Most of the tabletop games with the roll-and-write mechanisms can be considered as multiplayer solitaire. Players are just playing on their own, with almost no player interaction and just compare scores at the end.
Sometimes, of course, some designers will try to make something different. Such is the case for this next one, Biblios: Quill and Parchment. This is actually a reimplementation from a card game with the same title by the same designer.
The card game is known for the auction that drives that player interaction. Auction itself is not a common thing in roll-and-write games, at least from what I know.
So, what is this Biblios: Quill and Parchment game? How do we play the game? Is there a solo mode for this game?
Those are probably just a few questions that came to mind after hearing about the game. Well, in this article, I’m going to share with you my Biblios: Quill and Parchment Review based on my experience on playing the game and what I can find from the internet.
Hope this helps. Is Biblios: Quill and Parchment going to be the best roll and write game out there?
Click or tab on any sections from the table of contents to jump right to that part. Use the red arrow button on the bottom right corner of the screen to head back to the top.
Game’s Title: Biblios: Quill and Parchment
Genre: Roll and Write, Competitive, Official Solo Variant, Auction
Designer: Steve Finn
Artist: Akha Hulzebos
Publisher: Dr. Finn’s Games
Number of Players: 1 – 4
Playtime: 40 minutes
Official Website: Biblios: Quill and Parchment (doctorfinns.com)
Release Year: 2021
4 Task Cards
1 Monastery Card
12 Book Dice
8 Influence Dice
4 Travel Dice
1 Embellishment Die
5 Value Dice
Chapel Cards (2021)
About Biblios: Quill and Parchment Game
In this game, players are Monastery Scribes. As their daily routine, each day, they have to copy manuscripts, pray and do some chores in order to gain the Abbot’s trust. Whoever has the most piety points wins the game.
They can get piety points from a lot of things like collecting certain type of manuscripts, visiting cities, pray in chapel for a number of days consecutively. There are 5 types of manuscripts: Religion, Philosophy, Astronomy, Bestiaries and Herbals.
Not only players will have to compete to have the most of each type, but they also need to influence the abbot about the value of that type. Religion is considered as the highest value while Bestiaries and Herbals are the lowest. But over the course of the game, this can change.
Biblios: Quill and Parchment is the roll and write version of Biblios, a very popular card game from 2007 by the same designer. In the card game version, the game has 2 stages: Donation and Auction.
During the first stage, players will try to distribute free cards. One for themselves, one for the auction and the other for each opponent. They will try to collect and win the majority of each 5 different types of cards.
Then later in the second stage, players will create a pile of cards for Auction that they chose to put in in the previous stage. They can try to win that by spending Gold cards to help them complete the set or change the value of each card type.
The value of each card type is determined by the pip value of a die. Player who wins the majority of that type takes that die. Whoever has the highest total value of dice wins the game.
In the tabletop game industry, there is a trend to create a roll and write version of a board game or card game. That version seems to be very easy to make and do a play test. We just need a sheet for each player, a writing utensil and maybe a couple of d6s.
For Biblios, the designer actually has tried and came up with Biblios Dice back in 2015 which was not that well received. Then in 2021, they introduced Biblios: Quill and Parchment as the definitive roll and write version.
Obviously, the designer tried to retain the experience of the card game to this new version. This roll and write version also has 2 stages with 4 rounds each. The first stage is for collecting and there is an auction for the second stage.
Since the game uses a lot of dice rolling, it increases the randomness. To mitigate that, the designer added a couple features to the game which increased the complexity.
Like a lot of roll and write games, players will get use their own sheet and set of dice. The first stage is almost multiplayer solitaire, except with the Chapel part to break the tie later. While in the second stage players will try to win the set of dice in auction from communal pool.
They can spend the resources they have collected during the first stage. So, there is a lot more interaction in that second part.
In this roll and write game, players will still try to win the majority of 5 different types of book. But that is not the only way to gain points. Each feature added to this version can also generate some points.
Unlike the card game, where the number of card and the variety of card type is limited, the dice can keep generating the same type. So, winning the majority in this one is about increasing the position on the track of each type.
This next video by Board Game Gumbo channel is an interview with Steve Finn, the designer, talking about this game.
Biblios: Quill and Parchment comes in a rather small size box compared to other board game. The size of the box is 14.6 x 21.5 x 4.6 cm, which is way bigger than the card game version.
While box of both versions look like a book or a bible, the roll and write version is like regular game box with a separate lid from the base. The front cover looks nice which resembles a wall of a church. Maybe the artist was trying to depict a stained-glass window that has an illustration of 5 different types of books that we are collecting in the game.
Because they were trying to make the cover like a book, they can only use one side to put information. The rest just resembles the paper part of a book. Even that one side can only contain the title of the game and the publisher.
On the back side if the box, we can see an illustration about the components in play and some text. I think they could have used that space to highlight the two stages of the game instead of just pointing out what we will do with each feature.
Inside the box, we will find a rulebook, several sheets for dry erase marker, a plastic bag for 4 markers and a huge back of dice. This huge bag of dice contains three smaller bags for a total of 30 dice.
At the bottom there is an insert made of carton paper with the middle well. The bags can stay in that middle well while the sheets and rulebook stay on top of the 2 ends of the insert.
From what I understand there is one pack of 10 cards as an expansion for this game if we purchase the Kickstarter version. I think it can still fit in that well above the bag of markers. If somehow, they are planning to add more content for this game, maybe we eventually have to remove the insert.
This next video is the unboxing video by Marathon Meeple channel for this game.
Based on the entry on BGG, there is only one version of this game, the English version. We can find the digital version of English rulebook on the forum, here. Unfortunately, the publisher’s website doesn’t offer any link for this.
The size of the rulebook is 13.4 x 20.5 cm with 20 pages. Here is the table of contents of the rulebook.
Title and Introduction (Page 1). This just takes the top part of the cover page. The introduction is just a brief about the setting and theme.
Components (Page 1). This part shows all of the components of the game, each with the illustration, the name and the number of components. Only for the Monastery card they mention the 2 different areas without pointing out which.
Object and Overview (Page 2). This is just a brief explanation of what we will be pursuing in the game, which is the piety or victory points. The overview part only explains that there will be 8 rounds or days, divided into 2 different major periods but no explanation of what those 2 would be.
Influence Track (Page 2). This part explains how to read and use the Influence Track from the player’s Task Card. We just need to remember adding the value during the Period I and subtracting during Period II. Square shape is for the value we get or spend, and the hexagon shape is after we add or subtract.
Dice Icons (Page 2). This part shows all of the die faces that we will find in this game. It doesn’t explain further what each of them mean but the important part is the purple one which we will find in the Period II Gameplay.
Setup for Period I (Page 3). This is a step-by-step setup not just for the Period I but for the game. There is also an illustration for how the game will look like after the setup. They also use the illustration to explain some element of the component.
Period I Gameplay (Page 4 – 7). Each round in Period I has 3 parts: rolling and rerolling dice, Perform Task or using the Dice and moving in the Chapel.
For each part, they will explain what we can and will do to resolve that part. There are a lot of examples for each part with illustration and the yellow background.
For the first 2 parts, each player will choose their action simultaneously. So, they need to resolve each part before moving to the next one. For the last part or the Chapel part, there is a player’s turn order, which is the furthest one goes first before the closer one.
There is a subsection about Star icon from Travel Dice and Unusable Dice. Star Icon is Wild Book but we can only use it once per book type. Unusable dice allows us to either move the Novice one space or fill one circle of the Cross.
Setup for Period II (Page 8). The setup for Period II is basically preparing the dice set that we put on the Monastery card. We take the necessary dice indicated by each row, roll them and put each on the corresponding slot.
Period II Gameplay (Page 8 – 9). The gameplay for Period II has 3 parts, the preparing the dice part, spending the Abbot Influence and then Choose and Perform the Task.
One important thing here is that the bidding determines the player’s turn order. The highest bid goes first for choosing and performing the task. This is important for the Book Bonus and moving in Chapel.
Each row will have special action and at the end of this section will explains all 4 of them.
Game End and Scoring Example (Page 10 – 11). This section is about how we count the score to determine the winner and the tie breaker, followed by an example for scoring. The example is if we play using the A-Side with clear illustration.
There are 6 scoring categories from Book Bonus, Novice Travel, Abbot Influence, Cross, from Chapel and Book Stack Multiplier.
From the example, the Chapel will only give one score from the highest position, so up to 10 per player. For the Book Stack Multiplier with 4 players, the score should be rounded down.
For anything that needs a tie breaker, it is always resolved by the position closer to the altar. But for Book Stack Multiplier, whoever gets the highest Book Bonus first is considered as higher on the track.
For the negative value, it’s not multiplied if we fail to reach that level.
2 Player Rules (Page 12 – 13). Essentially, this variant adds, Cadfael, another player as the scaling. Cadfael only collects books and move on the Chapel track. So, this will prevent players for taking the bonus but we don’t count the score for this opponent.
For the second part, Cadfael doesn’t bid but it will still get a set of dice. The bidding between the 2 players will determine which set of dice that will go to Cadfael’s track.
Solo Rules (Page 14 – 16). In this solo variant, we will be competing against Cadfael. Cadfael plays differently from the 2-player rule.
The period II is also different from the regular rule. We only use 2 Book Dice in Period II but it doesn’t clarify whether it is for Cadfael only or the player as well.
In this variant, the highest bonus value is 3, no longer 5 for each track. The Novice only moves in the outer path. Also in Period II, we bid lower than Cadfael, then Cadfael gets a chance to change the value of the Book type.
It is possible to get negative value from the Abbot’s influence track as it was determined by the dice roll.
B-Side Variant (Page 17 – 19). This explains how to use the B-Side of both the Task and Monastery card which can only be used in multiplayer mode. Players cannot mix and match with the A-Side.
The section starts the explanation with how to read the Monastery card, followed by the Player’s task card. This B-Side of Monastery card is almost the same as A-Side with minor differences like instead of “?” bonus, we only get star bonus and the set of dice from the 4 rows.
For the Task Card, the major difference from the A-Side is the Travel Map and some extra rules for it. This one doesn’t have specific path for moving the monks, but it must always be orthogonally. We still cannot cross the previously drawn lines but we can change direction.
In this one, we only get bonus if the monk stops right where the icons are. Also, the movement must be in the exact number of spaces as shown by the die.
Another difference is the Unusable Dice for Travel Dice. If we cannot use it, we are not allowed to resolve Abbot’s Option.
Credits (Page 19). This is just a small paragraph acknowledging the support from Kickstarter Backers that helped the publisher to bring the game into existence.
Summary (Page 20). This summary only talks about the overall structure of the gameplay with 2 parts, Period I and Period II. I know that the page is already full but I wish that they could have included which dice we will use in both parts and many other things.
Aside from the small part of the solo variant, I think the rulebook explains everything we need to know to play Biblios: Quill and Parchment game. It has enough illustrated examples to help us understand it.
However, I think it kind of complicate it a bit, makes the game looks more complex than it should. The biggest issue that I have with the rulebook is that they try to use a lot of unique terms or name for things that don’t really matter.
Pew? Embellishment? Scriptorium? Also, all of the name for each subsection of the two phase like Vigil, Terce, Matins, Lauds, Vespers. English is not my first language, so maybe it means something to people who speak the language, but I doubt it.
The fact that for some of those weird terms, they have to explain it right after using the term means that they realize that it is confusing. For example, when they use the word PEW and then it is followed by (i.e., row) or something like that. It is a waste of space.
