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Subject: Red Player One Reviews Biblios rss

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Curt Frantz
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Pennsylvania
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The Game

In Biblios, each player is an abbot attempting to amass the greatest library. To this, they need to acquire different types of resources. Victory points are gained by winning each of the five resource categories.



The Components

This game isn’t terribly complex and therefore, doesn’t have too many components. First, there’s the scriptorium board. The board only serves as a location to place the five colored dice. Each die indicates the number of points that will be scored for each of the five categories of resources and workers (brown = monks, blue = pigments, green = holy books, orange = manuscripts, red = forbidden tomes). The dice all start at a value of three, but they can and will be modified as the game is played. The players will want to increase the value of dice they may win and decrease the value of the others.



And then there are the cards. Let’s first take a look at the category cards.

Category cards

There are nine cards of varying value for each category, totaling 45. Take note of couple things on the card pictured below:

1. The color/category

2. The value in the upper left-hand corner

3. The tie-breaking letter in the bottom right-hand corner



It’s important to point out that there the value distribution is not the same for each category. For the brown and blue categories, there is a total value of 25 across 9 cards. This includes cards of 2, 3, and 4 value.



For the green, orange, and red cards, there is a total value of 11 across 9 cards of value 1 and 2. Due to this difference, it will usually take a lesser value to win the green, orange, and red categories at the end of the game.



Gold cards

There are 33 gold card – 11 each of values 1, 2, and 3, as seen below.



Church cards

These are the cards that allow dice manipulation, affecting the end of game scoring. In the upper left-hand corner is the modifier (plus one or minus one), and in the upper right-hand corner is the number of dice to be modified. There are three types:

1. Increase 1 or 2 dice by 1

2. Decrease 1 or 2 dice by 1

3. Increase or decrease 1 die by 1



The most important thing to note about these cards is that they must be played as soon as they are acquired. They cannot be hoarded until the end of the game. If that were the case, everyone would keep them until they were certain of the categories they would and would not win.

The Gameplay

The object of the game is to win the most victory points. When the game starts, each of the five colored categories mentioned above is set to 3 points, using dice of the appropriate colors. A certain number of cards will be removed from the deck during setup, depending on the number of players. The game is divided into two distinct categories:

1. The gift phase – players will take turns distributing cards, filling their hands.

2. The auction phase – The players will bid on cards that were placed in the auction stack during the gift phase.

The gift phase

During the auction phase, the active player will secretly draw cards equal to the number of players plus one, but they will do so one at a time, deciding where to distribute the card before moving to the next. The player has 3 options of where to put the card:

1. Secretly into their hand (exactly one card)

2. Face up onto the center of the table to be drafted by the other players (exactly one card per other player)

3. Face down into the auction pile (exactly one card)

The cards can be distributed in any order as long as one ends up in the player’s hand, one to the auction pile, and one per other player to the center of the table. Remember that if a church card is gained in this (or any other) way, it must be immediately revealed and played. This allows manipulation of dice, but at the cost of gaining a category or gold card. Once this is done, play passes to the left and the next player does the same.

Strategy Tip: This is where the ‘press your luck’ mechanic comes in. If you view the first card and decides you want it, that’s fine, but you won’t be able to add any more cards to your hand this turn. Sometimes this forces you to give other players good cards. On the other hand, sometimes you won’t see good cards early in your turn, so you’ll distribute to the other players and the auction pile, but the final card that you must take might not be any better. There’s definitely an element of luck in this, but the decision making is really interesting.

The auction phase

Once players have taken turns distributing cards until the deck is empty, the auction phase will begin. In a 4 player game, one fourth of the cards end up in the auction pile. The pile will be shuffled and the active player will flip over the top card. The player to the left will open the bid at any value or pass.

Category and church cards – If bidding for these card types, the player is bidding an amount of GOLD from their hand. No change is given if the exact amount can’t be spent (i.e. if a player bids 4 and only has a 2 gold and a 3 gold card…they must spend 5 instead of 4).

Strategy Tip: Make sure you collect gold in the gift phase. If you don’t collect much, you’ll be helpless in the auction phase and (see below) forced to discard cards to get the gold, which, if done a lot, is not a winning approach.

Gold cards – If bidding for these cards types, the player is bidding an amount of CARDS from their hand. The player who wins the auction for a gold card discards the cards bid face down to the discard pile

Strategy tip: This is a good way to get rid of cards in categories that you know you won’t win. For example, if it’s late in the game and you only have one red card, that’s a category you probably won’t win and you may be better off bidding that card to win additional gold. This way, you will have extra gold to spend on cards you do want.


