Introducing Toc Toc Woodman
Yes really. What other games can you think of come with a usable axe as the most important game component? By usable I don't mean something you can actually use to chop up your firewood, but where the central game mechanic is about physically swinging an axe and taking down tree parts. It sounds so ridiculous that you'd think I'm making this up, but there it is, sitting in front me, real as can be: Click Clack Lumberjack. Batteries not included. But definitely an axe.
If we look more closely at the cover it says "The Smash-Hit Korean Game" and the back of the box says "Over 10,000 Sold in Korea". Now don't run ahead of yourselves by picture 10,000 axe-wielding murderers. This is not that kind of game. But it is a dexterity type party game with a difference, and you know what? It's an excellent one, that is almost guaranteed to generate laughs from the moment the game begins ... with the first swing of that axe! Let's go find out more about a game that is now making its way to English speaking audiences after an Essen 2011 release in a new edition from MayDay Games.
Early stages of a game
The box cover features a woodman carrying ... yep, an axe. I'm not sure what the little birdie is doing there towards the top left of the artwork, but if that axe starts swinging she might just do well to get out of there.
The back of the box tells us the essentials about this axe-wielding monster, including the fact that it's a fun 10 minute party game and can cater for 2 to 7 players.
In fact, it even tells us how to play in three easy steps:
1. Place assembled bark and centers on the tree base
2. Each player takes 2 hits with the axe per turn
3. Knock off just the bark for +1 point each, but -5 points for each center piece.
Game ends when all the bark is off, even if some center pieces remain.
There - that was easy!
So what all comes inside?
● 9 core blocks
● 36 bark blocks
● tree base block
Everything inside the box
Core and Bark blocks
Yes, I know you wanted to see the axe first, but settle down. Before we get to the axe, we need to have a tree to chop down! That's represented in the game by a series of circular rings, each composed of a core, and four pieces of bark. So we get 9 core blocks.
The 9 core blocks
As everyone knows, bark grows around the core of a tree, and in the game that's represented by 36 bark blocks.
The 36 bark blocks
The blocks are all made out of a sturdy and durable plastic. One needs durability given that these parts of the tree are going to be on the receiving end of some brutality with an axe! Fortunately these components look like they'll stand up well to some abuse.
Once the 9 core blocks are `loaded' with the bark, they'll be placed on a plastic tree base, which looks like this:
The base of the tree
And here's the game component you were looking forward to see! It's made of a very hard plastic, and while you won't be using it any time soon on real wood, it works just fine for this game. One thing is for sure - it could make for some interesting discussion with immigration officials if ever you take this game through airport security!
The game axe
The instructions consist of a single double sided sheet folded in half.
Cover of the instruction sheet
In fact, you can find them right here on BGG if you want to check them out.
Well, we've pretty much told you how to play already haven't we? Attach the bark to the core pieces as shown below . Note how the bark pieces slide vertically into the core pieces, which is important because during the game play you'll be trying to get them to slide out.
A tree `slice' consisting of a core and four bark pieces
Now stack them on top of each other and on top of the tree base to make the tree. Ideally you want to make sure that the gaps between the bark pieces don't line up exactly, otherwise it could become too easy.
The starting tree
And now for one of my all-time favourite game rules. "Select the Starting Player in any manner that does not induce bloodshed." Isn't that beautiful? See, these guys have a great sense of humour too!
Flow of Play
Well, let's play! It's very easy: each player gets to hit the tree twice with the axe. The player must keep any bark and/or core pieces that fall on his turn. The way the pieces are designed is such that if you move a piece far enough across so it overhangs the piece it's resting on, the bark that is now overhanging will just drop down. This forces players to try to tap pieces across, with the risk of the entire piece (including the core) falling!
The bark begins to fall
This keeps going until all the bark is off the tree (some core pieces will likely still remain at this point), at which point scoring happens. You get +1 point for each bark piece you've collected, and -5 points for each core piece you've collected. Highest score wins! Don't be surprised to end up with a negative score the first few times you play!
Scoring at the end of a three player game
The rules also include two variants to help mix things up:
Variant 1: It's not whether you win or lose, it's whether you win first!
The game ends when one person reaches a certain amount of points, depending on the number of players.
Variant 2: Handicap that kid, he always wins!
The loser of the previous game may take a third hit with the axe each turn, while (in 4+ player games) the winner of the previous game may only take one hit with the axe each turn.
A couple of expansions are also available, such as a Golden Axe (only one swing allowed, but double the value of pieces that fall) and Golden Core/Bark (golden pieces of core/bark are also double in value).
Golden Axe and Golden Core/Bark
What do I think?
Hilarious: This game is ridiculous. I mean, seriously, a dexterity game where you're wielding an axe to knock bark off a tree - how ridiculous is that?! And yet it is absolutely hilarious in practice. It's the kind of thing that needs to be seen and played to be appreciated. The concept may seem kind of lame if you're hearing about it, but when the game's on the table and you're in full swing (ah... another pun!), there are laughs all round. Why does it work so well? I think the fact that it plays so quickly really is a point in its favour. A game can be done and over with in under 10 minutes, which makes this the kind of game that can be pulled out on almost any occasion, whether it's for a single round, or a series of games with a mixture of people in a larger group. And sometimes an over-enthusiastic bold stroke will send a stack of core pieces tumbling to the ground, which is very funny for other players, and even the axe-wielding victim at the time will be forced to see the humour shine through his frustration!
