Board Game Review: Dixit

Board Game Review: Dixit

Published Date
April 30, 2018
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🛠️
Designed by Jean-Louis Roubira
📊
My Number of Plays at Time of Review: 39
👥
3-6(12) Players
⏱️
30 Minutes

Note that all the pictures here are from my copy of the game, which includes several expansions. Namely, the Dixit: Odyssey set that expands the game to support up to 12 players.

Dixit is a creative party game filled with imaginative illustrations and designed by Jean-Louis Roubira. Players take turns as the storyteller, trying to give a clue for a card in their hand that is neither too obscure nor too obvious. After mixing in a card from each other player, everyone will vote for the card that they think belonged to the storyteller. Points are assigned at the end of each round, and the first player to reach the end of the scoring track will be the winner!

Gameplay Summary

At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt a hand of six cards. Each of these large cards shows nothing but an image depicting some sort of whimsical and creative scene. A player is selected to be the first storyteller (my group typically just picks whoever comes up with a clue first), and the first round begins. The storyteller will place one of their cards facedown, without showing it, and then provide a clue for that card. A clue can be a phrase, a single word, or even a sound. This aspect of the game is very open-ended, and a great opportunity for players to be creative. For example, I’ve seen people use song lyrics or even reference another player at the table (e.g. “Daniel’s idea of a relaxing evening”).

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Once the clue has been chosen, each other player is going to secretly select a card from their hand that they feel best fits the storyteller’s clue. There is incentive in picking the best card possible, as there is potential to score points if other players mistake your card for the storyteller’s. Once each player has passed in a card, the cards are all shuffled and then dealt face-up for all players to see. Each card is assigned a number, and then every player, except the storyteller, is going to secretly vote for which card they think the storyteller used for their clue (the voting methods vary between specific editions of Dixit, but the concept remains the same). Once all votes are locked in, the storyteller reveals their card, and the round proceeds to scoring.

There are several ways to score in Dixit (there may be some slight scoring variations between editions of Dixit, but these are the rules that I have always played by):

  • If the storyteller manages to have at least one person guess their card correctly, but not all players, they receive 3 points. This means that the storyteller needs to find the right balance between a clue that leads to their card, and not making their clue too obvious. This scoring rule is really at the heart of what makes Dixit work.

  • If either all players, or no players, correctly selected the storyteller’s card (meaning the storyteller did not score points), all players except the storyteller receive 2 points.

  • Otherwise, if the storyteller did successfully score, each player that correctly chose the storyteller’s card receives 3 points.

  • Each vote for a non-storyteller’s card will give the person who played that card 1 point, to a maximum of 3 points.

This means that the maximum points that could be earned in a round is 6: a non-storyteller could get 3 points for correctly guessing the storyteller’s card, and 3 points for having at least three other players select their card. Once all players have advanced on the scoring track as necessary, a new round begins with the next player clockwise taking on the role of the storyteller. Once one or more players reach the end of the scoring track, the player with the most points is the winner!

What Is It Like to Play?

Dixit is a party game, but one that focuses on creativity and the interpretation of crazy illustrations that can carry a variety of abstract meanings depending on your perspective. During most rounds, a player will not be the storyteller, so they are more often trying to analyze a set of cards, attempting to get into the storyteller’s head and determine which card would have led to the clue that was used. There will be some rounds where the answer will be fairly obvious, either because the clue was too specific, or because players simply didn’t have good cards to add into the mix. Other times, you will flip the cards and everyone will groan (in a good way) as they realize that many of the cards are strong candidates for being correct. And yet other times, you will think that it is an obvious choice, only to find out that you were incorrect and someone happened to have a card that was an even better fit for the clue than the storyteller’s card! Whatever the case, the rounds go by quickly and it is a fairly relaxing exercise of trying to make educated guesses based on the images available.

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The other part of the game involves thinking of your own clues to use when you are the storyteller. For many players, this is something they dread, whether it is because they feel they aren’t very creative, or due to fear that their clue won’t be successful and they will publicly “fail” in front of the group. I try to encourage people to not take this part of the game too seriously, reminding them of a few things:

  • It’s a party game! The enjoyment of the group is way more important than the scoring.

  • You have a lot of time to think of a clue while other players are the storyteller. Once you think you have one, just save that card at the back of your hand so that it is ready by the time your turn rolls around.

  • You don’t end up being the storyteller that many times. The more players there are, the less often you will need to give clues. I even had a game (with ~8 players, using Dixit: Odyssey) that ended before everyone got to be the storyteller! We extended the game to give everyone a chance (it’s a party game after all, the scoring is pretty relaxed), but it is worth keeping in mind that even if you hate being the storyteller, it ends up being a small percentage of playing the game.

