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Subject: A Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: The super filler that Reiner Knizia wishes he had designed rss

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Introducing Biblios



This is the game that Reiner Knizia wanted to make. Unfortunately for him, designer Steve Finn beat him to it. And it's that good - really! Steve Finn's Scripts & Scribes (an earlier name of the game) was one of those cult hits that became a kind of underground phenomenon amongst those who could get their hands on it. Described by some as For Sale type filler on steroids, it uses familiar mechanisms in interesting ways to create a fun experience with surprising depth in the short time it takes to play. At its core it is a set collection game, but it begins with a drafting phase where players create an auction deck and give cards to their opponents; then follows an auction phase as players compete for the cards in the auction deck, trying to establish point-scoring majorities in the five different suits. Oh and did we mention that there are ways to manipulate the points each category is worth? It all comes together in a very successful and deservingly popular package!

Well the good news is that Scripts & Scribes has been elevated from its humble VHS case status, and joined the world of real games, under the name Biblios. Pinocchio has become a real boy at last! With the help of publisher Iello, this game is now available with new artwork and quality components, and fortunately not a thing has changed about the great gameplay. Now that the game is in the hands of a `real' publisher, it's ready to take on the world! Well, maybe not quite, but now at least it is accessible to the world, and that's welcome news to the many folks who have just been dying to get their hands on a copy! If you like `super-fillers', you owe it to yourself to find out more about this great little game! Dr Knizia would love to have his name as the designer of this one, because it's right up there with the best of his lighter card games. Read on to find out why!



COMPONENTS

Game box

I've been known to admire game boxes in the past. But this, my friends, is a game box to conquer all game boxes. Not by virtue of its size, but by virtue of its design. The theme of the game is that players are competing monastery heads, trying to assemble the most wonderful library - which includes the necessary copyists, pigments, and of course scrolls and books. Here on the front cover we see a couple of monk-like associates, appropriately with their noses in a book. But wait - what better way for this game to arrive than in the form of a book! Check this out!


The game box is designed to look just like a book!

This has to classify as one of the most ingenious box designs I've ever seen - it's certainly one of the most creative! It's brilliantly designed to look just like a book - spine, cover and all! - and there's even page-like artwork on the sides to help make the illusion of a book more convincing. You even open it up just like a book! The additional flap you see on the left hand side contains magnets which seal it when the cover is `closed'. Yes, magnets - in a box cover - isn't that fantastic!


It even opens up looks a book!

As for the back of our `book' - it just pictures some of the cards in the game. All in all, I can't say enough about the `coolness' factor this brings when you drop this gem of a box on the table at game night!


Game information on the back of the box

Component list

Here's what we get when we take everything out of the box:
● Scriptorium board
● deck of 87 cards
● 5 dice
● 1 rulebook


All the game components

I have one small gripe about the plastic component tray - the indentation into the tray holding the deck of cards only goes about halfway down to the bottom of the box, making it difficult to pull out the lower half of the deck. Then again, you can always just turn the box over and dump out the contents Tom Vasel style! Aside from this minor complaint, the box insert houses the components nicely, and should prove quite durable.


The plastic component tray

Let's give you a guided tour through each of the components in turn.

Scriptorium

The Scriptorium board is made of thick and durable card, and is a lavishly illustrated and colourful board that features each of five categories. Biblios is essentially a set-collection game, with five suits of cards, and the aim is to be the player with the highest amount of points in a suit - this will earn you points for that particular category.


The `Scriptorium' board with five categories

Note the icons below the colours - these correspond to the five `suits' of cards in the game, and will reappear on the cards: brown = Monks; blue = Pigments; green = Holy books, orange = Manuscripts; red = Forbidden Tomes. They're put together in two groups, since the distribution of cards in the first two categories (supplies) is identical, as is the distribution of the cards in the last three categories (books).

Dice

The actual value of each of the five categories will be anything from 1 to 6, and is measured with dice. Five brightly coloured dice in colours corresponding to each category are provided for this purpose, and will be placed on the Scriptorium. At the start of the game each of the dice will show the number 3, but players will be able to manipulate these numbers, thus trying to increase the value of the categories (suits) they are going for, and reducing the ones their opponents might be going for.


A different coloured die for each category

Cards

Now for the meat of the game - the deck of 87 cards!


