Overview: Like dexterity games like Jenga? Here’s a wacky import from Korea that has you chopping at a tree with an axe — knock off bits of the bark for points, but don’t knock the tree down! Toc Toc Woodman is harder than it looks, and quite a lot of fun.
Ages: 5 and up
Playing Time: 10 minutes
Rating: Smashing! A really fun balancing act that is teaching your kids some lessons in physics, even if they don’t know it’s happening yet.
Who Will Like It? Everyone! Well, just about. I’ve played this with kids and adults, and everyone likes whacking at the tree with a big plastic axe — and I’m a bit of a treehugger myself.
Okay, so the theme is a little weird. You’ve got the big axe and a tree trunk, and you’re a “woodman” (or a lumberjack). But you’re trying to collect bark, and not knock down the core of the tree. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s still fun.
- 1 big axe
- 1 tree trunk base
- 9 tree trunk cores
- 36 bark pieces
Everything is sturdy plastic. The cores have grooved edges, and the bark slides in from the top or bottom. It’s made well so that the bark will slide right off if it’s not supported, but will not come off the groove. The plastic axe is great, too. When Mayday Games did their Kickstarter drive, they also had a Golden Axe bonus, but mine is just the regular gray one. The tree looks great, too, with fake wood grain on the bark and the rings for the core.
You put the tree together, straight up and down, making sure that the cracks between bark pieces don’t line up with each other. Choose a starting player “in any manner that doesn’t induce bloodshed,” says the rulebook. Each player gets two whacks with the axe. Any pieces (bark or cores) that fall off the tree are collected by the player, and then the axe is passed.
The game ends when there is no bark left on the tree. Players get one point for each piece of bark, and lose five points for each core.
Toc Toc Woodman is a game from Korea which Mayday Games liked so much that they wanted to bring it to the USA. They successfully raised the funds on Kickstarter last fall, and were able to start selling it. I missed out on the Kickstarter campaign, but ended up picking up a copy as a reward for their Terra Evolution fundraising, and it’s a blast. The first time I got it out my kids played a bunch, then played with other kids during a game night, and then played again the next day with myself and my wife. Since then it’s been a go-to game for kicking off a game night because it’s fast, easy to understand, and accommodates a lot of players. (The rules say up to 7, but you could do more if you want — there’s just a longer wait between turns.)
Setting up the tree takes a little time, but it goes quickly if everyone is helping, and it isn’t very difficult. The trick in getting the bark is to shove a core far enough to one side that the bark just drops down. However, it takes some practice to hit it just the right amount, and when you start getting to the bottom of the tree you can collect a whole lot of negative points all at once.
The scoring is clever, too: since you lose five points for each core, which holds four bark pieces, you can’t just knock off an entire section — that’s a net of -1 point. In many games there are several players with negative points at the end of the game, but it’s not one that usually generates many complaints from the losers. Everyone has fun swinging the axe, and if huge sections of the tree crash down, you groan together and keep going.
Wired: Fantastic dexterity game that works for kids and adults; the oversized plastic axe is a great component, and the tree is well made.
Tired: Why would a lumberjack want just the bark and not the wood? Oh, well.