Who do you play with? It’s an important question. You may not have taken a step back and considered the people you choose to play your games with, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. That’s down to Dixit. It’s not a game for everybody, but it’s definitely one that I think everyone should try out…
Originally published in 2008, Dixit took the Spiel des Jahres prize earlier this year – and as usual, there was outcry amongst certain elements of the gaming community. The fact that this party game (which is in no way a derisive term) walked away with the award caused a fair bit of consternation amongst some people, many saying that yet again the jury had chosen the easy way out. A kids game winning the previously prestigious prize? It’s all downhill from here on in, they said. However, I reckon that most of the haters hadn’t actually got their hands on a copy, because if they did… well, I reckon there’d be a few changed minds.
The premise is simple. From a deck of 84 oversized cards, each player is given a starting hand of 6. Someone is chosen to take on the role of the Storyteller, meaning they must select one of their cards and describe it in a certain way. The choice of how this is done is entirely theirs – you could describe it in a full sentence, a phrase, even a single word. The card is then placed face down on the table as all the other players then choose a card from their hand that they think best fits the description given by the Storyteller. These are all shuffled then flipped, and all players (bar the Storyteller) then vote on the one they believe inspired the original description.
Now, here’s the trick. The Storyteller can’t be too obvious. If everyone votes for their card, they get no points (but everyone else does). However, you can’t be too obscure or abstract, because if no-one chooses your card you also fail to score. You need to find that middle ground, nothing too off-the-wall, but not explicit. If even one person chooses your card, you’re a winner. You can also score a point if someone casts a vote for your non-Storyteller card – some rounds can really see you boost your score, especially if you find the right answer while everyone else votes for your selection.
Dixit, as much as I enjoy it, certainly isn’t a game for everyone. At first play, newcomers to the game will raise their eyebrows and go “What?”. A quick demo soon sorts this out – just choose a card at random and ask everyone playing to describe it in an interesting way. No matter what card is chosen, I can guarantee that each person will come up with a different idea. It’s a game that requires imagination and thought – and, it must be said, a little bravery. Having played it several times, you can really get a handle on how some people’s thought processes function. Where one may see a scene overflowing with possibilities and hope, another may think it filled with danger and chaos. Have a look at the card below and see what you come up with.
As you can see, Dixit has a style all of its own. Each one of the cards is beautifully painted and completely different to anything I’ve seen before. The game has an almost dreamlike feel to it – skies filled with letters, monstrous handbags… in the world of Dixit, anything is possible. Add to this the strange scoring track (rabbits leaping around the platform that has been built into the box) and you can see that this is no ordinary game. It requires you to let yourself go a little, to be a kid again. And isn’t that what games are all about? Being playful?
So far, I’ve only played Dixit with friends. So far, I think it’s one of the best games I’ve played this year. Perhaps (for the more serious gamer) it’s a bit too light, but the frivolities of Dixit make me smile. It’s a beautiful game, quick to play and truly fun with the right people. It requires a certain level of understanding amongst the people involved, an almost unwritten rule that no description is too strange or curious. If you’ve got a group like that, I really recommend seeing if you can get your hands on a copy – Dixit may even teach you a thing or two.
Dixit was designed by Jean-Louis Roubira and was published by Libellud (amongst others) in 2008. It was awarded the Spiel des Jahres in 2010 (as well as countless other awards from around the world). It’s available from fine online retailers and will cost you around £30. It’s also already got an expansion if you want to check it out: a new deck of cards imaginatively titled Dixit 2.