The shrink-wrapped deck of 87 cards

The artwork on the cards - both front and back - is fantastic. It's brightly coloured and attractive, and if you have played the home-grown Scripts and Scribes, you are likely to be very impressed with what you see here. Here you see an overview of every single card in the game, which includes Category cards (45 in 5 suits), Church cards (9), and Gold cards (33):


All the cards in the game, arranged by type

There aren't too many negatives about the game, but unfortunately the quality of the cards does leave something to be desired. They're quite thick, almost too thick to shuffle comfortably. In addition they have a high gloss finish that attracts fingerprints and also makes them very slippery - this only makes shuffling even more challenging. But perhaps the biggest weakness is that the edges are prone to chip, meaning that cards can get `marked' quite easily. Many gamers consider card sleeves mandatory for all their games - that's probably a good choice for this game in particular, and should solve all of the potential issues mentioned above.

Aside from that the cards themselves look attractive, and there's good use of icons and numbers to note the key information players need to know, as seen here with an example of a Category card and a Church card.



● Category cards

The bulk of the deck consists of 45 cards in one of five categories. These `suits' (brown = Monks; blue = Pigments; green = Holy Books, orange = Manuscripts; red = Forbidden Tomes) are marked at the top right using the same icons we already saw on the Scriptorium board. Each card also has a value on the top left, and the alphabetic letters on the bottom right of the cards are used to break ties.


Cards in five different categories

There's a total of exactly 9 cards in each category, and the distribution of each category is as follows:


Distribution of cards within the two types of categories

The cards for the first two categories (Supplies) add up to to a total of 25 points each, and come in values of 2, 3 and 4. The cards for the other three categories (Books) add up to a total of 11 points each, and come in values of 1 and 2. At the end of the game the player who has the most points in a category will be awarded the points on the die corresponding to that category.

Let's just pause for a moment to admire the attractive and colourful artwork on the cards:

Monks (brown) & Pigments (blue)



Holy Books (green), Scrolls (orange), and Forbidden Tomes (red)



● Church cards

Church cards - of which there are 9 altogether - allow players to manipulate the numbers on the dice on the Scriptorium. A +1 modifier allows a player to increase the value of a category die by 1 point, while a -1 modifier allows a player to decrease the value of a category die by 1 point. Church cards with two dice on the top right means a player can change the values on two dice. The final card gives players the option to increase or decrease a single die. These cards must be used immediately when a player gets them in their hand - which also means that players get the chance to modify a die instead of acquiring a new card in hand.


The five different types of Church cards

● Gold cards

The remaining 33 cards are Gold cards, which come in three values: 1, 2 and 3. These cards can be used during the second phase of the game - the auction phase - to purchase more Category cards.


The three different types of Gold cards

Rule book

The rulebook is a small, colour booklet consisting of 6 pages. The explanation of gameplay is straight-forward and simple, the presentation is in a very readable two-column format, and there's several illustrations accompanying the text, as well as a few short examples of gameplay. As far as I'm concerned it's an exemplary model of a rulebook done well, aside from a couple of instances of ambiguities (check these threads for clarifications about cards removed at setup, and about tiebreakers). There's no changes to the rules themselves in the new edition, except for the addition of a `medieval bluff' variant for the Auction phase of the game. If you want to check out the rulebook, you can download it from the publisher's website:
http://www.iello.fr/download/Biblios_Rules_EN.pdf


The front of the rulebook

GAME-PLAY

Objective

The basic idea of Biblios is to try to obtain the most points in a particular category, and thus win the points on the Scriptorium dice corresponding to that category. Church cards will allow you to adjust the values of these dice. The back of the rulebook gives a helpful overview of this:



Much like the well-known filler For Sale, the game itself is split into two phases:
1. Gift phase - when players draft and receive free cards
2. Auction phase - when players purchase cards in an auction
So in the first half of the game you'll build up your hand (usually to about 20 cards) with category cards and gold cards; then in the second half of the game you'll use these cards to try to improve your hand so that it consists almost exclusively of the cards you need to establish majorities in the point-scoring categories you are going for. At the end of the game, players reveal their hands to determine who has the most points in each category, and thus winning the points on the matching die; it's the points on the dice that win you the game.


The names and icons of all five categories

Setup

In the middle of the table you'll need the Scriptorium, and each of the categories should have its appropriate die, all showing an initial value of 3 for that category.


Dice indicating a value of 3 points for each category at the start of a game

Depending on the amount of players, you'll remove a random number of cards from the deck (27 in a 2 player game, 15 in a 3 player game, and 7 in a 4 player game; these amounts include at least a certain number of Gold cards as stipulated in the rules). The removal of some random cards has the advantage of shortening the game when played with less players, and also means that cards in some categories have been removed, so you can never be completely sure how many cards remain in a suit! The remaining cards are shuffled into a draw pile.