Accessible: The theme also makes sense in that you are actually chopping down parts of a tree. So it's easy to explain, and if people are watching they'll quickly catch on to what's happening and want to join in. Even just watching can be incredibly entertaining, and a come from behind win is always possible. The game has that immediate novelty and wow factor that will draw people in, and as such it's perfect for a party setting, and can do wonders in getting a group in a corner alive - although don't be surprised if they quickly find themselves being the center of attention! If the game is in the room, almost everyone will want to have a go of playing this game at least once! And don't think this is just a game for kids - everyone will want to play!
Dextrous: The game also rewards skill. Let's face it, it's a dexterity game after all, so at the end of the day it's just you and the axe, and you can't start complaining about an unlucky die roll or a bad card draw! That makes it challenging, and yet there still is a healthy measure of unpredictability. You want to tap a piece just hard enough so that the bark drops down, but if you tap it too hard the core might come along with it and you're losing points - and that's what makes the gameplay so challenging and fun. The lower pieces will have a greater weight of pieces on top of them and so can stand more of a whack, and that's something you'll have to think about when deciding where to aim your axe chop and how much force to apply. You'll also need to think about which angle is most likely to result in bark coming down - if you're really good and get things just right you can knock off two at once. In that respect it's definitely superior to Jenga, because there are more approaches you can take to the game, and you aren't just holding your breath and praying that the tower won't come down if you remove a block.
Tense: Games are often closely contested. You might have a clear lead, but it just takes one wrong blow, and your lead can come crashing down on you along with the core pieces that fall. While scores can end up in the negatives if you get too many core pieces, knocking off a fully loaded core piece with all the bark attached will only set you back one minus point, so it's rarely so painful that you completely bomb out, and if you're fortunate perhaps your opponent will make a similar mistake to keep you in the game. And if a game does become a blowout, it likely only took 5 minutes or so, so you just start again!
Addictive: Because it plays so quickly, you won't easily stop after a single game. Did that last swing of the axe cost you the game? Well, then of course you want to play again immediately to get your payback! More often than not, expect to see multiple games being played in a row.
Durable: The components are also very durable and should last a long time. Not only that, but it's the kind of game that won't quickly lose its appeal - it will still be fun in 10 years time. I can see why over 10,000 people in Korea are playing this, and I'm glad to be able to join them.
What do others think?
The game has been around long enough to have generated some very positive feedback already.
"As dexterity games go, this ranks among the best." - Philippe Beaudoin
"A clever quick-playing dexterity game that works just as well in a party of adults as with kids." - James Fehr
"This is quite a fun little dexterity game! It's excellent for quick play, and is unique enough to draw a crowd." - Eric Henson
"Fun dexterity with a neat theme. One of the best pure dexterity games out there." - Rick Baptist
"A bucket of dexterity laughs! 5 minutes of fun per game, and worth it for the fun and novelty factor alone!" - Chaddyboy
"Fun little game. I think you can get almost everyone playing this." - Barad The Dwarf
"The toy factor is huge, but the game is a lot of fun. There is real skill and tension to this game as well." - Sean Johnson
"Hilarious fun dexterity game, silly but very addictive. Great for kids and adults." - Mike B
"Very clever design, plays quickly and quite addictive. Yes, it's a kid's game, but a quality example of such." - Stewart Tame
"This is a perfect dexterity game." - Morgan Dontanville
Is Click Clack Lumberjack for you? As others have said, this is like Jenga, but done right. It's sillier, quicker, and just better all round. Toc Toc Woodman is a dexterity game with great components and theme, and I'm glad to see it more readily available in a new addition. Don't make the mistake of thinking it's just for kids, this is a keeper for gamers and non-gamers of all ages!
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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- Last edited Mon Aug 25, 2014 4:39 am (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Tue Dec 27, 2011 1:06 pm
Hey, I got quoted in an Ender review, cool!
I agree with pretty much everything you said about Toc Toc. This is a simple but delightfully fun dexterity game that you can run through in 5-10 minutes with whatever number of people you happen to have hanging around.
The amount of force required to move a disk varies quite a bit with how many are on top of it, and it's great fun to see someone mis-calibrate and knock a core clean out of the middle of the tree after having chopped at the lower levels a few times.
Wow! So people actually pay attention to the comments that I post. Guess I'd better start putting more thought into them ...
I'm also overjoyed to know that this game is no longer a pricey import here in the USA. I've been planning on putting together an Amazon order to take care of some excess Christmas money I've got lying around, and Toc Toc Woodman may be just the thing to add to it.
Thanks for the review. Very well done. The first time I saw this game I was like WOW it looks awesome (but inside I am a little kid even if I'm 33 Then I asked my wife if this game was a Ok or a No... Yep I can buy game without asking but I will buy them all So I try to buy the ones that will please me and my wife which is my best gaming partner ! Her main comment was... It looks king of dumb... And I think her memory of Jenga didn't help.
After reading your review I am more convinced that I am right that this game is hilarious and FUN ! She will apologize after seeing how much fun this game will be ! I saw it for 11$ and for 11$ how I could not buy it specifically after reading this review !!! I can't resist anymore
*Don't worry, my wife will forgive me and if not you will not be consider as responsable
Time for me to chop some trees... Well I have to wait for the shipping.
Fernando Robert Yu
Nice review. This game has been a big success with several groups for me. The only complaint I have is that the box itself is very flimsy.
BTW, your label of the picture of the axe says "the deck of 50 cards"...the perils of cut and paste methinks...