Do you have a bin of white elephant gifts in your home?
We do. It’s the basket we turn to when the holidays roll around and we’re invited to a white elephant gift exchange. Some years, we end up a few different parties with these types of gift exchanges. So many years ago we created our "White Elephant Box" and whenever we get something that just seems odd, we toss it in the box. That way, we have an easy resource to turn to when it’s time for a party.
Note for our international readers: As you may not have heard of "white elephant gifts" before, Wikipedia has a great entry that will give you the scoop. But this simple statement says it best, "Gifts are typically inexpensive, humorous items or used items from home."
Well, now you don’t have to wait for the holidays to enjoy white elephant gift exchanges, because there’s a card game that lets you enjoy white elephant gift giving any time of year.
How do you play White Elephant?
White Elephant is a pretty straight forward card game where you’re trying to collect the highest value gift card for each the people on your Gift List.
Each player starts out by randomly getting a Gift List card. This Gift List card tells you the 3 people you’re giving gifts to. For example it could be your Mother-In-Law, Great Uncle Erwin, or a Random Stranger.
Then you get a set number of gift cards depending on how many players are in the game and you’re ready to roll. The number of gift cards per player will also determine how many rounds you’ll play. To start a round, everyone selects a gift card from their hand and plays it to the table face down - as a wrapped gift. The starting player than chooses a gifts and "opens" it by turning it over and placing it in front of them. Then just like in a white elephant gift exchange the next player can either "open" a new present or take one that is open in front of another player.
And just like in a white elephant gift exchange, the round continues until everyone has an opened gift. Then you stash your glorious gift and move on to the next round. Play continues like this until all the gift cards have been played. Then you check your gift stash to determine which gifts you’re going to give to those on your Gift List.
So if you have a Gift List that includes your Mother-In-Law (red), Great Uncle Erwin (green), and a Random Stranger (blue) you’ll select the highest value card for each person (your highest red, green, and blue cards) and add those up. Sure you’ll have more cards and most likely even more for each recipient, but since you can only give them 1 gift, the lower value cards won’t count.
The player with the highest total value wins. That’s all there is to it.
Can the whole family enjoy White Elephant?
As you can see from how the card game is played, it’s a pretty light card game. And since there isn’t a lot of strategy, it’s pretty simple for players of all ages to join in. And even if one of your younger family members can’t read yet, as long as they can recognize numbers and colors, they should be able to join in the fun.
Is there any strategy in White Elephant?
Sure there is. But since it’s a light card game, the strategy is on the lighter side as well. But that’s just fine because this game was made for party time. So there aren’t really any long-term strategic decisions that need to be made. But you will get your opportunity to make the tough decisions on which cards to play, when to play them, and when to open new gifts or steal from others.
However, in the end, it is a card game meant for parties and fun - so luck will continue to play a prominent roll. And if you’re just having fun, that won’t bother you a bit.
How does White Elephant score on the "Let's Play Again" meter?
Since it’s such a quick, light family card game we’ve found that the kids do holler to "play it again" as one game comes to a close. It’s also an easy one to pull off the shelf and just play in the evening when you don’t want to see the kids leaving the dinner table and heading to stare at screens.
Of course, because there isn’t a lot of strategic depth it does have it’s replayability limits. But again, that’s not what it was made for. Whenever we get together with friends for a party and games are involved, White Elephant is a great one to throw on the stack of games to play.
Thanks Brian Kelley for making a game that keeps on giving crazy gifts even when it’s not holiday season.
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