Michel Fortin
Canada
Montréal
Québec
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or "One way to avoid stupid games during the Holidays"

The feeling of being trapped was palpable. Those of you disgusted by the crass consumerism behind the Holidays know the feeling.

Through the years our two family reunions of the season have developed a tradition. The host has to come up with some little games in the evening. The winner of the games receives small gifts supplied by the host. Year after year, the number of gifts increased and so has the time spent playing the games. It has come to the point where most of the guests, and hosts, are fed up with this infernal circle but nobody dare to speak up. This whole situation is particularly painful when the games are not so good.

I had to find a way to break this tradition without appearing to be a cheapskate, but it didn't seem this year would be the one... Until my father and I verbalized this feeling and came up with the following idea the day before my reception.

Instead of having a succession of games with gifts to be unwrapped by the winners, I would do an auction. So, I unwrapped all my gifts (what a waste of wrapping paper), assigned a letter to each item and displayed them on a table. After dinner, I gave each guest a pack of cards (from ace to king from one suit). Using a bag of Scrabble tiles, one object would be randomly chosen to be auctioned. Each guest would then have to chose one of their cards and put it face down (blind bidding). The highest card would win the object. In case of equality the next highest unique card would win. All the cards played would then be discarded. Some of you may have recognized the Raj card game and, interestingly enough, Stupide Vautour (the French edition of this game) was one of the objects being auctioned!

To spice things up a bit, I identified the least interesting objects and give them a negative quality. The lowest card would then win this object. Most of the time, my instinct was good and the "negative" objects were not sought after by the players (everybody bid high). Once a guest won an auction, he or she was out of the game so that everyone would win at least one auction.

I'm pleased to say that it went very well. Everybody had fun and the family reunion was not monopolized by stupid games - not that any of my games were stupid! The whole auction session lasted 50 minutes which is a bit more than what I expected but still very acceptable. Useless to say that the party's dynamic was very different than in previous year. I'm hoping that the vicious circle is now broken but I will have to wait one year to know for sure.
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David Bush
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Radiant
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Re: How Alex Randolph and my geekiness have saved my recepti
That sounds like a cool solution, but not having played Raj, I have one question about the rules you used. As the number of participants decreases, what happens in a specific auction if each bid is duplicated by another bid? In other words there is no unique bid. Who wins the item then?
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Glenn Ironhat
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Nice job. Whoever is hosting next year may ask for your help. You should be willing to do that so that things don't revert back to the way they were.

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Billy McBoatface
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Lexington
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Re: How Alex Randolph and my geekiness have saved my recepti
I've been to white elephant parties, and while fun...your idea sounds much, much, more fun!

I'll try to keep this in mind for next year.
 
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Michel Fortin
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twixter wrote:
That sounds like a cool solution, but not having played Raj, I have one question about the rules you used. As the number of participants decreases, what happens in a specific auction if each bid is duplicated by another bid? In other words there is no unique bid. Who wins the item then?

I didn't want to pollute my initial post with too many details, but I can fill in the gaps in this reply.

In case of a tie, I would do another round of bidding. I didn't want to use the Raj solution. Doing so would have meant that a second object would have been added to the next lot up for auction. I wanted to make sure that everybody won at least once. For the record, this situation happened only once. When there were two people left in the game!

In one sense, I was lucky it went so well. I had 13 guests. If more than one "total equality" would have happened, the 13 cards of the players would have run out. I would have had to make them start again with a complete set of cards and, if the current auctioned item was really appealing, it could have ended in perpetual ties. I was aware of that fact before hand but didn't want, and didn't have time, to make custom sets of cards (1 to 30 for instance).

Also I had 18 objects for 13 guests. When there was only one player left, she automatically won the object randomly selected. And, then, I made everyone pick up their deck of cards and continue playing for the 5 last objects.

Untypically for this group, after the game was over, there was much haggling between the guests to try to get the object they weren't able to get during the game. I would say that the nature of the game was making it much easier (less insulting to the host from their point of view) to admit that the "gift" was not to their liking. Particularly since I, myself, identified some unwanted objects!
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