Critical Play: Bluffing, Juding and Getting Vulnerable With Respect to Dixit

Winter break my sophomore year, each week my family and I would try to have a board game night. My parents are first generation immigrants who, although are great at English, often struggled with learning games. The one game, however, they were always happy to come back to (and we always ended up playing each night) was Dixit. Even though the game is incredibly simple, the beauty of the cards and the social dynamics the game brings out makes the game replayable for hours on end.

Dixit is a boardgame made by French designer Jean-Louis Roubira with art by Marie Cardouat. The target audience as listed on the box is 8+ which I would agree with given how easy the game is to learn. The game is a multilaterally competitive game where the objective is to get to 30 points first. Each player will take a turn being the storyteller where they will give some phrase or hint that represents the card they play. Each card has some picture and nothing else. All other players in the game will then pick from their hand a card that best matches the phrase or hint given by the story teller. The cards are then shuffled and laid out and all the remaining players must try to figure out which card was initially played by the story teller. If everyone guesses correctly or incorrectly, then everyone but the storyteller gets 2 points. If some subset of the non-storytelling players guesses correctly, then all correct guesses get 3 points (as well as the story teller) and each other player gets 1 point for each person they were able to trick. This incentivizes the storyteller to not make it too hard or too easy. As a result the key resources in this game is the number of points different players are at and the cards they have at their disposal as well as (I’d argue) any shared memories. More on this later.

The kind of fun provided by this game is most definitely fellowship with a hint of outwit/challenge. Non-storytellers can have fun trying to trick other players while the storyteller can have fun trying to create a prompt that isn’t too easy or hard. All in all, the core of the game is centered around the players ability to connect and resonate with the hint provided by the storytellers, which, when successful, gives players a deeper sense of connection.

This game is a judging game and is thus similar to apples to apples and cards against humanity, but the key distuinguishing factor is that cards are completely image based. This makes it incredibly easy to learn and quiet frankly makes it more intimate. Rather than trying to interpret words which are already laced with meaning, players are tasked with interpreting images which each player may interpret differently. Thus the beauty is in a player’s ability to determine what the current storyteller will interpret the image as and what they would pick to represent the hint.

When it comes to vulnerability, the game actually strongly strongly favors those who target each other’s intimiate memories. As a storyteller, from a point maximization perspective, you only want one person to get your card since you don’t want too many people also getting 3 points with you. Thus the more vulnerable or precise about memories you are with a person in relation to a card, the better you will tend to do. Thus the game actually promotes vulnerability and intimacy especially between two players.

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