For the name of part of each phase, after they mention the name, followed by STEP 1 or so. They don’t even use that name in the summary which shows how irrelevant those names are. That part also took a lot of space.
I understand that the designer probably tried to put more theme and setting to the game, but I’m not sure it helps.
Sometimes even what we do in the game has a specific name instead of using technical term. Like Praying in Chapel which can be just mark the icon in chapel or Perform Task, which is just crossing out books or so.
Maybe it works for some people, but I think it is a terrible idea.
On the other hand, I cannot say that the game is simple. Some part that can feel procedural is there for a reason. By design, the rulebook should explain it that way. Whether it gives a good experience for the game or not is a different discussion.
As a roll and write game where we will be writing something, they include 4 dry-erase markers to support 4 players. We will be writing on laminated card or board. The lid of the marker also has an eraser. So, after the play, we can use that eraser to wipe the board clean for future sessions.
All of the markers are identical, with black ink. The total length is about 11 cm, including the eraser part. For the writing part, at least it fits my hand size.
The diameter is about 1 cm with 1mm for the tip size. In this game, using these markers, we will be writing numbers, drawing lines and crossing or making circle on icons.
There is no point in the game where we will replace what we have written because of the gameplay. If we have to erase something, it’s like a take back, because we made a mistake. So, the intention for the eraser is just for cleaning up.
In my opinion, we can easily replace this with generic whiteboard markers, should we run out of inks from any of these markers. Having a small marker helps but unnecessary. Almost every space where we write on will have a big enough space.
The only problem with the bigger markers for replacement is the insert for storage. The well of the insert might be too short. It’s not a problem if we want to keep the markers outside the box or we might as well just remove the insert.
It also doesn’t have to be black but maybe using markers with darker color is better in this game. Almost all of the part where we will write on has white space.
If somehow we don’t have equal number of markers as the number of players, I think it is possible to take turns using just one marker. It’s not like there is a real time element where the player who write it first will get some advantage.
Book Value Dice
These are the 5 biggest dice in the game, even though it is just slightly bigger than the other only size. They are also the only ones with pips and all 5 of them will have a different color from Blue, Gray, Pink, Green and Red.
All of them are wooden d6 with 1.7cm in size. None of them have rounded corner which is not important for these dice. Beside pips, each face of these dice will have a white border but as just an art.
Similar to the card game, the purpose of these 5 dice is just to track the value. We will not roll these at all. Each die represents the value of different Book or Manuscript type.
Unlike the card game version which all of the dice start with the same value, this roll and write version uses different starting value. Blue starts with 4, 3 for Gray and Pink and 2 for Green and Red.
I heard that using Green and Red can be problematic for people with color blind but the dice will stay in a specific position throughout the game. We may change the face to adjust the value but we will return them immediately to the board. There is an icon next to the space where we will place these dice.
So, the color on the dice itself helps to let us know where to put it back but it could have been the same color for all 5.
Throughout the game, there will be 4 chances to change the value of these dice with up to 2 points per chance. Most of the time each chance will only affect one die but it can go up to 2 dice.
The value of each book, represented by these dice won’t go below 1 or above 6. It is possible for any dice to go either end, but very unlikely.
I don’t know the exact reason why the designer chose a different starting value for the 5 Books like the card game. As it is, it is still a better option to pursue Blue and maybe Gray and Pink. Like I said, we can still bring the value of Blue from 4 to 1. But that assumes the purple die to change the value keeps showing negative sign which is unlikely to happen every turn.
It is also easier for the Blue to go to 6 than the red or green. There is definitely some balancing factor from other aspect of the game like Book Bonus.
The way we calculate points from these dice is we multiply the Pip Value shown by the dice with either a factor of 3, 2, 1 or half. This depends on the position of each player on the same track of Book type.
So, player at the highest position will get 3 x the pip value of dice while the second highest gets 2 and so on. That means if the pip value shows 6, the highest point possible is 18. This works the same for any Book type or color.
It is possible then that the value shown by the die is just 1. For that, player at the highest position will only get 3 points. What that means is maybe players need to pursue and compete on the other color. Maybe the other color has a value of 3 and by being at the 3rd highest position will get us the same 3 points.
This is not as obvious as the card game version where the pip value will become the final points without any multiplying factor. In this one, players need to understand that idea so they can choose to keep winning in one color or switch to a different one.
Otherwise, it is possible that our effort will feel worthless. The easiest way to keep track is to start calculating the points from the second half of the game.
If somehow we need to replace any of these 5 Book Value dice, we can simply use any generic D6.
The second type of dice from Biblios: Quill and Parchment is the Embellishment die. This is the single unique die with purple color with either plus or minus signs or both on the faces.
The size is the other die size of 2 which is 1.6 cm, smaller than Book Value dice. This is the single die that allows us to change the value of Book Value die.
We will only use this die in the second half of the game or Period II where the Auction will happen. This won’t be used in Official Solo mode at all. Only one player gets to use this per round if they win the bid and choose the set of dice that includes this die.
Before the auction we roll this die along other dice and the result will determine what the player can do to change the Book Value die. Either increase the value by 1 point, 2 points separately or for the same die, or decrease and increase, each by 1 point to separate or the same die.
There is no face that will only decrease the value. If this is a regular d6, the face distribution would be as follows.
1: increase 1
2: Increase 1
3: Increase 1 and Decrease 1
4: Increase 1 and Decrease 1
5: Increase 1
6: Increase 2
It is possible that players may not get access to this die at all in the entire game. Not only because they didn’t win the bid but maybe the other dice in other set is more appealing for that payer.
Based on the distribution above, we can always expect an increase of value from a single die each round. The question is, which die that the player will increase?
Before player with the winning bid, choose the set of dice, that would be the time to evaluate the other player’s progress and scoring possibilities with all players’ current position in each track.
They have to assess which die value should go up that will give the most point. Changing just the Value die will still help the other player get more points even at 4th place on the track. So, maybe increasing a different die where only we are collecting the books is a better option.
The increase doesn’t help if the other player is very low on the track where they are still below the negative points. But that can still change in subsequent rounds, and it is very easy for the other players to catch up. If anything, it will be foolish for players not to reach those negative points before the second half of the game.
I don’t know if the game will be more interesting if the die has more minus signs. Even with the current distribution, the change of any Value die is very minor. One player can decrease a die and in the next round, the other player can change it back.
The decrease can be a very mean move. Players have to make sure that they have enough influence so that they can try to win that die to keep the value.
The next type of dice is the Influence Dice. These are the white dice with numerical value from 1 to 6 on the faces. All of them are identical and we will get 8 of them, 2 for each player.
So, they are standard D6. We can easily replace them with other generic D6 as the color doesn’t matter to the gameplay.
How we use these dice in the game is the opposite of the purple die. We only use this during the first half of the game, except for the solo variant.
In the first half of the game, each of 4 rounds, we will be trying to collect influence power by rolling these 2 dice. The influence value is the sum of those 2 dice. So, each round we can get up to 12 influence points and in 4 rounds, we can get up to 48. Of course, the lowest would be 2 points per round and only get 8 total.
We want to avoid that. Later in the second half, we can spend these powers to win the auction. At the end of the game, the leftover Influence power is worth some points, like a third of the value.
Since there is luck and random from the die roll, it is possible to get that low. However, each round, we are allowed to reroll one or all dice up to 3 times.
Aside from these 2 Influence Dice, each player will also roll another 4 dice and the 3 rerolling chances is tied for those 4 as well. Obviously, we will try to get above 6 in total. Getting to 35 is very common.
We will also use the Influence Dice for Cadfael, the AI in solo mode but not as additional player in 2 player variant. What makes it interesting in the solo mode, we also roll these dice to determine the bidding value for Cadfael. So, unlike in multiplayer mode, we still use them for the entire game.
In my opinion, rerolling, as mitigation, works for these types of dice where the number is a value not just an option. Where 1 is lower than 6 instead of equal faces.
Rerolling works if we get like 1 on both dice. If we reroll, we might still get a 1 but there is a huge chance that at least one of them will become a 2, maybe even 6 from both.
The next type of dice is the Book dice, which are the brown wooden dice. We get 12 identical Book Dice to support 4 players so, each player will use 3.
Each dice will show 5 different icons of Book type and an icon of Chapel. As I said above, in this game, we are monks trying to copy books or manuscript.
Everytime we roll one of these dice and it shows one of the Book type, we cross one icon on the corresponding track. There is a bonus for being at the top of the track and another bonus for reaching the top first.
Each type of Book has its own icon and color. Blue for Religious Book type with hand gesture of praying icon. Gray for Philosophy type with a human brain as the icon. Pink for Astronomy type and a telescope as the icon. Green for Herbal book type, and a tree branch as the icon. Red for Bestiaries type and an icon shaped like an animal.
The Chapel side with Chapel silhouette and pale green color is not a Book type. This actually represents doing a prayer action. What that means is, instead of crossing Book icons, we advance our position in Chapel track.
By advancing, we will get bonus, either points or getting rather random Book type. If we are further ahead on the track than the other players, we will win the tie breaker not just for the endgame scoring but for auction.
So, there is a huge benefit for getting a Chapel. However, we will only get 1 score, which will be the highest position we have reached. Depending on the side of board or card we are using, the Book can be random type or chosen one but once per game for that type.
The thing is, even if just one score for the entire game, it is a fixed amount. While winning the Book type track can fluctuate the value depending on the position among players.
In the game, in the first phase or first 4 rounds, each player will roll 3 of these alongside the 2 Influence Dice and 1 Travel Die. We still only have up to rerolls, either reroll all or one of the die to mitigate the luck.
In my opinion, rerolling doesn’t really work for this type of dice. All of the faces can be considered as equal. Even if we consider the different starting value of each type, it doesn’t mean we are working on the highest value book.
Rerolling itself doesn’t mean we will get a better result. It can be worse or the same. This is different than when the die face is a value. As I said above, for the Influence die, we know that 1 is the lowest one and we should reroll. With bad luck, maybe we still get 1 but probably get 2 which is better than the initial.
For the Book type, we are just advancing our position on the corresponding track. That is if we get the type that we want. The base value from Value dice will still change and the position for the multiplier can also change compared to other player.
So, there are 2 issues here. One is determining the value which still fluctuates. We need to know for ourselves the value for each type of book.
The other is, even if we manage to put those types of books in an ascending order of value based on our progress, the rerolling means we cannot expect to get them. If anything, it can change the order.
The game itself kind of forces us to diversify and collect all 5 books to some degree. There is a penalty from each track if we don’t get the minimum. They also spread bonuses of various type from the Novice Travel Map.
We also only have 3 rerolls. First and foremost, we will use it for the Influence because it is the easiest one to evaluate. Then we will reroll for the books, assuming we can still reroll. There is a good chance that all 3 rerolls will be spent for Influence dice.
Maybe getting or trying to get a Chapel is a better option. I mean, if we already get that, we can spend the reroll for something else.
But even that I’m still not sure. At most we can only get 10 points while we might be sacrificing score from other places. The tie breaker? At most, it will be useful to decide which player to reach the top of a Book track first.
Tie breaker for scoring? The score itself is in huge range like from 30 to 60 points. Most of the time, players will definitely be in several points differences.
Tie breaker for Auction? Players can decide any value for bidding. I think two players can bid the same value is probably in the last round. At least, easier to predict, while the first 3 rounds are kind of wild guess.