It's worth noting how the game is organized on the table. In addition to the Scriptorium and the Draw pile, you'll be creating an Auction pile (for the second phase of the game). The layout also includes a Public Space, where cards that the active player doesn't want will be placed on his turn, to be drafted by the other players.


Layout of the game

Phase 1: Gift Phase

Drafting

The Gift Phase is essentially a kind of a draft, as the active player allocates one card for the auction pile, one for himself, and one for each of the remaining players - although not necessarily in that order. This means that during this phase, players take turns to draw as many cards as the number of players plus one, e.g. if there are four players, you will draw five cards. But what makes this fun is that you must draw and allocate them one at a time - once you've allocated a card, you can't change it . You must allocate these cards as follows (in the order of your choice):
● 1 secretly to your own hand
● 1 secretly to the Auction pile
● the rest face-up to the Public space (from where the other players will take them)


Allocating five cards from the Draw Pile

Once all cards have been allocated, the remaining players in turn order get to take into their hand a card from the Public space. In this way on your turn everyone will end up getting one new card, and one card will be added to the Auction pile. The fun part is that you don't know what the remaining cards will be as you are drawing them, so if the first card is a half-decent one, do you take it for yourself, hoping that the next one won't be even better? Or do you allocate it to the Public Space or Auction pile hoping that the next one will be even better for you to take for yourself? And which ones do you add to the Auction pile for later in the game?

After cards have been allocated in this way and the Public space has been emptied, it's the next player's turn. He goes through the same process of deciding how to allocate five cards (less cards in games with less than four players) - one card for himself, one for the Auction pile, and the rest for the Public space for the other players to share out. This continues until the deck is exhausted. At this point there will be 16 cards in the Auction pile (18 in a 3 player game, 20 in a 2 player game), and players will have approximately the same amount in hand.

Church cards

There's one special case that I haven't mentioned yet: if a player takes a Church card into his hand during his turn (or from the Public space on an opponent's turn), he must immediately discard that card, and (optionally) execute the effects of that Church card by increasing or decreasing dice in one or two categories, as dictated by the card. Getting a Church card lets you monkey around with the points, but it comes at the cost of not getting a regular card.


Activating a Church card to reduce the value of the Red (Forbidden Tomes) category

Phase 2: Auction Phase

Bidding

Easy so far isn't it? During the Auction phase, players in turns take the Auction pile and auction off the top card. Bidding starts with the player on the auctioneer's left, and continues until all players have passed (the card is discarded if everyone passes). Payment and amounts bid depends on the card being auctioned:
Bidding for Category cards and Church cards: Players must bid how much Gold they're willing to pay to get the card being auctioned. Payment is made by discarding the required Gold cards face-up (to ensure honesty), and no change is given if you pay in excess of the price you bid. Just as during the Gift phase, if you successfully purchase a Church card in the auction, you immediately execute its effect and adjust the dice for one or two categories accordingly.
Bidding for Gold cards: Players must bid how many cards they're willing to give up to get the Gold card being auctioned. Payment is made by discarding the required cards face-down, so other players don't know what cards you're giving up to get the Gold!


Deciding what to bid for the Brown (Monk) 4

Bluffing

As confirmed by the designer, bluffing is part of the game, so you may bid more than what you have. But if you're caught out as the successful bidder and can't pay, you must give each other player a random card, and can't participate as the card is re-auctioned. This extremely stiff penalty makes bluffing very risky, but that won't stop the brave and the foolish! One change in the Biblios rules is the addition of a `medieval bluff' variant which reduces this penalty significantly (just a single random card is discarded, rather than all other players gaining a card) in order to increase the amount of bluffing. This variant the result of the designer changing his mind and wanting to encourage more bluffing than what would occur in the original game (see his post here). Most people seem to prefer to play with the original rules that have the more severe penalty. For further discussion see this thread: Cheat or sneak: Is bluffing by bidding more than you can pay intended to be part of the game?

Scoring

So you've auctioned off all the cards in the Auction pile (normally around 20), and it's time to score! For each category, players see who has the highest total of points in that category (ties are resolved in favour of the player with a card marked with the alphabet letter closest to `A') - the player with the highest total of points in a category gets that die, which equates to Victory Points. This is done for all five categories, and the player with the highest cumulative total of dice is the winner! In the event of a draw, having the most Gold in hand is a tie-breaker.


Final scoring in a two player game

In the example above, both players were tied with just 5 points each in the Monk (brown) category, and the winner of the die for this category (a single Victory Point) was determined by the alphabetic tie-breaker - which went to Player 2. As it turned out, this single Victory Point was the one that decided the game, since final scores were 6 to 7!

CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

I really, really like Biblios. We've probably played it about 20 times in about a week - on one occasion more than half a dozen times in one day. Did I mention yet that I really like this game? Here are some reasons why Biblios is a great game, and what I love about it:

The drafting. I love games that have a drafting mechanism, e.g. games like Fairy Tale, Olympia 2000, and even German Whist. The drafting part of this game works terrific, and also enables you to see where some of the cards are going, so that you can get some idea of what categories other players might be going for. A great mechanic, and very well implemented here!

The press-your-luck. An interesting part of the drafting mechanism in this game is that you only draw one card at a time, and must decide where it goes. This creates a fun sense of press-your-luck. If the second last card you draw is mediocre, do you take it for yourself, or do you let your opponent have it and hope that the next one will be better? This really injects a strong sense of delightful tension, fun, and frustration!

The auction. I love auctions in games. In Biblios the auction is not overly serious - it's a 15-20 minute filler after all - and furthermore it's not a pure auction game because it only takes place in the second half of the game. But including auctions results in a pleasant sense of interaction and competition between players, yet without the auction itself being the driving mechanic of the game.

The hidden information. There's a great deal of hidden information that's important in the game: in the first phase what cards your opponents are choosing for themselves or putting on the auction pile, and in the second phase what cards your opponents are discarding to pay for Gold cards. Plus there's the cards that are randomly removed at start of game, which nobody knows - meaning that the exact amount needed to get a majority isn't precisely known either! So what information do you have to work with to determine your opponents' choices? In two player game, after the Gift phase you've seen 2/3 of the cards - you know which ones your opponent took from the Public space, and which ones he's given you, but you don't know which ones he took on his turn or placed on the Auction pile. Giving him a Church card can cause him to tip his hand about which categories he is or isn't going for, but you do have limited information to work with - and that's where the fun lies! Then you get the interesting Auction phase - now you know which ones your opponent is bidding for - but what you don't know are the cards he's discarding to pay for Gold! Maybe even some from a set that you both know he has majority in, and that he figures you'll give up at? Now the hidden information becomes even more fun!

The "Big Surprise". The single best moment of the game happens when players reveal their cards at the end. Because of the hidden information, and particularly because you don't know what cards other players are discarding to pay for Gold cards in the auction, you can only have a vague sense of what others are going for. Unless you have an outright majority, you can never be completely certain of winning a category. And that makes this decisive moment of the game outstandingly enjoyable: suddenly what was hidden is brought to light, and finally you get to see what cards opponents have been collecting - and who gets the points. This final revelation is exciting, tense and almost always a highlight of the game - especially if one of the categories needs to be determined by an alphabetic tie-breaker, or by a very low amount of points! Games are frequently contested closely, and decided by razor thin margins of victory!

The right balance of luck and strategy. There's obviously some luck of the draw, but there's also room for strategic decisions. Much of this revolves around the Knizia-esque use of numbers - although fortunately there's math without it ever being arithmetically heavy. To play well, you'll want to have a sense of how the different card values are distributed in each of the two types of categories, so that you have an idea of the relative merits of each cards, as well as what you need to establish a lead in these categories (see my strategy article "A mathematical analysis of Worker cards vs Resource cards"). Along with this you'll have to take into account the probabilities that result from a random selection of cards being removed at the start of the game (see my strategy article "More mathematical analysis: Hand Size and Sleeper Cards"), as well as the cards you see other players getting. It's not rocket science, or intense calculation, and I'm probably making it sound much more complex than it really is! Yet there's enough to think about to create a sense of making meaningful decisions, and to offer more substance than your average filler - including games like For Sale. So there's room for strategy and deduction, but the luck of the draw and the bluffing create enough uncertainty so that a light mood prevails - altogether the mix is just right given the relative brevity of game-play.

The tense decisions. Biblios doesn't have heavy decisions like a deep strategy card game, but it does have fun ones. You'll find yourself asking questions like these: What are my opponents collecting? To answer this, you'll have to rely on clues based on the cards they take or give, or perhaps you can give them a Church card to see which category they increase or decrease. And in the first phase do you go for money to use in the auctions, or focus more on category cards? When you think you have a majority in a category, and your opponent knows it too, should you take a risk and use these cards in the auction to get more Gold, on the assumption that your opponent will give up that on that category and empty his hand of it to get Gold? And should you take a Church card - at the cost of not getting another card in hand - this lets you influence a category value, but is it worth having one card less in hand to do this, and can you be certain about the categories whose values you're changing? These are fun kinds of questions to think about when playing - and only with the final revelation of `the Big Surprise' will you discover if you've made the right decisions!

The absence of down time. You're constantly involved in the game, even when it's not your turn - either you're getting cards in the draft and watching what others are giving and getting; or you're in the auction phase. There's no time to get bored!

