Classic Reviews – Dixit: What Art They Thinking?
Some games, in my opinion, fall into the category of “must have” in your collection. There are some games which I seem to never get tired of playing. Some games that are good “gateway” games; games that are great for helping introduce inexperienced gamers to (post-Catan) games & gaming. Dixit is an incredible game that fulfills all these categories.
Dixit is a game with very simple mechanics and rules but a lot of depth, strategy, creativity, and variety. Each player has a hand of cards with amazing artwork. The rules specify hands of six cards but I’ve sometimes played with more (nine). This gives players more options and cuts down on the “luck factor” of having “good cards”. The cards are amazing not only in their quality but also in their content; the images are fantastic (even “trippy” might be more accurate). We tried to capture some of those in the card shots in this review.
Each turn/round a different player takes a turn being the Storyteller. The “story” they tell can be almost anything: one word, a phrase, a whole sentence, a song lyric, some have even done a sound effect or noise. The Storyteller then plays one of their cards face down that goes with their story. Everyone else plays a card (also face down) that might go with the story. Their objective is to have others choose their card instead of the Storyteller’s card. The Storyteller takes all the cards, mixes them up, puts them out face up, and the real fun begins.
Now everyone must try to psycho-analyze all the cards played and figure out which one is the “real” one; the card belonging to the Storyteller. The Storyteller’s story can’t have been overly obscure or obtuse because they need other players to guess their card to score points. However, the story can’t have been too specific either, because if every player guesses the card, the Storyteller still doesn’t score. If the Storyteller fails in either way, they score nothing and everyone else gets 2 points. If the Storyteller succeeds, they score three points and the players who guessed correctly also score 3 points. Any incorrect guesses reward the player of the incorrect card with an additional point. It can also be a tightrope for the guessers as well. You really try to get into the head of the Storyteller but many times you’re on the fence between 2 cards.
As already mentioned, the key to Dixit is walking a tightrope in your storytelling. Using open-ended one word stories like “Lost” or “Trouble” or “Journey” can be good. If you fail as Storyteller in one round and get no points while everyone else gets 2, it’s challenging to catch up and still win, but definitely possible. Scores can change rapidly for dramatic comebacks. There is a huge advantage in this game to knowing the other people you’re playing with.
One effective strategy is to try to connect very specifically with someone who is behind on the scoreboard. If you can think of some artistic element/feature of one of your cards that you can connect with them on but that nobody else would know, you can get only that one person to guess. In this case only you and they get 3 points and, because they are behind in score, it allows you to surge ahead of the others competing with you for the lead. Admittedly, this can lessen the “fun factor” for everyone else who feels “in the dark” regarding your story.
However, it can be REALLY funny when it all backfires. In one game I played a mom tried to connect with her daughter with “For Elise” (her daughter’s middle name) with something only she’d know. The daughter didn’t guess it, thinking it wasn’t about her. I didn’t even know her middle name. I think more players thought it was referring to Beethoven’s composition “Fur Elise” as card with a piano got several votes. Once I was confident only one other person playing was familiar with the Narnia stories so I gave a story of “Aslan” and used a lion card. I’ve also seen people use songs or bands.
Strategy in Dixit also changes with the number of players. The lower the number of players, the more specific you must be. Smaller numbers of guessers make it harder to walk the information tightrope, and having nobody guess is a higher possibility. With more players you have more guessers so you can be a little more obscure and hope at least one person will collide. So many times I’ve seen jealous laughter when the Storyteller’s card was guessed correctly, but when asked how or why they picked that card, it was for a completely different reason than the Storyteller intended.
The only negative I’ve experienced is just getting tired of looking at the same artwork after a few dozen plays of the game. Fortunately the makers of Dixit anticipated this and have released a lot of expansion decks of artwork cards. I’ve been using the “Journey” and “Memories” expansion decks to add variety. Most recently I picked up “Odyssey” which has another deck of cards and supports up to 12 players. There had been times where I’ve had 7 or 8 players so Dixit wasn’t an option, but now I’m ready! Another minor negative is that when you’re the Storyteller and you’ve already put your card out, there is a little bit of dead time for you while everyone picks cards and ruminates on which card to guess. It can still be fun listening to the commentary while people ponder, though.
Dixit has been fun every single time I’ve played, even when I’m losing horribly (a sign of a good game). Each turn is its own little “win” when you can successfully discern the Storyteller’s card. I find it especially fun to play it with different groups of people because the same artwork will generate completely different stories. It’s fun to watch people’s creative side come alive. It’s a great way to get to know people and to explore how people think differently. I can’t recommend it enough. I love this game.
You can get your own copy of Dixit in local stores or on Amazon.
Players: 3-6 (up to 12 with “Odyssey” expansion)
Age Range: 6+
Playtime: 30 minutes