Aside from reroll, there is no way to mitigate or change the dice to specific face. Sure, we can get a determined one from the Novice Map but it still requires the right faces of Travel Die, which we need another reroll. So, there is a determined mitigation but as a second layer. We also need to reach that position.
The last type of dice is the Travel Dice. These are the black dice and the game comes with 4 dice for one player each.
In this game, players will get their own Novice Map where they can decide where to move the Novice. This dice will tell us how far we can move the Novice, from 1 space up to 3 spaces. Reaching certain spaces on that Map will give us more points, more Books or rolls.
3 of the faces will move the Novice 2 spaces and only 1 face will move 3 spaces. The other 2 faces will move the Novice 1 space with one of them give us a Star Icon.
Depending on which side of the board we are using, getting higher movement value is not always a good thing. The A-side allows us to get the bonus just by passing the space with the bonus. While the B-side, we have to land the Novice in the space of that bonus to get it. Passing over will not give us that bonus.
So, for A-side, we definitely want to get as many movements value as we want. We will definitely get some bonus from that. With the B-side, we need to be more precise, and it is possible to get very little or no bonus.
In this game, each player will also roll this one Travel die alongside the Book and Influence dice. Based on the distribution itself, we definitely will always get 2 spaces. It kind of sucks to get just 1, mostly because we need to spend the reroll.
The B-side is even more frustrating if we need to target specific value like 2, and then we get 3 or 1.
Cadfael, the extra opponent for 2 player and solo variant will only use this die in Solo, in both phases. Since we will only play against him with the A-side of the board, Cadfael will only move their Novice in the outer path of the map.
In solo mode, there will be times when we have to make decision whether to keep rerolling or not for Cadfael but it is very minor. Most of the time, it is based on the Influence value. The travel die is still the last thing to consider. Obviously, the farther their Novice can move, the better for Cadfael. It’s just spending the limited reroll for Travel die doesn’t seem to matter that much.
That is it with all of the dice. But I want to point out something as a whole set of dice, with the Influence, Travel and Book dice. After all, we have to roll them altogether in the first phase.
Physically, as we have to roll 6 dice, I kind of wish that the dice are smaller so it is easier to roll. But then the icon will be smaller and harder to read. The problem for that is mostly the Travel die with the Star icon. The other can be simplified with just colors or losing the border. I don’t know why they insist on using the borders at all.
As they are right now, we need both hand to roll and reroll all 6 dice. It may be bias or just perception but, with just one hand, I don’t feel like the dice roll enough unless I toss them higher or so.
Using a dice tower might solve that issue. But then, with multiple players, each of them might need their own or it will take a while to take turns using the tower.
Another issue is that the corners are not rounded. They just don’t roll that well. It’s the same as Book Value dice but we don’t roll them at all in this game.
I know that the rounded corner will not do well with the border art. But, as they are now, they sacrifice the experience for not so good aesthetics.
This is like the communal board of the game. It is the single laminated sheet that is different from the other sheets in the box. The size for all sheets are the same, which is 13.5 x 20.45 cm.
Almost right in the middle of either side, we can see a big letter either A or B. From the rulebook, it says that all players must use the same side which I assume the Player’s sheet but then it says we can combine with a different side of Monastery card. The B-side doesn’t work for solo though.
The background of both sides have similar art for the 2 sections. One has a interior perspective view of the inside of a Chapel and the other for top view plan of a chapel.
While it looks nice but during the game, I don’t care at all. The reason is that they will be covered by either dice or the icons that are already on them. Also, usually the position of this sheet is the farthest away from the player and players will focus more on their sheet.
If it’s not because I write a review for the game and take a closer look, I wouldn’t even notice what they are on the back.
As for gameplay purposes, both sides work similarly but different. Both has 3 parts. The Book Value Dice Space, The Scriptorum and the Chapel Track.
Book Value Dice Space
One section is for BOOK VALUE DICE SPACE. We put those dice on that section with the corresponding color. During the second phase, we might adjust the value for one or more dice and we immediately put them back on those spots.
I already mentioned this that each of the 5 Book space will have an icon that represent the type of book, printed on the board. So, for the colorblind players, they don’t need to know the color of the dice but they only need to look the value and the icon on the board.
My issue with this is that if players sit below the position of this Monastery card, those Book Value Dice might get in the way of the icons themselves. Of course, this is not a big deal as we can just lift the die and check the icon. I don’t know how they can solve it as wherever they place the icon, there might be a player on the other side of the dice.
The second section is called the SCRIPTORUM. It is the section with 4 rows of square spots and some icons, right below the section for Book Value Dice.
These are where we will create a market row for auction by placing a set of dice on each row during second phase of the game. Players then can bid to be the first to choose which row or set of dice and power that they can take.
As part of the setup for each round in second phase of multiplayer game, we will take all of the dice indicated by the row and roll them. Whatever the results are, we then place them in that row.
On the A-side, which is considered as the easier variant, all rows will have 3 Book Dice and 1 Travel Die plus 1 Power. While the B-side will have different number of Book Dice and sometimes without Travel Die.
So, none of the player has access to the dice until they win the bid and choose the row. My issue is that usually we just take all dice of all rows and roll them all. Then, when placing them, there is a temptation to make the dice sets rather equal to each other instead of blindly and randomly placing them.
So, rolling one set at a time is a must, with one row being very powerful as intended possible result. Otherwise, players, especially if it is done by one player, can try to tamper that.
Each row will also have unique power that the other row will not have. The top row for both sides will have access to EMBELLISHMENT DIE.
For the second row, the A-side has a power to turn 1 Book die from that row into Chapel side. The B-side doesn’t have the exact that but the third row gives player immediately one advance in Chapel track because the row itself only give 1 Book die to begin with.
For the third row of A-side, the power is get 1 Novice movement, aside from the Travel die. So, with Travel die, we get at least 2 up to 4 in total.
The B-side has similar one in the fourth row that allows player to take 1 up to 3 spaces of Novice movement, without getting any Travel Die.
That B-side power can be very powerful depending on where our Novice is. Having a range means the Novice can go anywhere and possibly get some bonus. This will not work, of course, if the Novice is already at the corner with no way to move unless they cross the previous line. For the most part, it is a good power but we need to get into the right situation first.
The special power from the 4th row of A-side allows us to reroll one Book die. For the B-side the same power comes from the second row. This is also situational and probably not a good power.
For one, rerolling doesn’t mean we will get something good or better. We might even get the same bad result or worse. Another reason is that we may already get the right Book die that we need. In that case, the power is useless while the other player might get something more.
I guess that means, that is what we should consider during the Bidding. We want to avoid that one row with rerolling. Of course, there is a chance that the Dice are already good enough. For ourselves or for the opponent, in which we might want to prevent that.
I think the different power and set of dice can make the auction a good one. Even if we can win the auction, we can only choose one row. That one row might give the best result for us but the other that might not work for us might be better for the opponent.
With not obvious option, the auction will be more interesting as we just don’t always prefer one row over the other.
The Chapel Track
This is the last part of the Monastery card. Here we can find the Chapel icon at the top corner and a grid of 4 x 8 squares and one more at the top. The grid shape is supposed to resemble a Chapel with that one on the top as the Altar.
Four columns is to support 4 players. Players will start at the bottom row and everytime they get a Chapel icon from the Book dice, they move one space up. All players can go up to the 8th row but the 9th or the Altar can only be occupied by one player.
So, there is a racing element. Whoever gets to the top first will also get a bonus points that the other players will not get. The A-side will give 10 points and 8 points for B-side, indicated by the number next to that spot.
Moving downward from the top row, every two rows below it will give lower score. A-side with 6, 3 and 1 points while B-side has 6, 4 and 2 points. Players will only get one of these scores from the highest row they have reached. It is not an accumulated score.
The other rows between those point bonuses, will give an immediate bonus by the time we reach that spot. For A-Side, we will get a”?” icon while the B-side a Star Icon.
“?” means we have to roll a Book die and get the result from it, either one of the Book type or additional Chapel movement. So, in a way, there is a potential combo for focusing on the Chapel. But it is still random.
The Star Icon works similarly with the Star Icon from the Travel Die. It allows us to choose one Book type and advance one space in that track. However, we can only use one Star icon for one type in the entire session. That means, if we get another Star icon, we have to choose a different type.
So, with the B-side, it seems like they are forcing us to diversify up to 3 types of Books. It is still a reasonable amount instead of all 5. We can also use that opportunity to advance in the Book track just to reach the negative value.
I guess different side just means we need to change the strategy a bit. That is also if we choose and lucky enough to pursue this Chapel track.
The other purpose of advancing in this Chapel track is for the tie breaker system. There are at least 3 situations where we might need to break the tie in this game.
One is during the bidding as players can choose to bid the same amount. Two, is when deciding the final score as players can get the same amount of points. Three is for reaching the top of each Book type track. As players are filling the book track simultaneously, multiple player can reach the top in the same turn.
The first one can happen 4 times as there are 4 bidding rounds while the second is just once. For the third one, technically, it can happen 5 times for 5 Book types but very unlikely.
As part of the setup, each player will draw their player’s icon at the bottom row of this track. The one on the leftmost space is considered as the closest to the altar.
Everytime one player is advancing to a higher position, they can draw in the leftmost empty space. So, they won’t stay in the same column. It is possible that the top row of right most column of the track will always be empty.
With this system, if multiple players are in the same row, the one at the leftmost position will win the tie breaker.
So, there is another benefit of advancing in this Chapel track aside from getting points at the end and a couple of Books. However, in my opinion, this benefit is very situational. It might not happen at all.
Also, it’s not like we always can choose to advance on that Chapel track. Getting a chapel icon from the roll of Book dice is based on luck. In practice, players might get in a tied situation but one of them is already far ahead on the Chapel track.
In a way, maybe that should be an indication for the losing one to avoid tied situation. At least that can be helpful when deciding the bidding amount. But that’s about it. For the other 2, we have less control.
Some people say that maybe it is easier to just use cubes of different color to mark the position on the track instead of writing. That way, we don’t need to write and clean the card after the game. I guess that can save the ink a bit.
I can see that if players don’t draw their icon correctly, the square one and the circle one can look similar. Using number might be a better option but somehow they want to put a name for the icon.
Player Task Cards
This is the last type of components for this game. The game comes with 4 almost identical Player Task Cards or Player Boards. This is where each player will be writing on their progress and make decision based on the dice.
Each card will use both sides, A-side and B-side. Players must choose the same side of Task cards to play but they can mix them up with either side of Monastery card.
Both sides will have similar parts, The Influence Track, Cross Bonus section, Novice Travel Map, Book Type Track and Scoring. The main difference would be the Novice Travel Map and some Book Bonus Scoring.
So, there is not much setup variability from this card. Those comes from the random dice roll. If we play with 2 players, we will still use 3 of these cards with one for the extra imaginary player. For the solo variant, we will use just 2.
Like the Monastery card, the art surrounding these parts and the background don’t stand out that much. I can see that there are a couple of fantasy creatures but it doesn’t represent anything actually.
I notice that the Cross and the space to write the Influence Points is supposed to resemble a prayer’s beads. Some people might not notice or care as that doesn’t help with the theme. Writing numbers is on the beads is not really how they use those beads. I don’t think anybody writes anything on the Cross in real life.
The first part of this Task Card is the player’s icon. We can find the icon at the top left corner of the card from either side. They even give a name for each icon. The icons are Quill (backslash), Hat (triangle), Paper (square) and Coin (circle).
