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Subject: For the Meeple, by the Meeple (Review of Biblios) rss

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Michael Carpenter
United States
West Virginia
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BOX ART



Players will play the part of an abbot in an attempt to amass the most illustrious library.



QUICK FACTS:
Style of Game: Family, Strategy
Play Time: 30 minutes
Theme: Monks amassing libraries
Number of Players: 2-4
Main Mechanics: Auction/Bidding, Card Drafting, Hand Management, Set Collection
Components: Okay
Weight: Light


THEME AND MECHANISMS:
- I feel identifying a blend in the theme and mechanism for Biblios would be a stretch. Instead, I will explain both the theme and mechanisms for you. The theme involves 2 to 4 players attempting to amass high valued collections of books and items for their library at their monasteries. There are five colors of cards that represent different types of books and other items associated with libraries. A player does not necessarily need the most cards of a color because each color has a range of different numbered cards. There are twists along that the way but the main mechanism is an auction that allows players to win three types of cards (books, gold, or dice manipulation cards).



GAMEPLAY OVERVIEW (In five sentences or less):
During the first of two phases (The Gift Phase)a player will secretly look as the top card of the deck. He or she will then place this card in the auction pile (face-down), the public space (face-up), or give it to themselves (face-down). The player will place as many cards in the public space as necessary according to the number of players in the game, but by the end of the player's turn everyone else will have received a card from the public space and one card will be placed in the auction pile. Once all cards in the deck have been allocated the cards that were placed in the auction pile will now be revealed one at a time and bid on by the players who use the cards they received during the Gift Phase. During the auction players will have the opportunity to manipulate the five dice in the middle of the table that represent how many victory points each corresponding color of card is worth at the end of the game.

Rules Clarification:
- Five colors of cards and five matching dice.
- Dice start on value 3 but may be changed by players who obtain dice manipulation cards (Church Cards).
- Players will compare who has the highest value of their cards of each color and the player with the highest amount wins the matching die and scores the number of points shown on the die.
- Highest score of dice wins the game.

ASSESSMENT


My assessment of board games is broken into three core areas: Depth of Strategy and/or Tactics, Replayability, and Quality of Design.

Depth of Strategy and/or Tactics

Biblios is a filler game so you have to assume there isn't the same amount of strategy as a large game but Biblios definitely offers you some meat. The game is divided into two phases (The Gift Phase and the Auction Phase) so there is a natural require to plan for the second phase during your first phase turns. The planning required during the first phase does something intriguing. On your turn you will reveal multiple cards one at a time. Each time you look at a card you must place that card before you may look at the next card so their is a difficult situation of constantly gambling. Do I take this average card or do I place it elsewhere and hope one of the next cards is better? What makes this more entertaining though, is that you are not simply passing on a card, you are giving it your opponent's or at the very least giving your opponent an opportunity to win it in the auction phase.

During this Gift Phase (first phase) you are attempting to follow a strategy but because their is a large element of random draw, it is hard to create a specific strategy for a particular color. Typically, you will have more of a situation where you decide if you would like to stock up on gold cards (cards with different amounts of money used to buy cards in the auction phase) or let the beginning rounds of the Gift Phase define your approach to obtaining specific colors of cards. You may also use book cards of any color to buy Gold (money) cards during the auction when you are running low on money so while you probably don't purposely take a ton of otherwise useless book cards you can use them for a purpose. A new player may think he or she is receiving a lot of useless cards but in reality every card in the game becomes vital at some point during the game.

The most joyous part of the game for me is the dice manipulation. Church Cards allow you to change the value of one or two dice, depending on the card you have obtained. You may also only manipulate the die or dice in the way that the card says (increasing and/or decreasing by 1 value). This does not happen a ton over the course of a game but it certainly makes the game feel like a roller coaster when there are several Church Cards used in the game.

Overall, for as small, quick, and simple as Biblios is, there is an excellent amount of decision making and it has a surprisingly brilliant mixture of strategy and tactics. You may have a strategy but your turn simply won't allow you to progress your strategy much but you will get to make meaningful tactical moves on that turn. I think the depth of this game's strategy and tactics is one that is hidden somewhat deep under the visible mechanisms. Players see the randomness and don't believe there is a way to align their turns in a strategical manner but with multiple plays you begin to see how all your turns will create a roster of cards that each have a role to play in your strategy. Learning to recognize when a card may seem useless but is in fact a great addition to your roster is key.


Depth of Strategy/Tactics:
4.0 = There are not a ton of clearly different strategies in the game but a player who plans better AND adjusts on the fly better will almost always win.




Replayability

At first glance Biblios resembles a filler. Upon further observation Biblios resembles something like a "tweener" based on the engagement, depth of decisions, and the lack of a "light" atmosphere. This is good and bad. It is good because this filler offers the engagement that a bigger game offers more than any other filler I own. It is bad because it's depth isn't always easy to learn the first time or two you play. I have some situations where the game has gone over brilliantly and I have had some where the players have looked a little disappointed in their performance because they weren't sure how to plan accordingly in the first phase. Luckily, the game is short so it is very easy to play again if desired and in my honest opinion I think sometimes a new player to the hobby doesn't always recognize deceptively deep games as a good thing (at first) and sees them more as confusing or off-putting. It is your job to get that player to buy into the fact that it is a good sign that a game can allow you to continue to hone your skills with multiple plays.

