Sometimes a game comes along that is so different, so breathtakingly beautiful, and so much fun that it just re-invents gaming. Enter Dixit.
The original Dixit game was published in 2008, and won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres (the German Game of the Year) in 2010. The premise of the game was beguilingly simple: on each turn, a player takes the role of the Storyteller, and chooses one card from his hand. Placing it face-down in the centre of the table, he says a word, or a phrase, or even makes a gesture, that he feels in some way conveys the meaning of, or symbolizes, the card. The other players then choose a card from their hands that they feel could also be considered related to the Storyteller’s phrase, and place those cards face-down along with that of the Storyteller. The cards are shuffled, then turned up one by one. Finally, the players other than the Storyteller try to guess which card was that of the Storyteller.
It is the scoring that makes the game so elegant: if the clue is too transparent and descriptive, and all the participating players choose the Storyteller’s card, then all except the Storyteller are awarded two points (the Storyteller gets zero). The same thing applies if no-one guesses correctly — the Storyteller gets nothing, and the other players get two points apiece. If only some are correct, then the Storyteller and the players who guessed correctly get three points each. Each card which gains an incorrect guess gains one point for the card owner.
Dixit Odyssey, the newest version, can be played as an expansion to the original Dixit, allowing a total of 12 players to join in, or it may be played as a stand-alone game. The 84 cards are beautifully illustrated so that they are at once dreamlike and evocative. The cards are imaginative triggers, and each player can find a detail or facet on which to hang his clue, even after multiple games. The game requires no reading skills and is language-independent, so that it may be played with children whose reading skills are still shaky, or with people who speak languages other than English (as long as they can understand one another, they can play). And there is certainly strategy involved, as the better the players know one another, the more they can try to fake one another out or think of references that they are fairly sure that one person will not know.
Dixit Odyssey and the original Dixit are intriguingly different and hugely enjoyable. Five stars.