Top Of The Table – Dixit - Features - www.GameInformer.com
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Top Of The Table – Dixit

The height of summer demands a game that is both simple and engrossing – something that is rewarding for the whole family to play together with ease and without extensive explanation or complication. This month's recommended tabletop game hits all those notes. Dixit's blend of storytelling, art, and a twist of psychology is engrossing and rewarding, game after game.

Dixit won acclaim upon its initial release for its innovative approach to gameplay, which encourages imagination and interaction between players. In fact, the game nabbed the coveted Spiel des Jahres award in 2010, along with a host of other accolades. The game succeeds through its gorgeous cards, each filled with custom art. Players offer up brief "stories" inspired by the cards, followed by a fast-moving guessing game as players try to match cards to the stories. Rounds play out at a brisk pace, and encourage imagination and friendly deception in equal measure.

Getting Started

Dixit is designed by Jean-Louis Roubira, and published here in the United States by Asmodee. The unusual name is a latin translation of the words "she or he said." Since its initial launch, several versions of Dixit have become available, and each offer minor variations in the basic pre-game prep. No matter the version you play, setup is always a breeze. Players start their colored marker at the beginning of a scoring track. Then each player is dealt six cards as a starting hand from a shuffled deck.

The simplicity of setup makes the game an easy choice for quick game sessions where your group might only have 30 minutes to play, for a long summer car ride in the back seat, or outside at an afternoon picnic.

Explaining the initial rules can confuse young or new players for a few minutes, but my experience playing with groups of all ages has been that everyone picks up the game capably after the first round of play.

Gameplay

Each round, one player becomes the storyteller, and comes up with a single word, phrase, or sentence inspired by one of their cards. I've included a number of example images in this article of the unusual and beautiful art that is depicted on the cards, which help to illustrate how many strange interpretations a player could bring to the table for any one image.

After the storyteller tells their brief "story," each of the other players examines their hand and chooses a card that relates (as closely as possible) to the word or sentence that has been given. All players, including the storyteller, then put their cards face down on the table. The storyteller shuffles them, then lays them out one by one in a row. Players then try and guess which card belongs to the original storyteller.

The tricky part emerges because of the way the storyteller is scored. If everyone guesses his/her card, then the storyteller gets no points. But if no one guesses the storyteller's card, he/she also gets no points. The other players receive points in both scenarios. This discourages the storyteller from making things too easy or too difficult. For the first leftmost image below, it would be a mistake for the storyteller to say: "Two teddy bears in a window," since everyone would easily guess the card. Likewise, using the phrase "Red cars and airplanes" would be a foolishly vague and misleading story; no one would guess your card. Instead, a good story for this first card might be: "The benefits of a positive outlook."

Other players can also earn points when other players guess their card instead of the storyteller's card. And hold your horses, cheaters; you can't vote for your own image. After the round completes, the storyteller role passes to the next player, and the game continues until all cards have been drawn.

This simple structure leads to a wealth of fun interactions with other players. The guessing game begins to take on a psychological twist, as you think about what your particular friend or family member would think about any given card. Storytellers inevitably come up with innovative interpretations of the same cards, or even different ways to tell a given story. In the groups I play with, we encourage an anything-goes attitude towards the storytelling, so that players can sing, mime, or even just make a single sound to be the story for their card. Inevitably, the whole group ends up laughing along with each other at the crazy cards each player picks to represent a given phrase. While the competitive angle is present to determine a final winner, the game rarely feels built around the competition. The fun of coming up with explanations for your cards and the subsequent guessing game never ceases to be amusing.

[Next up: What are the different versions of Dixit? And where can I pick up the game?]

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