Eila and Something Shiny (yes, that’s an E not an O on the cover) was a cooperative game that was on Kickstarter back in July 2020. It promised delivery in April 2021, but my copy just arrived at my house in the USA recently (about Jan. 31, 2021). This is a surprisingly different game: it’s a cooperative “Choose Your Own Adventure” campaign game for kids.
The age range is 8+ and the art style (above and below) tells you immediately if you might be interested in this game. It’s clear that this is a “cute” game. If you don’t like cute games, stop reading now! This game isn’t for you if you don’t like “cute”, as this embraces the cute factor whole-heartedly. See some more art below.
My friend Andrew was out of town, so we decided this would be a good game to play until Andrew returns. (Andrew doesn’t necessarily like the cute game). In the meantime, Teresa and Sara and myself threw ourselves into the game!
Unboxing and Components
The Components for Eila are pretty first rate: the box was surprisingly big! See above.
The rulebook looks like a kid’s storybook, and there’s even a little diary (see below) for keeping track of progress. Elia and Something Shiny is a campaign game after all.
The main board is folded up at the top of the box. My only real complaint about the components in this game is that this board is already tearing! (Other Kickstarters had this complaint as well)
But the board looks nice once folded out (see above).
Overall, the components for this game are fantastic: they are easy to read, they have cute little boxes for each of the chapters of the campaign, and everything is high quality.
It even has little trays to make putting the game away easier!
The rulebook almost looks like a kid’s book.
It starts with a nice list of components with corresponding tokens (see above).
Then it has some preliminary rules. As you can see, the rulebook is very well made, the font is nice, and it looks very professional.
The set-up is next, and the game does a really nice job of getting you into the game.
After the beginning few pages, a lot of the rulebook is dedicated to each of the remaining chapters, so we have to be careful not to show too much. The pictures there are on their side on purpose: I really wanted to show off how good this rulebook looked!
One of the more important pages is the list of symbols: see above. I wish this had also been on the back cover.
But, in general, this was a good rulebook. The font was readable, the text was understandable, the organization was simple. Overall, good rulebook. We got in right away.
Cooperative or Solo?
The original Kickstarter said this was a cooperative game for 1 to 3 people. During the course of development, it was remoded as a solo game: see below.
You can even see the sticker on it with the rebranding! I didn’t want to peel off the sticker, but I’ll bet it said “1-3 Players” underneath. Kickstarter backers were notified of the change in this update:
This essentially says:
So, we set the recommended number of players to 1-3. But then, some of the backers were confused by that. They questioned if there is a variant for 2-3 players. Therefore, we finally decided to define it as a solo game. Please be noted that the gameplay does not change. It remains the same as before. You can still play the game with friends and family.
In other words, this is still a game that is “virtually” one player, but people can come together and play as a single player, making decisions as a group as they play. This is essentially what we did when we played: since this is a campaign (where story can get wrecked by revealing too much), I decided to just play “solo with my friends” once they came over. But, obviously I could have easily played “solo by myself”. Random thought: “solo with my friends” and “solo by myself” seem like different designations for ways to play many solo games?
Since we are playing this “solo with my friends”, we had to try to figure out a way to have the board face everyone (so we could all see the cards), but keep the rulebook and components nearby. We had to be careful because we wanted to make sure no one could see the cards coming out from the card holder:
We eventually set-up the game as above: the board facing out to everyone, but the card holder facing away from the board. The rest of us looked upon the board from the left or right.
So, this game is all about the different chapters of the campaign. You start with Chapter 0: The Tree. Opening that box gives you the cards to play (plus some cards from the box that you always play with).
The board is set-up with 4 piles of cards, with the “goal” of the chapter in the middle of the board, just in front of the cad caddy. See above for the board and below for a close-up of the goal card.
The goal of the game is on the card above: in this case, you have to try to get 2 books before time runs out.
The gameplay is pretty simple: basically, you take the top card from the card caddy and place it face up in the very middle of the board (below the goal card):
This is essentially a “Choose Your Own Adventure” game: Each card gives us decisions: depending on your decision, two things happen:
- You either bury the card in the future or past
- You usually pay, get, or lose “some kind of resource” (carrot, coin, magic star, energy, book, or fear)
Cards going to the past (to the left) aren’t ever seen again. Cards going to the future (both decisions on the card above) go to the right and will come out again. When you run out of cards and reshuffle, all the future cards come out again. The game ends when you either achieve your goal (a win!) or you go through the deck too many times (a loss!) or you run out of life (a loss!).
This is also a resource collection game: as the game proceeds, you will need resources to get stuff done. For the first few chapters at least, your winning goal is to get a certain number of resources. You saw above that getting 2 books was the goal. As you play, you will have to decide how to use your resources to stay alive as well as progress towards your goal!
If you win a chapter, a little comic book comes out which advances the story and take you to the next chapter. See above.
You record your progress in Elia’s diary (see above). Each chapter takes about 30-45 minutes. If you make it though all 8 chapters, you win!
This is a light game. The Choose Your Own Adventure mechanism is simple, but keeping track of the Past cards, Future cards, and resources might be a little daunting for 8-year olds. I suspect the right way to play this with kids is for someone older to “shepherd” the younger kids through the game. Have an adult keep track of the Past, Future, resources, and rules, but allow the kids to make choices with everyone. At some point, the kids can grok and start performing the mechanisms, but it’s probably just a bit out of reach at the very start.
Even though this is a campaign game, it doesn’t seem like a lot of work keeping track of things between sessions. Set-up and tear-down were pretty quick in this game.
Story and Comics
So, we have played a LOT of Storybook games: See out Top 10 Cooperative Storytelling/Storybook Games! And even though this is a kid’s game, the comics were absolutely fantastic. The art was amazing, but the story they told was just … so good! Without giving away too much, we were emotionally invested in this world after the first chapters! The story was so impactful that we wanted to continue. The key phrase of my friends: “When are we playing this again?”
If you made it this far, I am assuming you like the cuteness of the game. If you don’t, then this game won’t be for you. The game is pretty simple and fun, but it is so ensconced in the cute world of Elia, you won’t be able to separate the cute world from the gameplay.
This game was described by my friends as “painfully cute” and “when do we play again”? The components (except for the board, which was already starting to tear) were first-rate. The boxes and cards and art were all just exceptional. The art was “painfully cute” like a kid’s storybook. The gameplay was a little bit more than a single 8-year old might handle, but it would be easy for a family with younger kids to play through this: The Mom or Dad can read the cards, direct gameplay, while the family all works together to make decisions about Eila’s fate. If you are looking for a cooperative family game to play with younger kids, I think is an amazing choice. I could see this replacing story-time! Since it’s a campaign, it would also be new every night! (for 8 nights at least).
Surprisingly, my older friends enjoyed this immensely as well. Like I said, they asked me repeatedly: “When Do We Play Again?” They even offered to bribe me with donuts so that we play again.
One more thing: the little comic books that come out between stories are some of the best little comic book transitions I have ever seen. The art was fantastic and the story was surprisingly gripping and emotional. After the first two scenarios, we were hooked.