Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rob Your Neighbor...The Fun Rules

It seems that just about every holiday party includes some incarnation of Rob Your Neighbor (or Dirty Santa or White Elephant or whatever), but frankly, none are as fun as the one we play with my dad's side of the family at our annual Christmas gathering. And since I want you to have fun at your next family Christmas party, I'm gifting you our rules. I'm not claiming any ownership on this version. This is just what my aunt started us on several years ago and it works for us. Bookmark this for next year.

1. No little kids. They get their feelings hurt and complicate things.

2. The gifts should be real, not gag gifts. Our range is usually $5-15 and each adult should bring at least one, though most of us bring extras. Often they are very practical. Sometimes they are regifts, which is fine as long as it is not a gag gift. In the past we've seen toilet paper, candy, popcorn, coffee/cocoa, board games, DVDs, lottery tickets, and car accessories.

3. Make the packaging interesting as this is what makes a gift desirable. Last year, we used the box from Noa's mattress to wrap a broom (see picture). We save interesting shapes and sizes of boxes throughout the year.

4. No unwrapping until the game is over! The game is fun because of the stealing and because of the potential humor in the fact that the most elegantly wrapped gift might be the most undesirable once it is opened.

5. There are no limits on steals, ever. Gifts can be stolen more than three times. They can go back and forth between the same two people. You don't have to clear the pile in the middle before you start to steal.

6. No hiding gifts. And if you do, be prepared to be called out...Dad.

7. Someone sets a timer for an unknown amount of time (I think ours is 20-30 minutes). 

8. Players take turns rolling two dice. 

9. Players get a gift (either from the pile in the middle or stolen from another player) for every 6 that they roll. If they roll double sixes, they get two gifts.

10. If you roll a double of any number, you roll again. If you happen to roll double sixes three times in a row, your turn is over (this results in six gifts so you shouldn't be sad).

11. In the past, I'm fairly certain we played a lightning round. When the timer sounds, the host resets the clock for another unknown period of time (2-4 minutes) and players roll as quickly as they can for their last chance at their favorite gifts. This step is optional.

12. When the final timer sounds, the gift distribution will not be even. Some players will have one gift, some will have five. For players with ZERO gifts, they can pick one gift only from any other player, so if there is something they really want, ending with zero could really work in their favor.

13. After all the gifts are open, the trading starts. At our party this year, it turned into a live auction with my brother negotiating trades between players. Some offers were accepted, some not. I traded a mini chopper (which I already had) for some water guns.

With these rules, I'll guarantee that everyone will have fun playing and go home (relatively) happy with their gifts!


  1. Brilliant, Jo. We will be implementing this in the future.

  2. We play rob your neighbor every year, but these rules will make it much more fun! I am going to bookmark this for sure :)

  3. Thank you so much for the detailed directions for the game! Our family had so much fun playing this game. Way more fun than other versions of White Elephant etc. Several of us brought more than one gift... and I think that made the game exciting! Everyone agreed that this is the game to play from now on!