Powering through to the end with Ex Libris

Ex Libris is the first game of 2018 that got 10 plays. When I added Ex Libris to my 10×10 Challenge, I had played it a couple times with 3 people and another handful of times solo. I loved the theme so much. I was an avid reader when I was younger and the theme really connected with me. I liked the additional effort for the team to include the various puns on the book bindings. Even though the theme won me over, the game play was just okay. I added the game to the 10×10 Challenge knowing the game was on the keep or sell bubble. Based on the 10 plays, I expected to finally resolve how I felt about the game.

Well, things didn’t go exactly as planned. Con of the North is a great local con in the Twin Cities that happens during President’s Day weekend. I’ve attended twice in the past three years. (The one year I missed I was busy vacationing it up in California).  I always run  game or two when I’ve attended in the past and this year was no different. I signed up to run a game of Ex Libris because this was the hot game when registration for the con opened up during the summer. What is a large gathering a boardgamers, without a math trade?? Well, I guess that is Con of the North. There was no math trade this year, but an auction/sale list that went up. I took this opportunity to list a bunch of games that I wasn’t playing. Ex Libris was not listed for sale upon my initial listing of games. After seeing quite a bit of activity on the sales front and playing another solo game of Ex Libris, I decided to list it for sale at what I thought was a higher price point. Low and behold, someone snapped it up within a couple hours.

Now I had a dilemma on my hands; I had a single play of Ex Libris in 2018 and I was selling the game in less than a week. Was I going to fail at my 10×10 Challenge because I’m selling one of the games. I thought about swapping out games but I didn’t feel that was in the spirit of the challenge. I knew I had 1 play scheduled at the con so I powered through 8 solo plays over the course of 2 evenings.

These plays that were essentially back to back  reinforced that I made the right decision to sell the game. Many of the games I keep around need to have some depth to their solo options. After playing the Ex Libris solo, I quickly identified the locations that I would discard first or the ones I would keep around for future rounds. This allowed me to control the public library better than if I just focused on my own library. This increased my win ratio in the solo game to near 75%.  The only way that Ex Libris increases the difficulty of the solo game is by discarding cards at the start of each round. The easy games may discard 1 cards and the master librarian may be discarding 5 cards.  Not a lot changing during the harder games.

I also found that I could  focus on the prominent works and shelf stability to deliver a win majority of the time. For those locations that allowed me to take multiple cards, I would just take the the prominent works. I would shelve books to maximize the score on shelf stability. By the end of the 8 games, I found the game to be something that could be played on auto-pilot.

The last play of the game was at the con the night before selling the game. This was a 4 player game that also showed why it wasn’t one of my favorite multiplayer games. The major complaint you’ll find for Ex Libris in any review, is the tiny print that describes what each location does. This was apparent as I was playing the game in the evening at a table in low light. Not only was the print hard to read, but in some cases the tiles did not give enough detail on what the tiles did. There are some tiles that only come out during multiplayer games, so I was unfamiliar with some of those which required reference to the rule book. The abilities of these tiles led to some interesting decisions, but the confusion around how many cards could be shelved was apparent. Some locations allowed 1 shelving, while others allowed 2 or even all cards received. The play was fun with the group but I wasn’t itching to play it again.

So to wrap things up, I finished the 10 plays I committed to Ex Libris, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them fun plays. At one point it felt more like a chore versus a reason to play the game. I’m sure many games would display their flaws during consecutive plays, but I think Ex Libris was not destined to be in my collection long.

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