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Biblios

O Updated March 25, 2022
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
1804 0
(Photo by Mark Besada)

Game Information

Game Name
Publisher
Designer
Players
2 - 4
There Will Be Games

You were proud of your large library and your hard-working group of scribes was continually adding new tomes, with wonderfully decorative lettering and illustrations. However, you only had so much gold and the best scribes weren't cheap, but you had to somehow continue growing your collection of books to keep the bishop happy and outdo other abbots who were vying for influence. So you persevered and did what you could to have the most Biblios by Steve Finn from iello.

Sometimes, older games are the best, especially if they are really well designed and do one or two things exceptionally well. Biblios is such a game. It's now over 14 years old, but it still stands proud among the large number of other modern card games. It cleverly distils a mix of hidden information, card drafting, push-your-luck and bidding into a game that becomes more and more interesting the more you play it. Luckily, it's really easy to explain and plays fairly quickly, so it's no problem playing it several times in one evening and watching how the meta of the game develops amongst your games group.

Biblios is basically divided into two phases.

In the first phase, you take turns drawing a certain number of cards, depending on player count, keeping one of them in your hand, putting another face-down onto the bid pile, which comes into play in the second phase of the game and placing the rest face-up, so that the other players can take one each. You have to draw each card one by one and decide what to do with each card as you draw it. You can only ever keep one card and only ever place one card on the bid pile.

So the decision is tough. The first card you draw may seem pretty good, but if you decide to keep it in your hand, you will kick yourself if you draw a better card later. Sometimes you might want to defer your decision by putting the card on the bid pile and as long as you have enough money in the second phase of the game, the bidding phase, you will still be able to acquire the card.

However, you may also push it too far and end up having to take the last card you're allowed to draw on your turn. You may be lucky or you may not. It's the usual conundrum of push-your-luck games. Chances are, you will get it wrong eventually, but every time it's your turn again and you have to make your decisions again, the tension and the excitement rise. You cross everything and hope for the best.

Of course, there is a lot of luck involved in this phase of the game, but because you decide what to do with each card, it does feel like you have at least some level of control over the luck. It is possible to be really unlucky, but that's where the second phase comes in.

Let me elaborate this a bit further, because the main aim in Biblios is to collect cards of five different colours. Each colour is worth a certain amount of points at the end of the game, recorded by a dice of the same colour. If the values of your cards of a certain colour add up to the highest number compared to all the other players, you get the points that the relevant dice indicates.

The dice all start with the same value, but there are cards that allow you to manipulate them, increasing or decreasing their pip value by one. So if you think your hand is quite strong for certain colours, you will want to increase the dice values of those colours. Of course, other players will see what you're doing and may do their best to lower the values of those dice or they may decide to try and get better cards of that colour, so they end up winning the points at the end.

All of that already happens in the first phase, but it continues in the second phase. That's when you go through the bid pile and you start auctioning off the cards that were placed there during the first phase of the game. If a colour card or a dice manipulation card is up for auction, you spend money cards to bid on them - and that's where I was going when I was talking about having no luck at all in the first phase.

If you end up only ever getting money cards in the first phase of Biblios, then in the second phase you're in a very strong position to outbid everyone and get the cards you want from the bid pile. Of course, the bid pile is likely to contain less powerful cards, but at least in the second half of the game you have a better idea of what colours everyone is going for, so you can choose wisely and still win.

Once all the cards have been auctioned off, everyone reveals their hands and counts the values of their colour cards. The person with the highest value gets the points indicated on the relevant dice and then once that's done, the player with the most points wins. It's pretty simple really.

That alone already makes for a wonderfully exciting and fun game, but Biblios gets even better if you play it multiple times with the same group of people. Now, the meta of the game starts to develop. You may have realized that one player tends to go for money cards in the first phase, to give them a strong hand for the bidding phase. So you now do all you can to stop them from getting those money cards. You will also start to be able to read other people's poker faces as they draw cards and put them either in the bid pile or keep them in their hands. You will know if they got a great card and you can potentially do something about that.

