Stump may just be the greatest game you have NEVER played! If you have, you are probably either from the East Coast or just totally F-in’ RAD. G.N.A.R. points for ya’ if so! For those of you who have not played, I am here to introduce you to the game. The formation of the game is a bit hazy, but word from inside sources point to it’s birth at a certain summer camp on the shores of the mighty Lake Winnipesauke in New Hampshire. From here the game has spread quietly across the globe, with confirmed games as far as Europe and Asia.
Stump game in Xiahe, China from WorldStump.com
Adopted from the German game known as Hammerschlagen, Stump is played with a bad ass stump, hammer, nails, and LOTS of beer. I have played the game with many different groups over the years and the rules are always different. This is WRONG and straight-up SACRILEGE! For the sake of the integrity of the game, I will list what I consider the Unofficial Rules of The Game, as supplied by WorldStump.com.
These guys are the foremost authority on the game, and the following Rules of Play comes from their site-
Before the Game Starts
1. One person should be designated to prepare the stump for play. After the first game, it is common for the winner to assume the honor of preparing the stump for the next game.
2. To prepare the stump, determine how many players (or teams) will participate in the game. One nail should be hammered into the top surface of the stump for each player. The nails should be hammered into the stump straight and as little as possible, however, they should be far enough in that they are sturdy and will not fling out if they are hit at an angle (usually an inch or so will do). The nails should be spread evenly in a circle around the surface of the stump.
3. Each player “claims” a nail by placing his or her foot on the stump next to the nail. This will be his nail for the duration of the game. It is generally understood that people will claim the nail directly in front of them, though this does not necessarily have to be the case.
4. Each player must have a beer (can, bottle, cup, or other suitable container containing beer) on his or her person (defined as being supported entirely by said person and their clothing, not by any other objects) at all times. The only exception to this rule is during Home Improvement (see below), when a player can legally put his or her beer down until Home Improvement is completed.
5. It is general practice to use the claw of the hammer to open your beer, even if this means disrupting the course of play.
Rules of Play
The winner is the last player whose nail remains standing.
1. Each player, in turn, shall toss the hammer such that it makes at least one full 360-degree rotation before he touches it again. The player shall not be allowed more than one toss per turn for any reason (unless it is part of a Trick – see Rule 2a).
2. Once the hammer is caught the player shall attempt to bring it down immediately and without hesitation upon an opponent’s nail, driving it into the stump. Any attempt at “cocking” or “aiming” the hammer shall be considered foul play and subject to criticism.
2a. The standard toss is a back flip, such that the hammer flips claw first. However, all non-standard tosses are acceptable and encouraged, provided the toss does not violate Rules 1 or 2. Non-standard tosses are often referred to as “Tricks”. Click here for a list of Tricks and Trick Ideas. If the Trick includes a double toss (for example Under the Leg to Around the Back) it must remain a continuous motion and should not be an attempt to gain better control after a sub-par first toss. Attempting Tricks is considered to add general excitement to the game, and if successful, carries with it the potential for increased penalties for opponents (see Rule 3).
3. If a player succeeds in striking an opponent’s nail, and the nail becomes visibly shorter or bent, that opponent shall sip from his beer an amount proportionate to the damage inflicted, with additional amounts consumed for any showmanship or Tricks displayed in the toss and catch (see Rule 2a), in which case the number of sips should be a direct reflection of the victim’s respect for the Trick or showmanship.
4. If any player sees sparks resulting from the hammer striking a nail, it is a Social. Every player must take a sip from his own beer. The common announcement one makes when he sees sparks is “Spaaks!” – a throwback to the game’s suspected New England origin.
5. If a player drops the hammer during the toss, it is considered a Spazz and the player loses his turn. The player must take a sip from his own beer.
5a. If a player drops the hammer during the toss, and the hammer comes to rest directly on top of the stump, the person in the direction the handle of the hammer is pointing must chug his entire beer. The toss is still considered a Spazz, and the player who tossed must take a sip from his own beer.
6. If a player’s nail should become bent during the game, he may, during his turn only, choose to fix his own nail. This process is called “Home Improvement”. The player can take as long as he likes to fix the nail to his satisfaction, though his efforts are subject to comment by the other players. It is considered honorable to ensure that the nail is straight and in a position to be hit cleanly.
6a. During Home Improvement, it is generally expected that all other players will place a foot on the stump for stability.
7. A player is eliminated from the game (and thereby takes no more turns) once any part of the head of his nail passes below the level of the surface of the stump (including bending over the edge of the stump without actually entering it). A generally accepted test of whether a player is still active is whether one can pass a fingernail underneath the head of the nail without obstruction. Any obstruction of free movement shall result in the player being deemed inactive.
