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Guest Review : Dixit the Board Game

August 21st, 2011 Posted in reviews
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Dixit Box frontDixit is a wonderful family/party game for 3-6 players with light strategic elements, fast-paced, creative gameplay and beautiful artwork that will satisfy novice players and seasoned board game veterans of all ages. It is a game that primarily requires imagination and deduction, and maybe a little bit of telepathy. A great quick game for younger crowds or mixed age/experience groups; Dixit should only take 30-45 minutes to play.

Appearance: Dixit is absolutely gorgeous. The 84 cards that comprise the central mechanic of the game are beautifully-illustrated by artist Marie Cardouat, and are often fantastic, absurd, or downright strange. Words don’t really do the game art justice; see below for some pictures. The wooden bidding tokens handle easily, and the rabbit-shaped player tokens are a nice touch.

Setup of the game board for DIxitRules/Ease of Learning: The rules of Dixit are quite simple. Each player is dealt a hand of six cards. The active player begins by saying a word, reciting a quotation, singing a song, or even making a noise that somehow describes one of the cards. This is very open to interpretation – a player may physically describe some object in the picture, an emotion expressed by the picture, a memory they associate with the depicted events, etc. This is really only limited by the player’s imagination. Once the active player has vocalized the chosen card, each player must lay a card face-down on the table that they think best embodies the active player’s description. Often this requires some creative thinking on the part of the other players; it is rare that the word or phrase spoken by the active player will perfectly describe one of their cards as well.

The next phase of the game is bidding. The cards are shuffled and laid face-up on the table, and assigned numbers from left to right. Each player (excluding the active player) must secretly bid on the card they believe was laid by the active player. When all bids have been placed, the bidding tiles are turned face-up and scoring begins.

Scoring is the trickiest part of the rules. The active player only receives points if at least one player (but not all of them) chose the correct card. If all or none of the players chose the active player’s card, everybody but the active player scores points. This means that the active player must pick a word/phrase/etc. that is neither too specific nor too vague. Once the scoring is complete, the active player changes and a new round begins.

Dixit Score Track and Inside BoxGameplay: Though the rules are simple, the strategy is tricky enough that most new players will spend a few rounds of frustration as either nobody or everybody picks their card, denying them from scoring any points. Sometimes you are unlucky and nobody else has a card that even remotely matches the active player’s word or phrase, making it an easy choice for all. However, once players have played a few rounds, it becomes easier to find the right balance between obscurity and precision.

The gameplay in Dixit is also aided by an almost complete lack of language-dependence. Being composed almost entirely of pictures, Dixit can be played by people of varying linguistic ability – be they young children or people who speak English as a second language (though you may have to explain a word or two). I have played this game several times with people who have low to intermediate English skills, and it works very well. The flexibility of the verbal component of this game means it scales itself to the ability of the players. Clues might often be a single adjective, when playing with younger players or students. If playing with an older crowd, clues might be references to movies or song lyrics. If playing with close friends, clues could include inside jokes that might give certain players a somewhat-unfair advantage.

The above praise notwithstanding, the fantastic art and simple gameplay often steers veteran board gamers away from Dixit. It is easy to see Dixit as a game solely for families and young children, but one shouldn’t discount it entirely. Part of the amusement I derive from Dixit is trying to guess how other people think I think, and then trying to outthink them. The strategy involved is as complicated as you wish to make it.

The strategy and gameplay in Dixit depends partially on the number of players. The three player game is somewhat weak, although the rules change do change to accommodate the lower number of players, with each player (except the active player) choosing two cards instead of one. Nevertheless, the game is definitely much more enjoyable with five or six players. Because the game is played until the deck is depleted, increasing the number of players adds more depth and enjoyment to the game without appreciably increasing game length.

Dixit Card Close-UpBeing a game that relies on individual imagination, Dixit can vary wildly from group to group. Knowing one of your opponents very well often helps you make the leap of logic between the picture on the table and the word or phrase spoken by the active player. Players often have to put themselves in their opponent’s shoes to try to figure out how their minds work. Telepathy is an asset.

Conclusion: Overall, Dixit is one of the best party/family games that I’ve played in recent years. It combines imagination and creativity with deduction and mind-reading to create a game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. People looking for a serious, strategically complex game should steer clear, but those who want a game they could play with their children, friends, parents, and grandparents all at the same time should certainly give Dixit a chance.

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