First Impressions of Biblios

“I bid three sovereigns!” declared Abbot Francis, slamming three golden coins onto the unvarnished table with a dull thwack.

“I bid five sovereigns!” countered Abbot Cyril. True to his word, he placed five gold pieces on the table, enjoying the deliberate clink of metal against wood. Abbot Francis admitted defeat. Victorious, Cyril seized the overwhelmed scribe who stood between them and ordered him to the scriptorium.

“For whom are we bidding next?”

A humble illuminator stepped out and stood between the Abbots. As their eyes lustfully assessed his worth, he tried to recall just when the Church had authorised this new hiring-by-auction process. He couldn’t remember. But he had to admit it was more entertaining than most job applications.

Biblios has been around for ten years now, but it’s lost none of its entertainment value. It’s a bright and easy bidding game for up to 4 players. As Abbots, the goal of each player is to build the best scriptorium possible for your monastery – first by dividing resources with the other Abbots, then by using those resources to bid for crucial workers and equipment. It takes about 30 minutes to play and players will pick up the rules very quickly. It’s basically fifteen minutes of card drafting, followed by fifteen minutes of uncomplicated bidding.

It boasts great artwork and an unusual theme: ‘medieval monks on a spending spree’ wouldn’t sell to a lot of people. Actually, who am I kidding? That sounds awesome! I can see the friars in the mall right now, marvelling at milkshakes and meat grills… Ahem. Back to the game!

As fun as it is, I must admit that Biblios is a classic case of good game mechanics being attached to an irrelevant theme. The official game description says the player must either hire the best Scribes or Illuminators, or gather the most Manuscripts, Scrolls or Supplies. But when you play, you just look to collect cards from a colour set you’ve randomly decided to go for, and reap the victory points that come from achieving that set.

Luckily the game spices things up with a clever bit of strategy. Besides the resources listed above, there are Bishop’s Favour cards in the deck too. These allow you to adjust the victory points value of each colour set during the game. This means that you can put one over on your rivals by reducing the victory points they’ll get for the cards they’ve collected and bought – provided you’ve kept an eye on what set they’re collecting. Or you can raise the value of sets, to boost your own chances of winning.

Biblios is a great filler game with more depth to it than first appears. The theme is largely irrelevant to the game, but it allows for some nice artwork to keep you diverted while you compete for those cards! Definitely one I’d happily play again.

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