Teaching Time: 5 mins
Playing Time: 30 mins
Setup Time: 1 mins
Value For Money: Mid
Since I’ve decided to review all the Spiel Des Jahres it follows that I should review Dixit at some point. I’ve been avoiding doing so, not because I don’t like Dixit because I love it, its just that reviewing Dixit feels a little like reviewing the Grand Canyon for a tourist guide. What am I going to say that people don’t know? Still, completionist tendencies being what they are, away we go.
In Dixit, player one places a card with an abstract image on it face down and says or sings a short phrase or word. The other players then pick their own cards with abstract images that they think will trick other players into picking them. The cards are shuffled and all the players except player one vote on which one the phrase was intended to match. If player one has no or all the votes they don’t score, if players picked player one’s card they score, if players picked your card and you’re not player one you score. First to a certain score wins.
To be honest the scoring is the smartest thing in Dixit from a pure game design perspective, it has the correct level of encouragement to keep everyone honest and trying to win while staying within a window that’s narrow but not too narrow. It has since spawned a little mini genre of games, many also published by Libellud, where you try to guide people to something using only abstract images, from Mysterium through to recent releases such as Shadows: Amersterdam and One Key and it’s a genre that doesn’t look likely to disappear soon. It allows the most non-creative people to find extra ordinarily creative solutions, people who would shut down in a game of Pictionary find incredible solutions in a game of Dixit. This sense of freedom and creativity is addictive and really finds its best expression in the clue giving section of Dixit. Another part of the beauty of the system is that it levels the playing field between more tactically capable or naturally skilled gamers and virtual novices without using random elements which can cause frustration or lessen the value of victory. A newcomer can beat an expert and yet wins feel earned and losses justified. The various games that have come after use the mechanic to varying degrees of success to level playing fields against more tactical alpha gamers, but none have managed to unleash its creativity enhancing elements in the same fashion as Dixit.
The one major issue is that after multiple repeated plays certain cards can build up their own lexicon of meanings and the meta game can develop to a point where certain cards become exhausted between certain groups of players. As such since changing players is not always possible multiple expansion boxes of new abstract card sets have been released to keep the game fresh, but without adding anything in the way of actual mechanics or extended elements.
So, is Dixit a good game? Yes, it’s a great game, it is actually a game breathtaking in its simplicity and genre breaking subtlety. If you have even a passing interest in the shape of modern board gaming you really must if not own it at least play it. Does it stand up to those that have followed in its wake? Yes, arguably other games have taken the mechanic and used it to fuel interesting second stages of a game, but really none have replicated the purity in releasing the creative impulse that Dixit has. Is it a worthy SDJ winner? Absolutely. SDJ winners tend to have two things, interesting tactile elements and approachable but defining mechanics. Dixit doesn’t really have the first, its board/scoring track is quite neat and fairly unusual, its built into the box with a little well to store the components between games but its not something that will make you really look twice at the game like the Camel Cup pyramid or the Colt Express train. The second one though it not only has, it has to a degree that is undeniable and you really can’t miss is unlike anything that came before, which is probably why so much that came after it is like it.
Dixit is a great game, but it’s a great mechanic, its rare that really new mechanics this big come into the boardgame world. It’s far rarer that they come in on a game that doesn’t feel in anyway like a designer’s game or a designer’s achievement, which is in itself Dixit’s greatest achievement. In its relatively short life span it has achieved a fairly ubiquitous and universal status, and it has achieved it for good reason. If you’re interested enough in board games to be reading my little blog and haven’t at least played Dixit go and correct that immediately, anywhere with a good games library will have a copy and people are always happy to give it a run through for its short set-up and play time. You might not need to own it, but you really need to play it.