Thursday, March 3, 2011

How to Host a BUNCO Party

I am really big on parties that get people interacting and mingling with each other. In particular, I really like to host get-togethers that get teens (my own and those of our friends) chatting with adults, and help the generations maintain some kind of connection with each other. An ideal way to do this is by hosting a bunco party. This kind of party allows the younger people to see that older people can be fun, and it helps the older people to stay young and lively too. Not only that, the participants always enjoy themselves playing the game! (A additional “plus” of a bunco party is that the teens get to see that not all games have to be played on computers and TV screens!)

This past year, we had two different bunco parties at our house. Each time we had 36 players, and probably 20 or more spectators. The majority of the players were teens (my two sons and their friends), but we also had about 10 to 12 parents who played. We have a semi-empty game room upstairs in our house which we cleared out, and put in 9 folding card tables and 36 folding chairs (to have four chairs at each table).

In the past, I’ve also helped sponsor bunco parties for school and church groups, and for fellow employees where I worked. Bunco is just a good way to help people get to know each other on more of a “fun level.” You might have a whole different kind of conversation with someone while you’re rolling dice than you would while standing next to the water cooler at your office.

With the school and church groups, we’ve sometimes had 200 or more players. But you don’t have to have large groups of people to play bunco. You can have as few as 12 people playing. You do have to play the game with multiples of 4 people. So you could have 12 players, 16, 20, 24, etc.

I’ve known groups of women who regularly get together to play bunco. Sometimes they’re people who live in the same housing complex, or female members of an extended family. Often there are 12 people who form their own bunco club. They play once a month, and each time, a different friend hosts the bunco party.

So what are some suggestions for hosting your own bunco party? If it’s going to be a reoccurring event, you may want to take turns hosting the parties at your home. But it doesn’t have to be a regular event or club. I just plan a bunco party whenever I think it might be a fun change of pace.

What about food for the party? A lot of times, guests like to have a meal together before they start playing the game. If you’ve got a regular group of bunco players and your own club, whoever is hosting may be the one who makes dinner for everyone. Or, you may want to make it a potluck. I had some neighbors once who used to have regular bunco parties, and they just had snacks and drinks, and everyone coming would bring some type of refreshment to share. Then they would sip or munch while they played the game.

With my bunco parties that I’ve done this past year, we served up a meal before we started playing: either grilled hamburgers and hot dogs or beef brisket. Usually the guests help out by bringing some type of side dish (salads, chips and dip, etc.). This past summer, I made a special Bunco cake with three large dice on it.

You will probably want some decorations for your bunco party. I found some blow-up plastic red dice from a party store which I hang from the ceiling fan in the center of the room. Red, black and white helium balloons and streamers can also add to festive atmosphere. You may also want to make some colorful posters to hang on the walls, with the basic bunco rules listed on them. Of course, plates, napkins and cups with the bunco motif are fun to have on hand too.

You need one card table for every four people you have playing, or one 6-foot table for every two groups of four people. (This means if you’re going to have large groups, you’re probably going to have to borrow some card tables. I usually have to borrow 4-5 for my bunco parties, because I don’t have 9 card tables.)

Each table gets a number, starting with “1” to however many tables you have. Use some kind of table marker, to identify each table. I use a metal place card holder, and cut out a large rectangle out of card stock, put a number on each rectangle, and then put a numbered rectangle on each place card holder for each table.

On each table, place a set of three dice, a score sheet and pencil for each player, and several scratch pads for teams to keep track of points for one round. The head table also gets a bell (which will be run at the start and end of each round). I like to put a special set of light-up dice on the head table for those players to use.

Here’s what the bunco score sheets look like. You can buy them online (at and elsewhere), or you could easily make your own.

You can also buy some wonderful bunco game kits. Here's the one I have:

Here’s a photo of our game room, set up for bunco. You will note the “Do not enter” sign roping off the room. I didn’t want any of the kids getting in there before we were ready to play. I know how much fun dinging the bell and playing with light-up dice can be!

Even if they’ve never played before, most people get the hang of the game very quickly. Bunco is easy to play. However, you need to know the basic rules and objectives of the game. I’ve jotted down the basic instructions below. I have these rules numbered on sheets, and put two sheets on every folding table at my bunco parties. That way the players can refer to them, just in case they’re not quite sure of something.

