Rules of Rob Your Neighbor or White Elephant Online

Ages: 5 to 99
Number of Players: 5 to 50
Time Needed: 5 minutes to 1 hour

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The Origins of Rob Your Neighbor / White Elephant

Rob Your Neighbor, also known as White Elephant and in some circles, simply The Game, is a great party game that usually shows itself during the Christmas / Holiday season because it involves trading gifts. While the actual origins of the game remain hidden in undocumented history, one can only imagine that the traditional game began when someone received a gift they were less than happy with, but needed a guise through which to trade his gift for one they liked better.

The Rules of Rob Your Neighbor / White Elephant

The rules of Rob Your Neighbor / White Elephant are fairly simple, although because the high level of competition that arises as a result of playing the game, they will undoubtedly be questioned at some point during game play. Be sure to print out these rules as a definitive guide before you're caught in the heat of the moment.

1 - Everyone Playing Must Bring an Interesting Gift

This rule of Rob Your Neighbor / White Elephant is the one which sets the foundation for the rest of the game. Typically, the Rob Your Neighbor host will set a dollar limit for the gift, or say that it must be home-made. Bizarre gifts often produce the best results, so try to find an unusual gift that will capture the imagination of the party-goers. Oh, and each gift must be wrapped in order to conceal the contents.

2 - Each Player Draws a Number From a Hat

Numbers are added to a hat or similar receptacle for each player. So for instance, if there are 10 people playing Rob Your Neighbor, there will be 10 numbers in the hat.

3 - The Player Who Drew #1 Selects a Gift

This is pretty straightforward.

4 - The Player Who Drew #2 Selects a Gift or Takes Player #1's Gift, And So On...

Starting with Player #2, each player then has the option to select an already-opened gift from another player, or to select an unopened gift from the gift pile. If the player selects another player's gift, the player who is now without a gift has two options. 1) They can take another player's gift, or 2) They can select an unopened gift from the gift pile.

Special Rules of Rob Your Neighbor / White Elephant

  1. The third time a single player steals the same gift, that gift is permanently theirs. That means it cannot be stolen by anyone else, and the player and their gift retires from the game. This means it must be in the possession of that same player 3 times, not just that the gift has to be stolen 3 times by any player.
  2. A player cannot steal a gift back that has been stolen from them during the same turn. So for instance, if someone steals your Fiberoptic Light Display, you can't take it right back. You must wait for another turn. If someone then steals your gift on their turn, you can take back that Fiberoptic Light Display you've been waiting all your life for.

Rob Your Neighbor / White Elephant Strategy

There are a couple of strategies that come into play with Rob Your Neighbor / White Elephant. The first is that a player might want to shoot for a unique gift that isn't necessarily the most desirable. If you go for the Apple IPOD (see the Office episode from December 6th, 2005), chances are you're going to lose it, too.

Also, the 3-times-owned rule makes for interesting group strategy. For instance, if you team up with a couple of people, you can help each other get a gift 3 times, which makes the ownership permanent.

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