Sunday, 4 August 2013


The game reviews continue to come thick and fast here at Games & Tea, and today we're going to have a look at Dixit: a board game from Libellud for 3-6 players, designed by Jean-Louis Roubira.
Now the first thing you may notice is that unlike our other board game reviews, we're not splitting this one into two parts.  This is because Dixit is such an incredibly simple game that a 'box contents' entry would take up little more than a couple of paragraphs, and so we're combining the whole thing into a single article.
Don't less this fool you into thinking Dixit's simplicity makes it a sub-standard game.  This is an absolutely charming little game of creativity and flexing the imagination muscles, and makes for a very different but no less enjoyable gaming experience than a lot of games on the market.  So let's have a quick skim over the box contents.
The board itself (which we would have to describe with the words 'charming' and 'quaint') is styled quite uniquely, in that it's actually built into the box.  This may seem odd at first (and indeed threw us the first time we opened our copy), but this design is very intelligent, in that it leaves the players needing very little space to play Dixit.  In fact as long as you have space to put the box down, you have space to play the game.  Looking past the interesting design, the board is quite basic, simply consisting of 30 numbered spaces for the players to make their way along throughout the course of the game.
Being a board game, the next thing on the checklist is the set of playing pieces.  In Dixit these pieces are all shaped like rabbits.  Why rabbits?  We have absolutely no idea, but somehow it continues to add to the charm of the game.  We realise this is third time we've used the word "charm" or "charming" to describe Dixit, but frankly it's a term which cannot be thrown around enough as far as this game's concerned.
The 6 playing pieces are all coloured differently, and there are Voting Tokens numbered 1-6 to correspond with each colour of playing piece.  We'll come to the Voting Tokens and how they work in a moment.
Then the final element of the game is the deck of 84 Images.  These are very simple, containing no text, no rules, just a unique and beautifully illustrated image with which the players must tell their stories and work their way to the end of the board.  These cards each contain an abstract image, ranging from a lady on a ladder carving shapes in the clouds, to a small child casting a shadow in the shape of a vicious wolf.  The cards are all designed to have multiple facets open to interpretation, and in the game description below we'll explore the reason why.
And that's it.  That's the entire contents of the Dixit box.  "How could there possibly be a workable game mechanic in this?" you may ask.  Well, let us show you.
At the start of the game each player chooses their playing piece, taking the appropriate colour of Voting Tokens, and draws 6 cards from the Image deck.  The players take it in turns assuming the role of the Storyteller, and imaginations start to get rolling.  The Storyteller must choose one card out of their hand and put a story to it.  This story could be a sentence, a single word, a song, a sound effect, an action; anything at all, as long as the Storyteller is satisfied that it subtly links up to the image on their card.  With the 'story' told, each other player has to give a card from their own hand, face-down, to the Storyteller.  When every player has submitted their card the Storyteller shuffles them together and lays them out in a line, face-up.  Each player aside from the Storyteller then has to place a vote for which card they think best matches the story, and these votes dictate how far each player moves along the board.
Let us show you an example...
Here we have a cat painting a picture of some fish, which are coming to life and swimming off the edge of the canvas.  All in all it's a rather a bizarre sight.  However, the Storyteller is going to focus on one small element of the Image; the fact that the cat is wearing boots.  As a result his story for this turn is simply going to be one word; "Shrek", being a reference to Puss in Boots.
The other 4 players have selected cards from their hands to fit the description of "Shrek" the best they can.  From left to right we have a dragon, the cat, a sun over a host of umbrellas, a king, and a giant.  The sun might seem like an odd submission, but if you find yourself unable to match an Image to the Storyteller's story then it can often be useful to use this opportunity to discard a card you've been struggling with.
These cards are lined up left-to-right, with each card being given a number from 1-5.  Each player chooses a Voting Token with the corresponding number and places it face-down, so as not to influence other players' votes.  Once everyone has voted the tokens are turned over, and this is where the game gets clever.
If everyone votes for the Storyteller's card, or no one does, then the Storyteller stays put and everyone else moves 2 spaces.  This presents a challenge to the Storyteller, as it means that the connection between their story and their card can't be too obvious, but at the same time it can't be too subtle.  If some (but not all) players select the Storyteller's card then those players and the Storyteller move 3 spaces each, and on top of these moves, everyone (Storyteller aside) who received a vote for their Image moves forward 1 space.
The cards for the round are then discarded, new cards are drawn to bring each player's hand back up to 6 cards, and the game continues.  The winner is decided when the first player reaches space number 30 on the board, or by whoever is furthest ahead when the Image deck runs out, which in larger games will happen quite quickly.