As I said above, each player should draw their icons on the Chapel track of the Monastery card in the bottom row. Everytime they get a Chapel icon, they can advance on that track that can give them bonuses.
I also said that maybe using different color of cubes or just numbers is a better way to track them instead of having to draw those icons. The Quill or backslash is easy but I find that square and circle, even the triangle can look very similar of the players don’t draw them correctly.
I mean they could have used something different like X or Cross icon which I think is better. Personally, I don’t care that much with the name they try to associate with the icons.
The Influence Track is the bottom left part of this Task Card where we can see several square and hexagonal spaces. As I said above, this is supposed to resemble player beads.
The square spaces will have a number from 1 to 8. That represents which rounds we are in the game. We are supposed to fill the space in ascending order from space #1 from the first round up to space #8 during the final round.
In this game, there will be 2 phases, the Period I and Period II, which both consist of 4 rounds. Period I is where players will be collecting Influence Points from rolling the 2 Influence Dice over the course of 4 rounds.
Players will then spend those accumulated Influence Points during 4 rounds of Period II for bidding. There will be 4 biddings, and each time, we subtract the Influence points, down to zero. At least, that is how the multiplayer mode works. The solo variant is a bit different.
For Period I, the Square spaces are where we will write down the total value from the dice. Then, in every hexagonal space next to it, we will write the sum of previous value and the current additional value.
During this Period I, because the value we can get is based on 2 dice, the total Influence value we can get is up to 12 points per round. With 4 rounds, we can get up to 48 but that is very unlikely to happen.
We will try not to get lower than 7 per round. As I said before, getting to around 30 to 35 is very common.
During Period II, we will write the bidding points of our choice in the Square spaces. As we can see there is a minus symbol between the square space and the hexagonal space that indicates we are subtracting the value from the previous hex with the current bidding square and write the result in the next hex.
The bidding amount in this phase can be any number. Players can even bid all of their Influence value within one round and bid nothing for the other 3 rounds.
Between the hexes and squares, they also put a black arrow to remind us which space we should fill next. However, some people might write in the wrong spaces if they didn’t notice the arrow. The problematic part is between the Square space #6 to 8. Instead of going to 7, I’ve seen videos where player jumped right to 8.
They could have come up with a different configuration with more linear placement of those spaces instead of making a snake pattern. There are still some empty areas, even just the left side of this Task card that they could have utilized for these purposes.
If we notice that the final hex has an orange line connected to the right side of the Task Card. In that line, there is a “/4” for A-side and “/3” for B-side. What that means is at the end of the game, any leftover Influence point can become victory or piety points. 1 Victory point for every 3 or 4 Influence Points depending on the side.
The rule also says that it should be rounded down. So, if we have less than 3 or 4, we will get nothing. In this game, at least, in the multiplayer mode, it is possible not to spend anything for the Bidding.
Maybe even if we get the last set of dice, we will still get a good result and therefore we can just let the other player wins. Or maybe, during the final round, even if we win some books, we know that it doesn’t change the score and so we save the Influence points. That is how we get some leftover.
Since we need the increments of 3 or 4 Influence points, that actually becomes some guidance as how much Influence points we should allocate per round. So, if we manage to accumulate 36 Influence points, we can divide them into 9 or 12 per bidding.
Of course, players will have to keep it a secret and write different value. But it can give an idea for not just that player but the other as well. This is a blind bidding game.
Players decide the bidding value in secret and reveal them at the same time. Whoever wins the bid gets to choose which set of dice to pick first and give the other set to their opponents.
With that framework, players have to consider not just the bidding power of all players but also the set of dice and how likely their opponent will try to get. There will be some mind reading game here, trying to guess whether the opponent will go for the choice.
It is possible that players might guess it wrong, where the opponent didn’t even try and bid 0 for that round. The player has to spend a lot of Influence point while the opponent spends nothing but still get something. That is one of the experiences we will get from this game.
But it depends on the dice roll to form the Scriptorum or bidding market. This also assumes that our opponent will have the same mindset. Maybe they see the value of dice differently or try to progress and make points from other areas.
In my opinion, the problem is that the value is unclear and can still fluctuate, at least from the Book track. Assuming that all players are aware of that and understand the system, it is still hard to predict whether they will go for certain set of dice or not.
From my experience, I think we can get total score from about 20 to below 60 points at most. Somehow with 2 players, both scores are always below 40.
For a very low end of the score range, there is a possible strategy with leftover Influence point. If we do not spend the Influence Points at all for bidding and just trade them into score, we can get like 9 to 12 points. That can be huge as just one category of score.
Sure, we lose the bidding but it’s not like we don’t get the dice at all. We still get some books and maybe the other type of dice. Of course, in practice we might need to consider the other scoring aspects.
But maybe keeping those points is not a bad deal as I thought. Maybe competing in the auction is not that worth it.
That Cross section next to the Influence Track has 6 white dots. In this game where we will be collecting books, there is a limit to each type of book. So, there is a point where if we get more books of that type, we won’t be able to use it.
The same goes with the Novice Travel Map. It is possible that we move the Novice to a position where they can no longer move using the die value.
So, the purpose of the Cross is to take the excess resources or mitigation for unusable dice. Everytime we get any dice that we cannot use because of the limit, we can fill one of the White spaces from that Cross section. That is one option. We can also move the Novice one space per unusable die.
During the final scoring later, each filled space from that cross is worth 2 victory points for A-side and 3 points for B-side. Both sides have the same number of spaces, so we can technically we can get up to either 12 or 18 points.
Aside from unused dice, the B-side of Task card also has one additional way to fill in that space from the Novice travel Map. That is if we manage to move and stop the Novice right on a Cross icon.
From my experience, I almost never fill any of those spaces. I understand why it seems necessary but very situational as well. It kind of suggests that players will have a lot of control of what they are getting from the dice so that they can keep focusing on one Book track.
But at the same time, if they can do that, why don’t they control it to get the next type of book? For me, this just adds unnecessary complexity to a game that already has multiple features. They can just get one advancement to Chapel or reroll the Book dice or such.
It’s like they want to give incentive and more reward to the players for being lucky. Even getting to the top of one track doesn’t happen that often.
Still in the left part of Task Card, there is a section at the middle top part that looks like a Map for the A-side or a grid on the B-side. This is the Novice Travel Map.
Based on the value from Travel Die, we will move the Novice Monk from the starting position to the next white space on that Map. For the A-side, between the white spaces, we can also find some Book icons, “?” and a Town icon.
How we use the Map is a bit different for both sides.
For A-side Map, we simply follow the determined path and move the Novice a number of spaces according to the die. We cross the any white space that the Novice has passed through. If a Novice gets to pass through an icon, we circle the icon and get the reward accordingly.
For the Book icon, we simply fill the Book track and if it is a “?” we roll the Book die and get the result. As for Town, we can see the potential score above the Map. It says 2 / 5 / 10. What that means is if the Novices reaches 1 Town, the player will get 2 points, 5 points for reaching 2 Towns and 10 points for reaching 3 Towns.
As we can see that there is a purple line connecting the Map with one of the Scoring Column. We will write one of those 3 numbers in that score section.
Still in the A-side, there are a couple of intersection along the way, usually with 2 branches. One will be longer but there will be more icons in-between, while the other will be shorter but less icon. Either path usually will meet again in the next Town.
Because of those branches, the Novice doesn’t have to move in one way. They can move backwards using a different path. The restriction is that they are not allowed to overlap the same path. So, if they create a loop, then they get stuck.
The Travel Dice is no longer useful, and the player has to choose the Abbot’s options. I guess that is how to fill those Cross spaces.
Clearly, the shorter one will help get to the 3 Towns. It takes 15 spaces to reach 3 Towns while the longer path is up to 21 spaces. With multiple branches, players can of course change their mind midways. Maybe they need certain specific Book type, so they choose the longer path.
Most of the time, we will get like 2 spaces from the Travel die. That means, if we choose even one branch of the longer path, we might not be able to reach the 3rd Town. To reach the 2nd town it takes up to 13 spaces, so most of the time we will reach that.
The only way to get more Novice movement is to get to Abbot’s option by having unusable die, from the Book dice. That will not happen before we reach any Book track.
Getting more Books is nice, but the value can still fluctuate. I think “?” is better but only if we get Chapel.
I don’t know how placing a determined Book type on the Map as they are now, makes them a good balance for different starting value of each book. The three highest books are placed in the first half of the Map while the 2 lowest ones are almost outside the reach.
The problem is that we don’t know how each player will progress on those 5 tracks. One player can decide which type to focus on right after first two turns while the other might get those books evenly. Somehow, they need to make decision within the same time with those branches.
As for B-side Map, the map looks like a grid with 5 x 6 spaces. The Novice will start in the middle space of the bottom row. The Map only has icons of Towns, Books, Cross or “?” but there is no determined path.
For this map, we can only move orthogonally. However, in order to get the icon, we must land the Novice in the specific space as where the icons are. If the Novice move pass through the icon, they will not get them again.
Which is why, with the B-side, we don’t always want high value movement from Travel die. Depending on where the next icon is, we might need just 1, 2 or 3 spaces. Somehow this restriction kind of forces us to play more tactically.
We know most of the time that we will get 2 spaces from the Travel dice. Either we try to get the icon within 2 spaces or move the Novice so they will stop within 2 spaces from the next icon.
Most of the icons are placed within 2 spaces from each other. But there is a gap between the top half and the bottom half of the map that requires 3 spaces to connect. So, it actually kind of sucks to get 1 or 3 spaces when we are not trying to cross between the top and bottom part.
Like the A-side, the other movement rule is that we cannot cross the previous path. Technically, we can create a snake pattern movement trying to get all of the spaces. But it will take 29 spaces and it is not very efficient to get more score.
Because there is no determined path, we don’t need to reach the Town from the closest one. We can take any Town first. However, just be aware that if we go to the middle one first, we probably have to forfeit one side of the Map.
But at the same time, we probably only get to fill half of it. During the auction, there is one set of dice with no Travel die or Novice movement bonus. So, we might get less movement than the A-side. Maybe it’s better to just mix them up, A-side Monastery plus B-side Task.
The score for reaching different number of Towns for B-side is the same as the A-Side. Either 2, 5 or 10.
Unlike the A-side Map, there is one more movement rule. For this one, if the Novice stuck, we are not allowed to use Abbot’s option to fill the cross.
Also, we cannot play the B-side for solo variant against Cadfael. It doesn’t matter for Cadfael in the 2-player variant.
This is the main part from the right side of the Task card. We can see that there are 5 types of Books or Manuscripts with its own color. Each will have 8 spaces to reach the top.
Thematically, we are supposed to copy those books and try to impress the Abbot by being the first to copy 8 books. We roll those Book dice and based on the result, we fill from the bottom most space of the corresponding type.
At the end of the game, player who gets to the highest position will get the most points. As we can see at the bottom most of each track, it says 3x / 2x / 1x / 1/2x.
These are the multipliers depending on the position on the track. The one at the top will get 3x the Book Value Die for that type, while the lowest one will only get half of it.
So, if the Book Value die shows a value of 6, the player at the top position will get 18 points from that type. Player at 4th position will only get 3 points. This is where each player should try to manipulate the Book Value die for that type using the Embellishment Die.
If they manage to bring it down like to 2, the player at the top will only get 6 points and the one at 4th place will get 1 point. The difference is closer even if the players get the same position.
