Dixit and a surreal peek into dangerous minds

Dixit is a game of imagination and bluffing, like Balderdash but with pictures instead of words.    It shines a dim glow upon the desires, fears and twisted logic buried in our subconscious minds.  It is spooky, hilarious and excellent.

Dixit game set
Dixit game set: be careful who you play with

In each turn, one player takes the role of storyteller and selects one of the beautifully illustrated cards from their hand (but doesn’t show it to the others) and describes it however they like; the other players choose a card from their hands that could match that description.  The cards are mixed up and players then vote on which they think is the correct card.  The storyteller’s descriptions are usually vague: if it’s too easy to guess the correct card, the storyteller gets no points.  Meanwhile, the pictures on the cards are whimsical and bizarre, like something out of a fairy tale or a cheese-fueled dream.  Watching players take vague descriptions to ascribe meaning to these surreal images allows us to peek into the dangerous depths of their psyche.

The pictures to choose from are full of details and contrasts so that players can find double meaning or triple meaning in everything they see.  At a very basic level, to one person a picture of a clown might mean “funny” yet to a second person the same picture might mean “fear”.

But the pictures in Dixit are never that simple.  There is a card with a clown on it, but the clown is crestfallen and alone, in a spotlight yet surrounded by darkness.  To various people this might mean “sad”, “lonely”, “black and white”, “fame”, or many more things besides.

Dixit rabbit counters
Dixit rabbit counters: what do they mean?

Things get very interesting when players must vote for the card they think matches the description.  For example, I recently played a game where it was my turn and my description was “Michael Jackson”.  My card, the correct one, showed a flamboyant king wearing a single glove.  The other cards included the sad clown and one showing a pair of young children stalked by the shadow of a wolf.

One player voted for the clown, because they saw a figure in the spotlight, a sad life, and the colours black and white: all things you could plausibly tie to Michael Jackson.

Another player voted for the children stalked by the wolf.  The person who played that card saw it as a reference to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  The person who voted for that card saw it as a reference to paedophilia!

Only one person voted for the correct card, and not for any of the reasons that made me choose it in the first place.

Dixit card set
Dixit cards: wishes, nightmares and childhood trauma

Seeing the way people find meaning in the abstract images in Dixit is fascinating.  It’s like partaking in a competitive acid-tripped Rorschach test.  To one person, Michael Jackson is the king of pop, to another he was a sad and lonely man, and to another he was a dangerous paedophile.  Where the mind jumps to first is revealing of the assumptions, prejudices, preferences and subconscious leadings hidden inside each player.

I highly recommend that you play Dixit, especially with some close friends and family.  But be careful, because you might not like what you find in the other players – or in yourself.

Watch TableTop play a round of Dixit:

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