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Hammer Time

Knock jewels off of the box to fill your wagons. But don’t get too greedy and knock too hard, or the dragon wakes up and you won’t get anything.

Published by HABA, Hammer Time is a dexterity game all about trying to knock the right colors of gems, and the right number, from off the box base with the use of a hammer.

Gameplay

You place the box base upside down, and then put all the gems on top of the box base. On your turn you take the hammer and may tap or hit the box any number of times until at least one gem falls off. If nine or more gems fall off, you wake up the dragon and your turn immediately ends and all gems are returned to the box base. If eight or fewer gems fall off, you move onto the next phase of your turn.

First, you check if you completed the current task card that is face-up on the table. These include, for instance, knocking an odd number of gems off the box or knocking off two black gems. If you completed the task, you take the card and place it in front of yourself.

Next you may fill your wagon. At the start of the game, each player is given four wagon cards, which they shuffle and then each player draws one from his own deck. Each wagon card has four to six empty spaces, requiring specific colors of gems to fill. You may move any gems you knocked off onto these spaces if they are the correct colors. Black gems are never needed for your wagon and white gems act as wilds. All gems that you cannot use are returned to the box base. If it would allow you to complete your wagon card, you may discard one or more earned task cards, to fill up empty gem spaces on the wagon card. If you have completed your wagon card, you draw a new one at the end of your turn.

Once a player has completed all four of his wagon cards, play continues until everyone has had an equal number of turns. If only one player has completed his wagons at that point, he automatically wins, otherwise you use the number of task cards still in hand as tie breakers.

There is also a master variant in which, at the start of your turn, you roll the die. The color you roll determines what special challenge you must take while using the hammer. For example, green forces you to keep your eyes closed while using the hammer, while yellow forces you to use the handle of the hammer to hit the box rather than the head.

Hammer Time Components

Review

Hammer Time is a unique little game. There are not a lot of board games out there about whacking things with hammers — and it’s quite satisfying to play because it’s fun to whack things with hammers.

The rules do a good job of being just present enough to ensure you have a game, without taking away the fun of the core mechanism. It’s enjoyable to try out different ways to tap the box and to mix up your hammering techniques. The master variant is a particularly fun addition, although a player aid to set on the table, to show you which colors go with which challenge, would be helpful. As it is, you have to keep referring back to the rulebook for reminders.

Setup is quite easy, although before your first game you have to attach a game mat to the bottom of the box base, and we struggled a little with placing it evenly. Also, since the mat is on the outside of the box, it’s more likely get scuffed over time. Finally, while the hammer and gems are quite nicely made, the cards are a cheap quality, and there is no box insert.

The game does plays fast, making this one that is easy to play several rounds of. This isn’t a particularly strategic game, and there’s a lot of luck, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable, different, and a great game for families. It could also be a good fit for game groups looking for something a little bit fluffy, with a great tactile component, or a dexterity game that’s not about flicking.

Pros: An original concept, hammering things is fun, master variant

Cons: Some component issues

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.