Biblios is a light card-drafting game for 2 to 4 players that plays in about 30 minutes. The idea is that you and each of the other players are competing to build the best collection of books.
You start with a board and 5 dice — each die represents the victory point value of having a superior collection of books within a specific category. At the end of the game, if you have, for example, the most books in the brown category, you’ll get the number of points indicated on the brown die. And that number can go up or down, as I’ll explain later.
The game is split up into a “Gift” phase, and an “Auction” phase. In the gift phase, you start by removing certain specific cards depending on the number of players. Then you shuffle the remaining cards and remove a specific number of random cards, so no one will have advanced knowledge of what is and is not left in the deck. Then each player, in turn, will draw, one at a time, a number of cards equal to the total number of players + 1.
With each card, you’ll decide to do one of three things. You can either keep the card for yourself, put the card face up in the middle of the table, or discard it to the auction deck. You can only keep one card for yourself, and you can only place one card into the auction deck. Once you decide what you are doing with that one card, you’ll draw another and repeat the process until you’ve kept 1, given one to auction, and put a number in the middle equal to the number of other players. Then, starting to your left, each player will choose one of the face-up cards to add to his own hand.
There are gold cards representing from 1 to 3 gold — they aren’t worth points, but you’ll be able to use them during the auction phase to purchase cards from the auction deck. There are also a variety of collectable cards in 1 of 5 colors, representing the books, tomes, etc. And they will have specific values on them. And then there are church cards which allow you to manipulate the values of the different categories. They will either be +1 or -1, and they may allow you to change the values of one die or two dice.
The church cards are never added into your hand. When you get one, whether its through keeping it or taking it during the gift phase, or buying it during the auction phase, you immediately increase or decrease the values on one or two dice (as indicated) by 1. That means that you generally want to give those cards to the other players when it’s too early to guess who will be strong in any given color. The later you are in the game, though, when they are revealed, the more valuable they may be.
Once you’ve gone through the entire deck, you shuffle the auction cards, and then in turn order, the first player turns up the first card, and players take turns bidding on the cards or passing. If they do not want to bid. If everyone passes, and there is no highest bidder, the card is discarded, and you repeat this with the next player. Note that for gold cards, you are bidding the number of cards that you will discard to take that gold card. For every other card, you are bidding the value of the gold cards you will spend to take that card (and you cannot make change, so you may have to overpay). Once all cards have gone to bid, you count up your total value in each category, determine who has the highest value. Total up the score, and see who is the winner. Ties in a category are broken by assigning the points to the tied player who has the card closest to the beginning of the alphabet.
This is a very clever, and quick-playing game. It’s easy to learn, easy to teach, and easy enough to get a handle on. You know you want to increase the values of categories that you think you have the best chances of winning, you know you want to decrease the values in categories that you are sure you will lose.But there are also decisions to be made that may not be easy — do you bid on an item that you
But there are also decisions to be made that may not be easy — do you bid on a card that you don’t want to increase the amount that other players will need to pay to get them? Do you save your money waiting for that really valuable card to come out that you know you know is there? Are you satisfied that you will likely have a majority in a category, or do you continue to bid on cards in that category in order better cement or guarantee that majority? Do you keep an ‘ok’ card, or do you get rid of it to get a chance to obtain something better?
I really enjoyed playing the game, as did the person who I taught. As soon as we finished the first game, he immediately asked to play a second. There certainly is a degree of randomness to the game — at times you’ll be forced to give a really good card to your opponent, and vice versa. Some games you may end up with very little gold, or you may end up with too much gold and not enough good cards. But the whole drafting and auction mechanisms are fun. As soon as we finished our first game, my friend asked me if we could play again. And then when we finished that game, he wanted to play yet again (and that’s in spite of the fact that I shut him out in those first two games). That, in my mind, is the sign of a good filler game — even if you lose, you still had so much fun that you just want to try again.
So my verdict on Biblios is that it’s a really good game — check it out if you want something light and easy.