Updated: Jun 14, 2021
You are a woodcutter, armed with your trusty axe you head off into the wood to carefully remove the bark from a tree without cutting the tree down… Okay, so not like any wood cutter I know but still, that’s what you’re trying to do!
In the box you will find:
1 Plastic Axe
9 Plastic Center pieces
28 Plastic Bark Pieces
1 Rules Sheet
Now, I should point out that the pieces are really well made, the aim of the game in Toc Toc Woodman is to knock the bark off the tree without knocking the tree down, however, this tree has tumbled to the table more than twenty times since I opened it and the pieces don't even have a scratch.
When I first opened the box I thought the pieces looked a little bland but that doesn't affect how the game plays, plus any paint on the pieces would easily become chipped during the course of the game, so the pieces offer the best compromise between having the look and feel of a tree and having components that will stand up to the punishment they’re going to receive.
Finally I want to mention the actual design of the pieces themselves. This is where I am really impressed because despite being made of plastic, there are no mould lines or imperfections that would cause the pieces to snag during gameplay. They are the perfect weight and density to allow for really skilful play (I know people are doubting me here that hitting a plastic tree with a plastic axe can be skilful, but it really, really is!). Honestly, the manufacture and design of this game has me really impressed, but does it make for a good game? Let's find out.
The rules for Toc Toc Woodman are really simple. Each player takes it in turn to hit the plastic tree twice. The tree is made up of 9 rings, each consisting of 4 pieces of bark and 1 centre piece. Any piece of bark that falls off is worth 1 point however if you knock a centre piece off it is worth minus 5 points.
The game ends when there is no bark remaining, the winner is the one with the most points.
I wasn’t expecting to like the game. I was thinking we’d play it once and I’d burn off the review with some comments about “A good game for kids or drunk adults” and throw in a few Jenga references. However, having played the game I feel a whole lot different.
First up I’d like to say that I think it’s a great family game and I don't doubt it would go down a storm with inebriated adults too, but I don’t think you need to have kids or alcohol to enjoy this game. Toc Toc Woodman really is a game of skill. On your turn you want to score as many points as you can without leaving obvious scoring opportunities for your opponents and of course you want to destabilise the tree as much as possible before you pass on the axe.
This is where the design really is a charm. Once you get a feel for the game you know how hard you can hit the rings to achieve the effect you want. The weight of the rings above pushing down on the lower rings means you have to hit harder to make them move, but the smooth design means that the ring you hit will slide out from underneath the others without the effects of the hit reverberating upwards through the stack.
The fact that you get two hits intrigued me. It makes for a much better game, as you can use your first hit to set up the second, but at the same time, sometimes that second hit is more of a curse. Sometimes you’ve destabilised the tree so much with your first that you really, really don't want a second!
Now, I can’t really talk about Toc Toc Woodman and not mention Jenga. The fun of Jenga comes from not being the one to knock the tower down, however the game itself is rather repetitive. Your move is almost predetermined in Jenga, take a block that keeps the tower stable. Toc Toc Woodman on the other hand introduces an element of skill in where you hit and how hard and in what direction. It still has the tension of Jenga, the inevitable crash, but it introduces an element of dexterity that makes the game infinitely more interesting for me.
One of the main reason I agreed to take a review copy was because of my brother. Long time readers will know that a lot of my gaming revolves around him. He has a form of Cerebral Palsy called Worster Drought Syndrome, that affects his vocal chords, motor control and his ability to learn. I decided that this game would be great for helping him develop his hand-eye co-ordination and it has been amazing to watch just how quickly he has learnt to adapt to it. It is a joy to watch him analyse the tree before he swings and to adjust his power based on how high up the tree he is hitting.
What I am driving at here is that this really is a game that can be played and enjoyed by anyone. It doesn’t take long to learn and it really is very enjoyable for such a simple game. Toc Toc Woodman is currently on Pre-order with Mayday but if you are looking for a good dexterity game that works well with everyone, you could do a lot worse than take a look at Toc Toc Woodman.
Mayday Games provided a review copy of this game