Hickory Dickory – Docked Down
“Hickory Dickory Dock” is one of the oldest nursery rhymes out there (almost 300 years old according to Wikipedia). But despite its age, people find different takes on it. Hickory Dickory from Plaid Hat Games is no exception. Hickory Dickory is a set collection/tile placement/worker placement game designed by Sawyer West. It plays 1-4 players and takes between one and two hours to finish a game.
How to Play
In Hickory Dickory, you control five mice collecting items to either cash in or return to King Cuckoo. You’ll also be creating sets of items for your Hunt board and Quest cards and climbing the weights beneath the clock face for points.
The rulebook for Hickory Dickory has a detailed spread on pages four and five with 23 setup steps. When you’re done, each player will have their mouse cards and a random hunt board in front of them, the clock face will be populated by petals, action icons, and mice, and the main board will be set up, including minute and hour hands and three side boards.
Hickory Dickory starts at 7 o’clock, and one round is a complete revolution of the minute hand. Every round has twelve mini-rounds – a tick of the clock.
When the minute hand ticks, activate the mice on the minute hand from the outside in, then activate the mice on the the inside ring of the clock. Mice on the inside ring of the clock activate in “Priority Track” order, which changes each round.
Mice on the Move
Each of the player’s five mice are slightly different. The Scaler climbs the weight chain, the Scamp can teleport, the Scavenger is larger and holds more tiles, the Spotter can look at more tiles from the bag, and the Scurrier can jump forward up to two spaces when jumping off the minute hand.
When a mouse activates, the player chooses to leave it on the minute hand (or put it on the minute hand, at the back), or have the mouse jump to the outer ring, at the action space token.
When a mouse moves onto the minute hand, it pushes every other mouse forward. If this pushes a mouse off, that mouse moves to the outer ring of either the current space or the previous space.
When a mouse moves to the outer ring, the player takes any tile there, and may perform the actions on the action space token. There are nine different action space tokens, each with different effects.
These effects include moving a mouse up the chain (the “Scaler” mouse), teleporting a mouse (the “Scamp”), claiming tiles from the tile bag, drawing favor cards, and more.
Mice already on the outer ring don’t activate when the minute hand stops at their space.
One of the most important actions is the Deliver action. Here, a mouse can deliver tiles they’re carrying to the tile bag. Score points equal to the number of tiles, then points equal to the number of tiles in the largest color group, then points equal to the number of tiles in the largest symbol group.
If there is an available quest card that contains the delivered tiles, score that too.
Finally, the player may put the delivered tiles on any matching spaces (icon and color) on their personal hunt board. Special gold tiles can only be delivered to Lord Cuckoo at the 12 space.
The last significant mechanic in the game happens when the minute hand strikes twelve, and Lord Cuckoo CHIRPs!
- Cat Paws – Roll the cat die twice and put the cat paw token on two spaces of the clock. They are closed for the next round!
- Hour hand – Rotate the hour hand to the next number. The game immediately ends when it hits 12!
- Inner Ring – Move all mice on the outer ring to the inner ring.
- Refill – Refill quest cards, tiles on the outer ring leaves, and spaces in the market
- Priority – Move the priority token one space.
When the game ends, each player delivers one last time with all of the tiles left on all of their mice. They can’t complete any quests, but they get delivery points. This might also complete rows or columns on the hunt board. Then, players add five points for each completed row or column on their hunt board. Whoever has the most points wins!
Every Plaid Hat game is a visual feast, and Hickory Dickory is no exception. I have no complaints about the art. It’s beautiful, it’s charming, and it perfectly captures the idea of a tchotchke-laden cuckoo clock. The graphic design strains under the weight of so many icons, but the game works hard to deliver an immersive game experience without too many words getting in the way.
Unfortunately, I think this last part does a disservice to the game. Plaid Hat titles have always been a little rule heavy. Hickory Dickory does help players with the CHIRP acronym to recall the correct steps to complete each round. However, there are so many icons on the board, we were constantly referring back to the rulebook for the actions.
This might be okay in games for heavier gamers, but Hickory Dickory sports a 10+ age rating. Look at these leaves on the main board. Why can’t we spread the reminders out there? Or why can’t the hunt board have an extension so everyone can see the icon explanations?
This is our biggest issue with Hickory Dickory, but unfortunately not the only one. The game plays like a beginner’s Tzolk’in, rewarding players who can time their mouse workers jumping on and off the minute hand effectively. Unlike Tzolk’in, however, the game is incredibly limiting in decision space. It’s really difficult to use a mouse more than once a round. This means the entire game feels like a struggle to make meaningful progress.
Hickory Dickory is designed to appeal to gamers as young as ten. For a game to appeal to younger, less experienced gamers the answer to “can I do this?” should be yes far more often than no. Between the movement limitations of the mice and the random restrictions of the cat paws, the answer in Hickory Dickory was “no” too often.
Finally, setup is tough. There’s simply a lot of it. The production value of the game is through the roof. But elements like the stiff clock hands are really a nuisance. We had to completely set up Hickory Dickory before even proposing it to our kids if we wanted to play.
A Clockmaker’s Patience
Hickory Dickory is just a lot of work, both in the setup and restrictions of gameplay. It makes you want to play more to get value out of the work you’ve put in, but the game is probably the right length already. This leads to conflicting emotions about the game. It’s best suited to a play group of mixed ages who are inclined to set up a game and play it multiple times before putting it away. That’s a tougher sell for a 21st century family, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for you!
You can buy Hickory Dickory directly from Plaid Hat Games, on Amazon, or at your friendly local game store.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Hickory Dickory from Plaid Hat Games for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Hickory Dickory - Docked Down
Number of Players: 1-4
Age Range: 10+
Playtime: 60-120 minutes