The losing players should try to win the bid, so they have access to the Embellishment die and decrease the value. That is if the Embellishment die shows decreasing or negative sign.
If it only shows increasing sign, the losing players still need to try to win the bid. So, that they can use the die for the other Book type that they are winning and prevent the opponent to keep increasing theirs.
The white space at the bottom of each track is where we will write the points that we get from each track during final scoring. We will then sum them and write the total on the circular space next to them on the left.
At the bottom of each Book type track, there is a space with NEGATIVE VALUE. For the A-side, the Blue at the lowest space will give “-3”. Gray and Pink will give “-2” at the second lowest position, while Green and Red will give “-1” at third lowest position.
While the B-side, all tracks have “-3” at the second lowest position. What these negative spaces do is that players will lose points if they didn’t reach that specific space. They won’t even get the Book Value even if they are eligible for half the point for being at 4th position.
So, it’s like the game encourages us to diversify to all tracks instead of just 2 or 3 of them. But at the same time, all of the negative value are at a very low position.
I think it is not that hard to reach those minimums. There are several determined book icons that we can get to fill them like from Star Icon or from the Novice Map.
However, we can still fail. At least with the Green and Red track from the A-side if we are not focusing on those 2. Any negative space at the lowest or second lowest is achievable even from random dice roll.
While it seems like just -1 up to -3 points per track but we could actually lose more than that since we do not get the value from the dice at all. So, we should try to reach all of those negative space, especially if the corresponding Book Value shows high value.
Book Bonus Row
As we can see that each track also has 3 numbers. For A-Side, all of them are identical: 5, 3 and 2. While the B-Side is a bit different. The Blue has 3, 2 and 1, Gray has 4, 2 and 1, Pink has 5, 3 and 2, Green has 6, 3 and 2 while Red has 7, 4, 2.
This introduces the racing element between players. Those are Book Bonus that player can get by reaching the top of each track faster than the other player. The first one will get the highest while the player at the 4th place will get nothing.
Once a player reaches the top of the track, they will circle the highest number of that track. Then, the other player must cross out that number to indicates that they can no longer get that same value. But they still get the lower ones.
The player who didn’t get to the top, they will not get any Book Bonus, even if they are at the second or third place. In the solo variant, we will only use the 2 lowest Bonuses.
By circling the Bonus, it also reminds the players who is the farthest ahead on the track for the Multiplier. Because when players have reached the top, they can no longer add more books which will be harder to know for the majority bonuses.
During the final scoring, each player will write the total bonus score from this in the space on the left side of that row. They sum the circled numbers. Technically, it can go up to 5 x 5 or 25 points which is impossible for one player to win on all tracks.
Actually, it’s possible that no player will get to the top of the track at all so nobody will get any bonuses from this. Maybe one player can get one but the other might have trouble because the luck forces them to diversify. That means one player can get a 5 from one track while all of the opponents get 0.
Since we have minimum control and mitigation to the Book dice, it feels like whoever manage to get to the top, they are being very lucky. This is another reward for being lucky from the game.
The B-side seems more interesting as the different books will give different reward. Maybe by making them difference it becomes a balancing factor to the different starting value of the Book dice.
So, if one player keeps getting red while the other blue, the red will give 7 points while the blue will only get 3 points from this bonus. Assuming both players win that track, the red will get like 2 x 3 from the Multiplier while the blue will get 4 x 3 using the starting value. The Blue one still gets higher points in total.
That is also if the players manage to get to the top. As I just said, more often than not, we won’t, so the difference in bonuses is kind of irrelevant.
At the top of each Book type column, we can see a white Star Icon. In this game, we can get a Star Icon from one face of the Travel Die or from the B-side of Chapel track.
What it does is, it serves as a wild Book type. We can choose any of the Book type, instead of randomly by rolling a die. However, we can use that Star once for each Book type.
So, once we have chosen the type, we cross one icon of that Book and we will also cross off the Star Icon at the top of that chosen track. The next time we get another Star Icon, we have to choose a different type.
I honestly don’t understand why they feel they need to force players to diversify. Getting that Star icon is already rare. Even if one player is lucky enough to get a Star every round, they will at most get 11. 8 from the dice and 3 if they play with the B-side and manage to advance in Chapel track.
I understand that if the player has reached the top of one track, they will get huge bonus from filling the cross. Then again, it’s very unlikely to happen. At most, from my play, I get to use 2 Stars.
This is the last part of the Task card. Both sides have this in the exact same place. This column is between the Book Tracks and the left side of the Task cards.
In this column, we will find 6 circular white spaces and one big square space. The circular ones are for 6 different scoring categories, while the big square one at the top will be the Final Score as the sum of those 6 categories.
Each circular space is connected by line to the corresponding track with different color. So, we know where to write the score of each category.
Starting from the bottom, the scoring categories are the Book Stack Multiplier (dark brown), the Chapel (green), Cross (blue), Influence (orange), Novice Map (purple) and Book Bonus (brown).
From those scoring categories, some people say that the score is between 50 to 60 points. I already mentioned that from my experience it can go as low as 20 and up to just slightly over 50. Maybe I played poorly compared to these other players.
The biggest score will come from the Book Stack Multiplier. That one alone can be about 30 to 40 points which is 60 to 90% of the total score. The Book Bonus, the Cross and Chapel can be 0 while the Travel Map is mostly 5.
While the Chapel track also serves as tie breaker for final score, but it is very rare that two players will get the same exact score.
That is it with all of the components to play Biblios: Quill and Parchment. Now, we can learn how to play with them.
How to Play
Biblios: Quill and Parchment is a competitive game for 2 to 4 players. There is an official solo variant, but the gameplay is a bit different from the multiplayer one.
For the 2-player variant, the game also suggets adding an imaginary opponent Cadfael as part of the scaling. This opponent will just prevent the players to get some scoring bonuses.
The game will have 2 phases, Period I and Period II. Each will have its own setup and gameplay. Each phase consists of 4 rounds.
Setup for Period I
1st. Place the MONASTERY CARD (A-side face up) on the table.
2nd. Put the 5 BOOK VALUE DICE on the Monastery card in the matching-colored spaces. From left to right, the dice should have these values showing up: 4-3-3-2-2.
3rd. Each plays takes 1 TASK CARD and place the card on the table with A-side facing up.
For the 2-player variant, Cadfael, the imaginary player will use their own sheet. One player will fill in only the Book tracks for Cadfael.
4th. Each player takes 1 MARKER, 3 BOOK DICE, 2 INFLUENCE DICE and 1 TRAVEL DIE.
For the 2-player variant, Cadfael, the imaginary player will only use 3 Book Dice.
5th. Place the EMBELLISHMENT DIE on the purple space of Monastery Card.
6th. From the oldest to youngest player, write the PLAYER ICON in the bottom row of the Chapel track from left to right. The Player icon can be found on the Task Card at the top left corner.
This will become tie breaker. Whoever is closest to the top and to the left of each row wins the tie breaker. The turn order actually starts from the farthest one from the Altar.
For the 2-player variant, Cadfael, the imaginary player will also write their player icon on the Chapel Track. The rule doesn’t specify but according to the example, Cadfael will take the second place in turn order.
That’s the setup for the Period I. We are ready to play the first 4 rounds.
Gameplay for Period I
Period I phase consists of 4 rounds. Each round there will be 3 steps: Roll and Reroll the Dice, Use the Dice / Perform Tasks and Chapel Action. After doing all these 3 steps 4 times, players proceed to Period II.
Roll and Reroll the Dice
Each player starts with rolling their set of 6 dice. After that, each player can decide whether to reroll 1 die, reroll all dice or stop and keep the result. They can keep doing rerolling up to 3 times.
The options remain the same until the players choose to stop. If they choose to reroll 1 die, it can be the same or different die on different rerolls.
After all players stop rolling, they can proceed to the next step, Use the Dice / Perform the Tasks.
Using the Dice
We will be using the 3 different types of dice separately. While players can do it simultaneously, but it needs to be done in order from Influence Dice, Book Dice, Travel Die and then Chapel Track.
To use the Influence Dice, we simply calculate the total value from those 2 dice and write the total Influence Point on the appropriate square space. The space will have a number from 1 to 4 and we start from the lowest one.
Starting on day 2, we will then enter the total Influence point from the previous day with the current one on the next hexagonal space. Square space for the value from the Influence dice and hexagonal space for the new total.
To use the Book Dice, if the die shows one of the 5 Book types, we cross out the lowest available icon from the corresponding Book track. If it shows a Chapel icon, keep it for the next step or the Chapel Action.
If the Book Track of that type is full, see the Abbot’s Options for Unusable Dice.
Whenever a player reaches the top of any Book Track, they need to announce it to all other players. If that player is the first one to reach the top, they get a Book Bonus and circle the highest number above the track. The other players then have to cross out that number to indicate that they can no longer get that bonus.
The next player to reach the top of that track will get the next bonus and circle it, preventing the other players from taking it. If multiple players reach the top of the same track in the same round, whoever closest to the altar in the Chapel track wins the tie breaker.
To use the Travel Die, players simply move their Novice along the path in the same number of spaces as shown by the die. The Novice can start from 1 of the 2 available paths and must continue following the path line.
Players cross any white space that the Novice has passed through. If the Novice enter a space with a Book Icon, player should circle that icon and cross the next lowest space of the corresponding Book Track.
For the space with “?” icon, player circles it, and then roll one Book Die that does not show the Chapel icon. The player will get any result and cross the Book track accordingly. If it is another Chapel, keep it for the next step.
If the Novice is unable to move, they player can choose to do the Abbot Options or Unusable Dice action.
For the STAR ICON from Travel Die, player gets to choose one Book type and cross out the lowest available icon of that Book Track. Player also has to cross out the Star icon above that track so that they are not allowed to use the next star icon for the same track. Don’t forget that for this die face, player gets to move the Novice 1 space.
Abbot Options for Unusable Dice
If the player cannot use the Book die because they have reached the top of that track, they can either move the Novice 1 space or mark 1 circle from the Cross section. Any filled circle from the Cross will become points at the end.
If the player cannot use the Travel die, then the player can only mark 1 circle from the Cross section. The dice is useless if the Cross section is full.
After all players are done using their Dice, except for the Chapel icon from Book dice, they can proceed to the Chapel Action step.
This is the third step of each round in Period I. For any Chapel Icon that the player has acquired from rolling the dice previously, they move their Player icon up 1 space per Chapel icon.
This has to be done in player turn order, starting from player in the furthest position from the altar or the top of Chapel track. That player will fill the leftmost available space of the 1 row above their current position per Chapel icon.
So, if they got 2 Chapel icons, they move their icon 2 rows above.
If the player reaches the row with “?” icon, they get to roll 1 Book die and get the result accordingly. Getting another Chapel from this roll means advancing again on the track immediately.
At the end of the game, players will get one Bonus Score from the highest space with that bonus points. Only 1 player gets to reach the highest space and therefore only one player will get 10 points from the Chapel track.
After the Chapel Action, players will start the new round of Period I, resolve the same steps of actions. If 4 days or 4 rounds have passed, players will enter Period II.
Setup for Period II
The setup for Period II, we are just preparing the Scriptorum or set of dice on Monastery Card. For the A-side, there are 4 rows of dice to support 4 players, with each row having 2 Book Dice and 1 Travel Die.
Only the top one will have additional Embellishment Die. We only need the same number of sets as the number of players, starting from the top row.
