Biblios - Board Game Box Shot

Biblios

| Published: 2007
82 15 2

As an abbot of a medieval monastery, you compete with other abbots to amass the greatest library of sacred books. To do so, you need to have both the workers and resources to run a well-functioning scriptorium. To acquire workers and resources, you use a limited supply of donated gold. In addition, you must be on good terms with the powerful bishop, who can help you in your quest.

Biblios is Dr. Finn's Games most highly praised game. It contains a heavy dose of a "push your luck" mechanic as you draft cards into your hand. It is divided into a drafting stage in which players acuire cards and an auction stage, in which players use their cards to bid for more valuable cards. Many people say it is a great auction game, even for only 2 players. For a game that lasts only 20 minutes, it calls for a lot of interesting decisions.

Biblios gameplay
images © Dr. Finn's Games

User Reviews (4)

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8
Grand Master Grader
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120 of 131 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“A surprisingly sly game of crafty monks and belligerent bishops.”

A swift opinion:
+ Card drafting and auction mechanics work a treat.
+ Surprisingly tense despite what the theme may suggest.
+ A crafty little game that’s slightly more complex than your average filler.

A filmed opinion: http://ow.ly/SRv1k

A wordy opinion:
Biblios is a high octane, no holds-barred thrill ride where you and up to three other abbots are trying to build the grandest library of all time. A library that will put every other monastery to shame. Whilst I’ve gone and placed a rather sarcastic tone on those statements, I do believe at least a third of that description holds true…don’t close the window.

In an ideal game of Biblios, players are looking to nab the most valuable cards of five different categories denoted by different colours. Brown stands for monks who’ll help with general handiwork. Blue highlights pigments that can make your literature look luscious. Green lists Holy Books which no monastery should be short on. Orange is for manuscripts full of…scribbles and red is for Forbidden Tomes that should never see the light of day. All of these cards have a value in the top left which will be counted at the end of the game, with each category being worth a set amount of points.

But which category should you fight over? At the beginning of the game, all of the categories are worth three points, represented by several dice in the centre of the table. How much these will be worth at the end of the game is up to the players. Hidden among the deck are cards that will butter up the bishop quite nicely. When picked, the value of these dice can be increased or decreased by 1, affecting the amount of points on offer for each category. Going for an unsavoury collection of Forbidden Tomes? Best convince the bishop they’re actually pretty swell and bump up the point value by one. Think someone else is too focused on pigments? Burn all the colours and decrease the points! The problem with this is that should you act beneficially on categories you’re going for, other players will catch onto the cards you need. Thanks to the way you gather cards throughout a game, those pesky abbots can find many a way of tripping you up.

You accumulate cards over two phases. The first is the ‘Gift’ phase, a process that sounds an awful lot jollier than it actually is. On your turn, you will pick up and disperse a set of cards. One of these will go in your own collection, one of these will go into an auction pile for later and a number equal to the amount of opponents you are up against will go face up in the centre of the table. On the surface, this feels like a phase of basic drafting. Dig deeper however, and you find a whole host of traps that anyone can (and will) fall into.

Once you’ve found a place for a card and reached the limit of how many cards should be there, that’s it. You are then locked out of that action for the rest of your turn, which can lead to a whole host of horrid miscalculations. If you don’t strike at the right time, not only could you be left with a dud of a card by copping out too early or relying on an ill gamble, but you could also end up giving someone else an extraordinary card for free. This is already a tense procedure when you’re attempting to maximise the efficiency of your library, before you bundle this with the fact that the values of the categories are in a constant state of flux.
Due to the entire game’s unpredictability, it’s so important to find a game plan and stick to it, no matter how many times Biblios tests your faith.

There will be a point in the gift phase where you are screwed over simply because you struck at the wrong time, and if you don’t have a strong vision of what your library will look like, you’ll likely be left bearing the brunt of a lot of bad deals. Ultimately, you can’t complain because, you got what you wanted in this instance. It’s like if you have a cake, and someone else is cutting it, and you get a slice, but you notice that someone else gets a slightly larger slice. Not enough to cause a drama but still…cake.

Blimey, we haven’t even reached the second phase yet.

All those cards that were so easily dismissed in the first phase are brought back to be fought over for cold hard cash during the ‘Auction’ phase. Gold cards that populate the deck with the values of 1,2 and 3 worm their way in here. One player reveals what card everyone will be slobbering over, and the player on the left makes a bid for it. If they don’t fancy it, they can back out. If they do, bid away.

The typical drama of an auction mechanic kicks in here, but carries over the bluffing element of the gift phase. If you’re not fond of a card that has appeared, you can still make a bid to ramp up the price, potentially ruining someone’s day. Of course, if you misinterpret just how eager someone else is, they could very easily not take the bait and you end up having to pay out of your own pocket for something you didn’t actually want.

