Ever since you first committed your life to the monastery, you knew your true calling was to the written word. And so, now that you're the abbot in charge of your enclave, you'll do everything you can to build your monastery's library. But it's not easy — there are pigments you need, monks to recruit, ancient scrolls, and forbidden tomes. And rival monasteries across the continent are also saving their gold for these precious resources. Do you have the smarts and tools you need to build up your collection? This is the question central to the modern classic Biblios, by IELLO Games.
In Biblios, two to four players take on the role of abbots of their own respective monasteries, with the goal of gathering the most incredible collection of sacred texts in the world. To do so, players will collect cards in five different colors, representing Pigments, Monks, Holy Books, Manuscripts, and Forbidden Tomes. At the end of the game, the player with the highest point total in each color scores victory points for that color, and the player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins.
Biblios unfolds in two quick rounds, the "Gift" phase, and the "Auction" phase. In the Gifting phase, players draw cards from the central deck, give themselves one card, put one card in the auction pile, and offer up the rest to the rest of the table. In the Auction phase, players bid (using "gold" cards they've selected in the previous phase) on the small pile of cards set aside for this phase. In the end, players reveal their collections, and the scores are tallied based on who has the highest score in each color.
Adding another element of strategy and intrigue to the game are the five colored dice at the top of the play area. These dice, which each start on the number three, represent the total value of each color the players are trying to collect. And with the use of special cards in the deck, those numbers can be adjusted up or down. In other words, if you're going all-in on brown "Monk" cards, you could play special cards as you come across them to bump the end value of brown. And conversely, if your opponents notice you making a play for brown cards, they can play cards to lower the end value of brown. It creates a tense push-and-pull, and an exciting economy of action that, with final scores usually ending in the single digits, could make all the difference in victory or defeat.
There's not a wasted moment in this game. I think that's one of the highest compliments you could pay to a game, especially one which takes up so little space on the shelf. This small game, designed by Steve Finn, actively asks each player to be immediately engaged in the game, and it's an experience where you really need to read the rest of the table every moment. If you're really trying to build out your collection of green cards, and you see someone across the table doing the same, you need to think very carefully if its in your best interest to continue down that path, or choose another.
With a very simple design and minimal components, the table presence of Biblios isn't the most awe-inspiring. But the game that unfolds with just a simple deck of cards and five colored dice is one of the most engaging, strategic, light-weight games I've ever played. Designed and released in 2007, it still has an incredibly fresh feeling.
Get This Game If...
- You're a fan of games like Dominion or Splendor, but you're looking for a bit more player interaction
- You like card drafting and/or auction mechanics
- You've always wanted to live a life of solitude, carefully poring over your collection of books
Avoid This Game If...
- You're looking for a longer play experience
- You want a flashier theme
The copy of Biblios used in this review was purchased by the author.