For 2-player variant, we will also prepare a set of dice for Cadfael, as if we are playing with 3 players. To prepare the set of dice, we simply take the matching dice and roll them. This can be done by any player.
Whatever the results are, we place those dice in that row, within the matching-colored space. We do the same for the other 3 rows below that.
So, players won’t be using their own set of dice as in Period I. Instead, they will make a bid and if they win, they can choose to get the set of dice of their choices from these 4 rows.
This setup applies to any rounds of the Period II. After the 4th day of this phase has passed, the game ends and players will proceed to Final Scoring.
Gameplay for Period II
After the setup as explained above, there will be 2 steps of actions every round. The first one is the BIDDING and the second one is CHOOSING A ROW AND USE THE DICE.
Bidding step simply means player will make a bid using their Influence Points they got from Period I. Players will write the bid value in the Square space starting from space #5. The bid can be 0 or up to any remaining Influence points.
This should be done secretly and simultaneously. The rule suggests covering the number using our other hand.
After writing the bid value, players should subtract their remaining Influence points with that bid value and write the total in the next hexagonal space. Players cannot make a bid higher than their remaining Influence Points.
When all players are ready, all players should reveal the bid at the same time. Then we can move to the next step, choosing and using the Dice.
Player with the highest bid value gets to choose any set of dice from the Scriptorum first. Then the player with the next highest bid can choose the remaining until all players have chosen the row.
Since there is a timing aspect as to who gets to the top of either Book or Chapel track first, one player must resolve all of their actions first before the next player in turn order gets to resolve theirs.
Using the dice will be similar to using the dice in Period I, for Book Dice, Chapel Icon and Travel Die. Players also get to use the SPECIAL ACTION which is specific to the chosen row.
To use the EMBELLISHMENT DIE or 1st Special Action, the player simply chooses one of the Book Value die, and either increase or decrease the value by 1 pip per plus or minus sign. One face that gives 2 Plus signs means we can either increase the value of one Book Value die by 2 points or distribute the increase to 2 different Book Value dice.
For the Special Action from 2nd row, player gets to change the Book Die into Chapel action, losing the Book icon. Advance the player’s icon position up one row and resolve the bonus accordingly.
For the Special Action from 3rd row, the player gets one additional Novice movement, in addition to the movement value from Travel die. That means, it is possible to move the Novice up to 4 spaces using this Special action and the Travel die.
For the Special action from 4th row, the player gets to reroll one of the Book die that they get from that row. This is optional but if the player chooses to reroll, they must use the new result.
For the 2-player variant, the Cadfael doesn’t do bidding. However, if the low bid is less than half of the high bid, then the winning bidder gets to choose the set of dice for Cadfael before the losing bidder. That also sets the turn order where Cadfael will go second to resolve using the dice.
In this case, Cadfael doesn’t use any result from Travel Die or any of the Special Action. But Cadfael still use Chapel icon.
After all players are done using their chosen set of dice, it’s the end of the round and we can prepare for the next round. Unless 4 days since Period II started have passed, then the game ends. Players should proceed to Final Scoring.
Game End and Final Scoring
After 8 rounds, the game ends. Players should calculate the total score from 6 different scoring categories and write them in the Scoring Column of the Task card.
Each category will have its own circular space that we can write the score on. At the top of that Scoring Column, there is a square space to write down the total Final Score.
Starting from the top, the first scoring category is the Book Bonuses. Each player writes down the total bonus from the circled number of each Book track if they get any. The score from this category can be 0 or up to 25 for the A-side.
The second category is the Novice Travel Bonus. Each player can get 2 / 5 / 10 points if their Novice reaches 1 / 2 / 3 towns. It is almost impossible for the A-side to not get any score at all from this category.
The third Category is the remaining Influence Point. For the A-side, player can get 1 point or each 4 leftover Influence, rounded down. It is possible to get 0 or up to 12 points from this.
The fourth category is from the Cross. For each marked circle on their Cross, each player will get 2 points. It can be 0 or up to 12 points from this category.
The fifth category is from the Chapel. Player gets 1 score from the Chapel track on the highest reached level. So, the score can be 0, 1, 3, 6 or 10 points.
The last category is the Book Stack Multipliers. Players should compare their position on each Book Track. The player at the highest position score 3x the value of the corresponding Book Value Die, 2x for the second position, 1x for the third highest and half the value for the fourth position.
If one Book track has multiple players reached the top, the player with the Highest Book Bonus is considered as at the highest position. For a tied position that is not the top of the stack, the position on Chapel track closes to the altar wins the tie.
If the player fails to reach a level with Negative Value, they do not score the positive points for that stack. Instead, they will suffer the negative points still showing in that track. For the A-side, the negative points can be either -1 or up to -2 points.
For the 2-player variant, Cadfael can prevent players from scoring higher multiplier depending on Cadfael’s position compared to the other players. Even though we do not count Cadfael’s total score.
Players will then calculate the total score they get from these 6 categories at the square space of the Scoring Column. The player with the most points, wins. If there is a tie, the player closer to the Altar on Chapel track wins the tie.
Both Monastery card and Task Cards have B side for different variant. Players must choose the same side of Task cards, but they can mix with the different side of Monastery card.
The B-side of Monastery card has different bonuses from the Chapel track but the way we use, advance on the track remains the same. For the Scriptorum in Period II, the number and type of dice for each row are all different.
The Special Actions are similar, but they are distributed in different rows and set of other dice. One important note from Special action is the Novice Travel that gives a range of value from 1 up to 3 spaces that we can choose.
For the Task Card, the major difference is how we can move the Novice. Novice must move the exact number of monks on the Travel die. They can only move orthogonally but they can change direction but not crossing any lines previously drawn.
To get the icon or bonus, the Novice must stop exactly on that icon. If they pass through the icon, it doesn’t count.
For B-side, if we cannot use the Travel die to move the Novice, we are not allowed to use the Abbot’s option. It still works for the Unusable Book Die to fill the Cross.
Aside from that, the other differences are different value from each Scoring categories.
In the official solo variant, the player will compete against Cadfael, an imaginary player. Unlike the 2-player variant, Cadfael will also track the score, move Novice, gain and spend Influence Points on their own Task Card using only the A-side.
The gameplay is a bit different to the regular multiplayer mode, especially the Period II. As part of the setup we will cross out Book Bonuses (the value of 5)of all Book tracks.
In Period I, the player will do the same as in multiplayer game with the exception of Abbot’s Option. We can only move the Novice but not to fill the Cross.
For Cadfael, he goes first, and we will roll 6 dice just like regular player. If the total value of the Influence dice is 7 or higher, then, we stop rolling. For 5 or 6, we get to choose whether to reroll or stop but still up to 3 times.
The rule doesn’t specify but from the designer’s session, it seems like we have to reroll everything instead of one. To use the dice for Cadfael, the Book, Influence and Chapel works the same as the regular player.
The difference is to move the Novice using Travel die, the Novice will only take the outermost path. If Cadfael gets a Star icon, we have to roll a Book die again and get the result. We don’t cross out the Star after that.
Another NOTE, if by the end of the round, Cadfael’s Influence points for that day is higher than the player, Cadfael gets to move his Novice 1 space.
Period I will last for 4 rounds just like regular mode. Then we move to Period II.
For Period II, we won’t be preparing the Scriptorum at all. That means, we won’t be using Embellishment die or any of the Special Actions. Instead, both the player and Cadfael will roll again dice but this time only use 2 Book Dice instead of 3. Those dice will give each player Books, Chapel, Novice movement and the amount of Influence point they will spend.
Cadfael still takes first turn and we follow the same rule to reroll his dice. Instead of adding the Influence points, we subtract the Influence points. It is possible that Cadfael will spend more Influence points than they have, in which they will get the negative value. The same goes for the player.
If Cadfael’s bid is higher for that day, before starting a new round, we have to roll 1 Book die. This will determine whether Cadfael will increase or decrease one of the Book Value Dice by 1 point, except if the die shows a Chapel, which Cadfael will do nothing.
Whether to decrease or increase the value, it depends on whether Cadfael is losing or winning on that Book type, shown by the die roll. If both Cadfael and the player is at the same position in that Book track, we do nothing with the Book Value die.
So, this is like the Embellishment die but player will have no control for it, except by winning the bid of that day. The position on the Chapel track doesn’t break the tie for this.
After 4 rounds of this Period II, the game ends and we proceed to Scoring. The scoring is similar with a couple of tweaks from the regular mode.
Book Bonuses don’t use the value of 5 of any Book tracks. Unused Influence can score negative points. Novice Travel and Chapel works the same as in multiplayer game. There is no scoring from the Cross.
For the Book Stack Multiplier, the winner of each track will only score the number of pip value from the die with no multiplier. The loser will gain nothing. But if either player fails to reach the negative value of each track, they will score that negative value as in multiplayer game.
That is how we play the Solo variant of Biblios: Quill and Parchment. The rulebook has suggestions for different difficulty settings.
To decrease the difficulty, we can ignore Cadfael’s bonus for having higher total on Influence dice. For more difficult game, give Cadfael double the Influence bonuses each round. So, they will move the Novice twice in Period I or change the value by 2 points in Period II.
For even higher difficulty, we give Cadfael’s novice a head-start on the path. The more spaces we give, the more difficult the game.
This next video is the solo play session by the designer himself. That is it with how to play Biblios: Quill and Parchment.
My Experience & Thoughts
To be honest, I don’t like this game that much. Clearly, I’m in the minority here since most reviewers seem to enjoy this game. I know that the card game version is very popular, but it doesn’t seem that the publisher is going to release that game again. So, I thought, maybe this roll and write version can be the replacement.
From those who said that they enjoy the game, about 50% of them said that this is better while the other half said that the card version is still superior. Usually, most roll and write game is a lighter or easier version compared to either the card or board game if the game has any.
I was surprised that Biblios: Quill and Parchment has longer estimated playtime, heavier on BGG weight scale and bigger box compared to the card game. It’s not that significantly different but maybe it has an impact to my expectation, specifically with the complexity.
To be fair, I played this game mostly solo or trying to simulate 2 player experience on my own as I have nobody to play this with. The most interesting part of this game is clearly the bidding part and the interaction that we can get with other players.
So, maybe that is the one that I’m missing. But that is not the only issue that I have with this game.
In my opinion, the most problematic part is the luck from the dice roll. Of course, any game that uses dice will have this aspect. However, most roll and write game that I have played and enjoy a lot were not pushing players to pursue certain dice faces. We don’t even need to mitigate, just find a way what we can do with the dice roll.
In this one, they let us reroll, up to 3 times per round for 6 dice of 3 different types. The first issue with reroll is that there is no guarantee that we will get a better result. In fact, we might even get something worse. Even getting the same result feels like a waste.
In my opinion, reroll might work in certain situation like this. If the die has face value from 1 to 6 where 6 is better than the lower one, then rerolling a 1 is a good choice. We might still get 1 again but the chances are, we can get 5 or 6.
In this game, that situation only works for the Influence dice. If we get a total less than 7, then, we might try to reroll that. Maybe one of them is 6, then we can try to reroll just the other. If both dice are less than 4, we have to reroll both and the other set of dice.
We cannot use that idea with the other type of dice like the Book or Travel die because the value is not very clear. What will happen is we will always start the decision based on the Influence dice before deciding the other type.
