Biblios Dice by Dr. Finn’s Games
This game is a representation of medieval abbots seeking to establish the most prestigious scriptorium by reproducing and illustrating valuable manuscripts. Each player takes on the role of one of these abbots and attempts to gain the most victory points by collecting resources, gold, and the bishop’s favor. The game supports two to five players, takes approximately forty-five minutes, and is meant for players of age fourteen and up.
This past Friday night gaming session, two of my friends and I cracked out the game for the first time. I had a brief familiarity with what the game was about and the components that made up the game, but had not read the rules or played before. I’d done an unboxing video of my Kickstarter copy (I backed the game as soon as I had the budget to do so) but aside from that, had no other interaction with it.
The first run through the game was somewhat choppy at the beginning as I read the verbose rules to the other two players but it smoothed out rather quickly after the first roll of the dice. The first game went so well that we played a second time, something we rarely do unless the game is so fast that we can crack a few games in under an hour.
The way each round progresses is pretty balanced. The mule token travels across the market board in a stable way, with some minor variation based on a die roll. There were times we were rooting for a roll of one on the die or enough to get to a market phase (more on that in a moment). Our first time through, we were pretty haphazard and not very strategic. We concentrated on moving our cubes up the resource tracks and getting VPs as quickly as possible. The dice were sufficiently random that we couldn’t count on certain resources to show up each turn. After a few rounds, we started spending VPs for the extra reroll of one or more dice in order to try and get more faces showing our currently favored resource. This ended up becoming a nice strategic point to the game. We could mess up someone else’s position while improving our own. We also found that keeping the bishop dice had a good benefit. The market ended up falling on one player almost exclusively throughout the first game. He had been selected (randomly) as the first player. This was most likely coincidence.
The market phase quickly became an interesting part of the game. How much money were we ready to part with? Was second place all that bad? These questions were quickly sorted out and we found that splitting resource dice of matching faces between the two groupings was the way to go.
I won the first game with some “pretty close” scores, between five and ten points. I claimed first place in a few high value resources which pushed me way over the top.
We all agreed to a second play of the game but were much more cautious and strategic this time around. Even though I have a copy of the Hidden Objective variant cards, we did not use them. They would afford three victory points to the one in first place of the card they have. The cards are dealt randomly before the game and kept secret until final scoring.
This time around, I lost by a wide margin. One of the guys pulled off a forty-two point win with the others in the mid-thirties and my score at twenty-nine. Quite the crushing defeat there even though we had gotten our cubes out of the negatives. We also started taking the adjustment die on purpose rather than default to mess up the scoring for the others. If you score first place, it sucks when the value of the resource is a one. That was the downfall of the lower scores during this run.
Overall, this game is steeped in theme. Even though it’s been abstracted out to dice, you can see the mule making its slow march to market and you know what each of the resources is used for in a scriptorium. It is fast! You can play the game in half an hour to forty-five minutes easily; definitely less than an hour even on the first play. There is a lot of strategy to the game and it feels like a worker placement game (or dice placement). And most of all, the game was very fun! Playing a new game twice in one night and truly enjoying each experience was a treat. And this is one game that we’re going to play more often.
Our group has a method for determining which games get played and who chooses them. I will be setting up Biblios dice as one of my top contenders along with Innovation as a game that I will vote for every time! My only regret is not putting in the extra five dollars for the power die, which would afford even more game diversity.
Disclaimer: I do not know the staff of Dr. Finn’s Games personally and have only spoken with them via Twitter concerning Biblios Dice and the Kickstarter campaign. This is an unsolicited review and all opinions are my own. No favors have been exchanged for this review regardless of whether it was favorable or not.
You can find Dr. Finn’s Games online via Twitter (@DrFinnsGames) or their website (http://www.doctorfinns.com/). The original Kickstarter campaign can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/337407318/biblios-dice