Running a library is serious business, currently e-books and the availability of information on the internet has made them largely redundant. Image what it must have been like in the dark ages were librarians had to make their own pigment to make ink and then get scribes to actually write the books themselves. On top of that they had to get the blessings of the church, which during the dark ages was not an easy feat…
In Biblios you are the abbot of a medieval monastery who is contending with other monasteries to have the greatest library in the world.
Biblios was published in 2007 by IELLO games. Since then it has been nominated twice for a golden geek award. It did not win but I can see why it was nominated.
For the TL;DR version click here
Opening the box
Specs on the box:
- 2-4 Players
- Ages 10+ (the game is very easy to learn so it can be played by younger kids too)
- 30 min (I don’t actually think we have ever reached 30 min, the game is quick)
The box itself looks like a book. Given the theme, it’s a really nice touch. It closes with a magnetic clasp. It has a very small form factor and it does not require much space so it’s very portable.
In the box you have the rules, 5 different coloured dice, a very small board to hold the dice and a deck of cards. The inside cover of the box has a nice insert with quick setup instructions and card distribution.
The theme of the game is well represented. The box itself is a book, and the artworks on the cards are very appropriate. Each of the coloured dice represents something that is needed for the library; from pigments to scribes to forbidden texts.
The theme is however not necessary and easily forgotten once you start playing. It’s a game you play for the mechanics. You don’t even need the board to hold the dice as the dice are colour coded to the cards.
The aim of the game is to have the best library, which means you need to be the best in as many of the different categories as you can. If you are the best then you get to claim the appropriate die. Once all of the dice have been claimed you total up the values on each of the dice and the person with the highest value wins.
To do this you need to collect cards that belong to each category. The cards will have a value from 1 to 4. The person with the highest in any given category will win that category.
Setup is very easy. You place each of the dice on their appropriate sections of the board with the 3 side facing up. Then remove a certain number of cards from the deck. This is based on the number of players and that’s it.
The game takes place over 2 rounds. In the first round players take turns drawing cards from the deck. Each player will draw a number of cards equal to the number of players plus 1, so in a 3 player game they will draw 4 cards.
However they will draw the cards 1 at a time from the deck and choose one of three actions to do with it.
- Keep 1 of the cards with them, face down
- Place 1 of the cards in the auction pile, face down
- Place the remaining cards in the centre of the table face up.
Starting with the next player on the left, he will select a card from the centre of the table to keep. So the active player will get to keep a card and put one up for auction and the rest of the players will draft a card from those which are face up on the table.
The cards could belong to one of the categories, they could be gold which can be used in the auction or they can be church cards which can be used to alter the values of the dice on the board. If you get a church card you must immediately use it to increase/decrease the values on 1 or more dice on the board.
Play continues like this until the deck is exhausted. Then the auction round begins. Each player will take turns revealing the top card of the auction deck and ,starting with the player to their left , then take turns bidding on the card.
If it is a non-gold card then you will bid using gold. If the card for auction is a gold card then you bid with cards, i.e. the player willing to give up the most cards from their hand will get the gold to use in a future bid.
Once the auction deck is finished then the game is over and scoring starts.
At first I did not take to the game. The mechanics were simple and the game felt too easy. The more I played the more I began to see its appeal. The drafting mechanism, when to hate draft, when to keep going for a colour. The auction, which cards to trade away for gold and what to bid for, even if it’s just to make other players sped their cash. Combine everything with the interactions with the church cards and it leads to a game that can be very engaging.
The small form factor and quick setup meant that it was very easy to take the game to a restaurant and play a few rounds. The whole family enjoyed it and I can see it going down well with more serious gamers looking for something to use as a filler game.
The insert with the card breakdown is handy but with at least 7 random cards removed every game, you cannot really bank on it. The replay ability is quite high and there is no 1 wining colour/category that will always come out tops so adapting your strategy mid game is something that might happen.
Can I play this at a braai?
Sure you can, but it’s a very quick game. It might not go down too well if there are long breaks between rounds as players might forget who drafted what which can impact their plans.
Thanks to Boardgames.co.za for the review copy of Biblios.