Biblios Strategy and Analysis
Biblios is a surprisingly strategic game. Although it seems simple, although it feels easy to play, there is a lot behind it that can be analysed to generate an idea of how to play the game better. I wrote a review of Biblios purely so I could have the fun of analysing it (you can catch the review here), and present that analysis back to the wider world, because that’s the kind of selfless guy I am…or something like that.
I feel I should explain now that I have an Excel addiction. I produce spreadsheets for everything, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I also have a spreadsheet for Biblios. I must admit, I thought the results would be different; however, they are both surprising and wholly unsurprising at the same time. It turns out (drum roll please) that Biblios is an incredibly well balanced game.
Which is the Best Resource to Collect For in Biblios?
One thing is striking when first looking at the cards in Biblios, and that is how they differ so widely, yet are ultimately the same. Although there are more higher ranking “Monk” cards, for instance, there are still the same number of Monk cards as there are for Forbidden Tomes or Manuscripts. That being said, values vary massively. From looking at the values it is possible to deduce that the Monks or Dyes seem like the best possible resources to collect. Surely, if they are worth the most points they must be the cards most worth going after?
Well. No, not really. The points values in Biblios are relative. At the end of the day, they only mean who wins the victory points at the end of the game and are thus not the points themselves. Instead, we need to break down what exactly is needed judging by which cards are accessible and which cards come with which points value. This we can display in the graph below.
What this shows is that there are a large number of low scoring cards, which are distributed across several different resources. This is shows clearer in the graph below:
Now we are starting to develop a full picture of the cards available and what they represent. By this it is possible to see that there are 45 resource cards in total. There are 33 sets of coins and 9 church cards. This results in 87 cards.
Back on track, in order to judge which resources are the best we need to break down how many of each resource will get a majority. For this we will assume that the player is able to get the highest value cards for each resource.
This means that, if there are 25 points available in Monks and Dyes, the player needs 13 points worth of cards. If there are 11 points of everything else, the player needs 6 points worth of cards. It is here we see exactly how balanced the game really is, and it is quite impressive.
For Monks/Dyes the player needs: 4+4+3+3 = 14pts
For the Holy Books, Manuscripts, and Tomes the player needs: 2+2+1+1 = 6pts
Yes, no matter what suit, the player always needs four cards minimum to become the majority and secure the win. Now, realistically, with a lot of other players it is possible for it to be done in fewer cards. Theoretically, a player with one 1pt card could win the majority, but four cards would secure it.
How to Guarantee the Best Cards in Biblios?
If the question is not “which are the best cards?” then it must be “how can I make sure I get the best cards?”.
When first setting out, once again, I thought I would need to use maths to work this out; however, it is actually relatively simple. Pass on low value cards, take high value cards straight away. That seems to be the philosophy, as the more you pass on high value cards the higher the opportunity for your opponents to get that niggling majority.
What this looks like, in practice, is something a bit strange. It means quite literally, pass on everything but high number cards. It means only take the final card in your hand. The more players, the less valuable it is to tactically auction something in the hope it will come up again later.
Controlling Your Opponent’s Hand
There is another part to this strategy which is, in a two player game, to keep passing low cards onto opponents. If you make sure they are all of one suit, or resource, then you can control their hand throughout the game.
For instance, if you keep handing your opponent Forbidden Tomes worth 1pt, then yes, they may well get 6 points, but at least you know they are collecting Tomes. That will preoccupy their hand, and also give you a focus if you collect any church cards.
Playing Church Cards
Technically, if you want to get pedantic, there is a way to use Church cards that would also make for an interesting strategy. That is to keep them in your hand and only play them towards the end of the game. This removes the risk of playing them early on in the game. This may be against the rules of fair play; however, playing four die increase cards could really sway the game in your favour towards the end of play.
When first starting out with this blog, I thought Biblios would be a highly strategic game. I’ve actually written this post over three days, and I have to admit I have struggled. This is because it is very strategic; however, it is more strategic in regards to playing the players. The game is not overly mathematically strategic like the likes of Splendor, and that threw this blog in a whole other direction.
Anyway, as per usual I would appreciate any comments you may have in the comments below.
I know you wrote this three years ago, but in case you keep up on this blog I thought I’d comment. Great strategy guide overall, and great visuals. The only thing I would to point out is that you cannot hold on to the Bishop cards. Unless the rules changed in the 3 years you wrote this, you must play them as soon as they’re acquired, which changes things up a bit.
The obvious consequences of playing them early is that it directs the rest of the game / which resources are important. It could serve you well to actually decrease your own resource value such that you secure the extra 1 or 2 points and deter others from going for it. Playing them later serves to screw opponents or boost yourself once the resources have been mostly distributed. This makes for high bidding wars, so holding onto gold becomes more useful to win those.