Maybe later when we know better which type of books we have to focus on, the decision might change. Like the other type of dice show exactly the Book type that we need but the Influence dice show low value. Then, we can choose to just reroll one Influence die at a time.
Then again, it is a big IF. It is possible that even after 4 rounds, we still don’t know which Book types we should focus on because of the luck.
The likely scenario will be like this. Roll 6 dice, get bad result, so we have to reroll everything. First reroll, still get bad roll, so we have to reroll everything again. Second reroll, get some good result, now it’s time to reroll just one at a time. Third reroll, doesn’t get better or even the same and we cannot reroll again.
If that is the case, it doesn’t feel good. Of course, it’s not always that bad but not better either.
It doesn’t feel like mitigation. More like, if we suck at gambling, we should gamble more.
I get that maybe that is not the point of this game unlike many roll and write games out there where we will try to fill the tracks as soon as possible. Maybe we can get some combos here and there.
At the same time, this game seems to offer some rewards for doing well, which is basically being lucky. Players who can keep collecting one type of books will get the higher Book bonus while the other might suffer with something that they cannot control. If they can keep getting lucky, they can even fill the Cross which I almost never touch or move the Novice. That can give even more score.
I get that maybe the negative values from Book tracks, is an idea to force players to diversify. But again, it’s not really in the player’s control. Also, it doesn’t seem to impact that much. Maybe players will suffer from just one of the tracks which is just “-1” while being lucky to focus on one track can give much more.
Some people might say that the game gives different avenues to pursue with focusing on maybe Novice travel or different books. I get that it kind of gives us some consolation prize with any dice roll result, but I feel like it spread the impact into too many things that almost insignificant.
This is the issue in a game with too many dice rolls and I think the designer realized that. They are trying to mitigate the luck or randomness by keep adding things. This somehow increased the complexity of the game unnecessarily.
Previously, I reviewed Aerion, which also uses 6 dice with a lot of randomness issue. That game offers many modules, hoping that those modules can help mitigate the randomness. At some point, even those modules can feel unnecessary but those are considered as expansions.
However, in my opinion, the benefit of adding more modules actually helps reduce the randomness. Every additional card we add to the base game gives more opportunity for rerolling. So, it’s not a determined limit for rerolling like Biblios.
Actually, in Biblios, it’s like the game encourages us to pursue those additional modules because it gives better and determined bonus. Like those Book icons from the Travel Map or just bonus score from Chapel. But then, the focus is shifted from the main idea of the game, which, in my opinion should be about the bidding in second half of the game. That is if they are trying to reimplement the idea from the card game version.
If that is the main part of the game, I thought we should have more control with either the Influence dice or how we can get Books.
That is my issue with the first half of the game. In the second half, there is an extra challenge, not necessarily a problem.
In my first couple of plays, I thought we should just try to get as many books as we can. Just try to be the highest on every track we can get. But then the scores that I got from game to game can vary a lot like between 20 to 50. I was surprised when I heard other reviewers said that they can get between 50 to 60, consistently. Even some play session videos show that result from various channels.
So, clearly, I was doing something wrong here. What I found was that I focused too much on getting Influence Points during first phase. I thought that I need as many points as I can get to help me win the bid later.
As I said earlier that the main consideration for rerolling is if we get very low Influence points. But I even try to get more like 7 is not enough. So, I spent all of those rerolling chances just to get higher points. Considering that I may not get a good result for rerolling the other type, this makes it even worse.
What I didn’t realized was that even in bidding phase, we will not get a good set of dice because of another random luck. Maybe all of them are good enough or bad but we don’t actually need to win or even spend those influence points.
Bid a 0 is a reasonable idea but in higher player count variant. I think the way Cadfael, the imaginary player plays in either solo or 2-player variant kind of affect my thinking. If we play with Cadfael, we will suffer something if we don’t try to bid. That is not the same as in multiplayer game.
Another thing about the second phase is determining the value of each Book type. The way the scoring works for the Book Stack Multiplier is we have a multiplier number which is determined by our position on the track and the Book value.
This is not clear for some players, not as an issue but as a challenge that players need to work on. Right at the start of second phase, they have to keep evaluating all of their potential scores right away and make decision based on that.
Because of my assumption that I just need to get as high as possible in any tracks, I ended up playing inefficiently. I worked hard on losing battle of certain tracks while not realizing that there were potentials for easier points from the other.
This is where we need to start comparing the positions of all players. The problem is that we don’t know the situation of other players. In one of the play session videos, the players ended up have to ask each other where they are in every track.
It will be better if the Monastery Card or main board has a space to write down the potential score of all players. Otherwise, if players are focused too much on their progress, forget that they also need to consider the other player’s progress, they might make the same mistake as me.
Maybe those book tracks should be on the Monastery card where each player place their cubes. Isn’t that the idea from Biblios Dice, a different game? Of course, this will require some redesigns and probably lose the portability aspect.
But that is also my issue with this game. Most roll and write games are multiplayer solitaire. It’s good that this one trying to be different. But I think the design of the current player board is it uses the template of a solitaire game. If they really want to push the player interaction, I think the Book tracks should be communal tracks instead of individuals.
Back to the gameplay of second phase, it means that the bidding is very situational. The set of dice can give a very good result that players should try to compete, or it can be very bad that other players can try to ignore. I’m not saying that it is a bad thing, but players have to be aware with that situation and this can affect the strategy for the first phase.
Realizing that there is a potential of fluctuate and unclear value of each Book type, makes me try not to get as many Influence points as I can get. Stop rerolling if we already get a 7 or so and start spending those rerolls for other books.
I admit that with that strategy, I have a better experience. Still, the rerolling is mostly luck. Like any game with too much dice roll, it kind of makes me want to cheat after keep getting bad rolls.
Another thing from the second phase which kind of ruined because of the solo variant is that we don’t need to win and control every Book Value die. In solo variant, only the winner gets some points while in multiplayer game, we will still get something.
It’s just if we can bring down the value, we can close the gap with the winning player of that track. In fact, we can end up getting some benefits if other players are working on the same track and let them take the Embellishment die.
So, the second half of this game has a lot of interesting stuff. But the first half can drag the experience down because of that luck.
I also don’t care about the hand gesture when choosing dice to reroll. From one of the play session videos, one of them plays in a huge table and players cannot really see what the others are doing.
I get that knowing what the opponent is trying to reroll can help us guess what they are trying to do. But this assumes that all players are rolling dice on the same nearby table. In a game where each player is rolling 6 dice every round.
My problem with that idea is it kind of introduces some dexterity element, which is unnecessary. At least if one player is trying to reroll as fast as they can instead of each player to take their time. Either I don’t care about what they are doing, or I cannot keep up. If nobody cares, I think it doesn’t matter if each player is doing their own reroll without the hand gesture.
I have mentioned a couple of things about the solo variant which is way inferior to the multiplayer experience. Also, why in 2-player variant, the designer thinks that they need more scaling by adding imaginary player, but it works fine with just one on one in solo variant?
At the same time, I’m impressed that they can come up with the way we resolve the opponent’s action just using the dice. There is a bit more to think about when we get to choose to reroll their dice. But it still suffers the same randomness issue. Either the chance to choose won’t happen or the change we try to push doesn’t affect that much.
Overall, even though I still don’t like this game that much, I finally can see the merit of this design, at least in higher player count. This is not the typical roll and write games where we just fill in tracks to get some combos as a solitaire game.
We definitely need to engage and consider the other player’s progress during the bidding. But even so I feel that those interesting experience is situational as it depends on whether players can get a good dice roll during the first half.
I cannot compare this with the card game version as I haven’t played that but from what I know, maybe the card version is better. While the roll and write version managed to keep the game structure with 2 phases, I’m not sure it is a satisfying experience. I think the only way this version is better is because it doesn’t have memory element as in the card version.
Up to this point, this Chapel Cards is the only Expansion for Biblios: Quill and Parchment that has been introduced. From what I understand, the only way to get this is expansion is by backing the Kickstarter. The publisher is not selling this on their website.
Luckily, we can still purchase it as an add on from their subsequent crowdfunding campaign. We can follow the publisher’s Kickstarter account to find out their latest campaign.
There is not much we can find from the BGG page of this product. From a brief description, the page says that this introduces STEP 4 in both phases which work the same.
These 10 Chapel cards show specific die faces, either Book, Travel, Chapel and even Embellishment die. Every round, the player closest to the Altar in Chapel track will reveal one card and then that player states how much influence they will spend to get that card.
Then, the other player in the turn order, can choose to outbid or pass. There is only one winner per bid and the winner will subtract their Influence points, replace the total and get the result.
So, this adds a different bidding aspect to the game. Some say that this expansion is essential as it gives more control and clear for what they can get. I guess it also adds more interaction between players. Maybe they can even force other players to deplete their Influence points. One player won’t be able to always win every bid.
The expansion content is shown in this unboxing video from Board Game Empire channel.
Session Reports and Pictures
Usually, I share a session report of playing a game on BGG. Here are the links of each session for this game.
I also put turn-by-turn pictures of a session and unboxing pictures for every game on my collection that anybody can find on my Instagram. For this game, search for #BibliosQuillAndParchmentAtHomeOfMark on IG for all of the sessions.
December 2022 session and more pictures of that session on IG.
Biblios: Quill and Parchment is the reimplementation of a card game, Biblios by the same designer to a roll and write game. Like the card game, this version has 2 game phases. In the first one, players will be trying to collect resources which they can use in the second phase to win a bid. Each phase will have 4 rounds.
Because this is a roll and write game, instead of cards, players will roll 6 dice of 3 different types for the first phase. Each round players get to choose to either reroll 1 die or reroll all dice up to 3 times or stop and take the result.
Two of dice are Influence Dice, which is basically 2-standard d6 with a value from 1 to 6 on the faces. What we are trying to do with this is to collect as many Influence Points as we can. Later in the second round, we will spend them as the bidding power.
If we win the bid, we can choose a set of dice of resources first. At the end of the game, the leftover unused Influence points can become victory points.
Three of the dice that each player will be rolling in first phase are Book Dice. These D6s will have 5 different types of books on their faces plus one Chapel Icon. Players will be trying to collect as many books as they can from each type, recorded on each Book tracks on their own Player Board.
At the end, whoever has the most Books of each type will get the highest multiplier factor that we multiplied to that Book value. It can be from 3x for the player at the highest position, to half the value for the fourth.
The Book value itself might be changed by players who get the access to Embellisment die. Like the card game version, the value is tracked by a colorful D6. With that Embellishment die, players can increase or decrease the value by one or 2 pips depending on which sides of the die is facing up.
Because of this system, having the most book of each type doesn’t mean we will get very high point. The losing players can just drop the value to close the gap while they are winning on the other type.
Therefore, the game seems to encourage players to pay attention with their opponent’s progress. They probably don’t have to keep adding books. As long as they can maintain the position, maybe it’s time to focus on the other type.
At the same time, the game will give more rewards to player who gets to the top of the Book track. The first to reach there will get higher bonus. Since this aspect is determined by the randomness of dice roll, most of the time, maybe only one player manages to get to the top of one type for the entire game.
The Chapel icon from the Book dice is to advance the player’s position on the Chapel track. This also serves as a tie breaker system for almost every part of the game. The closer the player can get to the altar, or the top of the track will win the tie breaker.
Also, for reaching certain level on that track, players will get bonuses. Either random roll of Book die or just one score at the end of the game.
The last type of dice that each player will roll every round in the first phase is the Travel Die. On the player board, there is a Map where we get to move a Novice figure from one point to another using the value of this Travel die.
