Dixit

Dixit

The game that spawned Mysterium. Or the idea for Mysterium. Basically, Mysterium exists because of this game.

To the point!

Dixit is a family-friendly game that is ostensibly for up to six people. In reality, if you come up with more pieces for scoring and voting, and you have enough cards (there are numerous expansions), you can expand it as much as you want. So, in theory, it can be a real party game. It’s definitely better when you’re drunk.

The game’s premise is simple: everyone has a hand of six cards. The active player chooses a card and creates a clue around it. Then every other player chooses the card they think will best match that clue, and all the cards go in a pile. They’re shuffled, laid out, and everyone secretly votes on which card belonged to the active player.

Unlike a game like Codenames, the clue you give isn’t particularly restricted; you can use one or more words, sounds that aren’t words, references to familiar things, etc. Pretty much anything goes. The reason is that you don’t actually want everyone to guess your card. However, you want somebody to guess your card—you only score if some, but not all, of the opponents figure out which card is yours.

So how the bloody hell does that work? Pretty easily, once you’ve gone through a few rounds.

One of three things can happen: Everyone guesses correctly, some people guess correctly, or no one guesses correctly.

  • Everyone’s right: Everyone except the active player gets two points. The active player gets zero.

  • Nobody’s right: Everyone except the active player gets two points. The active player gets zero. In addition, each player gets a bonus point for each person who guessed their card.

  • Some people are right: Everyone who guessed right gets three points. The active player gets three points. Everyone also earns a point for each person who guessed their card.

It’s not a complex scoring system, but it’s awkward relative to how most game scoring works (do thing -> get points), so mistakes can happen. Reading the directions again for purposes of this review, I realize we may have never done the scoring exactly right. Professionalism!

In terms of fun, I must reiterate a previous point: Bring alcohol.

Wait, are you twenty-one? If you’re not twenty-one, disregard that last paragraph.

If you are twenty-one, bring alcohol. Drunk people make the best clues. BUTTERFLIIIIIIIES

Is this a good game? It is.. a… simple game. It’s very easy to play (keep one person semi-sober for scoring). That’s good for some people! It’s quite good for people who don’t play many board games, the ones who would see the cards, pieces, and scoring track come out and wonder what kind of over-complicated insanity they’ve gotten themselves into, so you can show them it’s really simple and fun.

But just for a normal sober game night? Eh. It’s strange in that the game is totally in control of the players—everyone picks their cards, the active player makes the clue, there is almost no randomness involved, and skill will win out most often—and yet it frequently feels as though you’re not really in control of your outcome. You have a game where every time it’s your turn, nobody can play anything even close and everyone guesses your card, so you’re getting zeroes while everyone else is getting threes, and you just can’t win enough guesses for your cards on other people’s turns to catch up. Or all the guesses seem to work your way points-wise, even though you don’t feel like you’ve done a great job and maybe even think someone else had really done a better job playing.

Really, just drink. (The Dork Den cannot suggest partaking of illegal substances for the purpose of enjoying a board game. That’s on you.)

Codenames Pictures

Codenames Pictures

Codenames: Pictures is an offshoot of the original Codenames. In fact, it serves as the basis for as many Codenames spin-offs as the original (the Disney and Marvel versions).

But is it as good?

Well.

Maybe.

You can find my review of the original here; the core gameplay is unchanged. There’s still two teams, each with a codemaster who associates as many things of their color as possible with a clue and hopes their team makes the same connection. The main difference, as the title should give away, is that now it’s done with pictures rather than words.

Before playing, there may be a trap of thinking that this is a dumbed-down version of the game. After all, picture books are considered to be at a lower level than purely text books (though numerous comic series put the lie to that idea, but that’s a story for another time). Figuring out what associations your team will make, however, is the name of the game, and the pictures here do not make that easy. Each tile has multiple elements that could be drawn on for clues. Thus, the codemaster has to work around misunderstandings that could lead their team to the wrong tiles, and also ones that could lead them to disregard the correct tiles because they’re focused on the wrong parts of those tiles.

In short, the pictures work out very well as association devices. The game is about equally challenging for both codemasters and players, but in a different way that refreshes the experience.

If there’s a problem with the game, it’s the way the board is set up. Instead of a 5×5 grid like the original, Pictures uses a 4×5. This does not come with a commensurate reduction in spies per team; instead, there are far fewer neutral tiles. The result is a slightly quicker, but swingier game. If you get something wrong, you’re much more likely to hand your opponents a freebie. Combined with the slightly fewer spies per team needed to win, and any error is now far more likely to push your opponents ahead. Codemasters are thus incentivized to be a little more conservative with how many clues they tell their team, which… it’s not bad, per se, but the threat of losing your turn (and potentially hitting the assassin) already leads teams to not go crazy with the number of clues they go for on a given turn.

Given the quality of Codenames in general, I’m assuming they started with a 5×5 grid and determined 4×5 made more sense for some reason. Maybe their playtesters liked the potential swings. Maybe players disliked neutrals in general—they’d rather the game move towards a conclusion with each guess more often. I don’t know. The change probably won’t matter to most people. This is a purely personal gripe with the game, but this is my space, so I’m going to make it

Even with that, though, it’s still good. Go play it.

Score: 8/10 (wouldn’t make sense to have an extra gripe and score it higher, would it?)

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