Two different distributions of values within suits: The original game of Scripts & Scribes distinguished between:
a) Worker cards (4,4,3,3,3,2,2,2,2 = 25 points, in two suits)
b) Resource cards (2,2,1,1,1,1,1,1,1 = 11 points, in three suits).
In Biblios the thematic distinction is no longer made, but the card distribution is still exactly the same:
a) the blue/brown categories (Pigments, Monks) each have nine cards in values of 4/3/2 totalling 25 points
b) the green/orange/red categories (Holy Books, Manuscripts, Forbidden Tomes) each have nine cards in values of 2/1 totalling 11 points.



Effect on gameplay? My basic question is: how much of a difference to gameplay and strategy does it make to have these two types of categories? If all the categories had the same make-up of nine cards (either the 25 point distribution, or the 11 point distribution), would it change the kinds of decisions much?

Importance of relative values: Those who've played the game a lot are probably best equipped to comment on this, but here's my take purely from a mathematical point of view. It seems to me that the amount of the card values isn't that important inherently but relatively. So you could equally have values of 8/6/4 instead of 4/3/2 for the brown/blue categories, and it wouldn't change the gameplay at all, since the percentage that each card contributes to the total points available in that category is unchanged. What would change the feel and decisions, however, is if you made those values 5/3/2 or 6/3/2, or anything that affected the proportion each card was worth relative to the rest of the entire suit.

Comparing percentages: So as I see it, the only real difference between the blue/brown categories and the other three categories is the distribution:
a) brown/blue: 2s = 8% of 25 points total, 3s = 12% of 25 points total, 4s = 15% of 25 points total
b) green/orange/red: 1s = 9% of 11 points total; 2s = 18% of 11 points total

Game-play significance: Now for some comparisons and analysis:
- The 2s of the blue/brown (= original Workers) effectively constitute the same percentage of the total points in their category as the 1s of the green/orange/red (= original Resources), i.e. 8% versus 9%.
- The 4s of the blue/brown actually constitute a smaller percentage of the total points in their category than the 2s of the green/orange/red, i.e. 15% versus 18%.
This means that actually the green/orange/red 2s are actually the most powerful cards in the game, offering the highest percentage.

Does it make any difference? But in practice, is this really going to make any difference to your decisions, and the way you play the game? Admittedly, the brown/blue categories offer some mid-range cards with an intermediate return of 12%, whereas the green/orange/red categories only offer cards of 9% or 18%. I'm curious to hear from folks who've played the game whether this distinction plays any role in your thinking and decision-making, and if so, how? If the game had consisted of five identical categories with the same distribution of card (either 4/3/2s or 2/1s), would the game play differently, and would any difference be real or imagined? Having identical distribution in all five suits would have the advantage of making the game simpler, perhaps, because the numbers and distribution are the same for each, but would anything in terms of gameplay or strategic decision making be lost?
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Billy McBoatface
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Overall this separation between workers and materials doesn't affect my play or opinion of the game much.

4 worker = GREAT! Keep it unless the suit is already won
2 material = GREAT! Keep it unless the suit is already won

2 worker = Sucky, pass unless I think it's a close race for the suit
1 material = Sucky, pass unless I think it's a close race for the suit

3 worker = Well, between 2 and 4

As you can see each suit has great and sucky cards. I think that the game would have worked just as well with all worker-style or all material-style suits. If each suit were a different distribution, that would be annoying because I'd have to always be looking things up, but just two types can easily both be remembered so it does no good and no harm.
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Craig Duncan
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EndersGame wrote:

- The 4s of the blue/brown actually constitute a smaller percentage of the total points in their category than the 2s of the green/orange/red, i.e. 15% versus 18%.
This means that actually the blue/brown 2s are actually the most powerful cards in the game, offering the highest percentage.

Typo in that last sentence? Don't you mean the 2s of the green/orange/red are the most powerful cards?

Interesting observation, by the way!
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cdunc123 wrote:
Typo in that last sentence? Don't you mean the 2s of the green/orange/red are the most powerful cards?
You're right, good catch - edit made and typo corrected. Thanks!
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Ben
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I really appreciate the effort of the analysis, Ender. I'm too tired to give it much meaningful thought at the moment, but it's certainly intriguing. Hopefully, I can give it more consideration tomorrow. I really appreciate this game.
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Craig Duncan
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I don't have any deep strategic thoughts about the effect of the two different card distributions, just a few reflections about why I like the inclusion of the different distributions.

