The previous posts in this series have focused on games that were originally produced in English-speaking countries and that are likely to be found on a department store shelf. Today, I’m taking a departure from that, and focusing on a French (I think) import by Asmodee: Dixit.
Variants/Expansions: Dixit currently has two expansions, Dixit 2 and Dixit: Odyssey. Dixit 2 needs to be combined with the another version of the game to use with the game rules and scoring (although the cards work fine as prompt cards as they are). Dixit Odyssey is a stand-alone game that includes rules for twelve players if you combine more than one set and comes with improved rules and a better scoring track; it’s my recommended edition if the game if you’re only going to buy one, especially since its box can hold all the expansions if you decide to buy more later. The fourth expansion, Dixit: Journey, which is also a stand-alone expansion and appears to contain yet more rules revisions and another scoring track/board, is due out in 2012, as is the first variant game, Dixit Jinx (which I know nothing about apart from it being a variant rather than an expansion for the original Dixit).
There is an iOS app called iDixit. You may notice that I didn’t link to it. That’s because it’s not very applicable to therapy (or very well programmed). I do not recommend it.
General Overview: Dixit is a picture-describing party game 3-6 players (or, with the Odyssey expansion plus one other version of the game, 3-12 players). Players take turns acting as the “Storyteller”, who selects one of the six cards in his or her hand and gives a word or sentence to describe the picture in vague terms. The other players then select a card in their own hands to give to the Storyteller. The Storyteller shuffles these cards with his or her card and lays them out randomly, and the other players have to secretly guess which card they think belonged to the Storyteller. Each player who guessed correctly gains a point, and each player whose card is guessed gains a point – except if either no players or all players guess the correct card, all players except the Storyteller gain three points. So the challenge for the Storyteller is to pick a card and word/sentence that some other players (but not all other players) will guess.
- Picture Description – This is the base skill of the game and essential to the game role of Storyteller.
- Abstract Reasoning – Thinking of a sentence for a picture that some players, but not all players, will be able to guess requires some out of the box thinking, making this an excellent game for students with Asperger’s Syndrome or more complex language goals.
- Concrete Reasoning – Trying to determine which picture goes with the Storyteller’s sentence requires attention to the details of the pictures.
- Figurative Language – When dealing with pictures with abstract concepts and trying to be evasive with phrasing, the use of figurative language can be a great skill when thinking of sentences as the Storyteller.
Comparison – This skill comes into play when trying to determine which of the six cards in your hand you are selecting to fit the Storyteller’s sentence. Abstaining isn’t an option, so a student is always best off trying to determine which card best fits the word or sentence.
- Replayable: Even in comparison to the other party games reviewed here, Dixit has exceptional replayability because each student is interacting with all the other student’s cards based on a student-generated prompt.
- The game encourages abstract thinking: Where many games dealing with pictures or storytelling have, at best, a fairy tale or fantasy theme to get students away from the concrete, some of the cards in Dixit look like they were drawn by the previously unknown lovechild of Timothy Leary and Rory O’Connor of Rory’s Story Cubes (yes, that top right picture in the action shot is of an arm reaching out of the ocean to grab a rocket made out of a lighthouse, why?). These pictures can get outright bizarre, and trying to think of any sentence, much less one that only some of the other players will guess, requires some degree of abstraction.
- Complexity Without Overwhelming: The pictures in Dixit have a lot of complexity that will encourage complex sentences or multiple-sentence utterances, but the light-hearted nature of most of the pictures ensure that it’s not overwhelming for most students.
- Literacy free: The base game is 84 pictures. With no words except the rules and on the back of the cards. Yay for literacy-free speech games!
- Kid-Accessible, But Not a Baby Game: Many of the games and activities we deal with in speech therapy start to sour with students around the 6th grade. Dixit, as a game designed to be accessible to kids but enjoyable by adults, doesn’t have this risk. The rules are designed for 8-year-olds to understand, but the game remains engaging for older students as well.
- Requires Non-Concrete Output: This game, by the rules, simply doesn’t work with students that only work with concrete ideas. The cards have some similar themes, but those themes are not going to be similar enough for a student who just describes the picture itself to be successful.
- Pull-Ahead Scoring: A student who gets lucky in one round by guessing the Storyteller’s card and having a few other kids guess his answer is going to get a pretty significant lead, which may discourage the other students.
- Analysis Paralysis: This concept’s probably going to come up in other posts, so I’m going to explain it in depth here. Analysis paralysis is a gaming term for having so many seemingly equal choices that you’re unable to decide on a play. Dixit has a number of opportunities for this: when the Storyteller selects a card, when the Storyteller says a word or sentence about the card, when the players pick their cards, and when the players guess which card belongs to the Storyteller. That’s a pretty significant number of opportunities compared to most games – by comparison, Apples to Apples has two: when the players pick the red apple card to fit the green apple card and when the judge picks the wining answer.
- Words Only: Especially with groups that have a hard time with abstract language or understanding the bluffing concept, I tend to limit younger Storytellers to single-word prompts, ideally an adjective. This provides an improved opportunity for the other players to select cards that still fit that word.
- Modified Scoring: Scoring the game becomes less of a runaway if you only get points when someone picks your answer. It gives the Storyteller a decent-sized jump on their turn, but since everyone gets a turn to be the Storyteller, it balances out.
- Therapist as Storyteller: This is becoming a common modification for me, and it’s a little weaker in this context, but having the therapist serve as the Storyteller takes away some of the analysis paralysis and helps the therapist keep an eye on which student actually submitted which card (did I mention that one of my groups has a problem with lying? If I didn’t, I have this third grade group that thinks lying is the funniest thing ever…).
- These cards work really well with the story description and scene description models for the Expanding Expression Tool. This is really useful for older students who are beyond the expressive vocabulary level but still have a hard time with expressive language skills.
- Sentence prompts. If you and your fluency kids are bored while practicing their “smooth speech”, pull out a box of Dixit cards. Tons of prompts, and having the student tell a story based on the card or describe everything in the picture can generate spontaneous paragraphs where the student is thinking of what to say instead of focusing on their speech (really good for informal assessment and/or advanced practice).
- The scoring track is really nice-looking, and the kids love playing with the rabbit-shaped Meeples. I’ve pulled out this game just to use the scoring track with a different activity.
The second I saw this game at Origins, I knew it belonged in my speech bag. My wife knew I was excited about it because I actually called her from the convention to tell her about it (she’s also an SLP, and I’m usually really bad about calling her from conventions). I consider it to be an indispensable therapy tool because it’s my best way to elicit abstract language and paragraphs from students, and it’s one of two games my middle school kids actually enjoy.
Has anyone else had experience using this game in therapy? How useful has it been? What other uses and modifications have you used?