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Subject: How To Make Copying Manuscripts Fun: A Biblios Dice Review rss

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Adin Hrnjic
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Introduction

I'll be frank. Initially, Biblios Dice did not strike me as being an interesting game. It did not strike me as being a game that I would enjoy. A game for two to five "monks" vying to be the best at copying manuscripts isn't a theme that really explodes off the board and into my memory. This is something that I'm used to though since games like Agricola have boring themes, but still prove to be amazing games. That's where Biblios Dice failed me again. At least Agricola marries the ideas of theme and mechanics somewhat well. At least in Agricola I feel like I'm actually building a farm and raising animals. Whereas in Biblios Dice the mechanics have absolutely no connection to the theme.

You can see that I started doubting my enjoyment of Biblios Dice even before I unwrapped the shrink. I persevered though. I started watching and reading other reviews trying to get a taste of what sort of game I was getting ready to play. The final straw was Rahdo Runs Through. The video went into a fairly in depth explanation of the rules and I was just flabbergasted at how people could enjoy such a game. At this point I was preparing to force myself through a mediocre game just to review it and move on.

I was wrong. Beyond wrong.

Rules

The goal of a game of Biblios Dice is to get the most victory points. To do this you must move your player cubes up on tracks representing different resources which consist of manuscripts (blue), scrolls (red), pigments (green), quills (orange), ink (black), and bishops (purple) while managing your gold and the value of each track. This is where the dice in Biblios Dice comes into play. To collect resources a player must roll anywhere from six to seven white resource dice (for the rest of this review I'll assume that there are six resource dice), a green mule die, a purple value adjustment die, and a yellow gold die. The resource dice each have the same arrangement consisting of one face dedicated to each resource. The mule die moves the mule on the mule track, when this reaches the end an auction begins which I will elaborate upon later. The gold die reads a value which represents an amount of gold. Finally, the adjustment die has an assortment of pluses and minuses.

After this bunch of dice is rolled the mule is moved up equal to the value printed on the mule die, and then in turn order players will grab dice of one type. For example, if there are three ink, two manuscript, and a quill, then a player may choose to grab ink and then receive three of those resources. A player may choose the gold die and receive the value printed on the die (this die has one face that gives every player gold equal to the number of players minus two). A player may choose the adjustment die and change the value of resources. For example, a plus will mean that a value can be changed from three to four, or four to five, etc. This value represents the amount of bonus VP that will be handed out at the end of a game; the higher the value, the more VP are earned. This goes on until all dice have been allocated to the various players, the first player marker moves on, and this process repeats. Note that gold and VP are hidden behind player shields.

As players collect resources they will move up the tracks and will pass milestones that hand out VP depending on when you pass it. The first player to pass the half way milestone will receive three VP, the second receives two, and the third receives one. The last spot on each track has a similar idea except the first receives five, second receives three, and the third receives one. The Bishop track has a similar milestone mechanic except it has three rather than two and the milestones hand out various things from free resources to VP to gold. Additionally, moving up on the Bishop track allows a player to trade in gold for VP at the end of the game. Another quick rule to note is that the Bishop track does NOT have a value die associated with it, meaning that no extra VP will be handed out at the end of the game. As a penalty, the last three spots on every resource actually deduct VP at the end of the game. If a player has no resources in a track, they will lose three VP, if they have only one resource two VP are lost, and having two resources will deduct only one VP.

Now comes the interesting twist. When the mule reaches the last space on the track, an auction begins. The player who rolled this round will then set aside the mule die and sort the eight dice into a group of five dice and a group of three dice. Then players will bet simultaneously using cards with values ranging from one to seven. This continues until all players pass using the null value card. Highest bidder pays full price and receives first choice and second highest bidder pays half price (rounded up) and gets the remaining group. Players then adjust their resources/gold/values accordingly and play continues with the player who rolled the auction.

This continues until four cubes of any colour reach the top of the resource track or until one cube reaches the top of the bishop track. The first player in a track receives additional VP equal to two times the value of the track, the second player in a track receives VP equal to the value of the track, and the third player receives VP equal to half the value of the track (rounded up).


Final Thoughts

Before I begin, I wanted to quick note on component quality. The dice are of good quality with a very nice feel to them. It's always satisfying to roll a handful of dice and rolling nice, engraved dice makes it feel even nicer! The cardboard used by the tracks and player shields are really thick and feel good. The chits and cubes are what we expect from modern games. The only fault I could find is that the card stock used by the cards is fairly flimsy and leaves something to be desired. I also have to note that the box itself that houses the game is my favorite box of all time. For some reason it just feels nice to the touch and is extremely sturdy while managing to look very nice on a shelf! The art is competent, but nothing spectacular.

