Saturday, 12 March 2016

Game Review - Ten Candles

In gaming, every once in a while, you need to broaden your horizons and take a look on the other side of the fence to see what everyone's up to over there.

For me, the other side of the fence is where the independent publishers hang out, I'm a great believer in supporting independent game design and publication, but I rarely get chance to look through them or play them after supporting them.

I was talking to +Joshua Fox creator of Lovecraftesque while we were playing Far Havens Mindjammer earlier this week, and that was one of the games where I was on my Kickstarter limit when it was being offered, so didn't back it, but he mentioned that the game was up for a Golden Geek award and so I went to have a look at the other nominee's.

Most of them I had already seen or knew of, but there was one that stood out as something I'd never seen or heard of, so I went out and got the PDF.

What I found was a game where the characters die, not just can, or might, but will die...

This is Ten Candles...

The premise of Ten candles is a simple one, something (henceforth referred to as Them) has taken the light away from the world, and the players take the role of people who are living out their last days before Them end it all.


If not handled in the right way, very much so, but the key point of the book is that while you know that your character is going to die, you have to believe that on some level, they will be the one that survives the trend and goes on to win.

In the manner of all good heroes...

The story is told via candlelight, which adds to the atmosphere of the game, and promotes well the idea that the light has been taken away, and while there's some setup required, and the theatrics of the game will not lend themselves to everyone's playing style, it's worth putting in the time to get the mood on this one.

The game is played in three stages, Here there is Light, Here there is Shadow, and Here there is Darkness, and I won't go into massive detail with this, because it's very rules light and describing what you do in each part will give away more than I'm sure the creators will be happy with.

In Here there is Light, the characters are created with Virtues and Vices, Brinks and Moments.  Virtues are helpful traits, Vices are harmful, but the key of the generation is that when you've written down the virtue and the vice, you pass them to the other players so that you all have a character made up of two people's independent thoughts.  Then comes the choosing of a Moment, when you define how your character will find hope, and then finally the most interesting part of the character generation for me, the Brink.

Brinks are what the characters is capable of when all around them is darkness, and as with virtues and vices, are written by another player and handed on.  It is the use of language here that interests me, because brings are written in the form of a note saying "I've seen you..." and then the description of just what the character was seen doing.

From this we have the characters, to this is added the module that the characters will be working through (there's a great number of them to work with), and then play begins.

Throughout character creation, candles will have been lit as the stages are completed, this is key to the game, and hence my earlier comment regarding the theatrics, those not interested in the theatrics will find this game far less immersive, and that would be a bad thing.

In Here there is Shadow, the characters work through the scenario, there aren't many dice rolls made, but those that are made are challenging, and when one is failed, a single candle is darkened and the game continues till there is only one left and times are darkest and then there is Darkness, where the characters finish their journey (and indeed their lives).

The whole game has the feel of ritual, and I don't mean that in a Mazes and Monsters sort of way, there are words to be used at various points in the scenario, and while I don't agree with having people read out long sections of text to describe things, short audible prompts are more than acceptable, in particular when it comes to the setting up of an ongoing message of hope that fades at the end...

I like Ten Candles, it's an interesting premise that won't have a campaign attached to it, but that's the point, and it allows people to explore the idea of a doomed world without the illusion that they can prevail, which is an interesting diversion for people like me who never accept the dying of the light.

Oh, and the artwork, masterclass in how to budget in getting a few superb images rather than getting a hundred clip art pieces.

I'd recommend this, it's worth the asking price on the PDF for the single game you'd play with it.