Friday, 26 June 2015

Click Clack Lumberjack / Toc Toc Woodman (2nd Ed)

Plays: 4Px3.

The Game

Only when I looked up Toc Toc Woodman on BGG I realised there are a few different versions. The first edition rules are quite different. The latest edition (Click Clack Lumberjack) has some slight additions to the second edition Toc Toc Woodman. The rules I played was the second edition rules.

This is a dexterity game. You have a leafless tree which has nine layers. Each layer consists of a large core piece interlocked with four thin bark pieces. They interlock in such a way that if knocked sideways, the bark pieces will not fall off. However if the core piece is pushed sideways far enough so that one side of it is hanging in the air, the bark piece on that side will fall down because it is no longer supported by the layer underneath. The objective of the players is to knock the bark pieces off the tree, without knocking off the core pieces as well.

On your turn, you get two knocks with the axe (which actually functions as a hammer). Anything that falls off the tree is yours. The game continues until all bark pieces have been knocked off. Then you score points based on pieces you've claimed. Bark pieces are 1pt each, while core pieces are -5pt each.

The top layer is completely bald now. All the bark pieces have been knocked off.

Behind the tree, on the left, you can see the bark pieces which Chen Rui has arranged neatly.

The Play

The first thing I learned was the two-knocks rule is ingenious. Normally you'd use the first knock to set yourself up to score, and the second knock to actually get the targeted piece (or pieces) of bark off the tree. Well, that is if everything goes according to plan. Sometimes if your second knock is too light, you end up getting nothing other than the gratitude of the next player for having set up the tree so nicely for him. Avoiding helping the next player is a big part of the game. Sometimes when you are not confident you can claim a bark piece, you might as well adjust the tree to make it even harder for the next player.

Gaining points is something you have to do slowly and carefully. Losing points can happen very unexpectedly. Achievements come in small steps, failures can be quite spectacular. That is the excitement of the game. It is like walking a tightrope. You want to get to the other side more quickly than your opponents, but you know if you are not careful, even one misstep can put you out of the race.

One funny thing that happened in our game was when Chen Rui left the tree in a very unstable condition, and soon after Michelle took over the axe, but before she had even touched the tree, core pieces started falling off. So who should take these pieces? I'm not entirely sure. The rules may have specific rules for such a situation. I didn't check the rules then, and just made a ruling on the spot - we removed the fallen pieces from the game. Later on when it was my turn the children started blowing at the tree.

This was probably the third game. We were getting better. The tree was almost stripped bare, but all nine core pieces were still in place.

The Thoughts

Toc Toc Woodman is a dexterity game, a family game, a children's game, a casual game, and a filler. It's fun when brought out on the right occasion. I don't think you can play it many times in the same session though. At least for me, after 2 or 3 games I felt like switching to play something else. However I imagine if played as a drinking game it can be a completely different matter.

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