I hope you remember how I felt before I played. I want to elaborate on why I had such low hopes for this game. After having the game explained to me and after reading the rules I thought that this game had absolutely zero strategy or tension. I thought that choosing which dice you want would be extremely obvious and that this would leave us with a boring game of luck. The auctions seemed interesting, but it also seemed to be easy to keep track of how much gold people had and how people would spend that gold. Fortunately, I was wrong, wrong, wrong, and in the end blown away.

I'll separate this into a couple parts. First off, I was impressed at how well this dice drafting mechanic works. In the beginning, it plays out as expected. Taking three resources is obviously better than taking one, but as the game plays out this is not the case. Taking one resource instead of three can make a crucial difference. You could take one resource that would push you to the final milestone that nets you five VP instead of taking three that would move you from third to a closer third. You could deny a player from VP by taking something that they desperately need. These are a couple examples of the many that exist in this game. It also surprised me at how tense having to manage six resources (seven including gold) becomes. Falling behind in one track may seem fine and dandy as you trounce everyone in another, but then a lucky roll kills your lead and you're now behind. I tend to forget about a resource or two and find myself scrambling to get out of the negatives as the game seemingly ends out of nowhere even though there are few surprises about when the game ends.

Secondly, the auctions are where much of the strategy actually lies. An auction plays out differently depending on who rolls what. The player who rolls can take a look at the dice and decide what they want to go for if anything. If they see several things that they want and they have the gold to spend, they can put it all together and go all out. What if the player rolls only a couple things that they want? Then they can place it in a less desirable group and can try to squeak out a second place victory and hopefully get the group you wanted for an amazing price! But what if you can't afford anything? What if you don't even want anything? Then it's time to set your opponents against each other. You can make an amazing group of dice and then an extremely weak group of dice and hope to make the other players bite. What if they don't? What if one player comes out with an extremely good set of resources because only one player bit and the others didn't? These are all small subtleties that make this auction extremely satisfying to participate in. On top of that, the idea of bidding with the cards is amazing. Bidding with a one means you cannot use this one later on, but it also means you can scope out what others are thinking. What if others also try the same tactic? Then you're stuck bidding more than you'd hope which places you in a tough spot if you accidentally overpay because you didn't have an option. Just brilliant!

All in all, I am disappointed in myself for mentally trashing the game before trying it out, but I'm just as greatly pleased to have found a nice short length, light weight game for my group to enjoy. The game lasts about 30-60 minutes, depending on the method of ending the game and depending on the luck of the rolls. We've found that three is definitely the sweet spot for the game as it allows each player to collect multiple resources every round, while giving auctions nice tension. Four and five seem too resource light as you may have rounds where you only get one resource and that one resource could be the gold die face that gives everyone gold(I was wrong, getting this die moves it to the side and is not chosen by anyone. This doesn't really change the game in my immediate thought as it just means a person gets the same lack of benefit, but everyone stills get the gold. In auctions it's just rerolled until a different face is showed. This is better than I originally understood!). That isn't fun. I never mentioned that playing with only two players introduces a dummy player that collects three white resource dice every round and bids two random valued cards in auctions. This player (Cadfael) won't win, or at least I haven't had him win, but it provides a reasonable opponent. Cadfael is a sort of milestone that allows you to play around with in order to give yourself points or starve your human opponent of points. It originally seemed like an uninteresting idea, but it turned out better than suspected like everything else in the game! This makes the two player game strong like the three player game, but not as good.

Biblios Dice is not without its faults though; these mostly lie with the idea that luck can always swing a game which is unfortunate, but also somewhat exciting. I've only ever felt like one game was completely one-sided, but that seems like an anomaly of a game. Another idea that really didn't matter much to me was the idea of hidden objectives. The game comes with hidden objective cards that gift more VP if you are successful in being the first place player in the resource card you are given. This can be used, but I see no need. I don't think my group will ever use them. Finally, I don't enjoy the gold die that gives all players an equal amount of gold. This is really painful to have to take on your turn especially when it may be your only die. It should have been slightly advantageous to the player taking it by giving that player more gold than everyone else. This gives at least some incentive for taking this die.(This fault is still present even though the rules have changed. Taking nothing is like taking the die. I would have still enjoyed the idea that the die was advantageous to the person that grabs it)

Biblios Dice is a great game. It's a game we find ourselves pulling out because of everything I've said above. It's not a groundbreaking game. It's not the next big thing, but this doesn't stop it from being something people should check out. As a new board gamer, I can't really recommend it for a certain niche of players as I don't know exactly what to compare it to, but I do know that it is a ton of fun and something I will love to keep in my collection!
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TheDarkHarvest wrote:
Introduction

I'll be frank. Initially, Biblios Dice did not strike me as being an interesting game. It did not strike me as being a game that I would enjoy. A game for two to five "monks" vying to be the best at copying manuscripts isn't a theme that really explodes off the board and into my memory. This is something that I'm used to though since games like Agricola have boring themes, but still prove to be amazing games. That's where Biblios Dice failed me again. At least Agricola marries the ideas of theme and mechanics somewhat well. At least in Agricola I feel like I'm actually building a farm and raising animals. Whereas in Biblios Dice the mechanics have absolutely no connection to the theme.

