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Game Review: Toc Toc Woodman

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Created by Korean game designer Justin Oh, the mind behind Gemblo, Toc Toc Woodman from Mayday Games takes “deconstruction games” to a whole new level of precision. While games such as Jenga have players carefully use their fingers to manipulate the tower by gently and dexterously removing pieces, Toc Toc Woodman has players use a tool, making a new game of precision, hand-eye coordination, and nimbleness.

The game is composed of plastic pieces stacked on a model tree stump. Dark brown “bark” pieces fit into the blonde “core” pieces, creating a tree-shaped tower. Players then take the plastic axe and are given two whacks to knock off bark while attempting not to knock off the cores. Bark pieces are worth one point, while core pieces are worth minus five points. Whatever falls during a turn is counted, meaning players may end up with a negative score. The rules are simple and the cover deceptively cartoony, but this game is one of meticulous focus.

Like most skill games, Toc Toc Woodman is deceptively hard. This may seem like a negative to players who want their games light, but it serves as a great game for deconstruction enthusiasts such as yours truly. There are innumerable methods for strategy. Some might play conservatively, collecting one or two points at a time. Others could play more aggressively, hoping to cash in on more bark pieces than cores. Still others might try to knock lower pieces loose to trip up other players down the road, giving them an easily beaten negative score. The axe itself serves as another choice of precision: whether to use the rounded edge or the weightier flat end. Of course, even the best laid plans can be fouled by a slip of hand.

The key to Toc Toc Woodman is finesse. Korean gamers are well known for their dedication and control, and it is no wonder such a skillful game comes out of that environment. Rather than strong hits, the player with the axe might tap gently to knock off a single piece of bark. A precise angle could result in two bark pieces falling. A stronger hit lower down could result in a great many barks losing their support and falling. Too hard of a hit, however, and the cores come falling along with a hefty point deduction.

Toc Toc Woodman is a game for two to seven players ages five and up. Younger kids might get frustrated, but it is actually a great game for learning hand-eye coordination and teaching dexterity, not to mention counting and, most of all, patience, so it is recommended for parents. Adults who love deconstruction games will enjoy the precision and concentration involved. A game takes only ten minutes to play, and it is refreshingly addictive as calls for “Play it again!” ring out and players wish to reconquer their honor.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.