The quick game time. For a filler, it's an ideal length: a game of Biblios literally takes only 15-20 minutes. What it packs into that time period is incredible! We usually end up playing back-to-back games, at least two or three in a row. After playing once, you usually want to play again! - which is somewhat rare for a filler. Here it's an indication that considerable substance has been packed into a small box and into a short time.

The scalability. Biblios plays equally well regardless of the number of players, although it does have a slightly different feel when played with 2, 3 or 4. For example, with four players there's more players competing for a smaller auction pile (16 instead of 20), which means it's less important to get money in the first phase of the game - although on the flip-side winning a single card in an auction could make or break you, because competition for the four categories is also more intense. In a two player game you know half of the cards your opponent has after the Gift Phase, you'll compete for more categories, and the auction is a more important part of the game - the amount of hidden information is also different. Either way, it feels just right, and proves to be thoroughly enjoyable as a two player game, or when playing with three or four.

So with all the good, is there anything I didn't like about the game? The theme is thin, but that's a non-issue for me. My only beef is with the card quality - as mentioned already, the cards look and feel good, but in this case looks are deceiving, because in practice they're difficult to shuffle and get damaged quickly. It's nothing that pile shuffling can't avoid and a permanent marker or card sleeves can't fix, but the publisher should have done better. Fortunately it's not a game-killer, and the attractive artwork and terrific gameplay more than makes up for it. Biblios really does bring together familiar mechanisms like set collection, drafting, and auctions into a tight and attractive package that is easy, quick, and fun to play.


Building up a hand early in the game

What do others think?

The criticism

There are critics of Biblios, and to some extent I can even understand some of the criticisms, even though they're largely non-issues for me personally. The theme is pasted on - no surprise there. There's turn angst, but (say the critics) it's because there's too much randomness and not enough direct control - no surprise there either, it's a quick-playing filler after all. Others were expecting more meat, and felt let-down by it being a filler. In short, it seems to me that many of the negative comments are a result of having too high expectations, created in part perhaps by some of the hype generated by the very positive reception to the Scripts and Scribes edition sold by the designer. As such, a fair evaluation of the criticisms only confirms that Biblios is not inherently a bad or flawed game - they only prove that filler games aren't for everyone. It is important to come into the game without expecting too much. Biblios is not the Next Big Thing, nor does it pretend to be. But it is a For Sale type filler, and when measured by that standard, it performs outstandingly well!

So despite all the superlatives that accompany Biblios, you would be well-advised to keep your expectations low - otherwise there's a real risk that the game has too much to live up to, no matter how good it is. To be honest, I was initially a bit underwhelmed by it on my first play - perhaps because of overly high expectations. Fortunately the more I played Biblios, the better it became, and my enthusiasm has only continued to gather steam, to the point that right now I'd much rather play several games of Biblios on the trot than an extended session of the evergreen For Sale! But don't let comments like that make you expect too much. Biblios has generated a lot of positive press on BGG - and with good reason - but the hype also has the potential to damage the game. I can see people ordering it with high expectations, playing it for the first time, and asking themselves: "Is this all?" So don't expect something like Glory to Rome or Race for the Galaxy. Do expect something like For Sale or High Society, with slightly more to chew on, and more layers to discover. With expectations targeted correctly, you'll be in for a very pleasant surprise, because what it does offer in the time of a regular filler game is a lot of fun and tension.

The praise

So assuming we're evaluating the game for what it is, what are some reasons we might like it? Here's what some of the fan-club has to say on the subject:
"This is a GREAT card game. It is simple and at the same time has some very innovative game mechanics. A pleasant surprise. Highly recommended!!!" - Paul Nomikos
"Fast, simple, extremely difficult choices. This is a great auctioning game, and may end up replacing Modern Art in my collection." - Daniel Cain
"This is so much fun to play! The simplicity of this game is in complete contradiction to the angst players experience. Highly Addictive." - Mark Francis
"Simple to learn, clear rules, painful decisions. Everything a game should be... " - Chris Fenwick
"Fantastic card game made by Dr. Finn. It seems like a game Knizia should have come up with, and that is meant as high praise by me!" - Dean Rekich
"Rock solid card game. Fun drafting phase and then a tense auction to follow. Excellent." - Brett Christensen
"This is the best card game of 2008 ... It's a brilliant auction/bluffing game in a small package, with one of the most singular card-drafting mechanisms I've ever seen. Strongly recommended." - Tommy Nomad
"Perfect filler ... This plays very much like a slightly weightier For Sale with two phases and auctioning cards and so on." - Drew Spencer
"What a great filler! I especially love the 2 player game. After 43 plays, I have updated the rating from 9 to 10. This is simply a brilliant game." - Touko Tahkokallio
"I honestly think this is quite possibly our most turned-to filler/short game. It plays FANTASICALLY with 2, 3 or 4 players." - Guy Riessen
"For Sale on steroids. If you like For Sale you'll probably like Biblios which has more depth AND works great with 2 players." - Patrick Carkin
"This is the ultimate card game in my collection, hands down." - Mika Luoma-aho
"A really fine card game that has uses familiar mechanisms in a really interesting combination. The rules are easy to grasp, game play is fun, and replay value is very high. Great game!" - vandemonium
"This game is a blast. I need to go play it right now." - Ryan McSwain
"One of my favorite games ... I've stopped buying light fillers b/c this is THE filler choice for me and my group." - Kurt R
"After 10+ plays I upped this to a 10. Quick game, yet packed with decisions and AY and YES moments. No downtime. Quick to set up and clean up." - Pee di Moor
"This is one of the best games I have ever played. Very rarely does a game impress me enough to get multiple plays right out of the box." - stormseeker75



