Biblios is an intriguing, partial-information card game that has basically nothing to do with religion.
How to Play
The goal of the game is to score the most points by collecting a plurality in at least one category.
Types of Cards
The game consists of Category cards, Gold cards, and Church cards.
Collecting Category cards is how you score points to win the game. The 5 categories are Pigments (blue), Monks (brown), Holy Books (green), Manuscripts (orange), and Forbidden Tomes (red).
The Pigments and Monks categories consist of four 2-value cards, three 3-value cards, and two 4-value cards. So, there is a combined total value of 25 for each of these categories. If you collect at least 13 value in either category, you are guaranteed to win that category.
The Holy Books, Manuscripts, and Forbidden Tomes categories have seven 1-value cards and two 2-value cards. So there is a combined total value of 11 for each of these categories. If you collect at least 6 value in any of these categories, you are guaranteed to win that category.
If, at the end of the game, there is a tie for the amount of value in a category, the player with the letter closest to A (in the bottom right hand corner) wins the tie.
Gold cards have a value of either 1, 2, or 3. These cards are used in the auction phase to bid for cards.
Church cards can raise or lower the point value for winning specific categories. For example, say you get the +1 Church card and you have collected 12 value in Pigments. You can choose to increase the Pigments die by 1. At the end of the game, if you have the most Pigments value, you take the blue die with the increased point total.
Immediately when you gain a church card you resolve it. So, if you get the -1 for 2 dice, you must immediately discard the Church card and decrease 2 dice by 1.
At the start of the game, place the Scriptorium board in the center of the table with each die starting on 3. Then, based on the number of players in the game, remove a number of cards from the deck. Do not look at the removed cards.
For a 4 player game, remove 7 cards randomly.
For a 3 player game, remove 1 of each type of Gold card and then remove 12 additional random cards.
For a 2 player game, remove 2 of each type of Gold card and then remove 21 additional random cards.
Due to the removing of cards, you never know exactly which cards will be in the game. For instance, it is possible that both 4-value Pigments cards will be removed so there would only be a combined value of 14 available.
The game is divided into 2 phases: the gift phase and the auction phase.
In the gift phase, each player takes turns drawing cards and distributing them between themselves, everyone else, and a separate pile to be used in the auction phase. Each card is drawn individually and placed in a pile before drawing the next card. You draw a number of cards equal to the number of players plus one.
For example, in a 4 player game, each player draws a total of 5 cards on their turn. The current player takes 1 of those cards, places 3 of those cards into a communal pile, and places 1 in the auction pile.
- I draw a 1-value Gold card as my first card. I don’t want to keep it, and I don’t want to put it up for auction later. So, I put it in the communal pile.
- Then, I draw a 4(H) Pigments Category card. I decide to keep it for myself. Now I can’t take another card for myself this turn.
- For my 3rd draw, I get a 3 Gold card. Since I can’t take it, I decide to put it in the communal pile. There is now 1 spot remaining in the communal pile and 1 spot remaining in the auction pile.
- For my 4th draw, I draw a Church card that can raise 2 dice by 1 each. I want to potentially get this card later, so I put it into the auction pile.
- My final draw for the turn is a Manuscripts 1(B) Category card. I must put it into the communal pile.
- Once all of the cards have been assigned, the remaining players each take one of the cards from the communal pile. This is done in clockwise order.
- After every card from the communal pile is claimed, the next player takes their turn.
This repeats until the original deck of cards is depleted. At this point, the game moves into the auction phase.
Once the gift phase is completed, shuffle the created auction deck. Beginning with the starting player, each player takes turns putting a card up for auction. Bidding starts with the player to the left of the current player. To win a bid, you need to have a corresponding amount of gold to cover the cost.
For example, it is my turn to auction a card, and I reveal the Church card that can raise 2 dice by 1. The player to my left (Becky) bids 1 gold. The next player (Carl) bids 2 gold. The final player before me (Diane) passes. I want the card and only have 2 2-value Gold cards, so I bid 4 gold. Becky passes. Carl bids 5 gold. I pass. Carl only has 2 3-value Gold cards, so he must use both of them. He does not receive a refund even though he overpaid by 1.
There is a rule for penalizing a player if they bid more than they have and win the auction. Each other player takes a random card from that player, and then the card is re-auctioned. The penalized player may not participate in that re-auction. This rule does allow people to bluff, especially if they have no Gold cards left. If you are playing with incredibly competitive people who all know what they are doing, then you can use this rule. Otherwise, I would just recommend re-auctioning the card if someone accidentally makes that mistake. Even in this scenario, everyone now knows approximately how much gold that player has to spend, which I see as a penalty.
When a gold card comes up for auction, players bid a number of cards in their hand instead of bidding gold. So, the first person might bid 1 card. The second person might bid 2 cards, etc. If you win the bid, you must discard face-down a number of cards equal to your bid. These could be Gold cards or Category cards. (Church cards will never be in your hand.)
Once the auction pile is depleted, the game is over.
At the end of the game, each person reveals the total value they have collected for each category. I recommend revealing 1 category at a time for suspense. Whoever has the highest value in that category wins the corresponding die and gains that many points. In case of a tie, the player with the card closest to A wins the die and the points.
Whoever has the most points at the end is the winner. In the case of a tie, the player with the most gold remaining wins. If still tied, the winner is the tied player with the highest value in the Monks category (the leftmost category on the Scriptorium). If still tied, the player with the card closest to A in the Monks category wins. If still tied, because none of the players had Monks cards, repeat this process with the next category on the Scriptorium (Pigments). Continue this process until there is a winner.
At first when I played this game I wasn’t a huge fan. I liked the concept, but it seemed too easy so I didn’t play much more of it. Recently, however, I played some 2 player games, and they were quite interesting. I also lost which really gets me thinking about a game.
In a 2 player game, you see 66% of the cards during the gift phase. In a 4 player game you see 70% of the cards. This is why I call it a partial-information card game, since you don’t have complete knowledge about all of the cards in play, but you do know most of them. Due to this, you can guess what categories the other players are collecting. With this information, you can determine how strongly you want to pursue each category. For example, if you never see anyone take any Pigments and you already have a 4-value and a 3-value, you know there is a pretty good chance you could win that category.
The second aspect of the game that gives you information is the Church cards. If someone boosts a certain category, you know that they almost certainly have a lot of value in that category. So, if you have little to no value in that category, you can just ignore that category going forward. You can also target that category with negative Church cards. In a two-player game this is very interesting because you can feed those Church cards to your opponent to figure out what they are chasing. The actual value changes haven’t been that relevant in my 2 player games because the winner has always been the player to win 3 of the 5 dice regardless.
The gift phase is also interesting because of the whole ‘push your luck’ element. Do you take that early 3-value Pigment card, or do you hold out for something even better. If you take something pretty good early, you know you got something solid. But, when you see a better card come up in a later draw that turn, you have to let it go. In addition, deciding what to put in the auction is just as interesting. Frequently, you just put in a strong card you couldn’t take because you already took a card. Sometimes, though, you get something early like a Church card you want to throw into the auction. Each individual choice on your turn is fairly limited, but the implications and thought behind those choices can be quite interesting.
Overall, I think this is an excellently designed/developed game. I can put a lot of thought into my play, and I really enjoy that aspect. More importantly though, I can still lose the game even when I put the most thought into it. Even in the games I lose, I enjoy the journey and don’t mind the loss. Due to this, I group it with other games like Dominion, Camel Up, and Ninjato.