When it comes to tabletop games, there’s a renaissance within the renaissance. That nested renaissance to which I’m referring is solo gaming. I’ve written enough about solo Dungeons & Dragons that my feelings on solo play probably aren’t shocking to most readers. I used to think it was contradictory to tabletop gaming’s intent: being social. I’ve revised that a lot lately though. I read alone. I watch movies alone. Why not entertain myself with a board game alone? I’ve found alternate solo rules for Azul and many other games with solo flexibility already exist. However, Eila and Something Shiny is perhaps my first experience with a game intended for one player only.
ICE Makes sent me a demo copy of their latest game for my feedback. The demo contains only chapters 0 and 1 and, as of this writing, there are plans for four more chapters. While not expressly communicated to me, I believe the company also intends on improving the quality of the contents (which weren’t bad) with custom resource tokens. My demo copy made use of wooden cubes to great effect. Additionally, they included a neoprene mat for a convenient play surface.
This game is a storytelling game where you base your decisions off of two to three choices, not unlike a solo D&D adventure or a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Your decisions can, and will, affect the story’s path and are met with rewards or consequences. The point of the game is to collect the right resources and give them as a tribute to the Great Tree. If you do this without running out of days (you have seven) or losing all your health (this varies) then you get to advance to the next chapter.
As I’ve stated, I played a demo copy and I dare not review a demo. However, there are a few things I can share about this game.
The first thing I noticed was the art. Frankly, Eila—and all of Roxy Dai’s art in this game—is adorable. I never took much art so I’m mostly ignorant about styles but I’d venture a guess that you’d call it “digital oil painting” maybe? It’s incredible and it’s engaging. But also, there is something slightly menacing to it. It suggests that despite its cuteness, Eila and Something Shiny is also consequential.
“That was…really simple,” I thought after finishing chapter 0. But that’s okay. It’s an effective primer for the rest of the game. Chapter 1 was more nuanced and I died during my first playthrough. During subsequent plays, I changed my decisions and got to see different event cards. This allowed me to shift my focus to other resources and prepare myself for upcoming scenes. In the end, I enjoyed the game quite a bit. It shows the potential for greatness.
Suggestions for full Eila and Something Shiny
First and foremost, the rules need a revision for clarity as well as the English translation. The grammar is awkward in my copy and some things were unclear.
While not necessary, the wooden cubes being switched to custom tokens representing food, gold, fear, energy, magical stones, and knowledge would be an excellent touch to nudge the quality into the realm of “didn’t have to but glad they did!”
Speaking of things they didn’t have to do…let’s talk about the neoprene mat. It is a great touch. But there’s a problem with it: it doesn’t fit in the box. Maybe that won’t bother you but I want everything to fit in one box or for the two boxes to be similar in size. At least then I could store them together, proudly displayed. Instead, the rolled mat just looks like an afterthought.
Lastly, I hope the remaining four chapters increase in complexity. Chapter 1 heads in the right direction and for this game to have a lot of replay value, it needs that complexity. Otherwise, you’ll play the game a few times at most before tiring of it altogether. It will be a challenge for ICE Makes to accomplish this. The cards are finite and the ability for us to create several unique and compelling stories from them is crucial to this game’s strength. They have all the right ingredients for a wonderful game.