My circle of board game geeks usually celebrate Christmas by a simple gift exchange game where we take turns rolling dice to accumulate gifts, and have 2/6 chance to get a new gift but 1/6 to lose one.

However, I feel like we're playing the rock-paper-scissors or Monopoly of gift exchanges. How can we spice this up a bit to make it more worthy of board game geeks? Just playing games and giving the winner a gift doesn't cut it, because we want it to be fair.

  • By "fair" do you mean equal odds for everyone? That is, so that you're still just rolling dice, but you had to do something more significant to figure out how they came out?
    – Cascabel
    Dec 12, 2011 at 21:32
  • @Jefromi: Not necessarily, but there should be some mechanism for evening it out. Playing Catan for the presents would result in the presents going to the best Catan players. Playing a lot of rounds and giving the players with fewer presents more starting roads and resources could work, but would take too much time.
    – Karen
    Dec 12, 2011 at 22:02
  • 1
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a time period that has expired. Jan 12, 2014 at 19:19
  • @PieterGeerkens What? No, it might be off topic for other reasons, but there will be another Christmas, or another gift exchange, for someone somewhere out there. These sites aren't just for the OP.
    – Cascabel
    Feb 16, 2014 at 17:50
  • For what it's worth, I've voted to close not because it's not Christmas anymore, but because this is basically a game recommendation request (and those are off-topic). Unfortunately it's also a kind of unclear one: it seems like it's asking for simple mostly-luck games. With a more defined starting point, it might become a decent game design question, but as-is, I think it's hard to answer well, as evidenced by the wide variety of answers.
    – Cascabel
    Apr 24, 2015 at 18:57

4 Answers 4


If there's one wrapped gift per person, you could do it as a white elephant exchange with pick position determined by a game of Settlers. Or Dominion, or Agricola, or anything else that produces a score that can be used to determine not just who won but 2nd place, 3rd place, etc.

Whoever got the low score opens a present. It's theirs! For now.

Now, everybody takes turns choosing a present, starting with the second-lowest scorer and working up to the winner. When it's your turn to choose, you may either open a new present, or steal an opened present. If your present gets stolen, you're presented with the same choice; steal somebody else's, or open a new one. (A given present may only be stolen once per round.) The round lasts until somebody finally grabs a previously unopened present.

Thus, whoever goes last gets the choice between the best of the N-1 known quantities, or take a chance on the Mystery Box Of Mystery.

I do this with both friends and family every Christmas, with the order being determined by random draw rather than a game. Makes for a good time.


Our group plays a game of Werewolf, we call our holiday version Santa vs. the Grinch, that is combined with the gift exchange. Here is the link to that file on BoardGameGeek.com: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/50348/grinchwolf-gift-exchange-for-30-or-less-players It's fun and handles a good size group, up to 30.


There are several games that use auction mechanics to divide up gained resources. Consider a game like Ra that evenly divides up bidding chips (suns) to players, with each getting a low, medium, and high valued chip. Then there an auction for a set of tiles with people bidding the chip they think is worth the value.

In your case, you can do something similar, create chips of increasing values from 1 to the number of gifts in the game. Each player buys a random chip in exchange for putting a gift into the pool. Now the game begins.

Then players take turns. On his turn a player can either add a gift to the current set of gifts being auctioned, or begin an auction.

When the auction begins, each player starting to the left of the player who began the auction either places one or more chips in front of him to bid on the item(s). Each player much exceed the bid of the previous player or pass. Multiple chips may be used, their values are added. Once everyone has passed the winner takes his gifts and the chips used are discarded. Everyone else who didn't win the auction keeps their chips.


If there are lots of small presents, you could play a Coloretto-style game with them.

Players take it in turns to reveal (or unwrap?) a small present. They add them to one of N heaps (where N is the number of players).

Instead of revealing on their turn, a player can claim a heap and remove themselves from the game. The remaining players continue until the only remaining player takes the last heap (plus any unassigned presents if there are any).

Give each participant a total budget and a number of items they should get (which don't have to be equal in value) and bring them wrapped, or use standard playing cards to identify them and play with.

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