Based on Ender's analysis, the high card and low cards of each distribution are roughly the same in worth (high cards: blue/brown = 18% of total & green/orange/red = 15%; low cards: blue/brown = 8% of total & green/orange/red = 9%). So to my mind the biggest difference is that the blue/brown suits have a middle value (i.e. 3, worth 12% of the total), whereas the green/orange/red have no middle value.

To my mind, the lack of a middle value in green/orange/red makes for some interesting decisions. Sure, if you draw a 2 in green/orange/red, you should keep it. But there are only 2 such cards in each of these suits, and there is a decent chance that a number of them may not be in the deck but rather in the pile of sleeper cards removed before the game (especially so in a two player game, where there are 21 sleeper cards).

So let's suppose you play a game in which you aim to win one of the green/orange/red suits. (In a typical game, you probably will aim to win at least one of these suits, rather than concede all three to your opponents. This is less true in a four player game, where you are probably aiming to win just two suits. Still, unless those two suits are exactly blue and brown, you will be aiming for one of green/orange/red.) In such a case, you can't simply regard all green/orange/red 1 cards as junk; since you can't at all count on landing a second 2 in the suit, you will have to collect some 1s. (So here I disagree with W. M. Shubert's classifying 1s as "SUCKY.") But it's always an agonizing call to keep a 1 if you are not forced to (i.e. if you still have the option of playing it to the auction pile or to the table instead); what if the next card you draw would be better? Argh, what to do, what to do?

Now, Steve Finn (the designer) could simply have opted to make all five suits have a 2,2,1,1,1,1,1,1,1 distribution. That would have made the game simpler. You might even think this would make for more agonizing choices between 2s and 1s. But, there are two reasons that I think the game is better with the addition of the brown/blue 4,4,3,3,3,2,2,2,2 distribution:

1. I think the choice of whether to keep a green/orange/red 1 is actually made more agonizing by the existence of the alternative blue/brown distribution. Had Steve opted to include only the 2,2,1,1,1,1,1,1,1 distribution, well, in keeping a 1 card the only painful missed opportunity you'd have to worry about would be forgoing a 2 card. But in the actual game that Steve designed, you have to worry about forgoing, not just the highest card in a suit (a 2 or 4) but also the intermediate 3. Thus there are more "better cards" that you have to worry about forgoing. That makes the choice to keep a 1 just a bit more exquisitely painful.

2. I think a game with nothing but 2s and 1s would, on account of there being only 2 values of cards, be less interesting and more repetitive than the actual version. Of course, Steve could have made all suits have the 4,4,3,3,3,2,2,2,2 distribution. But then this would lack the agonizing choice of the green/orange/red suits that I have been describing, namely, the choice produced by the strategic inadvisability of simply ignoring the 1s, and hence having on occasion to choose to keep a 1.

So unlike W. M. Shubert, I think the inclusion of two distributions improves the game. It does come at the cost of less simplicity (and hence, a steeper learning curve). But it is not a terribly more complicated game on account of the two distributions, and hence, the gains to the game are worth this cost, in my opinion.

On different subject:

EndersGame wrote:
The original game of Scripts & Scribes distinguished between:
a) Worker cards (4,4,3,3,3,2,2,2,2 = 25 points, in two suits)
b) Resource cards (2,2,1,1,1,1,1,1,1 = 11 points, in three suits).
In Biblios the thematic distinction is no longer made, but the card distribution is still exactly the same:

I own both the original Scripts and Scribes and the new Biblios. At first I was disappointed by this difference in category labels, since the old workers/resources division in Scripts and Scribes seemed logical and helped me to remember the different card value distributions.

But then I realized that in Biblios, the green/orange/red cards are all types of texts (holy books, manuscripts, and forbidden tomes), whereas we can think of the blue/brown cards (monks and pigments) as resources (i.e. things you need to produce the texts). So there is still a logical clumping of suit themes that mirrors the different distributions of values in those suits. I'm not sure why Iello made the change in labels but I now do not see any harm in the change.
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Having played the game some more, I'm starting to appreciate the small nuances of how the two types of categories are distributed differently.

1. For the three `texts' categories with 1/2s, getting both of the highest cards (2s) means that you can get a simple majority in that set using only four of the nine cards (e.g. 2,2,1,1).

2. For the monk/pigment categories with 2/3/4s, getting both of the highest cards (4s) doesn't necessarily mean you'll get a simple majority in that set using only four of the nine cards (e.g. 4,4,2,2 only makes 12). On the other hand there are other ways to get a simple majority using only four of the nine cards without needing both 4s (e.g. 4,3,3,3)

So for the three `texts' categories with 1/2s, the highest cards are more decisive and the decisions are simpler. For the other two categories (monk/pigment) with 2/3/4s, there's more ways to get to a point-winning majority with the help of the mid-range cards.

