Board Game Review: Dixit and Its Educational Gameplay

Dixit is a card game published by a French Press. Using a deck of cards illustrated with dreamlike images, players select cards that match a title suggested by the “storyteller”, and attempt to guess which card the “storyteller” selected. The game’s title is the Latin word for “he/she/it said”.

Game Descriptions

Cards and game board

Every player has 6 random hand cards, one set of colored tags with number from 1 to 10 for voting and a wooden rabbit for marking the personal scores.


The game is round based. Every player take turns to be the “storyteller”. The “storyteller” pick one card out of the six hand cards. Say a word or a sentence about the illustration on the card. The word or sentence can not describe the content directly. For example, player cannot name the card on the left as “a boy riding a white horse trying to across a rainbow bridge”. Instead, s/he could describe the card as “chasing the hope”, “flee away from disaster” or “environmental protection” etc. That is to say the word or sentence could be creative while obscure. Then put the card on the table with the illustration side down.

Other player then pick one of their own card according to the storyteller’s words, and also place the card on the table with the illustration side down. storyteller then shuffle all the cards on the table, and flip them over.

The other players have to vote for the card which they think is from the “storyteller”(namely the card that most matches the storyteller’s words ), by using numbered voting chips.


Here comes the moment of truth. The storyteller reveal which his/her card is.

  • If no player makes the right guess, the storyteller gets 0 score, and the rest of the players get 2;
  • If all the players make the right guess, the storyteller gets 0 score, and the rest of the players get 2;
  • If there are some but all the players guess it right, the storyteller and the players who make the right guess will earn at least 3 scores. Besides, if there is one vote for a non-storyteller’s card, the non-storyteller will get 1 extra score for his or her card is somehow more bedazzling than other players’ cards, while more aligned with the storyteller’s words in a sense.

After scoring phase, all the player take back their voting chips, discard the used cards, and take a new card from the card stack for maintaining their own six hand cards in stock. When all the cards in the stack are used, the game ends. The player with the highest score wins.

Lenses of Game Design

  1. Lense of expression: this game did not give avator to the players, but every storyteller can embed his/her own experience in the words or sentence associated with the content of the image.
  2. Lense of friendship: Dixit has been considered as one of the prettiest party games. Especially the moment when storyteller unveil why he or she interpret the illustration in that way, other players will have a aspect of what this person is like. It is a great chance for both the people who are familiar with the storyteller or those are not to discover a dimension that they never notice before. For example, one youtuber said that she named one of the following cards as “the baby of July”, and another girl suddenly shouted out that she knows the answer. Because the storyteller chose the upper left card which she associated with the Leo. And the player happened is born in July and her star sign was Leo.
  3. Lense of curiosity and imagination: The element of imagination is definitely the core of this game. The fantastic illustrations unleash the storyteller’s imagination, while the storyteller need to constrain his or her imagination within one word or sentence. The other player have to walk in the storytellers shoe, wondering where is his or her thoughts started, and where it is landed on. Therefore, some primary school students are playing Dixit for inspiring imaginations.
Chinese Primary Schoolers are Playing Dixit during Summer Vacation

How the Game Designed Experience Fosters Learning

The gameplay of Dixit is a classic bound with Semiotic Domains. The term “semiotic domain”, proposed by Paul Gee, refers to a distinct collective consciousness shared by people with similar interests, attributes or skill sets. Especially the images can have different meanings within different semiotic domains. One storyteller stated that her card was recognized by her BBF than anyone else. Because “these appeared to be a silent convention between them”. To share a tacit understanding with some of the players, while without others, the storyteller need to use a “multi modal domain”. The domain in Dixit is of image and words to communicate.