I certainly had a lot of fun playing Biblios with my games group multiple times and even though we played online, I started to see the sort of strategies they were going for and tried to formulate my counter-strategies. I know that I want to get myself a copy of this amazing card game, because I know my family would enjoy playing it. Sure, there is player interaction in the bidding phase, as players will try and artificially increase bids to make others pay over the odds for a good card - but of course, as the group plays the game more, they will get wise to that and will call their bluff.

So, if you want a great card game that plays quickly, is easy to learn and gives you enough to think about and allows a wonderful meta to develop, then Biblios is for you. It certainly is for me.


Editor reviews

1 reviews

Rating 
 
4.0
Biblios
If you want a great card game that plays quickly, is easy to learn and gives you enough to think about and allows a wonderful meta to develop, then Biblios is for you. It certainly is for me.
O
Oliver Kinne
Oliver Kinne (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Oliver Kinne aims to publish two new articles every week on his blog, Tabletop Games Blog, and also release both in podcast form. He reviews board games and writes about tabletop games related topics.

Oliver is also the co-host of the Tabletop Inquisition podcast, which releases a new episode every three to four weeks and tackles different issues facing board games, the people who play them and maybe their industry.

Articles by Oliver Kinne

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Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #331891 26 Mar 2022 22:23
This is a great little game. Needs more attention.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #331892 27 Mar 2022 10:46
Many years ago I would go to a game club out of town, and Biblios was very popular there. I enjoyed that game quite a bit.
Ah_Pook's Avatar
Ah_Pook replied the topic: #331893 27 Mar 2022 11:07
One of my wife and i's all time favorites
cdennett's Avatar
cdennett replied the topic: #331894 27 Mar 2022 12:11
This is the favorite game of Mark Besada of the Board Game Barrage podcast. He won't shut up about it, but no one else ever supports him on it. Interesting to see quite a bit of support here...
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #331896 27 Mar 2022 15:15
I tell people you know Catan is a good game because you always have a good post-game discussion of what happened. If you want to talk afterwards, the session clearly left an impression.

Biblios doesn’t even wait until after the game. This is a game where you’re talking about what you did right and what you did wrong during the game. Commentary mid-journey.
Legomancer's Avatar
Legomancer replied the topic: #331914 28 Mar 2022 09:50
This has been reissued by Iello as "For the King (And Me)", a dumb name and a dumb theme. It is available to play on Board Game Arena under that name.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #331928 28 Mar 2022 12:43
So this same game is now on its third title without a retheme? What's that about?
Ah_Pook's Avatar
Ah_Pook replied the topic: #331940 28 Mar 2022 17:48
It does seem to have gotten a retheme with this new version. The only rules differences appear to be adding more cards for 5p, and scoring 2nd place for the majorities. 5p is whatever but I think the second place scoring is a really good addition. Makes throwing away cards for gold in the auction a trickier thing to manage.

Edit: scoring second place majorities wouldn't make sense 2p but I'm definitely trying that next time I play this multiplayer.
Matt Thrower's Avatar
Matt Thrower replied the topic: #331997 31 Mar 2022 08:54
I've only played this twice, both on the same night, and I remember really enjoying it. But it wasn't from my collection and I've never seen it since - and no longer remember how to play. If it's on BGA, I'll have to give it another spin.
Legomancer's Avatar
Legomancer replied the topic: #331999 31 Mar 2022 09:13
Matt if you invite me to a BGA game, I'll be happy to play.
Matt Thrower's Avatar
Matt Thrower replied the topic: #332022 01 Apr 2022 06:34

Legomancer wrote: Matt if you invite me to a BGA game, I'll be happy to play.


I don' t have premium and I'm absolutely fried by game rules at the moment, but I might subscribe and try and get something set up for us.
sornars's Avatar
sornars replied the topic: #332023 01 Apr 2022 06:53
I wanted to give this a go and hope you don't mind me inviting myself into your proposed game: boardgamearena.com/table?table=255254610