8. Should a player’s nail bend such that the head passes below the surface of the stump, thereby eliminating the player, this player can be resurrected if another player strikes the nail, regardless of intent, in such a way that the head of the nail emerges from the surface of the stump. The resurrected player will re-enter the game in the same rotation pattern as before elimination.
9. Inactive players should continue to comply with Rules 4, 5a, and 6a.
After the Game
Upon completion of a game (when only one nail remains standing), the players shall arrange themselves in order, clockwise around the stump, from first place to last place according to the results of the game.
Each player should ensure that he or she has sufficient beer remaining. If not, he or she should prepare another beer.
A “Waterfall” shall commence, whereby all players simultaneously begin chugging their beers (commonly after a toast to “The Stump”). The first place player can stop chugging at any time. The second place player must not stop chugging until after the first place player has stopped. The third place player must not stop chugging until after the second place player has stopped, and so on until the last place player chooses to stop drinking.
It is considered foul play to “cheat” during the Waterfall, incorporating such tactics as pretending to drink, drinking very slowly, or creating a “lake” in your mouth.
It is common for the winner of the game, should he choose to do so, to drive his own nail fully into the stump.
The following are additional rules of play and/or acceptable variations of the rules-
Communal or Task Nail
a) There is a communal nail directly in the center of the stump. All players remain in the game until the communal nail is sunk. However, a player may only attempt to strike the communal nail if all his opponents’ nails are sunk. The winner is the player who sinks the communal nail. This variation works best in one-on-one games, but can be extended to three players or more.
b) There is a task nail directly in the center of the stump. Players can attempt to strike the task nail at any time. If successfully struck, the striker can assign a task to an opposing player – for example, beer delivery, gymnastics feats, or bouts of nudity. Often, when the game is played in a public place, the task must not be one that can get the opposing player arrested, or it can be declined by the opposing player on such grounds. Further Variation: the difficulty of the task or number of tasks assigned is determined by the quality of the strike on the task nail.
c) There is a communal nail directly in the center of the stump. Players can attempt to strike the communal nail at any time. If successfully struck, an opponent of the striker’s choice must drink. Home Improvement is communal. Further Variation: The player who sinks the communal nail can force an opponent of his choice to chug the remainder of his beer.
Home Improvement Variations
a) Sacrifice of Turn. If a player chooses to Home Improve his own nail, he foregoes the opportunity on that turn to attempt a toss.
b) Elimination of Home Improvement. This is a variation that can be implemented unilaterally or multilaterally at any point during the course of play. It is sometimes considered polite to eliminate Home Improvement during the later stages of a multi-player game, when several players have already been eliminated and the remaining players are making slow progress towards finishing the game.
c) Only the head of the hammer can be used for Home Improvement. It is illegal to use the claw of the hammer.
When a player is eliminated, he is given one more turn. On this turn he must attempt to strike the nail of the opponent who has just eliminated him. If he successfully sinks said opponent’s nail, the two players switch places in the Waterfall. A successful strike without sinking the nail, while satisfying in and of itself, grants no rewards.
The King’s Hammer
Also known as Sledge Stump or Thor’s Hammer, this is a variation in which one player is allowed to use an oversized hammer, such as a small sledgehammer.
First you need to decide who will take the sledge at the beginning of the game. In order to do this, devise a fair means of giving the sledge without giving a huge advantage along with it. One way to do this is to have each person hit THEIR OWN nail as hard as they can and the person that hits THEIR OWN nail and puts it down the farthest, wins the sledge. Whoever has the biggest balls or the largest desire to get the sledge, wins it. You don’t HAVE to hit your own nail (because if you hit it too hard you will win the sledge but will be at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to blows), but who wouldn’t want the King’s Hammer over a regular hammer? It’s a great feeling of power.
Next, the first round of the game begins. It is played just like normal Stump except that one person has a freaking sledge and can basically dominate. In order to get the sledge yourself, you need to be the one who sinks the sledge owner’s nail. Once they’re out, you get the King’s Hammer.
Naturally, everyone tends to gang up against the person with the sledge in hopes that they’ll get it themselves, and this is good in that it basically balances out any heavy advantage the sledge owner may have because their nail will be getting constantly blasted. Very rarely does the person who starts the game with the sledge stay alive until the end.
Stump @ UnofficialSquaw HQ. circa 2008
Stump @ UnofficialTelluride HQ. circa 2011
To see how NOT to play, check out these two “Cockers” in the following video – Elijah Wood and Jimmy Fallon playing Stump.
Still cool to see the game get some TV exposure and love the Vermont shout out! I just wish we could have taught Frodo the proper rules, I feel like Stump could really take off in the Shire!
So next time you are throwing a party or maybe just sitting at home lonely, go find a stump, grab some beers and nails, and get “hammered!” You and your friends will have one hell of a time, GUARANTEED!
If you’re interested in picking up a high quality Stump kit including stand and hammer, visit Stump’d Co: