Introduction: White Elephant Gift Exchange - Custom Rules Dice (with Templates)

About: Architect, Urban Designer, all-round tinkerer of odds and ends. Small solutions for big city living. Dreaming of lands faraway where garages are big enough to build a workshop in, or lakes are there for taking…

Here's a solution to boring Gift Exchanges this Christmas season: play a fun gift-stealing game instead!

This is commonly known as a "White Elephant Gift Exchange", in which the focus is on the fun of the gift-grabbing and the silliness of the gifts themselves.

Here's how to host a White Elephant Gift Exchange party, and how to make these custom dice will help move the game along without needing to refer to lists of rules. (especially after too many glasses of mulled wine!)

Step 1: Get a Pile of Silly Presents

You'll need to prepare a pile of presents, far more than the number of guests you have. These don't have to be expensive presents: in fact the sillier the are the better!

One way is to ask all your guests to bring two gifts each - one nasty and one nice. Encourage them to wrap the gifts so as to camouflage the contents. Keep everyone guessing which presents are the nice ones.

Make sure to prepare a bunch of extra presents if you are the host, so that you have enough in case people don't bring a gift to exchange.

The gifts can be just things around the house that you no longer need, or bad presents that you want to re-gift. But they should be fun! Novelties, party favours, chocolates... Somebody once wrapped a whole raw fish from the market as a joke.

Step 2: Make the Rule Dice

Print out the two dice templates (from the intro page) on thick glossy photo paper, or make your own. Cut them out and glue it into a cube with the tabs inside.

Don't make sharp creases, but just lightly curve the faces into a cube shape, so that the dice have slightly rounded edges. That makes it easier to roll.

Alternatively, just print out the individual directions as sticky labels and glue them onto a existing cubes or giant dice that you may have.

DIE 1 reads:
- Unwrap ONE gift
- Return ONE gift to the pile
- Steal and unwrap ONE gift from...
- Give ONE gift to...
- Swop ONE gift with...
- Return everything to the pile!

DIE 2 reads:
- ...the person OPPOSITE you
- ...the person TWO to your LEFT
- ...the person TWO to your RIGHT
- ...Any KID
- ...the PILE

Feel free to customise with your own rules!

Step 3: Game Play

When the Christmas Ham is devoured, get everyone to sit in a circle with all the wrapped presents in a pile in the centre.

Play goes in a circle. Draw lots to see who gets to start. (One crude way that shocks people into loosening up is to ask who had the last shit!)

On each person's turn, the person first draws one gift from the pile - but don't unwrap it yet! In fact, don't get too attached to it!

The person then rolls DIE 1 and follows the instructions as follows:

"UNWRAP" - Choose one of the presents in your possession, and unwrap it with as much fanfare as you can muster.

"RETURN ONE/ALL" - Sorry, you gotta return one/all of your presents to the pile! (See, I warned you not to get too attached)

"STEAL from/SWOP with/GIVE to..." - Roll the second die to complete these 3 instructions! All gifts, whether wrapped or unwrapped, are fair game to be stolen, swopped, or re-gifted.

And that's the end of one exciting turn.

Play then proceeds around the circle to each person in turn.

This can be a fast paced game, or more drawn out as people try to negotiate to keep the presents they want. It's good to have a house rule that nobody should try to hide any presents out of sight: all gifts should be up for grabs!

Some people suggest another house rule when a gift can only change hands up to 3 times. By the third pass, it's a keeper. I suppose this prevents the people from only stealing or swopping the nicest gifts.

Play ends when there no more presents left in the pile, and when all the presents have been unwrapped.

Some people may end up with armfuls of presents, and some may end up with none. It's the luck of the draw.

If you want to be extra nice, you can end the game with one round whereby anyone who has zero presents gets to grab one from the person with the most. Don't make it too easy, though! Maybe they have to sing a song, play a forfeit, or just pick a gift blindfolded.

If played well, this will be a memorable gift exchange for all your guests.

Merry Christmas!