The Gift Phase in progress

Recommendation

So is Biblios a game for you? Biblios gets just about everything just right: mechanics, rules, length, interaction, scalability, luck, strategy, tension, fun factor and surprise factor - it's all very well balanced, and will thus appeal to a broad range of people. It also combines a variety of mechanics in a delightful and satisfying way. Admittedly the theme is pasted on, because really all that matters are the numbers and suits, so it could be set collection for anything. In that respect Biblios reminds me a great deal of the best of master designer Reiner Knizia - cards with numbers, pasted on theme, but rich and rewarding game-play that makes me come back again and again. In fact, few would have questioned it had Knizia's name been on the box, because it's that sort of game, and right up there with some of his best fillers and auction games. I can't think of a better compliment! Outstanding for its class, and very highly recommended!



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mateenyweeny
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A+ Review.
Thanks. Really looking forward to trying this out.
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Brian Gee
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Excellent review as usual Ender.

You've described the box and dice etc in such a nice way that I'm almost wondering if it is worth picking up Biblios as a new storage method for my copy of Scripts and Scribes. Are the cards the same size? I definitely like the original card art better, but I'm not sure how well it will match the rest of the components. I don't have my copy handy at the moment, does the new edition use different symbols or colour schemes than the original? Or would the original cards work well with the new dice and board?

Edit: I've checked the gallery and realized that they have indeed totally changed the colour scheme
Oh well, the original colour scheme was more colourblind friendly anyway, I will just stick with that one, although the new box is tempting...
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Brett Christensen
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thumbsup Nice work!
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David Smidt
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This is how game reviews should be done.
You are a master, Ender! Thanks for all the hard work!
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Great review. I'll be hanging onto my original S&S, but happily pimp this to any and all comers. As for card distribution, my mantra is 'you can't go wrong w/ the auction pile', e.g. if you are undecided, put it in the auction pile for later-you'll get another crack at it, and if it's any good, make the others pay for it versus giving it away.

Edit: Oh, and since the original S&S came w/ generic dice (black w/ uni-colored pips), getting the dice to match the workers/resources categories is an easy enough pimped-upgrade
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Jeremy
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Excellent review, Ender. Well done!

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Sheamus Parkes
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Great review! Good game.


Disappointed the cards have info in the upper right now though. I liked the old format that allowed you to just fan them and see everything.

Silly publisher.
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Craig Duncan
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Amazing pictorial review, as always, Ender!

I agree that the best similar game to Biblios is For Sale.

One hugely important difference though is that (as Ender points out) Biblios plays 2-4 players. By contrast, For Sale is for 3-6 players.

This means that for smaller groups Biblios is better -- and that is important to me, since I tend to play games with smaller groups.

Also, in virtue of playing two players so well (a two player auction game!), Biblios has the potential to become a classic "significant-other" game, akin to Lost Cities and Jaipur. The fact that it can expand to 3 and 4 players as well is a huge bonus!

My kids (ages 8 and 11) have really been enjoying Biblios too. It's scalability from 2-4 players makes it ideal for families.

As for enjoyment, while I enjoy For Sale, I much prefer Biblios.

For me, For Sale is all about the numbers: the value of the properties and checks, the spread of the values of the properties and checks on the table, and the value of the coins in my possession. Sometimes that gives For Sale a dry and repetitive feel to me.

