I wear overtext now.
Overtext is cool.
Right, straight up, here comes a chunk of silly. Forgive me if I begin with a slight ramble.
Have you seen Rarg? If you haven’t, you should definitely remedy that situation immediately here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yC69bCqjuG4. Or even better, here, http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rarg-DVD-Tony-Collingwood/dp/B00134V....
Go on. I will try to avoid spoilers later on, but one or two may pop out, it’s best if you just go now. Really.
Lovely isn’t it? I first saw that surrealist children’s masterpiece when I was about eight or nine, and that ending stayed with me a long time. The way some things do. Anyway, years later I would casually mention it among friends. I could never remember what is was actually called, and would keep referring to some of the more pivotal plot points. The universal result of this was blank stares and shrugging shoulders
It got to the point where I wondered if, in some superb irony, I’d actually dreamed its very existence. Although I clung to the certainty I’m nowhere near that imaginative.
Then youtube happened, and with the use of a few well-judged keywords I found it again, I had proof it had always existed, and I was transported momentarily back into my eight-or-nine-year-old head.
I think everybody has their Rarg. Be it a book, tv show or a place, that is at once remembered and forgotten. Something that can, if reconnected with, summon up that childlike feeling of wonder and discovery, a heady mix if cosiness and potential. Crystallised daydreams.
It’s a feeling stirred within by playing Dixit.
There’s no point trying to be coy, holding on for the big reveal. The big selling point of this game is the artwork. Fortunately, in a very real sense, the game is the artwork.
There it is, slathered all over the gorgeously oversized cards. Those cards, oh, those cards. lovely.
I’ll probably be using the word lovely a lot today, so best to disengage the gag reflex now.
Each player (or ‘dreamgineer’, as they should be known. No? Okay then, sorry.) take their turn occupying the role of the storyteller. The storyteller must use one of those strange, evocative, and above all decidedly French, pieces of artwork as a springboard for some imaginative somersaulting. By supplying a clue in the form of a sentence or word or even just a noise, the storyteller’s aim is to get the other players to vote for their card in the end-of-turn secret ballot. There are two trip-hazards between the storyteller and their goal.
The first is that after making their allusion and placing the appropriate card face-down on the table, the other players scan their hand for a picture they feel fits the description, and also place their cards face down. After une petite shuffle these are laid out, providing the field from which the original must be identified using the voting tokens at the bottom of the shot up there.
Still, since the players who guess correctly get three points, and the storyteller gets three points if anyone guesses correctly, everyone is working towards the same end, right?
Obviously wrong, or why end a paragraph like that? Players who work out the storyteller’s meaning get three points… unless all other players get it right, then they only get two. Still, not trop shabby. The storyteller gets three points if anyone guesses correctly… unless all the other players get it right, then they get rien. The storyteller must aim their shot just right, targeting their cryptic arrow to strike some, but not all, of their fellows.
After this, everyone takes their points, including any single points gained from wrong guesses landing on their proffered card , and moves their rabbit,
yes, rabbit (I mean, why not a rabbit, amirite?), a corresponding number of spaces round the rather lovely integrated box-board. Honestly, The French. Repeat until someone reaches the end, or you run out of cards, or both. I’m not entirely sure, and it doesn’t really matter. I’ll come back to that.
Fair warning, I will be gushing shortly, so ready the mop. But first two wee gripes.
There are people with whom playing Dixit will be no fun. This is not the fault of those people, and in only one of these issues is the game itself even partly to blame. It’s just the way it is. No-one’s fault. Let’s move on. Firstly, there are some people who just won’t like, won’t get this game. Whether it’s a self-percieved lack of creativity, or the idea that it’s something they won’t enjoy or be good at, they just won’t have a good time. Which generally means nobody will. No big deal and as I say, no-one’s fault. I doubt your friendship is based on a shared appreciation of dadaistic French storybook art, so just play something else.
The second problem is one to which the game leaves itself open. There are people who always play to win. Fair dos, games tend to have victory conditions for just such a purpose right?
Oh, look how that paragraph ended, that must mean… wrong, right?
Stop it. And yes, this time, right. At least, normally. I don’t think anyone should be playing if they’re not trying to win, as long as their not trying to the exclusion of just playing. But I firmly believe Dixit is different. Hell, as I mentioned, I’m not a hundred percent on how you actually win. Not because I haven’t read the rules or played a fair few fois, but beacause I honestly just don’t care. I just want to keep playing as long as possible, so we’ve houseruled the game longer and longer and now I forget what the rules actually say on the matter…
It is so enjoyable to just play that I don’t really get the victory-at-all-costs gameplan, and one exists. Someone could easily play to win by making oblique in-jokes and references to experiences shared with one or two, but not all of the other players. This could very well win you the game.
This will not be fun.
Don’t be that guy or gal.
Anyhoo, gripes over. Both are easily avoided. You can tell who will be good to play Dixit with, and who would be good at playing Dixit. It helps that this describes the vast majority of people. It also helps that if you have read this far (!) I bet you can think through your friends and family and know instantly who would be great to play this with, you can almost smell it on them, and who (if any), really wouldn’t get a kick out of it.
On the upside, oh I don’t know, everything. At the risk of repeating myself the art is lovely, so there’s that. And while you only get 84 cards in the box, each has enough going on that your brain will focus on a different aspect at various times, and on top of that they can, and will, all be interpreted in a myriad of different ways. (And on top of that: Expansions!)
Take this for example. Are they happy to be dancing again? Are they sad they don’t get to dance anymore? Are they anticipating their inevitable transformation into flamingoes?
Flamingoes, whatever next.
What would you say? What did the storyteller say? Is the person who gave the clue happy? Sad? Hungry? Nostalgic? (“Nostalgia” was a clue given for this card by yours truly, make of that what you will.)
Aye, there’s the rub. Can you use what you know of the person telling the story, no, telling their story, to see tout the available options through their eyes, and divine the intent behind their words. Even more difficult, can you trust yourself to be intepreted in such a way by anyone at the table… mais pas tout le monde…
I should just mention the hardest part of the game. When, during your turn as storyteller, it comes time to lay out the cards it can be nigh on impossible not to blow the gaff by failing to hide your delight at how your friends have interpreted your suggestions. But do try.
During a session of Dixit you will be heartbroken and elated, inspired and terrified, not just by the minds of those around you, but by what pops out of your own cortex once you get swept up in the joyous dreamscaping going on around you. You won’t be pitting your wits against your opponents so much as exercising one another’s imaginations. I love the French. And some of what pops out will stay with you, like a half-remembered dream, a childhood hideaway, or a cartoon you once saw when you were eight-or-nine.
Thanks for the review, AND the Rarg link, which was new to me! I think I'm right there with you when it comes to those surreal visions latching on to my subconscious that I find in animations like Rarg, not to mention the animated films of Rene Laloux (Fantastic Planet, Time Masters, Light Years...you can find them on youtube with some searching. Highly recommended!) and the artwork of Moebius (Arzach). Very influential.
Great review - however I like playing with people that play to win. As long as everybody is playing to win. For instance nothing satisfies me more than when my wife plays a card with a clue that only I would understand - but if she is winning I may intentionally sandbag her by not picking her card- and so will everyone else- then the next turn she will intentionally say a clue that has nothing to do with the card trying to get the rest to pick her card because they are trying not to guess her card.
My wife and I like to invite another family and play with kids and adults all mixed in - sometimes the adults will be so intent on eliminating each other a 12 year old will win, and nothing satisfies a child more than beating the parents in a board game (especially one that doesn't rely on luck)