Likewise, Gee made his argument that videogames could be both academic and entertaining, if a learner is working with a high quality gaming environment that supports critical learning. Semiotic domain is situated in the context and a specific domain. Every semiotic domain has internal (acceptable content) and external (acceptable social practice) designer grammars.
While in Dixit, we analyze how storyteller and players interact with certain semiotic domains.
The storyteller acts firstly like one of the co-designer of the game, s/he create the special grammar to combine the word and the picture together. The storyteller is the most hypothesis testing and risk taking role. The following diagram is presenting the “danger zone” for the storyteller. Neither being to obscure or too direct when describing the illustration, will lead to zero-point consequence. Therefore in order to gain at least one point from this round, storyteller need to make sure some of the player will figure out which is his or her card by the simple words given, while some are not. This is a delicate balance for the storyteller to keep.

Here is an example: the storyteller chose card #1, a dragon with a bubble in its mouth. Then the storyteller said the word as “kamehameha”, associated with “the Turtle’s power” in the manga “Dragon Ball”.

And the critical learning happens, when the player learns the grammar of the domain from three elements: the illustration, the words and also the identity of the storyteller. Once the player learnt the grammar, he/she can understand and make conjecture of the situated meanings and combinations of the elements(image and the words) in this domain.
Meanwhile, the players can create their own grammars. Sometimes, the players’ semiotic domains are more acceptable than the storytellers. The following cards on the right actually received three votes in that round. Because the illustration is so alike in the appearance of “kamehameha”(picture on the left) . Thus some players associated their experience with watching dragon balls with the words and voted for the illustration.


That is to say, in the lense of rewards, this player will receive extra scores, for he or she did a great job in combining the storyteller’s words and the picture on card, namely a larger and more acceptable semiotic domain for other players to enter. The co-design activities conducted by the players other than storytellers are also creative. And what is more, it is a risk taking and hypothesis testing process. The player might assume that other people at the table have watched Dragon Ball before, and had an impression that the turtle’s power looks like something round and blue. Even for those who did not have a vote, they will learn the mistake as an opportunity to progress. It is not a waste of their time, but he or she are encouraged to make the best use of the hand cards to gain more votes instead of throwing a random card.

Game Design Considerations

With a very thick card stack, Dixit had never been doubted about the replayability. And the illustrations which fuses illusion and reality provide endless viewpoints for players to tell a story. Some players even claim that they will have brand new inspirations about one same card as time goes by.

Although Dixit itself has endless playability, people play Dixit to meet various needs. Here are some derivations of gameplays based on the original mechanics. All the following ways to play were found on the social network:

Dixit for family get together and party

Dixit is well known for its accessibility, people aged 8 years old and above can learn the simple rules very soon and release their imagination widely. Some players combine Dixit with Truth or Dare: whoever gain zero-point in one round will be given the choice between answering a question truthfully, or performing a “dare”, both of which are set by the other players.
Sometimes when players are very intimate to each other, the rule will be set as “the storyteller only using people’s name to describe your card”, the atmosphere will become hilarious. But players need to pay attention that not being offensive to anyone.

Dixit for foreign language learning

Dixit seems pretty simple for anyone who can just use several simple words to continue the gameplay. However, the game gets tougher if the players are only allowed to say a foreign language that they are learning. A Japanese learning group has made attempt to combine Japanese language learning with Dixit. With the rule of only using Japanese during the gameplay, players might learn more vocabulary and have association with the image and related semiotic domains.

Japanese Learning Group in Chinese Academy of Social Sciences using Dixit to Practice Japanese Language Speaking

Dixit for art education

Some workshop used masterpieces by Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet as cards to play Dixit, called “Dixit of arts”. Those paintings are similar to the original illustration in some way: breathtaking artwork with imagination unlocks the tale deep inside the player’s minds. Through the gameplay, participants can share their aspect of appreciation for the Modern Art actively, rather than listen to any commentary passively.

Dixit of Arts by a French Learning Group

Dixit for creative writing

In order to realize the full potential of cards, some players use Dixit as a tool for creating story chains. For example, after the first round ends, instead of throwing all the cards into the used card stack, the storyteller keeps his or her own card with the words given to this card. Then the storyteller of the second round aligns the second card, and make the plot with the word or sentence from the first and second round. As the rounds go on, more cards are accumulated. The plot will be enriched and more character will be added in. At the end of the game, all the storyteller contribute to this story collaboratively, and most interestly, the story has a series of illustrations.



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