A wartime take on the Quiet Year
At Story Games Seattle I had the honor to sit down and play a specially requested story game: "The Quiet Year"
The Quiet Year is a GMless story game about a community that takes place over a year and is played with a thing to draw on and a deck of cards. 52 Cards in 4 sets. 52 weeks and 4 Seasons. Very easy and very fun!
Instead of the borderline fantastical or supernatural post-apocalyptic village that The Quiet Year games typically espouse, B, J, A, and E played a game with the pretext that this was a realistic recent wartime event (Something like Bosnia, Syria, or Ukraine). It would take place in a major metropolitan, bombed out city. Strictly realistic.
Our game group started establishing that we're looking at something vaguely Slavic and post-soviet bloc before drawing particular things on the map: A shelled Hospital, A Downtown Subway Center Station. A Stadium full of tents, and a blown up bridge over a ravine with a river.
The four resources we came up with at the start were:
Our Food abundance came in the form of a large supermarket northwest of center city. Our water was represented by an empty, dilapidated water tower, medicine was naturally the shelled out Hospital, and lastly our electricty was represented by broken power lines.
I will describe the rest of play via Seasonal chunks as well as contextualize each turn into the bigger picture. I will probably end up glossing over more than a few details here and there, but I hope you enjoy the story!
The skies grew dark grey. The sound of distant shelling became intermixed with periods of thunder and those of us still in the capital grew apathetic of both. Life was certainly not normal in the aid camps in the Stadium. Shanty tents regimented in orderly rows lined the pitch under a large banner which read "WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS - 2011"-- Our country's proudest accomplishment. The shelling and thunder both got worse. Rumors began spreading that we weren't safe in the Stadium. We began to believe it.
A few of us began searching around at night and one of us found a deserted Nationalist soldier who told us of just how bad it was. The Nationalist government was losing. Apparently there were many spies and dissidents among the soldiers. After the incident with the bombed hospital a few days after Christmas last year, no one doubted that. With our aid stations running out of medicine, a small party of able bodies went to search the dangerous hospital in hopes of any leftover medicine. While this was going on, a traitor in our midst was discovered. An elderly man by the name of Miroslav was discovered as a sympathizer with the rebels and a discussion was had about what to do with this scum. He was held in prison pending trial.
Our meager supplies led us to go farther and farther into the city. We discovered the water treatment center was bombed, but mostly in tact and, if repaired and powered, could restore clean drinking water... which was good news since our recon of the Hospital turned up empty handed. Rumors spread of the strange and insular Artanians southeast. This ethnic group, often despised, seemed to be fairing the storm rather well compared to the rest of us.. At the peak of a heated discussion about moving camp to someplace safe, the dreary grey skies finally broke into showers and it was decided it best to move our camps to the factories southwest of town. The swampy, mucky conditions of the stadium soon convinced everyone that something had to be done about relocating.
It was during these stressful moving times that they executed the traitor Mirsolav-- the first and certainly not last person to die in this story.
We were not alone near the Factory. A small armed contingent of civilians took up a small fort nearby. Suspicious of us, but not outright hostile. It would take time to establish good relations with them.
These armed factory dwellers confirmed that Little Artania has weathered this conflict very well due to their isolation from the rest of the city thanks to the bombing of infrastructure. The rumors made it sound like heaven to us.
A disturbing sight was discovered-- a mass grave from last winter -- just outside of town. No one knows who committed it-- Nationalists or Rebels, but a unanimous decision was reached that the bodies needed burial. Our religious leaders-- our Ethnic Orthodox priesthood -- called that each person try and be identified so that they have the proper religious rights. While this conflict of community of will unfurled, the bodies remained open and unburied. Our factory neighbors offered sympathy and we grew together... despite their seemingly atheistic tendencies.
Our community's young people couldn't take our staunch, traditionalist values and tried to embrace the nihilism of it all. A small group of teens led by a 15 year old girl named Petra took to the supermarket and had a lavish party. When news of this reached the camp in the factory, our religious leaders threatened them all with excommunication.
Having enough with our hedonistic youth and our apostate factory allies, our church called a discussion about our core values about what we should do, which ended with no successful or obvious decision. Meanwhile, at night, firefights began occurring between a rebel force and our factory friends. Fearing out safety, we ventured to the subway tunnels below the ground.
With our water supplies running desperately low, a decision was reached that we must cross ethnic lines and deal with the Artanians. Water is water. While it isn't uncommon for Petra and the teens to run off... they've been gone for a while. The community is concerned. Security is increasingly on the minds of many and efforts are put in securing the subway station.
Summer became the summer of projects.
No one knows what happened to those who stayed in the stadium when we came back to it. We found it deserted... but also muddy and sort of perfect for farming. At night we hear planes dropping supplies to the Rebel force who is fighting the factory gangs still. A few able bodied men of fighting strength wish to go help them and return generosity. While a scouting mission went to find a way to see the Artanians our religious engineers wished to avoid them and focus on fixing the water treatment plant. Additionally power generators come online at the same time the rebel army comes strolling into our subway station. Welp.
Our community is forcibly taken over by the rebels and put to work aiding them. The food we are growing in the stadium is now being used by the rebels and not us. We attempt to subvert their authority, but our leaders of our resistance are caught up with the scouts who met with Artania through the subway tunnels. Our leader Dominik was publically executed, but his false confessions perhaps saved the lives of dozens. We are now forbidden from communicating with Little Artania.
The water from the water treatment plant and the power generators-- all we have worked for-- is now in the hands of the enemy.
ll is a time of trouble and questions. Our Subway fort to keep others out has become a prison keeping us in. We have no idea what has happened to our friends in the Factories...
With the discovery of the teenager Petra killed and left near the supermarket is has come for us to try and make a run for it but our community is fracturing under the stress. Half of us don't care and wish to escape to Little Artania while the other half of us wish to make do at the factories again. Both sides agree that the current state of affairs is untenable.
Almost serendipitous, the National army contingent arrives and engages the Rebels outside the Subway station. Now's the time for our escape.
We escape to the Factory, but not without casualties. Almost all of our religious leaders, Priests et al, killed.
We learn life at the factory is marginally better. Food is just as scarce, medicine is just as scarce, and without a religious leader, our community votes to elect a new leader. With all the religious males killed, our faith elects the first ever Female priest: Pavla.
Wishing to strike back against the rebels, a very small group sneaks under the cover of night to raid our previous Subway home. Unfortunately they were betrayed and are all killed-- including the betrayer (who was originally promised safety with the rebels.) We find meager rations in the slums near the factory, but food is still scarce and we're not sure what will happen come winter. We build a temporary memorial to the slain priests.
Fall ends on a bad note with an Earthquake. God's vengeance strikes the bombed out factories and a significant portion of our defenses crumbles... taking our memorial to the priests with it. Why is God so cruel to those who love him?
Finally. A good omen. As the days grow bitterly cold, we find an overturned nationalist army truck. It seems both armies have retreated out of the city... or the fighting has at least stopped for now. For the first time in a long time, there is no sound of artillery or gun fire.
Oh but if only things would get good... We quickly learned why the food truck was abandoned. The food was either in poor quality or diseased/rotten. It was in this discovery that our community lost our last child to sickness and the cold. We were devastated.
Finally, on a cold, bitter, day of Winter, we heard the news of Ceasefire.
But could we ever return to normal life?
I hide in a cubicle all day until the night time where I play RPGs and other games and stuff.