Designer Leslie Scott, creator of Jenga, brings us Ex Libris: The Game of First Lines and Last Words. Published by Oxford Games in Oxford England.
Ex Libirs, which is Latin for the phrase “from the books” is made up of one hundred cards, each of which gives you the title, author and plot summary of an English language novel or short story.
At the start of a round one player, takes on the role of the leader. The leader picks a card and reads it out loud. The other players then have each to write a credible opening or closing sentence to the work on a sheet from the pad of paper in an attempt to bluff fellow players into believing his or her ‘script’ to be the genuine one. In the meantime, the reader writes down the genuine sentence (given on the back of the card) on a sheet as well.These are all handed in to the reader, The genuine and fake are shuffled together, and then each sentence is read out. Each player votes for the sentence he/she believes is the real one. Players win a point for each vote cast for his or her entry (while further points are won if you manage to identify the genuine sentence). The reader receives a point if no one manages to identify the authentic sentence.
The best way to describe this game is Apples to Apples meets literature, with a touch of Dixit in there as well. Players are all attempting to gain points by making others believe their line is the real on in these literary pieces. The deduction mechanic works well in this game and the scoring makes sense too.
For me, I am not sure how well this game translates into fun here in the United States as compared to England. Although this game was designed in 1991, it shares the fun elements from Apples to Apples and Dixit, games that were made after that, however the theme of this game is it’s weak point. I am not saying the theme is bad, but it does limit the audience that will appreciate this game. Ex Libris can be entertaining in certain crowds, but not for everyone. The biggest challenges are the audience’s familiarity with the works that are on the cards and their affinity to literature itself. One benefit the game does present is exposure to one hundred works of literature, at least offering a plot summary of the story. Ex Libris I see being used as an activity for homeschooled high-schoolers as well as an activity that can be modified for use in a high school English class for junior and/ or senior year.
Although a game that plays along the same lines, I see this as the “saintly” opposite of the game Cards Against Humanity. In Cards Against Humanity, a game I abhor, there is no real benefit of playing other than to expose one’s crude and perverse inner nature, Ex Libirs at least offers a benefit of allowing the players to slip into some creative shoes to “fill in” for some famous authors and to be exposed to writings that have withstood the test of time.