Bringing Stump to the masses since August 2003 Last Updated December 2 2007

Stump is alive and well in Japan.
Rules of Play

    The following is's interpretation of the game of Stump. There are some who may disagree with certain rules. This page is therefore open to criticism of any kind. If you believe we have defiled the game or otherwise thrown potential Stump newcomers off course, please let us know.


    1. Hammer: All hammer types are acceptable. Wooden-handled hammers are the most traditional, but they can often begin to break after multiple games. Should you choose to use wooden, take special care to monitor the strength of the neck regularly.

    2. Nails: All nails are acceptable, however, 4-to 6-inch nails are ideal. You should have enough for one nail per person per game (Exception: Team Games). Feel free to experiment with different nail lengths depending on your skill level and stump type (see stump specifications below).

    3. Stump: The stump should be sturdy enough to withstand topside blows without falling over. The stump should stand approximately knee-level or just slightly lower and have a flat top surface. The best stumps have a wide surface area so as to accommodate the greatest number of games as more and more nails are driven in. Stumps with rotten wood or varying surface textures should be avoided, as this can result in one player gaining an advantage over his opponents due to his nail location. Different types of wood make for games of varying length and difficulty. For example, some wood types are soft enough for a solid hit to drive a 4-inch nail completely into the stump (and thus, in some cases, eliminate a player who has not yet taken a single turn), while other types are hard enough to necessitate several powerful blows before the nail is fully sunk.

    4. Booze: Beer is the official beverage of Stump - other alcoholic beverages should be used only in a pinch. Make sure to have plenty - two 12 oz cans per person per game should be considered the minimum when you make the run to the store. Having too many beers on hand is always better than too few - there is nothing worse than a Stump session ending due to lack of beer - or, God forbid, running out of beer during the game-ending Waterfall.

    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 Rules of Play), 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.

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