Now you may have noticed a slight problem with this game; if you're playing with 3 players then only 3 cards per turn are being put down.  You'll obviously know which card you placed, so that leaves you with just a 50/50 shot of guessing the correct Image.  This is quickly and easily addressed in the rules, with the suggestion that each player aside from the Storyteller submits 2 cards per round, thus giving a greater degree of choice to their opponent.  That said, Dixit is definitely one of those games where it's a case of 'the more the merrier'.
So that's Dixit.  It might seem like a very basic game mechanic, but it works and is a lot of fun.  The simple, non-offensive nature of the Image cards means that it's a very family-friendly game, and for board gamers wishing to get their kids into the hobby you couldn't ask for a better game than this one.  Much like with our previously reviewed Gloom this is a game of imagination and creativity.  Whilst it doesn't possess the same drawn-out narrative element, it does require a lot of thought to go into how to create a short description which some, but not everyone, will guess.  Of course the downside to this is that once again you'll require players who can get the old grey matter working, otherwise you'll end up with a bit of an empty experience.
The Good Points
  • It's a simple game to pick up, but quite intricate in its own way.
  • Very family friendly, an excellent intro game for younger gamers.
  • Light hearted and very enjoyable - Dixit isn't a game which will leave you grinding your teeth and monitoring your blood pressure.
  • Very compact for a board game.
  • The Image cards are very beautifully illustrated.

The Bad Points
  • As with all imagination-based games, the right group of players is required to make it a good experience.
  • The Image cards are large sized, which is fantastic for showcasing the artwork but makes finding card sleeves awkward.  Shuffling takes its toll quite badly on these cards, and we even started to see signs of wear and tear on our copy by the end of our third game.
Recommended Number of Players: 4+
Dixit is cleverly designed so that it can work smoothly with 3 players or more, but in our experience a minimum of 4 makes for a much better experience.  If only 3 people are available though by no means should this be written off.  Just because it doesn't work quite as well doesn't mean it doesn't work, and 3 player Dixit is still a thoroughly enjoyable game.  It is one of those games which benefits from having as many players as possible, so if you're a member of a large gaming group then a 6 player game would make for a great 30 minutes.
Average Game Time: 30 minutes
Regardless of the player numbers, Dixit does seem to have a fairly standard game time of around 30 minutes.  This makes it a great in betweener for a long game evening.
Replay Value: High
As the stories are unique to the imaginations of the players, Dixit is a game which is easy to come back to.  Even though the entire deck of Image cards is used in a game, they won't always end up with the same players, and each different player may see a unique interpretation to the card.  Eventually it may reach a stage where your imagination dries up for each Image, but in that unlikely event help is at hand...
 The Future: Bright (or at least as bright as your imagination)
Dixit was first release back in 2008, and since then has spawned a number of sequels and expansions.  These include Dixit 2, Dixit 3, Dixit Odyssey, Dixit Quest, Dixit Journey and Dixit Jinx.  For the best part these just add new Images cards into the mix, but once your copy of original Dixit has done the rounds with your gaming groups enough times you may find yourself wanting to pick up one of these to refresh the experience.
Price: £30
Dixit retails for roughly £30, which may seem a lot for quite a simple set of box contents, but for a great little game like this one it's worth every penny.  It shouldn't be too hard to find in specialist game stores, but it is a French game and as such might have to be ordered in especially by some retailers.

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