When you live with three other girls who are much more interested in watching Hollyoaks than playing a game of Dominion, you quickly began searching for entry games that you can actually stand to teach and play with them. In my case, there was one game that truly saved the day in my household. Now, I regularly get asked “Are we playing board games tonight?” – they actually ask that, these girls that previously thought games were for geeks. Am I proud of my accomplishment? Yes, I am very proud of this. Of course, I have to give some credit to the game that sparked their interest in all varieties of board games: Dixit.
In the beginning, Dixit was not only a new game for them, but also for me; I had only played deck-builders and worker placement games. I sort of skipped most entry games and went straight into titles like Thunderstone, and Spartacus: Blood and Treachery. As for story telling, I was never really interested in it. However, Dixit is now a personal favourite – partly because it’s an interest I share with the people I live with, but also because it’s a relaxing play for an advanced gamer.
So what is Dixit all about? I guess it can be summed up as “a game about describing beautifully illustrated cards in such a way that the some of the other players can select your card from a line-up, but not all of the players” – the key is not to be to obvious; I’ll get to that in a second. First a note about the rulebook: it is tiny! On a single sheet of paper it explains and shows an illustrated example of a game. I know it’s an entry-level game, so that’s expected, but it’s still rather refreshing. There’s nothing I hate more about a rule book so thick I’ve forgotten how to setup the game by the time I reach the end of it. With that in mind, let’s start from the beginning again, with how to play Dixit.
A game of Dixit starts with every player being dealt six cards, then the first player takes on the role of the Storyteller and creates a sentence (or noise, sound, whatever) around one of the cards in their hand. What they say can be a description, movie quote, song lyric – anything that relates to what is depicted on their chosen card. After they’ve confirmed the other players know the “clue,” the Storyteller puts their card face down on the middle of the table. After much internal debate, the other players then pick a card from their hand which best matches the Storyteller’s description, places said card face down in the middle with the Storytellers, and hopes for the best. The cards played are all shuffled together, face down, and the Storyteller places them in a line on the table, numbering them as they go. The other players now have to vote for which of these pictures they think is the Storyteller’s by selecting a tile from their set that matches the number of their choice.
The scoring mechanic in this game is what I particularly like – if the Storyteller is too obvious and everyone guesses their picture, the players will get points but the Storyteller will get none! If no one votes for the Storyteller’s card, they’ll end their turn having received no points. It’s in the Storyteller’s best interest to pick a phrase that is vague enough so as to not be obvious, but not so obscure as to be alienating – it’s a balance, and sometimes it’s not an easy one. That all being said, if you as non-Storyteller play a card that gets everyone else thinking that yours is the Storyteller’s, you’ll score points instead – there’s no penalty for being awesome when you’re not the Storyteller.
The score board for Dixit is built into the bottom half of the box – which is a nice little touch. You move little wooden rabbits up the paving stones painted onto the cardboard inset to keep track of your score. After every round is completed, you sweep up the cards played into the discard pile, restore everyone’s hands, and then the role of Storyteller passes to the next player. Play continues until someone reaches 30 points, or until the deck of cards is depleted.
With every game there are downsides, and surely playing this game too much can get repetitive. People start to learn what all the cards are, learn what phrases are most common for each card – but that’s actually okay. This is actually why I really like Dixit – it becomes more challenging for repeat players to create new descriptions and clues. If even that becomes too easy, there are various expansion packs available, which I believe are all top on my roomates’ and I’s Christmas lists. Another positive or weakness, depending on your personal views. Overall, while Dixit might not have a strong theme (or one at all, really), it’s cute, light, and a lot of fun to play with gamers and non-gamers alike.
Dixit a brilliant party game for up to six players because it’s really rather sociable, and very easy to understand. You can play it with as little as three, though it must be noted the rules differ slightly with only three players: players put in two cards rather than one. The Storyteller still only plays a single card, but this rule modification ensures there are five cards for the two non-Storyteller players to choose from – much more interesting than the three they’d have to pick from with the normal rules. Even with this tweak to the rules, three player games still have a flaw in the potential for a third-wheel situation. If you’re playing with a couple, or two best friends, they tend to have a lot of in jokes and inside information that can keep the third player out of the loop, not knowing what kind of card to put forward – let alone vote on. This obviously depends on who you are playing with, but it is a real problem with the game in smaller numbers, hence why I would recommend playing with as many of the six possible players as you can muster up.
This game appeals to a wide range of people, and with a suggested age limit of eight and older, Dixit really is a game for the entire family. Pick it up for the holidays and get your family gaming in no time.
If you decide to give Dixit a go with a few new players and if they like it, I would then recommend Once Upon a Time as a similar game. Gloom also features a storytelling element wrapped around a similarly light hearted – if not dark – game, with a much stronger theme and better working mechanics. It doesn’t hurt that it adds a ‘take that’ mechanic to the game, which I enjoy. On the other hand, if your non-gaming group ends up not enjoying that much Dixit, then take them in another direction – how about with Ticket to Ride?
This week’s Board Stiff guest writer was Amy Reid, a British film student who now has the honor (or horror?) to be living in a household of passionate gaming girls. You can find out more about Amy by following her on Twitter @ByAmyReid.