Paul: That’s disgusting.
Quinns: Dixit is a multi-award winning game that everyone should know about. An honest-to-god revelation. That’s because where most board games test your logic, wit, or even dexterity, Dixit tests your ability to toy with the imagination of your friends.
Imagine you were reading some beautiful, surrealist children’s novel and the rag-tag band of loveable protagonists wander into a smoky tavern for a drink of… apple ale, or something. Dixit is the card game they would start playing that would get you whispering “Man, why doesn’t that exist in real life.”
But Dixit is as real as it gets, and you should have a good long think about buying it.
Paul: Let’s explain. You play Dixit using six cards which you selfishly hold close to your chest, like a poker hand. Already sounds intriguing, eh? But imagine this was a poker variant devised by Lewis
Carroll, because upon these cards is no writing, no rules, no clauses and no directions. Instead, each one features a deeply unusual, abstract, fantastical picture of something that doesn’t quite make sense.
On your turn you are the “Storyteller”, and you need to think of a title or a description for one of these cards (or even a poem, sound, dance or anything else you can dream up), which you’ll announce to the table before placing the card face-down. Then everyone else will select one of their picture cards that might match this description, and you’ll shuffle all these cards together before laying them face up for everyone to see.
With the exception of the Storyteller, everyone then votes, in secret, as to which they think was the Storyteller’s original card. Guessing correctly will earn them points, as will other people voting for their card.
But you have to be subtle. The Storyteller only scores points if some of the players around the table guess correctly. If you’re too obvious in your description, or too obtuse, and everybody or nobody guesses your card, they all get points while you get absolutely nothing. Disaster. The best possible result for the Storyteller is that only a single player around the table guesses correctly. That’ll send you rocketing around the scoring track while leaving most of your opponents
in your dust.
Quinns: That’s the entireity of Dixit. The rules fit on a single sheet of paper, yet this game is a cardboard carnival ride for the mind. The challenge Dixit sets in front of you – be mysterious in your description, but not too mysterious – is so utterly unlike anything you’ll ever have been forced to do before as to be almost nauseating. Like stretching a muscle you never knew you had. Except it’s not a muscle, it’s your brain, and Dixit delights in tugging it apart like a fat piece of taffy.
But the rewards for succeeding are every bit as affecting. Each time you cast your vote correctly, you’re not displaying some tedious bit of familiarity with the rules or nuances of the game. You’re inside somebody’s head.Holy shit!
Similarly, when you get really clever as Storyteller and make your description an entire metaphorical sentence, or just a weird squelching noise, and nobody gets it, you’ll be crushed. You didn’t just fail on some mechanical level. You failed on an imaginative level. Which feels an awful lot like a failure as a human being.
Paul: We live in a special time for board gaming. Many of us grew up with dismal examples of rolling dice and slowly, painfully crawling our way around a board as we tried to either collect stuff or outrun everyone else, an experience that has more in common with Christmas shopping than anything else.
It’s so fantastic when board game designers try and experiment with what can be achieved with a group of people sat around a table. It’s not just that we have brains, personalities and imaginations. We love to use them as weapons. We like to bluff, cheat and out-manoeuvre one another in new ways. We like to adapt.
Dixit is one of those very special game ideas that makes the most of the human brain while also keeping its rules to a minimum. In fact, it’s so deceptively simple that I’m aware our above rules explanation might seem a little underwhelming.
Quinns: Yeah. But it can’t be overstated that Dixit is not as simple as its rules. There are all kinds of sinister moments when you’ll be looking at a row of pictures and you’ll realise that of course Millicent would choose a card with a cat on to reference happiness! She’s so predictable. And once you’re trying to follow the plot thread of someone’s imagination, things can get dark fast. I’m not sure I can name another game that might have you factoring the history of someone’s relationships into your plays, trying to figure out whether their clue of “The small war” refers to the couple having dinner or the ants swordfighting atop a pile of coins.
Anyway, once you’re holding the deck of oversized cards Dixit comes with, there’s no way you could be underwhelmed. For reference, look how big the cards are compared to an ordinary playing card or an ordinary pear.
Good job, Reference Pear!
Paul: Oh god not the Reference Pear thing again.
Quinns: Watch your mouth in front of Reference Pear!
This deck of cards, it’s emotionally heavy as well as physically heavy. The consistently touching pictures are all drawn in such as way as to be both happy and sad, or transparent and secretive, or funny and grim.
Dixit could have come slipping into existence out of a dream to be found under someone’s pillow the next morning. It’s that devoid of flaws and cynicism. And while it’s not something I’d want to play as often as some of the sharper, more manipulatively dramatic or grand games in my collection, the Dixit box and its colourful contents are a wonderful thing to find in any house.
Paul: Yes. And if you want to get people into board gaming, Dixit is as good as any entry title on sale today. Shut Up & Sit Down absolutely
The playing pieces are rabbits, by the way. Why? Why not. What’s marginally more interesting is that you can be PINK. No games let you be pink. None at all.