By contrast, although numbers of course are key too in Biblios, there is more going on. Which suits should I specialize in? What suits do I suspect my opponents are collecting? Should I keep this card I drew or not? How close to "A", letter-wise, are the cards I have (in case of a tie)? Should I bluff in the auction? Can I afford to exchange this card in my hand for gold in the auction? And so on. Just a lot more varied types of considerations to track and weight.
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cdunc123 wrote:
Amazing pictorial review, as always, Ender!

I agree that the best similar game to Biblios is For Sale.

One hugely important difference though is that (as Ender points out) Biblios plays 2-4 players. By contrast, For Sale is for 3-6 players.

This means that for smaller groups Biblios is better -- and that is important to me, since I tend to play games with smaller groups.

Also, in virtue of playing two players so well (a two player auction game!), Biblios has the potential to become a classic "significant-other" game, akin to Lost Cities and Jaipur. The fact that it can expand to 3 and 4 players as well is a huge bonus!

My kids (ages 8 and 11) have really been enjoying Biblios too. It's scalability from 2-4 players makes it ideal for families.

As for enjoyment, while I enjoy For Sale, I much prefer Biblios.

For me, For Sale is all about the numbers: the value of the properties and checks, the spread of the values of the properties and checks on the table, and the value of the coins in my possession. Sometimes that gives For Sale a dry and repetitive feel to me.

By contrast, although numbers of course are key too in Biblios, there is more going on. Which suits should I specialize in? What suits do I suspect my opponents are collecting? Should I keep this card I drew or not? How close to "A", letter-wise, are the cards I have (in case of a tie)? Should I bluff in the auction? Can I afford to exchange this card in my hand for gold in the auction? And so on. Just a lot more varied types of considerations to track and weight.



I was the one Ender quoted in his review that Biblios was For Sale on steroids. I agree with Ender's review and everything you've added. Biblios is both a great filler for small groups and an addition to the canon of great two player/partner/spouse games. I would even go as far to say it's an essential part of anyone's collection. I feel this way about very few games, even the ones I love.
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Steve Duff
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Isamoor wrote:
Disappointed the cards have info in the upper right now though. I liked the old format that allowed you to just fan them and see everything.


It's not new information, it's just duplicate info of what card type it is. Helpful for colour blindness, etc.
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Touko Tahkokallio
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Great review Ender of a game that is perhaps my favorite filler!

Although there is quite a lot of luck in Biblios, there is some real depth too. I believe Biblios would sit somewhere on the upper right corner of the Matthew Gray's plot . For example, I would say that there is a lot more depth in Biblios than in For Sale (which is a very nice game too).

Probably the most interesting thing in the game for me is that there are lot of small subleties in the game, that you learn to apprecitiate after multiple plays. Especially a nice touch is that the value of the cards are steadily changing during the game. For example, where as the Church (modifier) cards are highly valuable at the end of the game, they are the worst cards on the first drafting rounds. In between, you have this smooth increase. So during the game, you constantly have to re-evaluate the value of the cards.
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Sheamus Parkes
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UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
Isamoor wrote:
Disappointed the cards have info in the upper right now though. I liked the old format that allowed you to just fan them and see everything.


It's not new information, it's just duplicate info of what card type it is. Helpful for colour blindness, etc.


I don't think the # of dice is on both sides. However, I also recall that card won't be in your hand...
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downstream wrote:
You've described the box and dice etc in such a nice way that I'm almost wondering if it is worth picking up Biblios as a new storage method for my copy of Scripts and Scribes. Are the cards the same size? I definitely like the original card art better, but I'm not sure how well it will match the rest of the components. I don't have my copy handy at the moment, does the new edition use different symbols or colour schemes than the original? Or would the original cards work well with the new dice and board?

I don't have the original Scripts & Scribes edition, so I'm afraid that I can't comment on how the card size compares.

As for whether the original cards will match the other new components - I can only go by some of the images I'm seeing on BGG, but certainly the icons are completely different in the new edition, as seen here:


Biblios edition: category icons

Furthermore the red/black categories (with cards valued 2/3/4) of the original are now brown/blue, while the green/brown/blue categories (with cards valued 1/2) of the original are now green/orange/red - the names of these have also undergone some changes. If you really wanted to do what you suggest, I suppose it would be possible if you found a way to agree on which of the old categories corresponded to the new ones - following the order in which they appear in the old reference card might be one way to do it. As long as you can remember which die corresponds to which category, there's no reason this shouldn't work.


