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  • Writer's pictureMike at SBS

Lonely Cairn

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

Above: The early DIY-Lonely Cairn prototype

In 1992 I was visiting my local library and checked out a brand new book called Buried in Ice: The Mystery of a Lost Expedition. Inside I learned about the Franklin expedition for the first time, was drawn to the grisly photos of the exhumed sailors of Beechey Island, and was forever more transfixed by the lost expedition and polar exploration.

Since then, I've had a desire to not only make a game about the Franklin expedition, but to fit it into a series of games about exploration and adventure. My thinking was greatly influenced by Decipher's old card games, and one does not need to look close to find examples of their games in this one. After designing the core of the game in 2013, I just needed a starting point. Then, in 2014 and 2016 the wrecks of HMS Erebus and Terror were found relatively intact at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, and all of my childhood memories came flooding back.

After many years of procrastination, I finally completed my prototype, thanks in large part to inspiration from AMC's miniseries, The Terror (based on Dan Simmons's excellent book of the same title) and fueled by the powermetal band, Unleash the Archer's version of Stan Rogers' classic Northwest Passage. I've uploaded the prototype here to the site so that you can download it and have a play. Thank you in advance for taking the time and effort to play Lonely Cairn. You can access the files on the game's landing page here:

Above: Playtesting Lonely Cairn

If you read through the rules or play a few games, please take a moment and fill out a playtest result to help me improve the game. And if you'd like to support more projects like this, please consider joining my Patreon ( so that together we can strike out on even more intrepid adventures!

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