1.) Divide your guests into groups of four people. Two teams sit at each table; teammates sit opposite each other. You will change partners every round. (This, incidentally, serves as a good icebreaker for guests who may not know each other that well.)

2.) Note how the tables are numbered. The #1 table is the “head table.” The #9 (or whatever your last table is) is the lowest table. Throughout the game, winning teams will be advancing towards the head table.

3.) Each table has three dice. Each player has an individual score card for the entire game. There’s also scratch paper and pens, so that you or your partner can keep track of your points for each round.

4.) The round begins with the head table ringing the bell.

5.) To play, roll the three dice. In Round 1, points are scored for every “one” that is rolled; in Round 2, for every “two”; in Round 3, for every “three,” and so on. If you roll 3-of-a-kind for whatever number round you’re on, yell “BUNCO” and mark down 21 points on your scratch paper for that bunco. If you get 3-of-a-kind other than the number of the round, that is a baby bunco. Give yourself 5 points for that (no yelling for a baby bunco). Keep track of your points for the round on your scratch paper.

6.) Continue to roll until your roll earns no points. Play then moves to the left.

7.) The round lasts until table 1 scores 21 points—at which time, they will ring the bell on their table. That signals the end of the round.

8.) Your score for that round is both your and your partner’s points added together. Compare your point total to the other team at your table, to see who won and who lost. On your individual score card, place a “W” for that round if you and your partner won. Put an “L” down for that round if you and your partner lost. Place a “B” on the line for that round if you rolled a Bunco.

9.) At the end of a round, the winning team from table 1 stays at that table. The winning teams from all the other tables move up to the next table. The losing team from table 1 moves to table 9 (or whatever your last table is). If you are sitting at tables 2 – 9 (or any table other than the first one) and lost the round, either you or your partner will change seats so that you are now sitting next to each other (instead of across from each other). Your new partner for the next round will be the one sitting across from you when the next time arrives.

10) Play 24 rounds total. Once you have completed round 6, begin with round 1 again. At the end of all 24 rounds, add up your total number of wins, losses and buncos.

A 24-round game usually lasts around 1 ½ hours. It’s nice to be able to hand out prizes at the end of the game: for the highest score, most buncos, first bunco, and lowest score. With the ladies I knew in my old neighborhood, when they played, they each contributed $5 to a Bunco Kitty (in advance of the game), which was used to purchase small prizes (candy, gift cards, etc.).

When I did bunco parties this past year, I just provided simple prizes (which I bought at a discount store) and made up award certificates as well. I always have extra prizes on hand, because there’s often tying scores for each prize category.

The prizes don’t have to be expensive. Remember, your guests aren’t there for the prizes. They’re there for the FUN. After my last Bunco party, the teens were still talking several weeks after it was over about the one dad and teen who made it to the first table at the beginning of the game and were there most of the night because nobody could beat them. A few months have passed, and those are now some fun memories!


  1. I'm so glad to have found this!! I'm planning a bunco party for my dd bday and have WAY more than 12 ppl and was nervous it wouldn't work! SO gald to see it will!!

    I was going to have the play for a round go till any table reaches you think that's a good idea? It's 40 10-13 year olds and wanted the little down time between rounds to keep them seated.

    Thanks again for sharing this!

  2. Thanks for your comment. I have done bunco parties for as many as 200 people. It's actually a great game for large long as you have your tables organized. I am sure if you play until any table reaches 21 that that will work fine. Hope y ou have a great time!

  3. This is such a great post! I'm about to throw my 1st Bunco party and you made the directions so simple to understand. One question.... If a person gets Bunco, does the partner mark B on their score card too?

  4. Becky, why would the losers of the head table go to table 9 instead of moving to table 2 to sit with the losers from table 2?


  5. This is great! Thank you for the info and inspiration! Quick question - where did you purchase your light-up dice?

  6. If you had 80 people would you divide the group into two groups of 40 each with 10 tables to rotate in each group? Or would you have 20 tables in one group? I have heard winners stay where they are and losers move? Does it matter?

  7. Thank you for such clear instructions! Especially how you handled more than 12 people!

  8. Great post!!!!! Much easier to understand compared to the other articles I read!!!

  9. If you use the six foot tables and put a group of four at one end and another group of four at the other end do you put a number card at each end of the table? like a six foot table at one end you put a 1 sign and the other end of that same table put up a 2 sign

  10. What if you have two seniors that aren't real mobile but I would like tthem to participate somehow???