Scripts & Scribes edition: categories & cards

To be honest though, your best bet is probably just to play with the new cards. Could it be that a big part of the attraction to the original artwork is a combination of nostalgia, along with an emotional connection that's more a result of appreciation for the game-play than for the aesthetics (although the mind can have a hard time distinguishing the two)? I know that I had something similar when the homegrown Triumvirate was produced in a new edition. The original version had mediocre graphics that consisted of pixelated and cheesy drawings - but I'd grown to love them, not so much because they were attractive, but because I loved the game-play. I eventually got over it, and now love the new edition even more!
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Robert C Branch
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Excellent review! I really enjoyed this one when I played it this weekend. Can't wait to get a copy of my own and play it some more
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cdunc123 wrote:
I agree that the best similar game to Biblios is For Sale ... As for enjoyment, while I enjoy For Sale, I much prefer Biblios.
travvller wrote:
I was the one Ender quoted in his review that Biblios was For Sale on steroids. Biblios is both a great filler for small groups and an addition to the canon of great two player/partner/spouse games. I would even go as far to say it's an essential part of anyone's collection.
Touko wrote:
Although there is quite a lot of luck in Biblios, there is some real depth too. I believe Biblios would sit somewhere on the upper right corner of the Matthew Gray's plot . For example, I would say that there is a lot more depth in Biblios than in For Sale (which is a very nice game too).

Thanks for the great feedback and additional comments - it's good to hear from others who have played Biblios and share my perspective on and enthusiasm for the game. The favourable comparisons with For Sale are worth repeating, and I agree with the remarks suggesting that Biblios is a deeper and more rewarding game. Thanks for bringing forward these excellent points and more.
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Keith Creighton
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The amount of work this must have taken to put this together is incredible. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!
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Guy Riessen
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Let me just add, we've owned the game for several years now, and it still remains one of our most turned-to, game night closer--since we have our game night every Friday, that's some serious staying power. It sounds like the original cards might hold up better, but the new edition looks great, congrats to Dr. Finn!
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Chris Darden
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I love this game also, but is there really no mention in this review about the smell that eminates from the game itself? It really is notable.
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There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
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cbdarden wrote:
I love this game also, but is there really no mention in this review about the smell that eminates from the game itself? It really is notable.


Thankfully it does go away... eventually...
By far the most powerful-smelling game out-of-the-box out of the 100 games I own...
I wouldn't say it's a disgusting smell, just kind of like a "new paint" smell maybe?
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cbdarden wrote:
I love this game also, but is there really no mention in this review about the smell that eminates from the game itself? It really is notable.

I've seen reports of this from others, but this was effectively a non-issue with my copy of the game. The people I've played with have made no comments about any odour until I asked some of them specifically about it. The response was "I suppose it does have a bit of a peculiar smell" and "They do smell a bit I guess." I didn't notice it at all myself, but I've got a poor sense of smell so that doesn't mean much. So the extent to which this is an issue may vary.

See also the comments and solutions suggested by the designer in relation to this:

The smell of Biblios will go away...
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cbdarden wrote:
I love this game also, but is there really no mention in this review about the smell that eminates from the game itself? It really is notable.

True, true. Chris recently played the game at my house, and I sat out due to smell!
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I'm betting this issue is primarily for those who are already ultra sensitive to strong odors.

I played this game during a 12 hour marathon session with at least 20 people in attendance. Not one commented about the smell unless they got down and really sniffed the box.

I have a strong sense of smell. Not sensitive in the sense of being allergic, but I usually pick up on stuff usually far earlier than others. I smelled it, but it didn't bother me. If you're the type of person who reacts horribly to, say, perfume, then I guess I can see the problem. But for most people, no. And the publisher's claim that the odor dissipates makes sense.
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travvller wrote:
I'm betting this issue is primarily for those who are already ultra sensitive to strong odors.

5 unrelated people were present at the gaming session, and I think all agreed that it stunk to high Hell.

I haven't experienced the Stone Age dice cup. Pandemic would have been my previous record holder.

I'm sure there's variance from copy to copy, depending on how quickly it was opened after manufacturing.
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astroglide wrote:
travvller wrote:
I'm betting this issue is primarily for those who are already ultra sensitive to strong odors.

5 unrelated people were present at the gaming session, and I think all agreed that it stunk to high Hell.

I haven't experienced the Stone Age dice cup. Pandemic would have been my previous record holder.

I'm sure there's variance from copy to copy, depending on how quickly it was opened after manufacturing.


Agreed. We have literally hundreds of games, and the stench of this game makes my wife nauseous. Only one other game has done that (Ascension). Perhaps both games use a different process in their card creation than other publishers? Dunno.

So it's not just folks with a pre-disposed sensitivity in general. I definitely detect the odor, but it doesn't affect me in the same way.

We're letting the cards air out a bit in hopes that they improve so she can play, because this looks tremendously fun and the artwork is the best I've seen since Jambo.

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