White Elephant the Card Game: New take on original

Published: Sunday, Dec. 25 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

A white elephant gift exchange is a game played traditionally during the holidays. Participants bring a gift they hope to exchange for something more interesting than what they brought. I've played it several times with family, church groups and at work parties. It's fun, a barrel of laughs and I'm amazed at what people bring to exchange.

Local publisher Mayday Games released a card game by Utah designer Brian Kelley called White Elephant that simulates the traditional gift exchange. The question I had as soon as I heard the title was, does a holiday party game translate into a fun card game?

In White Elephant the Card Game, players receive a goal card listing three of five gift categories: Crazy Neighbor, Mother-in-Law, Fluffy the Cat, Random Stranger and Great Uncle Irwin. The goal is to collect the highest point-value cards in the categories on your goal card to win. A deck of 50 gift cards contains funny retro gifts from five categories. Each category contains a set of 10 cards valued from one to 10.

To start, each player is dealt a hand of gift cards and play begins. Players lay a single gift face down on the table and the starting player reveals (unwraps) a card, adding it to his collection of gifts. The next player has a chance to steal a gift or unwrap a new one. The game continues in rounds until the last present is unwrapped. Collected gifts are tallied according to points and the highest point total wins.

Discovering the different gifts for the first time is interesting, but after a few plays, the game could lose its flavor. The traditional holiday game is fun because you actually get to take the gift you win home. In the card game, the gifts are just that — cards.

When compared with other card games, this game stands out because of its unique gameplay. However, there is no real strategy here. It's all about luck. You steal cards or unwrap new gifts based entirely on your turn order.

At a traditional white elephant gift exchange, I think this would make a hilarious gift.

Ryan Morgenegg is a multimedia specialist for the Deseret News.