Thursday, March 28, 2013

Two short reviews of the excellent Toc Toc Woodman...

I must admit that recently I have become quite a big fan of dexterity games.  Perhaps I'm just getting sick and tired of explaining long boring rules over and over again.  We've played a ton of Riff Raff recently (which I highly recommend) and I love flipping crepes in A la Carte.  So I was happy to receive a copy of Toc Toc Woodman a few weeks ago from Mayday Games although I must admit I didn't quite know what to expect. 

The premise is simple:  build a giant tree made of plastic pieces with a central core and outer bark.  Then use the plastic axe to knock the bark off for positive points.  Careful how hard you hit, though, as each piece of the core that falls off is worth -5.  And that's it.  Obviously this is a game geared more to kids then adults so I decided to provide two perspectives - one from the perspective of some innocent children and the other from a group of rather inebriated friends of ours.

First, the drunken adults:  Having counted myself one of this group, I can happily say that this game is a riot.  It's far more clever than can be seen at first glance.  In fact we were all a little dissuaded when we first saw the sticker on the box stating "The Smash Hit Korean Game!" (that I've never heard of....)  But after setting it up, we immediately saw how clever the toy/game design.  Each level of the tree has a central piece with outer bark connected to it loosely.  When stacked everything is very stable but once a level moves out a bit from the others, the bark actually falls off quite easily.  It's a bit hard to describe but elegantly simple once you see it in action.

Setting up the tree
Every turn you get two hits with the axe which seems simple.  But every hit you make doesn't just move the one piece but the whole tree.  And as it sways more and more, of course the game is just that much more entertaining.  The only drawback to the game, I'd say, is that you have to set the tree up every time but that takes no more than a minute and you can get chopping again. 

Getting precarious....
Now, the target audience - the kids:  The next day, one of said inebriated adults (now not inebriated) brought the game home for his kids to play.  His 6-, 3-, and 1-year-old all loved it despite all having very different experiences.  For the 6-year-old, it was a good introduction to negative and positive numbers (4 pieces of bark + 1 piece of trunk = 1 below 0) and he realized quickly that there really would be no game if the centre trunk pieces had a positive value.  Smart freaking kid.

The 3-year-old understandably didn't get the points system but seemed to understand not to knock the trunk pieces off as they were "bad".  The 1-year-old just whacked the shit out of the tree until it fell.  Awesome.

Overall, the response was that it was easy to set up, clear goals even if the points system is too complex, and quick playing which allowed many rounds. 

So in summary, this game is awesome.  That's kind of it.  Us adults loved it and it sounds like the kids did, too.  A simple, quick diversion that seems like more of a toy than anything else but I would heartily recommend at the end of any evening.  Highly recommended.

(The video below is sideways but it gives you some idea.  And he was lying.  He loved it.)

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