Biblios offers this situation and if I remember correctly everyone who has been hesitant at first has enjoyed the game much more after the second and successive plays. I think that is the sign of a really good game.

As long as you don't have players that are going to resist this challenge I would say the replayability of this game is solid and you will find yourself getting better and better at the game. Yet, high-level play of this game isn't too far removed from a new player so that player will likely be able to catch up to you with multiple plays.


Replayability:
4.0 = I would think you will get your money's worth.




Quality of Design


Auction/Bidding: The auction mechanism in Biblios is challenging and requires some thought. The enjoyment I get out of the auction is the tense feeling you get as you realize each card is becoming more and more important to get but you don't have enough money or cards to get all the cards you want so you have to plan accordingly.

Card Drafting: Biblios offers that situation where you REALLY enjoy your turn but you also enjoy your opponent's turns. There isn't a huge amount of thought required of you on an opponent's turn but you do get to do something and receive something you will be able to use in some way. You are never bored in Biblios (assuming you like the game of course).

Hand Management: For me, hand management is measured by two feelings: 1) how I feel when I take my hand off the cards I have chosen to play. If there is that hesitation to make sure I have played the right cards and 2) if at some point later in the game I think "AHHH! I played the wrong card". Biblios strikes the first chord regularly and the second chord occasionally so the mechanism gets an A from me.

Set Collection: This part of the game really just allows all the other parts of the game to shine. Whether it is the gambling possibility of the Gift Phase or the hand management in the Auction Phase or the reasoning behind the dice manipulation, the set collection is the driving force that decides who wins the game, but is more of an underlying theme than the star of the show. I love when games do that with the set collection. I find set collection to be somewhat boring when it is in the limelight but believe it is really well done when it doesn't steal the attention from the mechanisms that offer the "fun" of the game. BEAUTIFULLY DONE.

Quality of Design:
4.0 = A great design that engages the players for several plays.


FINAL THOUGHTS:
Biblios does what I think gamers want a filler to do. It offers decisions that will have impact on their success later in the game, it keeps all players engaged at all times, and stays within that quick 20 to 30 minute range (and can play quicker really). It is a real good game. It won't offer you a bit of theme, but fillers don't always need a theme. Fillers have a specific job to do "entertain for the time being". Biblios does that as well as any filler I know. The only thing I would mention is that it isn't a laugh out loud kind of game that some fillers offer, there is interaction and it offers a chance to talk some, but for the most part you will be making decisions at all times. If you are looking for that in a filler, than look no further. Great game!


Overall Rating -
A gamer's filler. Could certainly work for families but probably wouldn't be my first suggestion to families.

Overall Opinion: Positive

Notable Negatives
- While the game isn't too complex it can create an uneven playing field between levels and ages of players.

- NO theme integrated into the gameplay.

Genre Meter

For Sale | | | | | | | | | | | colonist| | | | | | | | | | Pax


colonist = similarity to two other games of its type in the genre.

*For Sale offers the auction mechanism and two phases like Biblios but doesn't have nearly as much strategy. It is lighter and more accessible to families though. I want to note that I have not played Pax but have done some research on the game and can see that it offers similar mechanisms to Biblios and is a notch up in most areas of gameplay. I am not suggesting that Pax is better or even a good game. I just want to offer a game that may be something worth looking at if you are interested in this type of gameplay. From what I can tell Biblios seems to fall right between these other two games in terms of meatiness.



Thanks for reading!



If you enjoy my reviews please recommend and check out my geeklist For the Meeple, by the Meeple
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Sebastián Koziner
Argentina
Capital Federal
Buenos Aires
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OK Ediciones: Juegos de autor en Argentina - facebook.com/okediciones
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Biblios is a really great game, it plays very well with 3/4 players, but when I play it with my brother in pvp mode can be savage

He doesn't even like much auction games, but we enjoy this a lot. We find a funny balance: we play Biblios against each other, and Bibliosice aginst our parents, hahaha.

If you liked this game, check his KS campaign for COG on KS, it's live now.
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David B
United States
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I have played PAX. PAX is more complex, but the extra complexity does not result in more depth. In fact, I think it could be argued that PAX has more complexity but LESS depth. FWIW, I found PAX quite subpar and I gave it away. Biblios, on the other hand, has a permanent spot in my collection.
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Michael Carpenter
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pfctsqr wrote:
I have played PAX. PAX is more complex, but the extra complexity does not result in more depth. In fact, I think it could be argued that PAX has more complexity but LESS depth. FWIW, I found PAX quite subpar and I gave it away. Biblios, on the other hand, has a permanent spot in my collection.


Between your info and some more research it sounds as though Pax leaves good nitial impressions but lones it's shine pretty quick.

 
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Chris Talmadge
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Clinton
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MariettaTennis wrote:
Biblios is a filler game so you have to assume their isn't the same amount of strategy as a large game

A dangerous assumption to be sure.
 
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Michael Carpenter
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That was mostly mentioned to clarify that the way I was going to address the game'same depth of strategy needs to be taken with a proportional perspective and not to sound misleading as I praised the game's depth. I did chuckle though. Funny guy.
 
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