Another bonus for all you followers of the blog, twitter and Facebook – you get to read my review of Biblios before it goes out in the newsletter. I can sense the joy and delight from here!
Biblios is a set collection and auction card game for 2 to 4 players, lasting around 30 minutes. Each player collects cards from 5 different colours throughout the game, with the aim of having the highest value in a colour in order to score the points for that colour. The player with the most points at the end wins.
The game comes in a small box that has been designed to look like a book. The box opens like a book too, with a magnetic fastener to hold it closed. It also has some summary information on the inside cover which is helpful. There are five dice in the game which are functional and match the colours of the cards. There is a deck of cards which look and feel great, although the smell from the varnish used on them is quite overpowering at first. This fades with time though. There is also a small board for putting the five dice on during the game.
The rules are quite short and straightforward. The only thing I’ve needed to refer back to is the setup information, which is different depending on the number of players. Once you’ve played through the game once or twice you shouldn’t need to refer back to them.
The game is essentially played in two stages. The first stage is the ‘gift stage’ and the second is the ‘auction stage’.
Before starting all the five dice should be set to showing the value three. These can be altered with the use of special cards and at game end having the highest total in a colour of cards means you score points equal to the value on the matching colour die.
In the gift stage the active player will draw cards one at a time from the deck and immediately decide what to do with that card. The options are for them to keep it (face down in a pile in front of them), place it in the auction pile (also face down), or place it face up where it will be taken by one of the other players. The active player may only keep one card for themself, only put one card in the auction pile and needs to add as many face up cards as there are other players in the game. Thus in a four player game they will draw a total of five cards: one for themself, one for the auction pile and three face up cards, one for each other player. When they have drawn all the cards they need to, the other players take it in turns to pick one of the face up cards and add it to their own pile face down (starting to the left of the active player and going clockwise). Thus each player will get one card every round and so will the auction pile.
Then the player to the left becomes the active player and they draw cards one at a time and decide what to do with them as before. This continues until the draw deck is exhausted.
At the beginning of the auction stage the pile of auction cards are shuffled and then the active player reveals the top card. They start the bidding or pass, and bidding continues until all players except one have passed, who then pays their high bid and receives the card that was up for auction.
There are three types of cards in the game and the bidding works slightly differently depending on what is up for auction.
There are coloured cards, in one of the five colours. There are gold cards, with a value between one and three. Finally there are special cards which alter the value on one or two of the dice, and must be played as soon as they are acquired (including in the gift stage).
When bidding on gold cards the players bid a number of cards and the winner discards the appropriate number of cards out of the game when they win.
When bidding on colour or special cards the players bid a value of gold and the winner discards that total value of gold from their hand out of the game.
The active player moves clockwise each round, with that player drawing the card to be bid on. Once the whole pile of auction cards is gone the game ends and players reveal their total values in each colour. The player with the highest total in a colour scores points equal to the value on that colour dice. If two or more players are tied for the highest total in a colour then the player who has the card with a letter closest to the start of the alphabet wins the tie.
- Review of Gameplay:
The gameplay is pretty simple in that it just involves drawing cards and deciding what to do with them, and then bidding on other cards. However, there is more to it than that, as you need to try to keep track of what cards other players have taken, what you know is coming up in the auction round, whether to take a risk and keep a card you’ve drawn when you might draw something better afterwards. Even though the gameplay is simple there are some interesting decisions to make along the way.
I really like this game as it’s short but fun and packs in some interesting choices along the way. You have to be able to change your plans if necessary as it may become clear that you’re not winning a colour that you were aiming for. It does have some element of screwing the other players as you can try to pit them against each other on a colour, or lower the value of a dice they are going for. It doesn’t feel too confrontational though as it is more indirect and there is no stealing of cards or making people discard them.
- Who will like this game?:
If you like tactical card games with interesting decisions, set collecting or auction games then you may want to check out Biblios. Just be sure to air the cards for a while before you do!