If you are the last person in America to hear about the Bunco phenomenon that is sweeping the nation, let me bring you up to date. I like to say that Bunco is the bridge group of the 21st century. Our moms used to get together weekly or monthly with a group of lady friends and play bridge. The moms of our day get together and play Bunco.

Bunco is great for several reasons. For one thing, it's not nearly as difficult to learn as bridge. And the beauty of Bunco is that after each round, you move tables and switch partners, thereby getting to chat with everyone in the room by the time the night is over. It's a great way to break the ice in a new neighborhood, it gives everyone an opportunity to get to know one another, and it helps prevent cliques from forming (or feeding.)

Bunco is a simple game to play. Players start each of the six sets by rolling three dice for ones, then twos, three, fours, fives and then sixes. What makes the game exciting is rolling a Bunco, or three of a kind in any number. This is not a quiet game! For a full list of rules, visit the Official Bunco Rules of the World Bunco Association.

To start a Bunco group in your neighborhood, first you need to round up twelve fun ladies to commit one night a month to Bunco. And who wouldn't want a mom's night out every month to leave the husband and kids at home to go out and eat and drink and socialize with friends?

Most likely you will have more than 12 interested friends, and this is a good problem because you'll need a substitute list to draw from when someone can't make a game.

Once you have your group together, schedule a night to host the first party. The first night is a little confusing because everyone is learning the ropes, but don't worry. It will be second nature after the first couple months. Be prepared with all of the pieces of the game, prizes, and a calendar where everyone can sign up to host one game over the next year. Twelve players, twelve months -- it works out perfectly!

Some Bunco groups go all out with dinner and party themes and all that jazz. We don't do a full meal, but we have heavy hor'dourves and desserts and plenty of booze.

The way we work it, the hostess supplies all the food and drinks and prizes each month. It's only once a year, so while it's a big commitment, you have twelve months to recuperate before you have to do it again. Some in our neighborhood have done a theme party, and some of us don't bother, but don't be afraid to go all out. Again, it's only once a year, so make the most of it. Your friends and neighbors will appreciate the extra time and effort you put into making it a great party.

We collect $5 from every player, and at the end of the night there are monetary prizes for those with the most Buncos, the most wins, the most losses, and the most wipe-outs. We also do the optional travel gift that floats around the room and goes home with the person holding it when the game ends. Ideas for travel prizes are a piece of jewelry, colorful martini glasses, kitchen accessories, that type of thing. We usually spend around $20 for the travel gift.

You also need to have a Bunco Box, which is basically a plastic tub that houses all of the supplies -- the dice, pencils, bell, score sheets, cheat sheets, etc. It's also helpful to have a master list of all the players and the subs with phone numbers and email addresses.

A week before the party, the hostess should call or email all the players to make sure they can come. If not, she will need to line up substitutes. Make sure you have at least twelve lined up to play. Having a few extra players is no problem, but having less than twelve is kind of a bummer. You can fill in with "ghost" players, but it's not nearly as much fun that way.

On the night of the big party, set up the food in the kitchen, and set up three playing tables of four throughout the house. Each table should have three dice, four pencils, four score sheets, and a cheat sheet with a simple outline of the rules and directions for where to move at the end of each round. It's also nice to have some snack foods available on the playing tables for munching throughout the game.

As everyone arrives, invite them to help themselves to food and drink. After everybody has congregated, start the game. The hardest part is keeping everyone on task. We get up between each round and grab more food and drinks from the kitchen, which usually leads to more socializing.

After a few rounds, set out desserts and coffee and take a quick break before getting back to the game. Serious Bunco groups might make it through three or four sets of play, but we rarely get through more than one set (that's six rounds) in a Bunco night. We don't let this bother us, though. We have fun, and after all, that's the point!

At the end of the night, gather everyone together and determine who has the most Buncos, the most wins, the most losses, and we play with wipeouts. When there is a tie, have a roll-off to determine the winner.

Distribute the prizes using the Bunco rules I linked to above. Invite the winner of the travel gift to open her gift. We keep a toy princess crown and a disposable camera in the Bunco Box, and at the end of the night, we crown the player with the most Buncos the Bunco Queen and take her picture. As you can imagine, much hilarity ensues.

Remind everyone when and where the next Bunco game will be held, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done! I promise, you will have a blast, and so will your neighbors.