#GDEReviews: Dixit

#GDEReviews: Dixit

Dixit is like no game you’ve ever played while being remarkably like many games you’ve probably played.

Dixit is a card game like Apples to Apples... sort of.

It’s a bluffing game like Balderdash… sort of.

It’s a visual game like Pictionary… sort of.

Dixit is like no game you’ve ever played while being remarkably like many games you’ve probably played, which means that while the game itself is unique, you’ve likely developed the required skills by playing other games. Dixit, however, requires you to use those skills in new ways.

The game consists of a game board, game pieces shaped like bunnies, voting tokens, and a giant stack of cards, each with a unique, beautiful, and often strange picture on it.

Each game turn has four steps:

  1. Active player gives a clue.

  2. Other players pick a card that matches the clue.

  3. Other players vote on which card belonged to the active player.

  4. Tally the scores and move those bunnies!

Seems simple enough. So where’s the fun?! Let’s break it down by step-by-step.


1. The Clue

At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt six cards. The first player to come up with a clue for one of their cards becomes the “active player” and shares their clue with the other players. “Dixit” is actually Latin for “he said it.” The clue can be a story (in some editions of Dixit, the active player is called the storyteller), a single word, a sound, a movie title, a color, a pizza topping, an obscure Victorian literature reference, a catchphrase from a video game cartoon from the early 90s  — the clue is limited only by the player’s imagination. This is similar to the role of first player in Apples to Apples. Instead of simply choosing a card, however, you’re assigning a clue to the card, which makes the card selection process much more active than in Apples to Apples.

Now you may be thinking, why not just describe the card as vividly and accurately as possible? The reason is that in step three, the other players are going to vote for which card the active player played. If everyone guesses the right card, the active player gets no points.

So then you want give an obscure clue that nobody can guess, right? Wrong! Because if nobody guesses the active player’s card, the active player gets no points.

Then what’s fun about being the active player if you can’t get any points?! Oh, but you can! If at least one other player, but not every player, guesses the active player’s card, the active player gets three points and so do the players who picked the right card. That is the fun of being the active player — negotiating this balance by constructing clever clues that match the card you selected, but might also apply to cards the other players are holding.

 

2. Other Players Pick a Card

After the active player gives their clue, they place their card face down in front of them. Each of the other players choose a card in their hand that they think matches the clue given and then places that card face down on top of the active player’s card. This is somewhat similar to Pictionary, where you’re given a word or phrase and need to draw a picture. Instead of creating a new image, however, you’re selecting an image from six possible images.

If everybody (or nobody) guesses the active player’s card, not only does the active player get no points, but all of the other players get two! That means that if every player picked a card from their hand that didn’t match the clue at all, then everyone would guess the correct card, and everyone but the active player would get two points. Seems like a good strategy, right?

Except that you get a point for every vote for your card.

And if you vote for the right card, but not everybody else does, you get three points on top of that!

That’s the fun of being a non-active player: picking a card so close to the clue that you’re the only one who knows it’s not the active player’s card. The skill you’re using here is bluffing, similar to bluffing in Balderdash, except instead of matching a definition to a word, you’re matching an image to a clue.

 

3. Voting

Once all the cards are in a pile, the active player shuffles them, then turns them face up alongside the game board, which has spaces for each card, and each space has a number. The other players then cast their votes by placing (face down!) the voting token with the number corresponding to the card they think the active player played,

So all you need to do is pick the card that matches the clue, right? Sort of. What if every card matches the clue? If your friends are smart (and they must be, they’re friends with you, right?) you’ll find yourself in this position often. So you need to ask yourself, which card do I think the active player was looking at when they gave the clue.

This is the fun of voting: determining not only which card matches the clue, but which card matches the active player, and which cards were played by the other players trying to steal your vote (and an extra point!).

This is similar to the winning card selection process in Apples to Apples, except that instead of one player picking the card they think is the best match, all players get to vote for which card they think the active player chose, which keeps all players engaged in every round of the game.

 

4. Move Those Bunnies!

Once all the votes are cast, the tokens are turned face up and placed on their respective cards. There are three possible outcomes with various scoring possibilities.

  1. Everybody guesses the active player’s card.
    • Everyone but the active player gets two points
  2. Nobody guesses the active player’s card.
    • Everybody but the active player gets two points.
    • If someone voted for your card, you get one point per vote!
  3. At least one player, but not all players, guess the active player’s card.
    • The active player gets three points!
    • Everyone who voted for the active player’s card gets three points!
    • If someone voted for your card, you get one point per vote!

Determine the outcome and add up the scores! Simple enough to keep score with a pencil and paper, right? Sure, but you know what’s more fun? A game board designed like a racetrack where your bunny-shaped token moves a number of spaces equal to the points scored!

This is the fun of scoring — watching your bunny pull ahead of the other players!

This is similar to, well, pretty much every other board game.

 

House Rules

According to the rules that come with the game, the clue the active player gives can be ANYTHING — the only limit is the player’s imagination! Some groups may find this too challenging (or too easy) and decide to initiate “house rules.” House rules are guidelines for playing the game that are not included in the official instructions, but which all players agree to follow. For example, students might want to limit clues to vocabulary or spelling words. Others might say that the clue has to be a song or movie title. Really adventurous groups may want to incorporate charades and say the active player has to act out their clue. House rules are great ways to customize games and can also create balance if there are players of different ages or education levels.

Do you ever create house rules for your favorite games? What are they? Are there any games you play differently with friends and family?

 

Expansions

The Dixit base game includes 84 unique cards, so there’s no chance that any other player is holding the exact same card you are. But you may find that after you’ve been playing the game awhile, you’ve seen all of the cards and want some new ones. There are several expansions to Dixit that add brand new, equally beautifully illustrated cards that you can incorporate into the base game. In fact, the base game comes with an organizer that can hold up to three additional expansions’ worth of cards.

So why didn’t the game makers just include more cards in the game? The simple answer is cost. Selling a base game at an affordable price allows casual and new gamers to buy, play, and enjoy a complete, fully-functional game. Players who want to keep playing the same game but with some variation can purchase expansions to expand the possibilities. While Dixit expansions only include more cards, expansions for other games can include new player tokens, new boards, additional counters — even brand new rules!

Think about your favorite game. Are there expansions available? Do you wish there were? What would you add to your favorite game?