Thursday, March 18, 2010

Game Review: Dixit

I had a chance to play Dixit a couple weeks ago. It was clever, fun, and very pretty. The basic idea is that the players all have a set of pictures on cards kept hidden from the other players. One player (the storyteller) chooses one of his or her pictures and then comes up with a phrase (broadly defined to include a word, several words, a noise, or even an action) to describe that picture. Without revealing the picture, the storyteller shares the phrase with the other players. The other players then choose from among their pictures what they think is the best match for the phrase, and all the pictures (the initial one plus one from each other player) are mixed together still hidden, and then turned face up. Each player (other than the storyteller who came up with the phrase) votes for which picture is the best match to the phrase.

The storyteller scores points for anybody who picks the original picture that inspired the phrase. The other players can score points for picking the correct picture themselves or for having other players pick their pictures instead of the correct one. To keep the descriptions from being too literal, the storyteller actually loses points if everybody picks the correct picture - there has to be at least one player who chooses incorrectly for the storyteller to score points. A very clever mechanic without which the game wouldn't work at all.

So, the strategy when you're the storyteller is to come up with a phrase that's a good enough match to get people to pick your picture, but ambiguous enough that there will still be enough confusion that other pictures get picked. When you're not the storyteller, it's simpler - just pick the best match to the phrase.

The gameplay is quick and fun, and the scoring seems pretty balanced. There's a fair amount of luck involved, although it's not traditional luck (e.g. die rolls) - there's some of that with the cards you draw, but most of the luck comes from what happens to inspire the other players, and what connections you're able to get them to make. I didn't feel like I had much control over the game, but that was OK - it was a fun enough process that I didn't mind just going with the flow.

The pictures are really neat and a good fit to the game - very colorful surreal scenes that lend themselves to metaphor, emotion, and ambiguity. The cards are very big, too, which is nice - they're easy to see from across the table. Some of it seems desperately over-the-top artsy - the playing pieces are little bunny rabbits, for no particular reason - and stereotypically French. The bunnies don't stay in place well on the little board you move them around on - they're too big and too tippy. But that's a quibble - it's a cool concept that I think would play well with different numbers of people (I had a group of six). Playing the game felt a little like Apples to Apples, although it's not directly parallel - it's maybe more like the dictionary parlor game and other derivative ones (Balderdash, Wise and Otherwise). I'm not sure how it would stand up to repeated playings, once you had seen all the pictures, but I think it would be OK, since you'd come up with different phrases. Better than Apples to Apples, anyway, which gets a little stale even with the many, many words they have to match.

A fun one - recommended.

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