dixittBy Ken St. Andre

“Gesundheit!” I replied.

“I wasn’t sneezing,” said Jim Marsella, my brother-in-law.  “If you can stay for another half hour, I have this new game that would be a lot of fun to play.

Well, he had me at the word “game”.  Of course I stayed and tried out Dixit.  We had 5 players, and the game can handle up to 12.  Five is a good number for a board game, there’s some variety in the players, but not so many that things get confusing.

Colorful is the first adjective that comes to mind for this game. Whimsical is the second.

I am something of a card collector–focusing mostly on interesting tarot and fortune telling decks.  Having seen this game, I want it just for its spectacular deck of cards.

This is a game I liked on first sight and first playing.  It didn’t hurt that I won the first game I played, beating my very brainy sister by a single turn.

The game consists of a track with 30 spaces on it–a race in which the first player to score 30 points wins.  The playing pieces are the little wooden rabbits that you see above.  Why rabbits instead of just pawns?  I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter, but is another whimsical touch.  It’s a rabbit race!

Dixit is a kind of storytelling game.  Each player has a hand of 6 cards, and each card has a colorful scene pictured upon it.  The scenes are meant to inspire the players to dream up stories that go with them.  If not whole stories, then at least partial stories–mottoes, songs, references to movies, quotes, sayings, movies, tv programs, any kind of association in the mind.  On each turn one player is the storyteller.  She chooses one of her 6 cards, puts it face down on the table, and then gives a clue, such as the phrase “toy wars”.  The other players look at their own hands and choose a card that they think might relate to that clue and offer them face down.  The storyteller mixes up all the cards, and then turns them over along the side of the game board in numbered spaces. All the players except the storyteller then secretly vote (using a peg and a card with holes punched into it) for one of the numbers.  The original card is revealed and the votes are tallied.  Those who guessed correctly score points and move their bunnies forward along the game track.  If everyone guessed correctly, then no one gets any points–the clue was too easy.  If people guess incorrectly, the player whose card garnered the wrong vote also gets to move forward one space for each person who voted for him.  Play passes around the table with each person getting his/her turn to be the Storyteller.

Dixit is another European board game that has made its way to the U.S.A.  It has won 10 awards, mostly European game awards.  The creator is a Frenchman named Jean-Louis Roubira,  You can get all the details at wikipedia if you’re interested.  Dixit is a game for smart people with some cultural background.  Kids below the age of 10 wouldn’t get it, and probably wouldn’t do well.  (Someone out there probably has some genius kids in their family who would excel at it, but I think most kids would probably just play with the rabbits instead of getting into the mental challenges of comng up with good clues, or matching the cards they hold to the clues given.

In a way the game reminds me of Apples to Apples, another game that can handle large numbers of players and is all about word associations played with cards.  Apples can be hilarious.  So can Dixit.  In my travels to places like GenCon I’ve seen a number of games that seem to have latched onto this associative word manipulation style of friendly competition.  It’s a new genre of gaming, and it works particularly well across a wide spectrum of players.  Another game that just came out in 2010 of the same variety is called Snake Oil.

I had a good time playing Dixit the other night, and I would recommend it, especially for family situations.  It’s a game that needs a group to play.  It doesn’t work for two players, and even three wouldn’t be much fun, but it’s a hoot for four or more.  I don’t know that I’d give it any awards for being a great game.  If I had a choice between Dixit and Settlers of Catan, I’d choose Settlers, but if someone offered it up as a choice after the Settlers game, I’d go for it.  If I got a choice between Apples to Apples and Dixit, I’d choose Dixit.

In the end, what I liked most about Dixit was the deck of cards.  The art style is fairy tale fantasy, not heroic fantasy which is my greatest love.  But the art is very well done, managing to be both simple and highly evocative.  I like to read tarot cards.  I could see using the Dixit cards as a fortune-telling deck in the tarot fashion.  The pictures really spur the imagination into new (or old) realms.  It wouldn’t be so easy to use the Apples deck or the Snake Oil deck that way.

I could also see using the Dixit cards in all sorts of ways that the designer never intended–see my previous blog about House Rules,  That gives it added value to me.

Dixit is a competition, but it’s not a war game.  It doesn’t really matter who wins or loses.  The fun is in getting together with friends and letting the brightly colored cards and the good conversation carry you into a happy zone.

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