Suddenly you realise that this phase isn’t one about nabbing what you want. If that gift phase is all about preventing others getting what they need, the auction phase is all about forcing others into a penniless existence, leaving you to snag everything for cheap. Draining funds from someone else means that if a money card comes up for auction, they’ll have to sacrifice books to get more money, or essentially kick themselves out of the phase completely.

Biblios is a tiny game that manages to subvert expectations with every turn. It manages to fit a decent amount of cutthroat guile within a 30 minutes timeframe without ever drawing blood. It’s a tad more tactical than your average filler title, but if you’re looking for a swift game with just a little bit more slyness to it, I can’t recommend much better. I didn’t think I’d be saying such things about a library-‘em-up, but I guess you can’t judge a book by its cover!

*APPLAUSE*
…please…

 
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6
Gamer - Level 5
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10
130 of 142 gamers found this helpful
“Probably my favorite filler”

I am not lying when I say this is probably my favorite filler game, but to be honest it is darn near close to my favorite game no matter the type.

The point of the game is to collect as many points in the different colors as possible. There are five colors and whoever has the most points (in cards) in each color at the end of the game, then they get the points. The points that each color is worth will change throughout the game (I’ll cover that in a bit).

The game is broken down into two parts, donations and the auction. In the donations part the player takes one card at a time off the top of the deck and must decide to put in face down in the auction deck, face up in the pile for the other players or in their hand without showing anyone. They repeat this until they have looked at one more card than the number of players. Once a card has been placed somewhere it is there for good. After that player looks at all of the cards for their turn the other players, in turn order, get to pick a face up card.

After all of the cards have been gone through, then the auction phase begins. In the auctions phase each card is offered up for auction, one at a time. If it is a coin card, then you bid with # of cards and discard them face down. If it is any other card then you bid in coins and discard coin cards face up.

Here are the types of cards:
Green, orange and red cards (value 1-3)
Brown and blue cards (value 2-4)
Coins (value 1-3)
Church cards (raise or lower one or two die(dice) and must be played as soon as it is chosen)

I could play this game over and over again, but I also realize it isn’t for everyone. It is a fast playing game with some pretty difficult choices to be made. It can easily be completed in 30-45 minutes.

My favorite thing, besides the pulling of cards and deciding which ones your opponents get a choice from, is that because of the church cards there could literally be only around 10-15 total points to be fought over.

It’s a good game, and I would play it anytime I need an easy game to teach or just a short time to play a game.

 
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5
Canada
Military Service
9
50 of 56 gamers found this helpful
“Medieval monks and forbidden tomes”

In Biblios, you are the abbot of a medieval monastery competing with the heads of other monasteries to amass the most distinguished library of sacred texts. You work towards this goal by collecting manuscripts, holy books and forbidden tomes, hiring the best scribes, and seeking out the best quality pigments of ink. You must also maintain a rapport with the bishop as his influence may be crucial to your mission.

As a lover of both history and books, I was immediately drawn to the theme of this game. The box is modeled after a book with a magnetic flap that holds the box closed. The artwork on the box, several serious faced monks in a library full of books observing the texts by candlelight, is both appealing and intriguing. The components of the game are simple and very well done. The game consists of a scriptorium (a small game board), five six-sided dice in different colours, and 87 cards. The image on the back of the cards is the same as that on the box. The art on the verso of the cards consists of a number of different beautifully done images. There are seven card suits including one for each of the five categories, (pigments, monks, holy books, forbidden tomes and manuscripts) as well as church and gold cards.

The goal is to have the most victory points at the end of the game by having the highest score in each of the five categories. The game is carried out in two phases, the gift phase and the auction phase. The gift phase is a drafting stage where players acquire cards. In the auction phase, players use their cards to bid for more valuable cards. At the start of the game, the five coloured dice are placed on their respective spaces in the scriptorium with the “three” value showing. The dice represent the value of each of the five categories. Players can increase or decrease the dice values by playing church cards. The strategy here is to increase the dice value in categories that you think you can win, and decrease the dice value in categories that your opponents appear to be collecting. Knowing who is collecting what will become evident in the auction phase when players bid for cards. The auction phase also has a bluffing element. If you are not interested in a card, you can still bid on it to drive up the price and force your opponents to pay more; however, you also run the risk of having to pay for a card you didn’t want!