  • Worst case, err on the side of being obscure instead of obvious. It can sometimes be hard to think of great clues, in which case it is better to make your clue difficult rather than easy. If it is easy, chances are likely that everyone will guess it and you won’t receive points. If you make it difficult, however, all you need is one person to guess it (even by complete chance), and you will successfully score.

  • Remember that even a great clue can fail if the cards just don’t fall your way. If it just happens that no other players had cards that fit your clue, your card may end up being obvious regardless of the quality of the clue. Conversely, I have seen clues that seemed way too obvious, but ended up succeeding simply because one other player had a “perfect” card. So don’t fret too much if you don’t score as the storyteller; it doesn’t necessarily mean you did a bad job of giving a clue.

Despite any efforts to ease players into enjoying Dixit, there will still be some people that simply don’t enjoy it, which is fine! It still has a wide appeal, and compared to other party games, Dixit is a breath of fresh air in terms of providing a sandbox for creativity, while also including a scoring framework that rewards skillful play.

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FAQ

How is the game’s replay value?

The more you play Dixit, the more you are going to see the same cards. This is somewhat alleviated by purchasing expansions, but naturally you are still going to see cards you’ve seen before. Does this hurt the replay value? Insignificantly, in my opinion. Sure, you can draw cards that you have given clues for in the past, but each card is open to so much interpretation that there really is an unlimited amount of valid clues that could be used. Plus, the main decision point comes from selecting the card from within a group of other cards. Once you consider all the permutations of cards that could make up that grouping, combined with the infinite number of potential clues that could be used, you quickly realize that the gameplay is unlikely to ever feel repetitive. However, I can understand that the excitement of seeing new cards starts to wane over time, which (while not affecting gameplay) is certainly a tangible part of enjoying Dixit. This is where I would highly recommend picking up an expansion to inject new life into your set, and there are currently a ton of expansions to choose from. All of this is to say, I consider Dixit‘s replay value to be very high.

How does it play at different player counts?

I usually won’t pull out Dixit with fewer than 5 players. Since the base set only plays from 3-6 players, that leaves a pretty limited range (5-6 players) where Dixit is a good option. It plays very well at those counts, but I highly recommend the Dixit: Odyssey set that expands the game to support up to 12 players. This really opens it up to being a versatile party game, and I can confirm that the one time I played with 11 players, it went over really well.

What games are similar?

At the time of its release, Dixit was a really innovative concept that didn’t have a lot of direct comparisons to be made among existing games. However, like any successful innovation, it inspired plenty of successors that further explored the idea of a creative party game and the use of dreamy illustrations. Mysterium and Muse draw some direct comparisons, while some other games in the same vein might include Deception: Murder in Hong Kong and Concept.

How long is the setup time?

Pretty much nonexistent; just need to pick player colors, shuffle the deck, and deal everyone six cards.

How difficult is it to teach new players?

Quick and easy, as would be expected from any good party game. New players might have a little trouble grasping the whole “try to get at least one player to guess your card, but not everyone” concept, but it is easy to jump into playing and let them learn by experience.

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Things to Like

The Artwork is Beautiful and Imaginative

Especially in your first games of Dixit (or when mixing in an expansion), so much of the enjoyment comes from simply seeing the new cards and studying the details of the illustrations. I often have to remind people not to point out cards once they are flipped (because it gives away information about not being the card they put in), but many times players either laugh or comment simply because the artwork can be so surprising and interesting. The art style really drives the game and makes everything work, and it is the number one thing that sets it apart from other games.

Room for Player Creativity to Reign

As the storyteller, your clue can be practically anything. This leaves so much room for players to be clever and funny, and also makes it a more mentally engaging activity for the right side of the brain. The game provides a framework for play, but then invites the players to be an integral part of the inner workings of the machine. The other major advantage here is that Dixit can appeal to players that normally don’t enjoy the more left-brained strategy games that are common to the hobby (e.g. my wife Mary, whose favorite game is Dixit).

Party Game with Skill-Based Scoring

Party games tend to focus on entertaining a larger group of people, rather than satisfaction through strategy or game mechanics. However, I feel that some of the best party games are those that can maintain that “entertainment” factor while still being structured to encourage and reward players for playing at a high level. While so much of Dixit is subjective interpretation of images and getting inside the mind of other players, there is definitely room to get good at it. The skill definitely doesn’t manifest itself in strategic decisions, but usually the winning player is the one who has earned it through skillful interpretations throughout the course of the game. This allows it to feel like more of a “gamer’s party game,” while still having a broad appeal that seamlessly includes players that don’t care about the scoring at all.

