Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Review: Dixit and Dixit 2

My biases first: I am a big fan of theme in games and do not mind reaching through piles of chits if the theme and game play is good enough. While I do favor confrontation, chits, bits and polished pieces of AT games, there are still a large number of Euros that I'll build my farm on or attend auctions at and be quite content at the end of my experience. Also, I have played and (shudder) enjoyed some sessions of Apples to Apples, but I understand the overall flaws of that game. And my original schooling path was in art (though I eventually ended up working in social services) so, in theory, I've been filled with different ways to interpret art.

The Overview:

The annoying-sized box cover before they started to stick awards icons all over it. 

What is inside of the box, not including the expansion, which increases the number of cards and makes you flip the insert so that maybe you can fit them all in the box. Later editions changed the score track, so the bunnies were hopping along rocks instead of lily pads. 

Dixit is a party game in which one person comes up with a title or phrase to describe the image on one of their cards and other players try to choose cards from their hand that other people may think match the title. There is a scoring trick that makes the title-giver have to be not too vague, but also not too specific. The game works best with creative people, although it is definitely not required to play. It is probably best compared to the party game Apples to Apples, but is a visual version of that game as opposed to a literary version.

The game is for 3-6 players, although three players is only viable with a variant (that isn't that great). Playing time is about 30 minutes, plus a little longer if you have people who really take a lot of time to come up with titles. Adding the expansion to the game can double the game length unless you cut down on the number of cards being used, since you play until the deck runs out. It is a party game that will appeal to non-gamers and be more appealing to more hardcore gamers than Apples to Apples seems to be.

The game is really easy to understand, although scoring is a little unintuitive at first. Each player is dealt six cards. Each of the cards has a different image on them, and the images are complex and detailed, but most importantly, they are evocative. One player will be the Storyteller for the round. They choose one of their cards and comes up with a title or phrase for it. He or she then places the card face-down without allowing any other player to see it.

Each other player then looks through their hand of six cards and tries to find one that best matches the Storyteller's description. After choosing one, they add it face-down to the pile. The face-down pile of cards are shuffled and then placed face up so that everyone can see them. Each player (except the Storyteller) secretly chooses the card that they think the Storyteller was describing by selecting one of their vote tokens face down before them. After all votes are in, the Storyteller reveals which was his or her card and players score for the round. Players draw back up to six cards and the player on the current Storyteller's left becomes the Storyteller for this next round. This continues until the deck of cards is exhausted and then the player with the most points wins.

Scoring works a little differently depending on if you are the Storyteller or a player for the round.

For the Storyteller, if all of the players have correctly chosen your image, then you have been too specific in your title and you get no points. If none of the players have chosen your image, then you have been too vague and you get no points. However, if at least one player has chosen your image and at least one player has chosen another image, then the Storyteller receives 3 points for the round regardless of how many people actually chose his image (as long as it was at least one and at least one guessed incorrectly).

For the other players, if everyone correctly guessed the Storyteller's image, everyone receives 2 points for him being too specific. If everyone missed the Storyteller's image, then everyone receives 2 points for him being too vague. If you guessed the Storyteller's image correctly and at least one other person guessed incorrectly, then you receive 3 points. On top of this, you also get 1 extra point for each vote that was for the image that you had played from your hand.

That's it. Scoring is a little tricky in your first game or so, but it quickly becomes easy enough.

The Theme:

This is a party game with minor elements of bluffing involved. There really isn't any theme to the game other than the (hopeful) sense of creativity at the table. However, I have also seen the game take the opposite effect and make some people at the table feel very uncreative.

Learning the Game:

The game is incredibly easy to learn. My rules summary up at the top is basically all there is to it. The Dixit 2 expansion does not add to or complicate the rules in any way. It simply adds more cards to the mix. I would suggest, however, that you shuffle the new cards into your original Dixit deck and then play with half the deck. Otherwise you will end up with some marathon game times in a game that really should not be that long. Seriously. Two half-hour games of Dixit are much more satisfying than one marathon hour long game, this is primarily because there is no "catch-up mechanic" if one player takes a lead.

The Components:

Little wooden rabbit meeples that like to fall onto their sides with any bump of the table are inexplicably used to mark your position on the scoring track which is made from the box insert.

Example artwork from one of the cards.

The game is beautiful, if not exactly practical. First of all, I have to say that the cards are perfect for the game. There is a lot of detail to them, a lot is going on, they are evocative and stir numerous emotions and they are just simply beautiful. They are a good, solid stock, but easy enough to shuffle. However, they are an odd-sized and may be annoying to sleeve for those who do such things to their games.

However, while the little rabbit meeples for the score track are neat, they really like to tip over and fall whenever they have the chance. That isn't a huge complaint, but single the rabbit meeple was an aesthetic choice over a thematic one, practicality should have been considered.

