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Leslie Scott & Sara Finch are credited with devising this intellectual challenge for Oxford Games Limited. Oxford Games Ltd publishes a vast range of family games. It was founded by the creator of Jenga, Leslie Scott, in 1991.

It is meant for 4-8 players but like Call My Bluff, Apples to Apples, Balderdash and others of this genre, it can accomodate virtually as many players as you wish, but of course the more players the longer the game.

Like all of these games every player has a turn (or turns) at being the Bluffer (I use this generic term, in Ex Libris this player is called the Reader). Each player has their own pad of paper - in Ex Libris there is a blank pad so you can hand out pages as and when required and all players will be using the same paper. Because this is a bluffing game the organiser should make sure each player also has a similar pen or pencil so you cannot identify their answers by type of paper or colour of pencil/ink.

The gameplay is not really any different than a dozen or more bluffing games. One player (the Bluffer/Reader) draws a card from the deck and reads the text on it to the players and they then take up their pens and papers and write what they believe would make either a great opening line or excellent closing line of the book, the more plausible the better. There is no rules booklet, just a few short instructions on the back of the box. The idea is that after each player has completed their answer they hand them to the Reader who shuffles them up along with a copy of the actual answer(s) that he has made so that there are as many answer sheets as there are players. Then each player votes on which one they want to - the one they think is more likely to be the real answer. The players whose answers are chosen score points for each guess of their contribution, and anyone who guesses (or knows) the true answer gets extra points (unfortunately the rules doesn't say how many "extra" points are given for a correct guess/knowledge though we guess you score one point for each vote by another player (obviously you cannot vote for your own answer).  The rules are quite obscure, and say that the "winning player is the one who has most votes cast for his or her entry...." Nothing about ties, for example if there are two or more players who get the same number of votes, and nothing about whether you play X number of rounds and if so how many X is. In short the rules appear to have been written by someone who already knows how to play and has had to make them fit into just one short paragraph.

At first this looks like it is a game for highbrow, university educated, brainy players (not for the likes of me who hadn't even heard of the majority of the books featured), but when you play it in a party-style friendly atmosphere with like-minded players who enjoy having fun you can have a truly good belly-laugh-inducing game. Once you have played a few times or you and your players are true bookworms then there are a number of other ways of playing, using the same basic rules.

1. The Reader reads the title of the book, it's author and the selected passage. The reader takes the time to write the answers down on a sheet of paper (which they will shuffle in with the player's answer sheets). The players write down their suggestions for BOTH the Opening and Closing lines. The Reader shuffles trhe answer sheets and reads out the answers to the Opening Lines and the players vote on them. Then the Reader reshuffles the answer sheets and reads out the Closing Lines and the players vote on them also. Have another sheet of paper to keep a running score and score 1 point for each vote and an extra 1 point for guessing the correct quote - if you know the correct answer don't write it as your answer but remember to vote for it. After a predetermined number of rounds the player with the highest tallied score is the winner.

2. Play as for 1 but the players are only writing the Opening Lines.

3. Play as for 1 but the players are only writing the Closing Lines.

4. The Reader reads out the Opening Line and the the Closing Line and the players have to guess either (or both) the Author and the Book Title. (score one point for each)

5. The Reader reads out the Opening Line and the players have to guess either (or both) the Author and the Book Title. (score one point for each)

6. The Reader reads out the Closing Line and the players have to guess either (or both) the Author and the Book Title. (score one point for each)

For each game idea the players and the Reader always write their answers (printing is better than writing so that the Reader doesn't stumble over reading someone else's writing) down and the Reader collects all the sheets and shuffles them together.

EX LIBRIS is a fun and interesting new take on an old game style. If you are not regular visitors to the British Library in London or the Bodleian Library in Oxford then you are going to be educated as you play, or, if you play it the fun way we do then you can rewrite some of the (allegedly/apparently) Classics.

Whatever way you play, to prevent the possibility of players gaining an advantage have each player write down the answer they are voting for before they vote. This way there can be no vote rigging (not that anyone would listen to how other players vote and then choose accordingly so as to ensure one player doesn't get too many votes, well maybe there's one player I know who would do such a thing, in fact he's the reason we now always write down our choices prior to the Reader telling the results.


© Chris Baylis 2011-2015