Biblios is recommended for two to four players. I have played the game with two, three and four and found the game works equally well any of these numbers of players. The rules recommend removing 27 cards for a two player game, 15 cards for a three player game, and seven cards for a four player game. In each of the games that I have played, we used the full deck as we did not want to miss any of the artwork. When we were left with an uneven number of cards at the end of the gift phase, we simply shuffled the remaining cards into the auction phase deck. Removing cards would add an element of mystery to the game. The number of cards in each category is listed on the inner cover of the box, and thus viewable by all players. When all cards are in play, you can tell if you have a category majority by looking at this chart and doing some calculations. If cards are removed from the deck, this calculation becomes far less accurate. Alternately, you can keep the box closed so that the chart is not viewable. I found the best strategy was to collect everything. Invariably, some opponents seemed to focus on collecting one or two categories, using their cards from other categories to make purchases during the auction phase. In these instances, if you have a few cards in each category, you are bound to win some of them – often enough to win the game.

Overall, this is a brilliant game that can be enjoyed by both gamers and non-gamers alike. It is quick, easy to learn, makes for a great game when you have limited time, and is an excellent filler. An excellent addition to any game collection!

 
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8
Professional Reviewer
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester
Silver Supporter
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
7
80 of 99 gamers found this helpful
“An interesting auction card game with a cerebral twist!”

Overview
Biblios is an intriguing card game for one to four players. It’s almost like two mini-games smashed into one, because of the two different phases of the game. However, it has this indirect scoring method that will have the grey matter rattling around in the back of your head:-) The goal of the game is to score the most points by winning color categories to claim those points.

Pros
Solid gameplay
Nice components
Fairly portable
Good replayability due to random setup

Cons
Seems like a filler, but maybe a little too heavy.

Components
The artworks is superb. The cards are nice thick card stock, so they should last a good while. Dice are nice and chunky. Box is super cool with the magnetic lid that closes quite well, and it travels well.

Gameplay
Biblios has three kinds of cards: gold (money), church cards, and scroll cards of five colors. At the setup, players will discard a certain amount of the cards based on their number of players. This way they will have incomplete information as to what cards remain in the game making the game very replayable. The remaining cards are shuffled to create a starting deck. The board is then setup with five color dice matching five color suits of cards in the game. The dice all start at the number three which represent the victory points a player can claim at the end of the game.

Players take the starting deck and take turns drawing a number of cards based on the number of players plus two from the deck. The current player must choose one spot to put each card: their hand, the auction pile, or a public space per opponent. They cannot put the same card in a spot more than once. This makes for some tough decisions. Once the current player’s turn is over, the opponents pick which cards to get from the public space in turn order then play proceeds to the next player. This is repeated until the starting deck runs out which ends the first phase. This is called the “gift phase”.

After the first phase is ended, each player then takes turn drawing the top card of the auction pile and begin a round of bidding from cards in their hands. This is called the “auction phase”. If a player passes, they are out that round until the next card is drawn. The highest bidder wins the card and puts it in their hand. Play proceeds until the auction pile runs out.

Special Note: Anytime a church card is claimed (either in auction or gift phases), it must be played immediately. These are the only cards that can manipulate the number on the dice. Depending on the church card, a player can choose one or two die to manipulate the point value up or down. This is critical, because if you think you have the most value in a color, you’ll want to bump the same color die up. If you think your opponent has more of a different color, you’ll want to bump their potential color die down.

Once the auction phase has ended, players will compare how much value they have in a color category. Whoever has the most value will claim the die of the same color. This goes around until all the colors are compared. Then the players will tally up the numbers on the die they possess. Whoever has the most points wins the game.

Conclusion
Biblios seems like it should be a filler-type game, but sometimes I think it’s a little too “thinky” for what I would consider a filler. There are a lot of decisions in the game to be made which can make for a tense game. You have to decide which card to put in your hand versus give to your opponent versus put for auction later. You have to decide if a certain card is worth bidding amount based on either the remaining gold your have or remaining cards you have. You have to decide which die you should manipulate given what colors you think your can take versus what colors you think your opponents can take. This is as “cerebral” a filler type game probably gets. It provides for tension in a different way that I would NOT quite categorize as “push your luck”, but more like “did I really make the right decision”.

Overall, this game provides an interesting experience. I’m reminded of a story where masters of the game “Go” take mental breaks by playing Chess. I can see where this might be the thinking gamer’s filler:-) It’s a solid and well-designed game. I like it very much. So if you’re tired of vapid and mindless fillers, maybe Biblios is the game you’re looking to bring to your next game night!

Gamer Recommendations
Family GamerMAYBE – if your kids are older and are gamers
Social GamerMAYBE – enough interaction to possibly interest social gamers
Casual GamerNO – too complicated
Strategy GamerNO – too tactical and too random, no long-term strategy
Avid GamerYES – neat experience
Power GamerNO – not enough variety and not “deep” enough.

 

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