d6 Dirty Santa from hairylarry's blog

From Inspired Unreality December 16, 2019

Starting topic - Party Games

At the NEA Gamers Guild Christmas Party they played Dirty Santa using a d6 system.

Pass left, pass right, take a gift, exchange with someone, choose two people holding gifts and they exchange, open your gift

If you can't do what you rolled you can choose something else that you can do.

The game ends when the last gift is taken.

Now here's the problem rules. You can't make someone else open a gift. When you get take a gift you can take from the center or from anyone holding a gift.

Those rules are fine if there aren't too many playing.

But at the Christmas Party I think there were about 20 people exchanging gifts.

Since the game was taking too long they encouraged people to take from the center which worked without changing the rules.

But then they had to relax the rule about not being able to make others open a gift to if you rolled a six and you didn't have a gift to open you could make someone else open their gift.

So here are my proposed rule changes for a large party.

When you roll take a gift you have to take from the center until everyone is holding a gift (none left in the center).

There's still plenty of time for gift stealing before all gifts are opened. And the game isn't much fun if you're just sitting there without a gift.

I would also make it a rule that if you roll a 6 and you can't open a gift you can pick someone with a gift and then they open their gift.

We will have a dirty santa game with 17 or 18 players this Christmas. I am going to propose that we use this d6 system with the rule changes and see how it works.

Since the last half of the game is played with over half the presents opened (by definition) there are some strategies for getting the present you want. Players should try to get the present they want. That is called winning.

So if you roll make two people exchange gifts you can pick someone next to you and someone with the gift you like and make them exchange, hoping for a pass left or pass right.

Since pass left or pass right happens a lot (one third of the time) you generally want to surround yourself with gifts you like.

The cloud of gifts near you pass in and out of your hands.

Exchanging gifts for gifts you like is an obvious strategy which does the exact same thing, seeds the cloud of gifts around you with gifts you like.

If you get take a gift and you are already holding a gift then you can exchange gifts for one you like or if you are already holding a gift you like you can make one of your neighbors exchange gifts with someone holding a gift you like.

In this game the gifts move around a lot. Pass left, pass right, exchange, make others exchange, that's two thirds of the time gifts are moving.

So the winning strategy is to use your choices to surround yourself with gifts you would love to have at the same time sending away gifts you don't really want.


With the new rules you can approximate the game length.

Say there are 18 players.

Since the chances are 1 in 6 that a gift will be opened 3 will be opened per round (on average)

Since there are 18 gifts it will be approximately 6 rounds until the last gift is opened.

So, not too long but long enough. I actually like this better than some open ended Dirty Santa rules that run until the players get tired and decide to choose the last gift.

Any more comments about the d6 Dirty Santa?

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