You can see that I started doubting my enjoyment of Biblios Dice even before I unwrapped the shrink. I persevered though. I started watching and reading other reviews trying to get a taste of what sort of game I was getting ready to play. The final straw was Rahdo Runs Through. The video went into a fairly in depth explanation of the rules and I was just flabbergasted at how people could enjoy such a game. At this point I was preparing to force myself through a mediocre game just to review it and move on.

I was wrong. Beyond wrong.

Rules

The goal of a game of Biblios Dice is to get the most victory points. To do this you must move your player cubes up on tracks representing different resources which consist of manuscripts (blue), scrolls (red), pigments (green), quills (orange), ink (black), and bishops (purple) while managing your gold and the value of each track. This is where the dice in Biblios Dice comes into play. To collect resources a player must roll anywhere from six to seven white resource dice (for the rest of this review I'll assume that there are six resource dice), a green mule die, a purple value adjustment die, and a yellow gold die. The resource dice each have the same arrangement consisting of one face dedicated to each resource. The mule die moves the mule on the mule track, when this reaches the end an auction begins which I will elaborate upon later. The gold die reads a value which represents an amount of gold. Finally, the adjustment die has an assortment of pluses and minuses.

After this bunch of dice is rolled the mule is moved up equal to the value printed on the mule die, and then in turn order players will grab dice of one type. For example, if there are three ink, two manuscript, and a quill, then a player may choose to grab ink and then receive three of those resources. A player may choose the gold die and receive the value printed on the die (this die has one face that gives every player gold equal to the number of players minus two). A player may choose the adjustment die and change the value of resources. For example, a plus will mean that a value can be changed from three to four, or four to five, etc. This value represents the amount of bonus VP that will be handed out at the end of a game; the higher the value, the more VP are earned. This goes on until all dice have been allocated to the various players, the first player marker moves on, and this process repeats. Note that gold and VP are hidden behind player shields.

As players collect resources they will move up the tracks and will pass milestones that hand out VP depending on when you pass it. The first player to pass the half way milestone will receive three VP, the second receives two, and the third receives one. The last spot on each track has a similar idea except the first receives five, second receives three, and the third receives one. The Bishop track has a similar milestone mechanic except it has three rather than two and the milestones hand out various things from free resources to VP to gold. Additionally, moving up on the Bishop track allows a player to trade in gold for VP at the end of the game. Another quick rule to note is that the Bishop track does NOT have a value die associated with it, meaning that no extra VP will be handed out at the end of the game. As a penalty, the last three spots on every resource actually deduct VP at the end of the game. If a player has no resources in a track, they will lose three VP, if they have only one resource two VP are lost, and having two resources will deduct only one VP.

Now comes the interesting twist. When the mule reaches the last space on the track, an auction begins. The player who rolled this round will then set aside the mule die and sort the eight dice into a group of five dice and a group of three dice. Then players will bet simultaneously using cards with values ranging from one to seven. This continues until all players pass using the null value card. Highest bidder pays full price and receives first choice and second highest bidder pays half price (rounded up) and gets the remaining group. Players then adjust their resources/gold/values accordingly and play continues with the player who rolled the auction.

This continues until four cubes of any colour reach the top of the resource track or until one cube reaches the top of the bishop track. The first player in a track receives additional VP equal to two times the value of the track, the second player in a track receives VP equal to the value of the track, and the third player receives VP equal to half the value of the track (rounded up).


Final Thoughts

Before I begin, I wanted to quick note on component quality. The dice are of good quality with a very nice feel to them. It's always satisfying to roll a handful of dice and rolling nice, engraved dice makes it feel even nicer! The cardboard used by the tracks and player shields are really thick and feel good. The chits and cubes are what we expect from modern games. The only fault I could find is that the card stock used by the cards is fairly flimsy and leaves something to be desired. I also have to note that the box itself that houses the game is my favorite box of all time. For some reason it just feels nice to the touch and is extremely sturdy while managing to look very nice on a shelf! The art is competent, but nothing spectacular.

