Recently, I played Ten Candles with some of the dudes over at Nerd Mantle, and boy, what an experience it was. Having heard so much about it, everyone involved was eager to get the show on the road. By the end of it, the room smelled like charred paper while we all sat there sort of gob smacked by how cool this game was. It’s a hard-hitting game for sure, but that’s definitely the charm of it. If you’re a fan of horror, this game is a must play and let me tell you why.
Player characters are made up of four traits: Virtue, Vice, Hope and Brink. That’s it. So, what this means is that you have one thing you’re proud of, your Achilles’ heel, a situation that brings hope to your character, and what your character is capable of in the worst of situations. The Brink is probably the most fun because you keep it hidden from the other characters until it rears its ugly head. There are no other stats, and all you need beyond the index cards, a writing utensil, a fireproof bowl, and tea candles is some six-sided dice of two different colors (something I’m sure everyone reading this has a large abundance of).
Without making this an extremely lengthy summation of the rules, you essentially use traits to get rerolls by burning the index card that trait is written on. The kicker is the player must work said trait into the roleplay of the conflict resolution. Beyond that, the game is set up into scenes. Candles are blown out when scenes end or a conflict is failed. This sets an interesting pace for the game while keeping the rules to a minimum, something I’m certainly a fan of. Did I mention that candles extinguished by accident still count and can end a scene?
Obviously, a huge part of this game is fire. It sounds silly, but it’s actually rather interesting to have something that you need to be very conscious of while playing. Not just conscious of in the sense of it being a part of the game, but it’s actually potentially dangerous. There’s also something very haunting about burning a part of what makes up your character. That feeling is amplified as the room grows darker with the progression of the game, with the final candle leaving you in complete blackness. Ten Candles is the master of atmosphere, probably the most atmospheric game I’ve ever played aside from Dread. One mechanic I neglected to mention below was the voice recording after character creation.
When we played, Ben had us pass the phone around the table and utter into it what our character’s last words would be. It was a little stressful to think of that in an instant, nearly anxiety inducing. At the end of the game when we were all sitting in the dark of the dining room, he played the recording so we had to hear ourselves again. Simply incredible.
Ten Candles has a tremendous amount of potential to leave a lasting impression on people, and not just in the, “hey, this game is cool!” sort of way. I mean, like, explore the most inner parts of ourselves type of way. Without going into too much detail (as I did this with my character, I’m a glutton for punishment), my character made for a long and thoughtful ride home. Since it was our first time playing, the experience at the table was a little clunky and less than totally immersive, but it was still enough to make me think.
There’s more than a few things that go into making a person what they are, and this game is excellent at compartmentalizing some important parts of that. It wouldn’t be too far of a leap to assume that if everyone came to the table with the idea of having this game be some sort of sick, twisted therapy session, there could probably be some healing tears there. In my opinion, that kind of thing puts a game in another class of awesomeness.
If you haven’t played this game already, do yourself a favor and pick it up. At the price point they ask, it’s far beyond worth it. While it’s not a game you could play every week, as it’d lose its luster that way, it’s without question something that would be fantastic for off-nights.
Sean is the Heavy Metal GM, a freelance writer and blogger that loves the roleplaying games more than life itself. As a person who’s always up for a good discussion, his blog covers general gaming advice as well as specialized advice/homebrew rules for 13th Age RPG. You can find his website at www.heavymetalgm.com. Join the conversation.
Picture Reference: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shiftyginger/ten-candles-a-tragic-horror-storytelling-game
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.