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Things to Dislike

Creative Requirement Makes It Feel Slightly Less Accessible

Party games are designed to be some of the most accessible experiences available, with simple rules, short playing time, and ability to support a large group of players. Dixit hits all of those criteria beautifully, but the fact that it asks players to come up with their own clues brings it down just a notch in its flexibility in fitting various gaming situations. There are some people do not enjoy Dixit at all, and having just one of these people in your large group may be enough to keep it from hitting the table. Now this sounds like a complaint that is true of any game, and it certainly does apply to most, but in my experiences I have found Dixit being passed over due to the personal preference of a minority more often than the average party game, and the main reason is that some people just don’t like the pressure of coming up with their own clues.

Base Game Only Supports 6 Players

I have already mentioned that my Dixit collection includes Dixit: Odyssey, which allows the game to support up to 12 players. When I only had the base game, it seemed to fall into this weird limbo where it was a party game which tends to encourage more players, but it only worked with a maximum of 5-6. I now feel much more comfortable bringing Dixit to various social events, as Odyssey gives it a very broad range of player counts for which it will work. If purchasing Dixit for the first time, I think either the base game or Dixit: Odyssey (which is standalone, so it doesn’t require the base game) are good choices, but if you end up playing the game frequently, I consider Dixit: Odyssey a must-have.

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Expansions

It is probably fairly clear at this point that I am a big fan of the Dixit: Odyssey set and what it brings to the table in terms of player count. I think anyone with the base game that is looking to expand should definitely make Odyssey their next purchase, as it not only beefs up the card variety but gives it that “true party game” player support. Once Odyssey is part of your collection, there are still a bunch of expansions available that simply add new cards. Due to the nature of Dixit, you can’t really go wrong with adding a batch of new cards to the game. However, here are some points of advice when looking to buy a new expansion:

  • Be Careful about Duplicate Sets – Dixit has kind of a weird history with editions and expansions, and as a result, some sets that go under different names actually contain the same cards. So before making a purchase, I would recommend looking up some of the cards from the expansion online first to confirm that you don’t already have them.

  • Note Different Art Styles – Not all expansions are illustrated by the same artist, and there are some noticeable differences in style among them. It is really subjective as to which expansions provide the best content, so you are best off looking online at a few example cards from different expansions, and deciding which styles look the most appealing to you.

  • Pace Yourself – I do not recommend buying multiple expansions at once. Rather, I would play what you have until you get that feeling that you’ve seen most of the cards and are itching for some new content. Then I would pick up one expansion, mix it in, and then play for a while until you reach that same point again. I don’t currently have all (or even half) of the available expansions, but I like that I always have the option of giving it a burst of fresh air if I play my current set extensively.

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Game Design Perspective

When designing a game, it is easy to have your thoughts limited by the components that you perceive to be common in games. How many games use 6-sided dice, not because they specifically solve the design problem at hand in the best way, but because they are the most common way to get a randomized result? I think as a designer, you have to be aware of this tendency towards the familiar, and really ask what problem you are trying to solve before gravitating towards a common solution. Dixit is a game could only be created by really challenging the preconceptions about what components should drive a board game. In Dixit, the only component, and the one that sets it apart from other designs, is the cards that are illustrated with creative imagery.

I am curious where the seedling of the idea for Dixit began. Did it start with the illustrations and then the design problem of constructing rules that made use of them? Or did it begin with the idea of giving obvious-but-not-too-obvious clues and that led to the idea of images that could be open to interpretation? Whatever the case, I appreciate how the design essentially invented a component, and then created an experience that was only possible because of that component. And that invented concept of using fully illustrated cards isn’t limited to Dixit, but has opened up new areas of design to explore, as found in Mysterium and Muse. It raises questions like, “what other components could be invented, and what kind of experiences could they yield that couldn’t be achieved otherwise?” I think we see some of this potential being explored with the addition of digital apps to board games that allow interactions and gameplay that simply wouldn’t be possible without the software counterpart. It is cool to see, and Dixit does a great job of encapsulating its new concept into a streamlined experience without any distractions or fluff.

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Bottom Line

If you are looking for a party game that encourages creativity, Dixit provides an engaging play space driven by beautiful and inventive illustrations, and powered by the players’ imagination.

Enjoy my review and wanting to pick up Dixit? Consider buying through my Amazon affiliate link and I will get a small kickback on your purchase.