I intend to play again, so maybe next time it will go differently.

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