I hope you remember how I felt before I played. I want to elaborate on why I had such low hopes for this game. After having the game explained to me and after reading the rules I thought that this game had absolutely zero strategy or tension. I thought that choosing which dice you want would be extremely obvious and that this would leave us with a boring game of luck. The auctions seemed interesting, but it also seemed to be easy to keep track of how much gold people had and how people would spend that gold. Fortunately, I was wrong, wrong, wrong, and in the end blown away.

I'll separate this into a couple parts. First off, I was impressed at how well this dice drafting mechanic works. In the beginning, it plays out as expected. Taking three resources is obviously better than taking one, but as the game plays out this is not the case. Taking one resource instead of three can make a crucial difference. You could take one resource that would push you to the final milestone that nets you five VP instead of taking three that would move you from third to a closer third. You could deny a player from VP by taking something that they desperately need. These are a couple examples of the many that exist in this game. It also surprised me at how tense having to manage six resources (seven including gold) becomes. Falling behind in one track may seem fine and dandy as you trounce everyone in another, but then a lucky roll kills your lead and you're now behind. I tend to forget about a resource or two and find myself scrambling to get out of the negatives as the game seemingly ends out of nowhere even though there are few surprises about when the game ends.

Secondly, the auctions are where much of the strategy actually lies. An auction plays out differently depending on who rolls what. The player who rolls can take a look at the dice and decide what they want to go for if anything. If they see several things that they want and they have the gold to spend, they can put it all together and go all out. What if the player rolls only a couple things that they want? Then they can place it in a less desirable group and can try to squeak out a second place victory and hopefully get the group you wanted for an amazing price! But what if you can't afford anything? What if you don't even want anything? Then it's time to set your opponents against each other. You can make an amazing group of dice and then an extremely weak group of dice and hope to make the other players bite. What if they don't? What if one player comes out with an extremely good set of resources because only one player bit and the others didn't? These are all small subtleties that make this auction extremely satisfying to participate in. On top of that, the idea of bidding with the cards is amazing. Bidding with a one means you cannot use this one later on, but it also means you can scope out what others are thinking. What if others also try the same tactic? Then you're stuck bidding more than you'd hope which places you in a tough spot if you accidentally overpay because you didn't have an option. Just brilliant!

All in all, I am disappointed in myself for mentally trashing the game before trying it out, but I'm just as greatly pleased to have found a nice short length, light weight game for my group to enjoy. The game lasts about 30-60 minutes, depending on the method of ending the game and depending on the luck of the rolls. We've found that three is definitely the sweet spot for the game as it allows each player to collect multiple resources every round, while giving auctions nice tension. Four and five seem too resource light as you may have rounds where you only get one resource and that one resource could be the gold die face that gives everyone gold. That isn't fun. I never mentioned that playing with only two players introduces a dummy player that collects three white resource dice every round and bids two random valued cards in auctions. This player (Cadfael) won't win, or at least I haven't had him win, but it provides a reasonable opponent. Cadfael is a sort of milestone that allows you to play around with in order to give yourself points or starve your human opponent of points. It originally seemed like an uninteresting idea, but it turned out better than suspected like everything else in the game! This makes the two player game strong like the three player game, but not as good.

Biblios Dice is not without its faults though; these mostly lie with the idea that luck can always swing a game which is unfortunate, but also somewhat exciting. I've only ever felt like one game was completely one-sided, but that seems like an anomaly of a game. Another idea that really didn't matte much to me was the idea of hidden objectives. The game comes with hidden objective cards that gift more VP if you are successful in being the first place player in the resource card you are given. This can be used, but I see no need. I don't think my group will ever use them. Finally, I don't enjoy the gold die that gives all players an equal amount of gold. This is really painful to have to take on your turn especially when it may be your only die. It should have been slightly advantageous to the player taking it by giving that player more gold than everyone else. This gives at least some incentive for taking this die.

Biblios Dice is a great game. It's a game we find ourselves pulling out because of everything I've said above. It's not a groundbreaking game. It's not the next big thing, but this doesn't stop it from being something people should check out. As a new board gamer, I can't really recommend it for a certain niche of players as I don't know exactly what to compare it to, but I do know that it is a ton of fun and something I will love to keep in my collection!


Thanks for the positive review. I'm glad you liked the game. I just wanted to let you know that the gold die is not chosen if it shows gold for everyone. It is put aside after everyone gets gold. So, there is one fewer die to choose from in that round, so it may or may not hurt the roller, depending on the distribution.
 
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Adin Hrnjic
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Thank you for that, I'll update it!
 
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Adin Hrnjic
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How does this affect auctions? Is it placed to the side?
 
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Steve Finn
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TheDarkHarvest wrote:
How does this affect auctions? Is it placed to the side?


No one collects gold, but it is re-rolled until it shows a number.
 
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Adin Hrnjic
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Thanks again for the clarification!
 
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