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We love board games in our family. Our sons are now adults, and have left home, but we still play games regularly with local friends. So we were delighted when one set of friends turned up in March with a new game called Dixit which they had bought in the USA.
The playing part of the game is simply a set of 84 large cards with brightly coloured and somewhat stylised images on them. There are also little square cards with numbers on them (1 to 6) and six little wooden rabbits, in six colours, for tracking the scores. The inside of the box, which stores the cards, doubles as the scoreboard - it's decorated to look a bit like a field for the rabbits to jump through.
DESIGN AND DETAILS
The images on the cards are quite stunning. I wouldn't want them enlarged and put on my wall, but as part of this game they're a delight. Most of them have a lot of detail, which can't all be taken in at once. The second time we played, we were convinced that there were some cards we had never seen the first time.
The game is best played by 4-6 people, age 8 and up, and can take anything from about half an hour. It's a visual, creative game; the play is a little bit like that in Apples to Apples, and also slightly like Balderdash; but the images themselves are unique and the game particularly appealing to those who think visually.
PLAYING THE GAME
Each player is dealt five of the large picture cards, the others being placed face down on the table to form the stack. One person is allocated as the first 'storyteller'. Not that they tell a story - the idea is to select one of their cards, without letting anyone else see, and then say a word or phrase that is in some way connected with the image.
The aim is for some - but not all - of the other players to guess correctly which of several cards matches this phrase. So the storyteller must choose something which is neither too obvious nor too subtle. A hard balance, sometimes. For instance, one of the more straightforward cards depicts a pair of ballet shoes. The storyteller might notice that, although empty, they are shown en pointe, and might say, 'Get the point!' Or perhaps their mind would wander, as mine would, to the Noel Streatfeild classic book for girls called 'Ballet Shoes', and say, 'Fossils' (the name of the family). This would work well if one (but not all) of those playing was also familiar with the book. Or they might focus on the fact that the shoes are empty, and say, 'Missing limbs'.
As the storyteller says their phrase, the selected card is placed face down on the table.
Then each of the other players selects a card from their hand which they feel is also, in some way, connected with the word or phrase, and places it face down with the first one.
The storyteller picks all these cards up, glances at them to see what has been chosen, then lays them face up (including the original one) in a row on the table, without comment - other than numbering them from 1 to however many cards there are (maximum 6).
Each player other than the storyteller tries to guess which card was the original one, on which the word or phrase was based. Which might sound easy, but it's surprising how often there is at least one card which seems to fit the theme rather better than the original.
When each player has made their selection, they place the little coloured card with the relevant number down on the table. When all have placed a card, the storyteller turns them over, and lets everyone know which card was the original one.
This is the most complex part of the game, in my view; we refer to the scoresheet every time for the fine details. Basically, if either everybody OR nobody guesses the correct card, then the storyteller gets no points. If just one or more (but not all) of the others guess it, both they and the storyteller score. Also, if one of the other players has their card chosen by another player, they also score.
Each player's coloured rabbit is then moved the relevant number of spots along the scoring track, and everyone picks up another card from the stack, so that they have five to choose from.
The next player, counting clockwise, then takes over as the storyteller.
The game continues until all cards are used up. This means that in the final rounds, players will have fewer than five cards, and in the last round each will only have one. It's amazing how often even that final card will somehow have a connection with the storyteller's phrase.
I'm happy to play almost any board game that has a mixture of skill and luck, and while I wouldn't want to play Dixit every week, it makes a nice change from our usual favourites. I'm not a visual person, and I find it remarkably difficult, sometimes, to come up with a suitable word or phrase that suits any of my cards - usually I either make it too obvious, so that everyone guesses, or too subtle, so that nobody gets it.
On the other hand, I like the guessing part - it usually provokes much discussion, although of course each player must be careful not to indicate in any way which of the cards they have played. Possibilities for bluffing and double-bluffing at this stage are almost limitless, although it can get boring if this stage goes on for too long.
I did wonder if the game would rather quickly grow old - that we would find it hard to come up with new ideas for phrases, or that we would get to know the cards so well that it became dull and predictable. I'm happy to say that this has not yet happened. Every game so far has been different, and everyone we have played it with has very much liked it.
Eight is the recommended minimum age for this game; this is the stage where most children are able to think in metaphors reasonably easily, and come up with connected phrases rather than simple descriptions.
Obviously it depends very much on the child; but while there's no reading involved, some younger children may find it hard to keep a straight face, and not to make it obvious which card they have played. Not that this matters if you're just playing for fun, and if the child doesn't care about winning; this game could be very good for helping young children to think laterally.
If there are just three players, the two who are not storytelling in each round select two related cards from their hand rather than just one, so that there are five to choose from each round.
I would recommend this to anyone who likes board games, with the proviso that it probably won't appeal to those who tend to be very literal in their language, or to people who like a lot of strategy in games. Nor is it really suitable to those who are highly competitive. However, it's ideal to play at a small, relaxed party, or for a bit of socialising with good friends.
The basic game can be bought for about £22 from Amazon, which is a little over-priced, in my view, for what it is. It's just $22 from the US Amazon, so, depending on where you live, may be better value there even with postage taken into account.
(Note: Review also appears on Ciao under my username)