I suppose the game could have been designed using identical distribution across all categories (either the 4/3/2s or the 2/1s), and it wouldn't be a substantially different game. But the game is simple enough that having two different kinds of distributions gives a small variety in the decision making and calculation, without adding too much complexity so as to bog it down with an unnecessary amount of different things to remember and keep track of (which would happen if all five categories had different card values and distributions).

So I think the two different distributions of card values was a good design move. It's a pity that the new edition doesn't retain some kind of clear thematic distinction between them, although I like Craig Duncan's suggestion to consider one group as `texts', and the other as `resources' (perhaps there's a better term for the latter?).
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Craig Duncan
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EndersGame wrote:
It's a pity that the new edition doesn't retain some kind of clear thematic distinction between them, although I like Craig Duncan's suggestion to consider one group as `texts', and the other as `resources' (perhaps there's a better term for the latter?).

Perhaps "production card" is better than "resource card"? (Monks and pigments are used to produce the texts.)

Another alternative to "text card", for what it is worth, is "library card."

Take your pick!

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During a game today, I suggested a whole bunch of category names to my fellow players: text, library, book vs resources, production, supply

They liked "book suits" and "supply suits" the best, for what it is worth.
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So I just played my 4th game of Biblios, and was considering asking the designer about the decision to use two different distributions. I find that on some unreasoned level, I enjoy that there are two different distributions. I think that specifically, they cause two different things -

1) The initial glance factor - whenever someone new to the game comes in, they see a 4-pt card and think "WOW! That's worth a lot!" even though it is actually less valuable than a 2-pt card in the three "lesser" suits.

2) It shifts the importance of the different card values - the lower valued suits will often require at least one, if not several of the 1 pt cards to win. In the higher value suits, you can let a couple of 2-pt cards slide with a lot more confidence.

I think it might also be worth a little bit of looking into the designer's decision to include a flat distribution of the gold value cards. I haven't really puzzled out whether or not this is significant. To look mathematically, you could think that each gold is 1.5% of the gold in the game, so if you wanted to consider gold as a "suit" then even a 3 gold card is worth less than a 1 pt lesser suit or a 2 pt higher suit. Of course, gold does not actually win you points, but allows you to win auctions later which gets you points.

Thus far, it seems that the people I play with will almost always tuck a 3 gold card into their hand for later, and most will take a 2 gold card over a 1-pt card from the gift section in the middle. It also seems that those same 1-pt cards typically go for 2 or more gold each during the auction round.

Not sure that any of that means anything, but I am really enjoying the game. Very glad I got my hands on it while it was still available!
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Martin Bradley
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Clearly the difference between the 2 kinds of sets are very subtle, but they are there, as shown by the percentages. All things within a game being equal, a 2 in orange/red/green is more valuable than a 4 in blue/brown. If all the 3's were 2's in blue/brown we would be looking at them being identical in make up but that just blue/brown have double the number assigned to the same value card (this in itself would throw some newbies to the game, valuing the 4's more than the 2's simply because it is a higher number).

We can also factor in the missing cards from the deck. 21 removed cards from 81 possible cards in 2 player equates to 26% missing - on average 2.9 cards per set. Then, a 2 in orange/red/green rises to an average of 27% of the total value of that set, but with significant uncertainty as if none of the cards of that set are missing and means the 2 card is only 18% of the set's value. It's the uncertainty that makes this game so much fun, trying to know what other people are going for, and if you think you've worked it out ensuring you beat them/give up on the set early (without signalling any of that!). If you do know the percentages it does give you a bit of an advantage I think though. If in a 2 player game you have 5 points in orange/green/red and you draw a 1 odds are you should put it on the table, and see if your opponent picks it up.
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Justin Fitzgerald

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Here's my theory:

Biblios is a game of probability and memory. If the cards were ranked sequentially and distributed evenly it would make it much easier to remember what you've seen and how to determine your best move.

The counter-intuitive ranking and uneven distribution of the cards is a trick on your brain.

It's a subtle way of confusing your intuitions about which cards are important.

Instead of this ranking model (more or less):
4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1

It's this ranking model (which will always leave you second-guessing yourself):
2, 2, 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2

Once you factor in the number of points needed for a majority, which cards you have, and which cards you've seen, it makes for a very interesting game of decision making.
 
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