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Dixit

Jean-Louis Roubira (art by Marie Cardouat)

dixit

After seeing the new cover for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4, the publishers had no choice but to sack the designer.

First published: 2008

Publishers: Asmodee among others

Players: 3-6

Length: 30 minutes

workofart party

The first thing you eagle-eyed Happy Happy Board Game Love-In readers may have noticed today is that I’ve included the game’s artist up top with the designer. “Why’s that?!” I hear you cry rather pathetically. Well, Dixit, the 2010 Spiel des Jahres winner (that’s, like, the biggest award in board gaming) pretty much sells itself on the art that is included within it. It is central to the game and how it works. However of course, if Mr. Roubira hadn’t actually laid out some rules then it would just be a bunch of pretty pictures sitting in a box that you could stick up somewhere.

I guess the question to be answered in this review is; do I think you’d be better off playing the game, or just taping the cards to the inside walls of your whimsical and oh-so-original Volkswagen Camper Van so you can gaze at them as you drive off to some flowery farmland somewhere?…You hippy.

Well, we know the official line (it won the big award), and I’ll let you in on a secret about the thought of the masses (it’s highly rated on http://www.boardgamegeek.com), BUT do I, the most important person here, think it’s all that….or is it time to get the Blu-Tack and get sticking?

dixit1

Look at the whimsy! Little wooden bunny wabbits! Stepping stones! Fungi! Flowers! Aww

Let’s assume that you have some friends. Let’s assume that you’re inviting said friends over for an evening of relaxation and social enjoyment. They’re not huge game players. I can already see a bottle or two of wine, maybe a bottle of beer, a glass of gin, a non-alcoholic fruit juice here and there. Then maybe a cup of tea/coffee and a biscuit and that moment where conversation dies down and people look into their mugs, stirring a spoon around. Perhaps someone is drying a plate or two.

Then before you realise, the words are out of your mouth.

“Shall we play a game?”

Way to ruin the evening stupid-head.

You see, those who enjoy the kind of games on this site often talk about “gateway” games. Games that are perceived as easy entries into the hobby – easier rules, not too long, similarities to mass-market games. Thing is, there’s still a jump between Monopoly and Settlers of Catan. You still need to make a leap between Cluedo and Ticket To Ride. It’s the same with any hobby really. Maybe I’m learning to knit and I get the simple stitch sorted. All of a sudden my teacher says “great, let me show you crochet! It’s just like knitting but it’s more advanced and more fun!” Well maybe it’s very similar to the teacher but it’s all change for me and I’m just getting into the knitting!

So, instead, the games we should offer at this moment are games that  are more “new sized knitting needles” rather than “new technique”. A smaller jump that’s actually going to be fun for all rather than leave people frustrated. The game-suggester’s responsibility is to pick the right game, one that the other players will enjoy and NOT one that’s part of his master plan to get friends playing an 8 hour epic Twilight Imperium by the end of the month (a plan which will probably fail and turn the friends off of the idea of playing more games).

This is where a good party game comes in. Games such as Cranium, Taboo, Pictionary etc do well because they promote conversation, laughter, stupidity, mistakes and the ability to play a game while drinking, people vanishing off to the toilet or someone taking a phone call or washing some plates between turns. The game market has been swelling with great alternatives in recent years – GiftTrap, Say Anything,Wits & Wagers, Telestrations to name a few. My favourite is still Absolute Balderdash (Beyond Balderdash in the US) which has left me in tears of laughter in the past. Dixit is closest to Absolute Balderdash and therefore, when I heard about it I got interested.

dixit2

So which of these was my chosen card for “Hippy”?

Quite possibly the long intro is because the game itself is extremely easy to explain and to sum up too. Here we go.

  1. Everyone chooses a colour, placing their wooden bunny rabbit on the 0 of the scoring track (very nicely built into the box) and takes the 6 tiles (numbered 1-6).
  2. Everyone gets dealt 6 cards which they keep secret.
  3. One player starts. They become the “story teller”. They choose one card from their hand and come up with a word or phrase to describe the card (but not too literally! For example “trapped” is better than “man in prison with  a ball and chain”). They place the card face down on the table.
  4. Every other player looks at their cards and chooses the one that best matches that phrase. They add it face down to the pile on the table.
  5. The story teller takes all the cards, shuffles them and lays them out face up, numbering them 1-6 (or less with fewer players).
  6. All the other players secretly choose which card was the story teller’s card by voting with their tiles.
  7. If everyone guesses the story teller’s card (clue too easy) or no-one does (clue too obscure) then everyone except the story teller gets 2 points.
  8. If at least one but not all players guess the story teller’s card correctly then the story teller and everyone who got it right gets 3 points.
  9. If a player’s card is wrongly chosen by another player then they get 1 point for tricking their opponent!

….and that’s it. Deal a new card to each player, the next player clockwise becomes story teller and play continues around until the draw pile of cards has been exhausted.

dixit3

“A wish for freedom”. Which card is it?

The real strengths of the game lie in the simplicity of the rules, the art and the fact that people don’t need to be “intelligent” or artistic to play it (i.e. it’s not a trivia game or a drawing game). Quite often you’ll have a feeling about what card belongs to the story teller player but sometimes it is a complete guess. The trickiest skill in the game comes from knowing how obvious your hint needs to be. This can be linked to knowledge of the different images in the game, which can favour more experienced players. For example a new player may say “look no hands” for the card that shows a clock without the minute and hour hands. An experienced player will likely know exactly what card that player ha played as they know there aren’t really any other similar cards in the deck.

Still, the balance to the game is good and many of the cards are vague and “whimsical” enough to be open to numerous interpretations to help with the replayability of the game as well as add to the depth of word and phrase choices. The art really is central to the game and the images chosen, while mostly quite unnerving, are of a high quality and of both a wide variety and yet also similarity. It really is a game that sold itself on the hype of the card art. There are already numerous expansions for the game, offering new decks of cards from the same and different artists. In such it has captured the imagination of many gamers, both seasoned veterans of gaming worldwide and also newcomers who I have played the game with. I’ve never finished the game and not had people cooing about how much they enjoyed the game and how beautiful it was.

However, I personally find it hard to love the game. I like it, sure. I enjoy it, no doubt. But having played numerous times with different people now, it is certainly losing the shine that it had to start with. For a start, I still think Absolute Balderdash is the better (albeit older and requires writing and more thinking) game. Dixit does not excite me when I play it and it does feel like a bit of a “one trick pony”, playing with the same cards. Pretty much every game I’ve played has also included my wife and by now we’re generally finishing a long way ahead of any new players, scoring almost a 100% success rate on each others card selections. If you know certain opponents well, you will find yourself getting a gut feeling towards their chosen card more often than not.

The cards are indeed lovely and they do appeal to 99% of people but personally they’re not to my taste. This is probably a purely personal statement though and after looking at the images in this review and elsewhere you will no doubt be able to make your own decisions on that.

Ultimately this is a game that you will play with your heart and your gut more than your head. If you’re a critical thinker you’re unlikely to get as much out of the game as someone who feels the emotion and the general vibe of the game as it plays out. It is one of my most successful post-dinner games and it has won “the big” award in gaming so take my final rating with a pinch of salt if the sound of the game has you tingling with thrill and has your hippy juices flowing.

 

WHIMSICAL:

  • Whether you like the card art or not, they offer plenty of creativity
  • The rules can be explained in about a minute
  • Doesn’t need general knowledge, acting or maths skills

MISERABLE:

  • It’s a bit of a one trick pony
  • If you know someone well, you’ll probably know what they chose
  • Limited replayability with the same group

7/10

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