Bluffing

Bluffing is legal in this game. You may always bid more than what you have, but if you win the auction, you’re penalized. You must give each other player a random card from your hand. This is a huge penalty, and this rarely happens in games. The ‘medieval bluff’ variant reduces this penalty to discarding a random card, but not giving any to the other players. My group tends not to bluff at all because the penalties are so significant.

Game end

Once the auction pile is empty, the game is over. Players reveal their hands and determine who wins each category by totaling up their values of each. The values on the dice translate directly to victory points. If there is a tie for a category, it’s resolved in favor of the player having the card with the letter closest to the beginning of the alphabet (in that category). So, the A card in a color will break all ties. The player with the most points wins. If there is a tie for overall points, the player with the most gold left in their hand wins.

Final Thoughts

What a great game! This is a fantastic marriage of press your luck and bidding mechanics, and it’s extremely well executed. I would recommend this game to just about anyone. The combination of strategy, fun, play time, mechanics, and price make this a game you shouldn’t pass on. It’s worthy of being in any gamer’s collection.

Strengths:

Drafting - There is definitely an element of luck in the cards you draw on your turn, but it’s not crippling. Each player will take enough turns that it usually seems to even out. That bad luck is remedied by the feeling of holding out for something good and getting exactly what you need.

Auction – The unknown makes this really interesting. You don’t know how much gold any ther player has or what value of each card category. If you have 7 value in brown, you might think you have a chance of winning a brown card, but if someone else already has 14, your odds are slim.

End of game reveal – This is great/hilarious/upsetting…however you want to phrase it. This is when you find out that you beat someone on a tie-breaker, or you lost a category you thought you had in the bag. This reveal is the best 15 seconds of the game.

Pace – Even though there are ‘player turns’, you have something to do on each turn. You’re either distributing cards, drafting cards distributed by another player, or bidding on cards. There’s always something to do.

It’s a filler game – There is so much game packed into 30 minutes of play time. It’s short enough to be considered a filler, but I find myself more invested than in most games that are categorized this way.

The randomness is done well – Good turns balance bad turns. Because each player has so many turns, it’s hard to really be done in by bad luck. As primarily a euro gamer, the randomness does not bother me in Biblios.

Weaknesses:

Bluffing – Whether using the regular bluffing rules or the medieval bluff variant, the penalties are so severe that it’s just not worth it. I really don’t think this adds much to the game anyway. I typically don’t even mention bluffing to new players for these reasons.

Theme – Being a euro gamer, theme doesn’t usually make or break a game for me. But for people who care about theme, it’s worth noting that this game is really just colors and numbers. The monk/monastery thing is really pasted on.

The number of points – I’m stretching here, but if playing with 4 players, there is a very real possibility that one player may not get any victory points at all. Playing a game for 30 minutes and ending up with zero points can be a bummer. Hopefully new players can look past that in jump back in for another round, because the next game will likely go differently.


How easy is the game to learn?

It’s very simple. There are 3 types of cards and two phases to the game. It can be learned in 5 minutes and played in 30. Experience helps to be consistently competitive, but beginners usually catch on pretty quickly.

Will it be easy to find players?

Yes, it’s very quick and scales well for 2, 3, and 4 players. This hits the table more frequently than my other filler games.

Is the reward worth the time spent?


As mentioned, the end of game reveal is very fun, even if you end up losing the game. I’d be hard pressed to think of another 30 minute game with more fun and interesting decision making.

How much fun is defeat?*

I’ve never been too torn up about losing this game. The only exception: losing due to a category’s tie breaker can be a little disappointing, and ties occur pretty frequently due to the low number of points.

Overall score

*I think one of the best ways to evaluate a game is to consider how much fun it is to lose. The goal is to have fun whether I've won or lost!


If you enjoyed reading this review, feel free to check out my other game reviews HERE
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David B
United States
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Virginia
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Bidding more than you have is not the only form of bluffing in this game. There is a whole dimension of luring others into thinking you are holding a color that you aren't.

But you are correct. The stated penalty for getting caught at overbidding is severe at the full player count (not so much with 2). I wonder how this penalty would work:

Each player other than the penalized player gets to adjust one die for free.
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Curt Frantz
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pfctsqr wrote:
Bidding more than you have is not the only form of bluffing in this game. There is a whole dimension of luring others into thinking you are holding a color that you aren't.

But you are correct. The stated penalty for getting caught at overbidding is severe at the full player count (not so much with 2). I wonder how this penalty would work:

Each player other than the penalized player gets to adjust one die for free.


Those are all valid points, thanks for the feedback! In most of my games, I will bid for things I don't necessarily wantfor the reason you mentioned, but it's rarely with money I don't have. It sucks if I end up winning those auctions, but there's obviously no penalty attached.

I've also never played this with two players. You're correct that this would change the value of bluffing...interesting...
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