The movement value is between 1 space up to 3 spaces, but most of the time, we will get 2 spaces. From the Map, we can find Book type icons and also Towns icons. Books will help players to their collections, but we will also try so that the Novice will visit more Towns.
They can get 2 / 5 / 10 points for reaching 1 / 2 / 3 Towns. Even with the lowest possible movement value, we will always reach the first town. While to reach the third one, we might need to take the shortest route, and hopefully get higher than average movement value. The Novice must move in a determined path but there are some branches.
The other way to move this Novice is by keep getting the same book type even after the track is already full. So, it depends on the luck of dice roll.
In the second phase, players are no longer roll dice. Instead, they have to bid for turn order to choose a set of dice. These set will have 2 Book dice and 1 Travel Die plus one Special action which all sets have different.
Embellishment die to change the Book value is one of them. The other special actions allow us to reroll Book Die, advance on Chapel track, or one additional move value for the Novice.
Those 3 dice are rolled every round so, result can vary. Maybe the special action is beneficial for one player but not the dice or vice versa. Of course, none of them can be good, in which all players must compete for the same set.
At the end, there will be 6 scoring categories from Chapel, Novice Map, Cross and leftover Influence point. But the most points will come from the Book Stack Multiplier which can be 75 to 90% of the score while the rest are around 10 points per category.
The game comes with 2 sides of both Player and Main Board. Players must use the same side of Player Board but can mix with the other side of Main Board.
These second side will have different rule as how we can move the Novice and dice set to win during second phase. Sadly, these second sides don’t work for the official solo variant.
In the solo variant, we will be competing against an imaginary opponent. We will roll their dice and make decision whether to reroll or stop. For the most part, the first phase works similarly to the regular multiplayer mode.
But for the second phase, it’s a different game. There is no bidding to win a set and just another rerolling. It is definitely inferior from the basic multiplayer mode but it does have an interesting take of how to use the same components.
The second phase or the bidding is definitely the most interesting part. We have to start comparing the potential score between players. There is a bit of learning challenge. Players must understand of how the Book value and scoring work which can fluctuate and change.
This is not the typical roll and write game where we will try to fill in many tracks to create combos. We don’t even need to have that many books of certain tracks to win because it is all based on the position between players. Even bidding a 0 is a reasonable choice.
While the second phase is interesting, the experience still depends on huge luck of dice rolling from first phase. We might still not get anything better after using those 3 rerolls. Even though the other features of this game tried to be some mitigations, they also depend on that dice roll and feels insignificant.
At some points those extra features just increase the complexity unnecessarily without really improving the main part of the game. I feel like this tried so hard to retain the experience of that card game version wh
Unlike most roll and write game, Biblios: Quill and Parchment can give a lot of player interactions instead of being a multiplayer solitaire. However, the design of the components seems to fail in supporting that idea.
More Similar Games
There are many tabletop games out there whether a board or card game that might share some similarities with Biblios: Quill and Parchment. Some people may look for those similarities that they enjoy. It can be the mechanism or even just the same theme or setting.
Usually, a board game will have a lot of elements. It is kind of difficult find another game where everything is similar. Which is why, in this section, I try to break them into things that I enjoy from the game and point out games that share the same experience.
These next games are just some games that I have tried, played and written a review for them, up to this point. Check out the link to each article to find out more and also check this Complete list for more games.
Bidding /Auction Games
Auction or Bidding is probably the main element of Biblios in both versions, that people are looking for. What makes Biblios unique is probably that they have 2 phases. One where players will accumulate their resources and the other is where they can spend those resources to bid.
To be more specific, the bidding type in Biblios is blind bidding. Players will decide the bidding amount in secret. We don’t know how high or low the opponent will bid until all players reveal their bid power at the same time. Even we can bid 0, which is also a reasonable decision as we will still get something.
Because of that, there will be some mind reading between players, evaluate the opponent’s progress and make a guess. How likely each player will try to pursue the reward.
One game with auction mechanism that I’ve played is Coimbra. This is actually a much bigger game than Biblios. The bidding part in this game is to determine the turn order for acquiring cards, using dice.
We draft one die and then put them in a row where the cards that we want is available. The high value dice will go first but the player has to pay higher cost. We can go cheap with low value dice but there is a possibility we get push out and have to take very low consolation prize.
But in this one, we know the opponent’s bidding power from the dice roll. There is only one way to increase the value and change the turn order. So, it will be more predictable. I think the challenge is more about how to balance the bidding with the use of the die color that can generate resources.
For a card game, Fleet also has bidding mechanism. In this one, we have to bid for fishing licenses. This bidding for this is actually similar to the bidding from the expansion of Biblios: Quill and Parchment.
The active player will choose a license and start a bid. They have to challenge all of the players one by one. Each player will keep trying to overbid until the one player gives up.
If the active player wins all the bid or the other players pass, the active player can take the license. One player can only win one License per round, and we are giving the other licenses to the opponents.
There is a chance to manipulate the value so that the opponent must pay higher. We might choose that license first because we know that the opponent wants it.
I think the challenge is more in the resource management. We might need those money we can spend for bidding to improve our engine that can generate more money and therefore bidding power.
The last game that I’ve played with bidding mechanism is Peloponnes Card Game. In this one, we will bid to win a development card. However, we can also just choose a different card and directly buy them with higher price.
This is also a blind bidding. If it turns out, we get overbid, we have to buy the other cards that we can still afford. Alternatively, we can just take back the bidding money and get more money which we may need.
The challenge in this game is that there is a potential catastrophic event that will affect all players. So, each player will try to get that same card that has the ability to prevent that.
Players can try getting the more expensive card, but the money can be useful for something else. If they choose to just suffer the damage, to get more money, they might lose some resource generating power or get higher loans to pay.
Push Your Luck Games
Since Biblios: Quill and Parchment uses dice roll and reroll to mitigate the luck, there is a push-your-luck aspect. Do we stop with anything that we already get or should we reroll the dice with a chance to get better or worse than the current one?
Since the value of the books themselves are volatile, in this game, there is some balancing that we need to do. Instead of just pushing to get the highest amount of influence or more books of one type, maybe we should try and get the other types of books. Therefore, we reroll those other dice.
We will roll 6 dice each round with 3 different types of dice. For rerolling, we can choose to reroll one or all dice up to 3 times per round in the first phase.
So, there is a choice between go bigger or settle with what we already have.
One of the games with similar experience is Aerion. This is mostly solo game where we will also roll 6 dice but one type of dice. In this one, we are trying to create a poker set using those 6 dice which is the requirement to take one card from 6 different decks.
One deck might require something easier with just 2 pairs or 4 dice while another might be more demanding with 5 or 6 dice. We can discard a faceup resource card to get 1 reroll for any number of dice.
Usually, we will try to make a jump from one poker set to a bigger one that share the same dice faces while making sure we have enough things to discard. This one can be more challenging because after we have wasted a lot of cards to reroll, we still cannot get the right poker set.
For 2-player only game, Jaipur may also give that experience with push your luck element. In this one, we are trying to trade one type of cards for money or points. The more cards we can sell in a single trade will give more points.
The question is whether to keep waiting until we see the fifth card from the market or sell our hand of cards right now. If we keep waiting, then we will be less flexible to get more cards into our hand. Maybe the more valuable card will show up and let the opponent takes them.
Another small card game with push your luck aspect is Oh My Goods!. In this one, we have to make a guess whether the market can provide the required goods to start the factory.
We have to make decision based on the market in the morning phase each day and our hand of cards. This will affect how the worker will work, either efficiently or sloppily. If it turns out, the market is insufficient, we can end up not running the factory at all and lose the chance to make money that day.
Another push your luck element is when we keep getting bad cards, we can eventually discard them all to draw the same number of new cards. The chances are, we will get something good from them.
For a bigger game, Architects of the West Kingdom may also give this experience. At least, from my experience in playing the solo variant.
This is a worker placement game where the more workers we can place in a spot can multiply the resource that we can get from that spot. The challenge is that the opponent can capture those workers in a single spot. They will target the spot with the most workers first.
If the workers get captured, we have to start placing a new worker again to get very low resource. In a way, we have to diversify but it will take a while to get that many resources of various types.
So, do we keep pushing our luck by placing in the same spot or wait until they do capture before we start accumulating.
Roll and Write Games
Biblios: Quill and Parchment is one of the roll-and-write games. Maybe people are looking for more games in this genre because they are cheap, fast to setup and portable.
I have played a couple of them but none of them actually shares the same gameplay as Biblios. For the most part, the similarities of these games below are just the form factor with rolling dice and writing the decision on a sheet.
The first one is The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game. This one is more multiplayer solitaire. All players will make decision on their own sheet based on the same 5 dice roll result every round. There will be no rerolling but there are a few ways to change the dice.
In this game, we are trying to expand the territory by using a combination of one color and one number. Each color can only work with limited set of numbers. We can only expand from the nearby hexes and making sure that we have access to all colors of hexes can help mitigate the luck.
There will be times when we get the right color but not the right number or vice versa. The sooner we can complete a group of hexes of one color can generate more points.
The second game with roll and write mechanism that I’ve played is Kingdomino Duel. This one is for 2-player only. Each round both players will roll 4 dice and both will take two.
From those 2 dice, each player will create a Domino tile that they have to draw on their own sheet. Like the rule in Domino game, we can only draw the same icon orthogonally adjacent to the previously drawn icon.
To get a score, we cannot just make a group of the same icon as large as we can, but we also need to choose dice that has crown or cross on that same icon. That crown will be the one to generate score.
With the dice drafting, there will be tough choice. We have to choose the icon with no crown because that’s the only one we can draw on our sheet. At the same time, we are letting the opponent take the leftover dice, which might have that crown icon.
The last one that I’ve played at this point is Riverside. This one is interesting because there is a communal board, formed by small modules. This is still a multiplayer solitaire game, where each player will make decision based on the same 6 dice rolls every round.
This communal board will have a ship on it move from the starting point to the exit point in one way. Between those 2 points there will be villages with various scoring types and values.
Before we can score from any village for any type of excursions, we have to fill the boats by selling all of the tickets for that type. We do that by choosing one of 5 colors of dice each round.
There is an element of timing because we need to wait until the ship is close enough to the village. But there is a chance that the ship will move faster, pass that village and we are out of range.
Each excursion will have 3 villages, but we also need to score them up to 3 times. Another challenge is that the score for the next excursion of the same type must be higher than the previous one.
Since we know from the start, the position of all villages and their scoring potential, we can make a strategy around it.
That is all I can share with you about Biblios: Quill and Parchment, a roll and write game. To be honest, this is my least favorite game that I’ve played so far.
I may have missed something that I should have discussed regarding the game. Please don’t hesitate to point that out and share what you know related to this game and I will update this article.
I keep saying that these tabletop games can be a good way to spend some time without looking at the screen of our gadget. If we do have someone close, that we can play with, there are other games where we can play cooperatively or competitively but with a lot of player interaction.
The game can be very fast or like a filler type or it can take hours to play. Some games can also be played in solitaire mode and they are still more engaging than other entertainment activity. Some may say, it’s like a workout for the gray matter of our brain.
So, what is your experience on playing this game? If you know other games similar or even better than this, please do share via the comment section below. I would love to learn and play that game, assuming I can get a copy.
This article is just my notes about what I can find from the internet. Hopefully this can help anybody who reads it.
Thanks for reading.