Close your eyes. Let your mind wander. Let it wander to a place of wonder, of adventure, maybe a place it hasn’t been since you were a child with dreams of pirates and dragons and monsters. Now open your eyes, and tell us what you see. A boy with a stick… No, with a sword. A wooden sword he’s using to fight off a dragon, twenty feet tall. A girl in a dress made of rainbows, chasing an apple glowing gold. A monster in the shadows, hunting children to carry them off for super. A chorus of angels, playing jazz music in the clouds.
It’s time to let your imagination dance again. It’s time to play Dixit.
Dixit is a story-telling, party game designed by Jean-Louis Roubira and published by Libellud. For those of you who don’t speak French (and Libellud is a company based out of France), the name “Libellud” is a play on the french word for dragonfly. And for some reason, I feel like the publisher name really captures the whimsy of Dixit.
For 3-6 players, ages 8+, Dixit is a fairly simple game. All the players have a hand of cards with illustrations on them. One player per turn plays a card, face down, and says something to describe it. They can say a phrase or a word, a title, a song lyric, anything they want. All of the other players then have to play cards face down that they think fit the description the first player provided. All the played cards are shuffled and revealed, and everyone but the first player has to vote on which card they think the first player originally played. If you’re a voter, you want to guess the first player’s card, but you also want as many of the other players to guess your card as possible. If you’re the first player, you want some players to guess your card, but not all the players to guess it (so there’s no advantage to being too obvious about your card through the description). Points are awarded based on who voted for what, and play passes to the next player to play a card and description. The first player to 30 points wins.
The real beauty of Dixit is in the cards themselves. Illustrated by Marie Cardouat, each card has a unique full colour illustration. The illustrations are all interesting, and range from whimsically fun to oddly disturbing. And, as is important to the game, each one could easily be defined in as many different ways as there are players looking at them. I recall a card played under the description “The Fall”. It was of a man and a woman playing chess, with hearts around their heads; the player had seen the hearts as falling leaves, and meant “the fall” as “autumn”. No one else saw the hearts as falling leaves, but the unintentional play on the theme of falling (as in, falling in love) carried over clearly all the same. Moreover, every card has enough minute details that you can find things in it and new interpretations of it every time you see it.
Beauty of the cards aside, Dixit is, as I said, a fairly simple game. Admittedly, the scoring is a little non-intuitive (if all players guess the active player’s card, active player gets no points, everyone else gets 2; if no players guess the active player’s card, everyone else gets 2 points, plus 1 point per person who guessed their card, active player gets 0; if some players, but not all players, guess the active players card, active player gets 3 points, everyone who guessed correctly gets 3 points, and everyone gets 1 point per person who guessed their card). They’re designed in this strange way, however, to eliminate the benefit of an active player simply describing their card in enough detail that it becomes obvious which card is there, or obfuscating their card so much it’s impossible to guess. The only way for an active player to score points is to be clear enough that some players get it, but discrete enough that some don’t. Even with this logic in my mind, though, I find it hard to keep track of the scoring system. So the explanation of scoring attached to the scoreboard itself is a useful tool.
The one other downside of Dixit is the limited number of cards in the original set. The base game comes with 84 cards. This might seem like a lot, but in a 5 player game, the cards would be played through in a 16 or so rounds. With people scoring 1-3 points a round, and having to get to 30 points to win, a game can easily last 16 rounds or more. In other words, you could see all the cards in the first game. Now, like I said, the various ways to interpret the cards doesn’t mean that the game can’t be played more than once easily enough… But some of the pleasure is lost, I feel, when you see the same illustrations over and over. Never fear, though. Libellud has released hundreds of new cards, as expansion packs or special promotional cards. As such, if you want to make sure you don’t play through your Dixit illustrations too rapidly, it’s pretty easy (if a little costly) to build up a set.
In all, Dixit is a fun, simple, and somehow sweet game. It’s easy to learn and very laid back. It’s the sort of game I would play with my whole family, from my 9 year old cousin to my 90 year old grandma. Even for more “serious gamers” (I term I use with not a small amount of scoffing), Dixit can be a fun, relaxing inclusion to a collection. All you need is a willing spirit and a decent imagination… And the illustrative prompts of Dixit can hep you with at least the latter.