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Review: Toc Toc Woodman

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The life of a lumberjack. The smell of the forest, the sweat on your brow, the satisfaction after a hard day’s work. But what if this life also involved a tiny ax, a bark-only harvesting method, and lots of laughs?

Well, then you’d be playing Toc Toc Woodman. And you’d probably be having a good time to boot.

How It Works

Toc Toc Woodman is a dexterity game for two to seven players. Players take turns tapping the trunk of the tree with an ax to remove the tree’s bark while keeping the core intact.

The tree trunk and ax.

On each player’s turn, the player may tap the tree trunk two times with the ax. The player keeps anything that falls from the tree. Bark pieces are worth 1 point; core pieces are worth -5 points. (Each ring of the tree is thus worth -1 point if removed entirely.) Play passes until all of the bark pieces are removed from the tree.

The player with the most points is the winner. If there is a tie, tied players take turns balancing the ax on the palm of their hands; whoever balances the ax longest is the winner.

Bark or Bite?

Toc Toc Woodman is a stupid, stupid game. It’s also tremendously fun, and a game that would be welcome in most gamers’ collections. Let me explain.

First of all, did you read the How It Works section? Usually I truncate (!) that section so as not to bog readers down with rules; I try to give merely a sense of play. For Toc Toc Woodman, those are the rules–full stop. This game is so simple, the rules are on the back of the box, and that’s really all you need to know: hit the tree hard enough so the bark falls off, but not so hard that you remove the core pieces as well. The box recommends the game for ages five and above, but my wife and I have already planned to include our four-year-old nephew in our forthcoming Toc Toc tournament. (Yes, we’re planning a tournament.) If you can wield a tiny plastic ax, you can play Toc Toc Woodman.

Why, yes, you can learn Toc Toc Woodman from the back of the box! The box also includes groan-inducing punny copy. Oh, and there are instructions as well, in case you thought you needed to know more about the game.

And that tiny ax is what makes Toc Toc Woodman so ridiculous and fun. The ax is clearly not the best tool for the job in this case. It is tiny, it is hard to handle, and it is easy to either tap too lightly or knock the tree over entirely. That is the point. This is not a game of skill, though there is skill involved. This isn’t a tense concentration exercise that other dexterity games can be. This is a game of making the best of what you have–a tiny plastic ax–and hoping the other guy knocks the tree down first.

Toc Toc Woodman is a dexterity game, and as such it wouldn’t be much without good components. The components for this game aren’t just good, they’re really good. This game looks great on the table, and it has a neat toy factor. The core pieces of the tree trunk are thick and feel like the compressed plastic used for Legos. The bark pieces are nice plastic, and they fit the core perfectly: they are not so snug that they won’t fall loose when they’re supposed to, nor are they so loose that they don’t fit with the trunk. The ax is thin and kind of unwieldy, but again, I think that’s the point. Really, all of the components are top notch. My only quibble is that the box is bigger than it needs to be, but you can carry this game in plastic bags if you’re pressed for space.

The toy factor of this game is incredible. The pieces really are top notch.

I mentioned before that Toc Toc Woodman is not a game of skill. That’s not strictly true, since the better player will usually win (as evidenced in the matches against my wife–she is a born competitor). What I meant is that, similar to FlowerFall, the game feels fairly low stakes. Crokinole, another dexterity game, is a game that I don’t take too seriously, but it’s a game that can be taken seriously. That is, there are some who play at a competitive level, and the mark of their skill is readily apparent. They take it seriously, and those who play against them (at least in the moment) take it seriously. It’s hard to imagine that experience translating to Toc Toc Woodman. Even the most practiced pro must still play the game wielding a tiny ax. A full table of seven players who are engaged with the game will still look ridiculous when taking their turns. It’s competitive the way Wipeout is competitive. Yes, we’re all trying to win…but let’s be realistic: this is a silly competition to be having in the first place. It’s this lightheartedness that makes Toc Toc Woodman refreshing.

The box is bigger than it needs to be.

Toc Toc Woodman doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. The game is setup in one minute and over in five (maybe). It’s not a brain burner, it’s not hard, and it doesn’t take long to play. You probably won’t want to play more than a few games in a sitting (though my wife and I have taken to playing five-game matches after our son goes to bed). It seems an ideal choice for a family game. Seriously: most ages should be able to play, and I’m not sure older age provides an advantage. It’s also an ideal filler choice. Players can jump in and out easily, the rules take seconds to explain, and it acts to loosen the group up before moving on to meatier fare.

The ax of DESTINY.

I’m sure there are some people who won’t like this game–it is a simple dexterity game–though I suspect they may be robots. This game is better than some more mainstream stacking games (if for no other reason than tone) and is a cheap way to bring a fun dexterity filler into your collection. It’s great for all ages, it’s easily set up and taken down, and there are variants readily available if you want to make the game more strategic or spice it up. (I’m in favor of the simple version myself.) If you like fun, somewhat silly games, I recommend you check out Toc Toc Woodman. Even if you don’t, you might still want to check this one out.

Toc Toc Woodman is available from Mayday Games. There is also currently a Kickstarter campaign for Click Clack Lumberjack, a new edition of Toc Toc Woodman (with a smaller box).

iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Mayday Games for providing us with a review copy of Toc Toc Woodman.

Summary

  • Rating 8.5
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Summary

Pros

  • Simple gameplay (explainable within a minute)
  • Great components with a nice "toy" factor
  • Lots of laughs to be had, even (especially?) in failure
  • A perfect game for what it is: a simple dexterity filler

Cons:

  • Box is bigger than it needs to be
  • Like most fillers, you probably won't want to play too many times in a row
8.5 Very Good

I'll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

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