Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 10 May 2016

Of monks and monkeys :- Biblios

Game: Biblios

Publisher: Iello

Designer: Steve Finn


Brother Markus wandered through the cavernous halls, his footsteps echoing through the chamber joined only by the scribbling of quills on parchment. Markus paced until he found himself next to a young monk’s writing desk, gently he raised his hand, the scribbling stopped leaving only silence, silence that was punctuated by Markus’s hand slamming on the desk. The inkpot bounced into the sky before tipping over the monk’s page, the young man began to protest until he met Markus’ stern eyes. Markus’ gaze was locked onto the monk’s work, as the ink dribbled its way across the parchment that represented hours of work the young monk saw it. He had smudged an F!

Biblios is a 2-4 player card game in which you play as an abbot trying to create the greatest collection of holy writings. In the game you’ll be competing on 5 categories which represent the resources and people needed to create your sacred tomes, in addition you’ll be acquiring gold, which always comes in handy. The game is split into 2 sections, the first you’ll be distributing resources among the players and an auction pile and in the second you’ll be running an auction for the remaining resources.
The first round works quite simply, when it is your turn you draw a card off the top of the deck, you then decide if you want to keep it, put it up for auction or put it down face up for an opponent to grab later. You then continue drawing cards one at a time until you have 1 card for yourself, 1 card for auction and 1 card for each opponent sitting in the centre. Your opponents will then take one of the face up cards to keep and then the turn moves round. This is repeated until the deck is empty. The ideal situation is to take a high numbered card for yourself, leave low numbers for your opponents and put something good for you to auction on later, however you’ll often be tempted to take a 3 then draw a 4 later. So you’ll often have to decide if you want to wait and see what you get later at the risk of letting someone else get the best card of the draw.

The second round is an auction, though it has a bit of a twist, you can auction for the 5 main resources using money, but should money come up in the auction you can use the resources to get it. This means you may decide that blue is a lost cause and trade your blue cards in you get money to ensure you win orange etc. I think this works well as money often goes expensive at the start while everyone has a hand full of trash, but becomes worth less later when people have good hands and less time to spend the gold. Conversely the resources are often expensive at first, but later on they go for bargain basement rates as no-one can afford them, unless someone has been hoarding money.

The game in play, both players hands are on the outskirts, the deck is to the top, the dice are in the center showing the number of points on each colour then below is the auction deck and the discard pile (for the blessing/curses).
There are 5 resources in the game, 2 of which have cards of 2/3/4 values and 3 of which have cards of 1/2 values. Ultimately the prize for each resource is the same: a number of points equal to the dice of its colour with the winner being the person with the most points. But these dice aren’t rolled, each resource starts worth a set amount of 3 points, then during the game you can gain blessings/curses which add or subtract from 1 or more dice, if you are confident you’ve won a colour then blessing it can earn you a lot of points, so these cards often go for large sums during the auction. I have to give the game credit for ensuring that there is never a tie. Each card has a letter on it and should you have equal amounts of a colour then the player with the lowest card on the alphabet wins the tie, these cards tend to be on low value cards to make them seem more worthwhile. Should you tie points at the end of the game then the resources each have a priority of importance so winning blue is ever so slightly better than winning red.

All of the cards in the game, you have to appreciate the variety of art, I particularly like the curse card where they are burning books.
Biblios does a good job of forcing you to make hard decisions, but ultimately I’m not that fond of it. It’s quick, fairly portable, has nice art and the box design is pretty perfect. But something doesn’t quite gel with me. Auction games have never been the epitome of fun in my opinion and while Biblios is the best I’ve played it is no exception. It also has a bad habit of being dictated by luck, sometimes the best card you draw is a 2 gold card at the start of your hand, and of course you skip it because something better is bound to arrive. It can be pretty disheartening when even in your own turn you come away with the worst card. Biblios isn’t bad, it’s just not for me. And even then it’s not a game that I won’t play, it’s just one that I’d never choose to play when my shelf has so many other games on it.


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