Bonds of Bunco

By Jennifer Barnes, Air Force Veteran and Air Force Wife

Bunco groups are a long-standing tradition of military wives.  The game originated in Britain and became popular in the US during the prohibition as a form of gambling.  For us, its all about the social interaction.  Bunco is a simple dice game that requires minimal skill, and very simple rules.  (The hardest part about it is remembering to count when talking or listening.  We take turns hosting, there is ALWAYS great food and drink either provided by the hostess or potluck style by the group.  One of the best aspects of Bunco is that every group comes to their own set of rules.  The rules of the game are so simple, that the prizes or money for winning, losing, and rolling the most of different combinations are determined by each group.  Some groups are more formal than others, and some are so relaxed the game can be referred to as “Drunco” by its members.  I can’t emphasize enough that Bunco is about the group, not the game.

A threesome and a ghost make up this table

When a family moves to their new military assignment, it can take several months for a military spouse to get into a new groove and make new friends.  The Bunco group is one of the surefire ways to speed up this process.  Whether its a neighborhood, squadron, or church based group, the game rules force the players to change tables and partners every round, changing your social circle about every 5-10 minutes.  The standard “Mom” subjects always come up early in the evening; kids, schools, and husbands, and what to do in the local area are always a great starting point when getting to know someone new.  As a group solidifies and newbies become regulars, the tone of a group can change.  These women become sisters.  They are the first to respond when someone needs help, and they will soak up your tears on very broad shoulders because they understand your heartaches in a way that only another military wife can.  They are also the first to call you out when you do something silly, and running jokes go on month after month.


The fuel for a long evening of fun.

Bunco is by no means a requirement, nor does every military wife play on a regular basis.  But those that do find each other, move after move, and are all the richer for it.

Kirtland Air Force wives enjoy themselves on a balmy Saturday night in 2001.


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