The same holds true to the scoring track. The scoring track being part of the box insert was a neat enough idea at first. Then I purchased Dixit 2 and the cards no longer fit in the box without flipping the insert (which is surprisingly a bit fragile). This again leans towards aesthetics over practicality. However, the most annoying part of the score track for me is that you start on a zero space and the score track goes in a circle ending at 30 points. If you have a game that someone scores more than 30 points (which is not at all uncommon), then moving to the next space after 30 puts you on 0. So once you have lapped the scoreboard and are on the 8 space, you really have 39 points.

While this is not a bother to 90% of the people out there, it probably is an annoyance to 90% of BGGers who are gaming OCD and may record their scores. But ultimately, if this is my big complaint about the components of the game, you should realize that they are rather solid.

Playing the Game:

This isn't a deep or tense game. It is light, casual party-game fun. The game is better with more players, but ultimately runs into a few small problems.

First of all, player familiarity is a little bit of an issue in the game. For example, if I am playing with my wife and she gets this card:

...then she will invariably use the title "Family of Blood". Only I will get it, so she is assured points because no one else will pick this card for that title. Though one day, we will play with a bunch of people who get the Doctor Who reference and will foil her plans. I have seen these "inside" references be annoying to some players and I can't fully fault that feeling.

This familiarity problem can also pop up for people who play the game a lot. If Bob and Mary are playing a game with a group of people and Mary plays a card with a title. Bob and Mary can play another game later with different people and if either had that same card, they could use the same title and know that the other person will get the reference and vote for it, while the new players in the second game are guessing blindly.

However, these are not big issues. This is a half-hour party game. You are playing to have fun and this is not really a game that you play competitively.

This leads me to what I enjoy about the game: Fucking with people's heads.

I don't view Dixit as simply a game, but it is also a psychological experiment waiting to take place. Seriously, you want to have some fun? Next time you play the game and you are the Storyteller choose any card, no matter what the image is, and give the title: "There is no cat in this picture".

Now a lot of the Dixit cards have cats on them, so it is not uncommon for a number of people to have cards in their hands that have cats on them. But the title is that there is no cat in the picture. I find it very fun to see what the players have chosen. Do they lay out a card with a cat in it? What cards do they think best represent the absence of cats?

What is even more fun is to then watch each of the players at the table lean in and examine the cards laid out once they are revealed, examining each of them for either the sign of a cat or the epitome of lack of cat. Perhaps they think I am lying and there really is a cat in the picture. Really, titles like this make the game much more interesting from a psychological point of view, but much more chaotic from the point scoring point of view.

Another fun thing to do is to take a the most paranoid player at the table. Let's assume that at this current game "Bob" is the most insecure or paranoid person. When you are a Storyteller, choose any of your cards, it does not matter what it is, and give it the title, "What we all talked about when Bob was in the bathroom." Again, lots of fun to watch how people, especially Bob, react.

Want to find out what your friends think of you? Lay out any card and title it, "This is me." Want to see how easily impressed they are with titles? Title your card, "My card is the second one on the left", then see how many people pick the second card on the left. Who knows, with a lucky shuffle they may be right.


The game is listed for 3-6 players, but it really only plays with 3 players with a variant that isn't that good. With games like this, more players are better. The game plays alright with 4 players, but really it works best with 5 or 6 because there are more options to choose from when guessing the Storyteller's card.

Does the Wife Like It?:

The most important category. I play games without her, but she's an integral part of my core gaming group and my most frequent game partner. The more she likes a game, the more likely (and often) we will play it. My wife is more of a gamer than to really get into party games, but she and I recognize that party games have their place. It is one that my wife enjoys and when we are with non-gamers or gamers who are in the mood for some lighter fare, this is one that she will suggest or at least not be adverse to playing. The only problem with that is, as I mentioned earlier, she and I know each other and our references too well and it gives us a bit of an advantage in games. For example, if I were to title my image, "This looks like that picture that our daughter, Molly drew for us last summer", she would know it in a heartbeat, but the other gamers at the table might as well be guessing randomly.

The Pros:

*Beautiful game with very evocative artwork that is a lot deeper than it seems at first glance.
*Good playtime with just the base game without wearing out its welcome.
*Can make you feel very creative.
*Expansion adds content without making anything more complex.
*It's fun to use the game for psychological experiments on my friends.

The Cons:

*Components are focused on aesthetics over practicality.
*Player familiarity can give large advantages in the game.
*Can make you feel very uncreative.
*Expansion increases the playtime beyond its normal welcome unless you "half" the deck.
*Someone might use the game as a psychological experiment on you.
*The game does not include a control group.


Dixit is a fun, creative party game that takes the premise of Apples to Apples, but effectively changes and challenges it enough that the hardcore BGGers will not snort derisively at being invited to play. Ultimately there are a fair number of ways to use player familiarity to "game" the system, but it's a rather non-competitive party game and if you are doing that you're probably a dick. It is light fare, but still rather fun and offers other ways to enjoy the game even without being "deep" into the system. It is not a gateway game, but a nice bridge to occupy a mixed group of gamers and non-gamers for part of the evening, or until the rest of the gaming group arrives or finishes their other game.


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