New Cards for Ex Libris

by @edent | # # # # # | 7 comments | Read ~646 times.

Ex libris is a wonderful game. No – better than that – it’s a beautiful game.

Here are the rules:

  • Everyone has to write the opening line of a novel, based on the novel’s summary.
  • One player has the real opening line to copy down.
  • One other player (the guesser) has to guess which of the opening lines is the real one.
  • If you fool the guesser, you win the point. If the guesser is correct, she gets the point.

Simple and perfect. You don’t need to be well read – you just need enough of an imagination to write what you think someone else will think the opening line of a novel is.

Ex Libris

There’s a minor problem – there are only a limited number of cards and none of them are very new. There’s no Harry Potter, We Need To Talk About Kevin, or American Gods.

As with any game, it can get a little bit repetitive – once you’ve played it a dozen times it can become a bit obvious which are the real extracts from the books.

So, what’s needed is a whole set of new cards.

The rules say:

Each card gives you the title, author and plot summary of a novel or short story.

The card also has the opening and closing sentence of the book.

So, for example, the new card for John le Carré’s “Our Kind of Traitor” would say (SPOILER WARNING!)

Title: Our Kind Of Traitor
Author: John le Carré
Plot: A young Oxford academic and his girlfriend take a holiday to Antigua. By chance they bump into a Russian millionaire called Dima who owns a peninsula and a diamond-encrusted gold watch. Dima propels the young lovers on a journey to the murkiest cloisters of the City of London and its unholy alliance with Britain’s Intelligence Establishment.

Opening Line: “At seven o’clock of a Caribbean morning, on the island of Antigua, one Peregrine Makepiece, otherwise known as Perry, an all-round amateur athlete of distinction and until recently tutor in English literature at a distinguished Oxford college, played three sets of tennis against a muscular, stiff-backed, bald, brown-eyed Russian man of dignified bearing in his middle fifties called Dima.”

Closing Line: “Was it sex? Was it drugs? Was it arms? For want of a shred of evidence it was none of them. Terror, the great catch-all these days, has also been considered, but rejected out of hand. No group has claimed responsibility.”

Making It Happen

I was planning on writing a Calibre Plugin to automate the generation of cards from my fulsome library.
It would be fairly easy to extract the author, summary, and cover image.
However, finding the first line from a book is a slightly tricky matter – not to mention how you determine where the last line is.

So I think I’ll stick to manually for the time being.

I think this could be a great way to revatilise a wonderful game. Only a few – non-technical – problems.

Would I face a massive lawsuit from the good folk at Oxford Games? Would the insanity of the UK’s copyright laws stop me?

More importantly, would anyone be interested in this? If you’re an Ex Libris player and would be interested in some new cards – please leave a comment on this post!

7 thoughts on “New Cards for Ex Libris

  1. “finding the first line from a book is a slightly tricky matter – not to mention how you determine where the last line is”

    Sounds like an intriguing bibliographic metadata challenge for those marking up texts.

  2. Chris Richardson says:

    It would be a real labour of love if you did! Having played the game for the past 10 years the cards have long since been replaced by ritual visits to my bookshelf. Whether the players know the chosen book in question matters not a jot. It’s the spirit of the game that is so marvelous and the sense of satisfaction of fooling your peers.

    I wrote a review for Amazon ( expounding its praise. It truly does make mincemeat out of Balderdash and Articulate etc.

    Now, I want you to start immediately and let me know when you are done.

    (as for that Le Carre – it would take the evening to write the opening sentence and in my opinion stand out like a Cold Spy – who could emulate that and get away with it?)

  3. Beth says:

    Yes please! We just played tonight and laughed so much; but could really use some new cards now – we’ve been playing every new year’s eve for seven years.

  4. L Taylor says:

    This is long after the comments above, but just in case anyone is still reading … You don’t NEED new cards. Just use actual books – paperbacks are good – just read the blurb on the back or on first page; get author info same way. We’ve played this way for years now & don’t even miss the cards any more

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