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Players Several
Age range Any
Setup time Minimal
Playing time 10-20 minutes or less
Random chance Medium
Skill(s) required Aiming, Drinking ability

Hammerschlagen (the "Striking Hammer" or "Hammer-Striking") is a variation of the German game Nagelspielen (the "Nail Game" or "Playing With Nails"). Nagelspielen reportedly dates to the first Oktoberfest in 1810.[citation needed] Shortly after opening in 1966, the first instance of Nagelspielen in the United States was reportedly found at the Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter in Stillwater, MN. It was played there in the traditional fashion until the restaurant owner's father branded the Nailspielen service[1][2] and vested the brand of Hammer-Schlagen and the related intellectual property in WRB, Inc..[3][clarification needed]

Nagelspielen is a Bavarian game, traditionally played with the sharp end of an axe held against the vertical edge of a stump and swung at stag nails. In some northern German taverns, a Nagelspielen game sits in a corner and losers are bound to buy the next round.

Hammerschlagen is a decades old brand of Nagelspielen, which is played with a Cross-peen hammer or blacksmith's hammer with a wedge-shaped (but not sharp) end on it and is 3 pounds. A large (24-36") cross-section of pre-cut Cottonwood (Populus sect. Aigeiros) is set up waist high with the flat sides facing the floor and ceiling. A bright common nail (12/16d) is driven about a half inch into the wood in front of each player. Hammerschlagen often charges a nominal amount from each player to play the game and the winner is rewarded with a prize[4] or a shot of a German spirit, often Apfelkorn.


Hammer-Schlagen Rules.jpg

Each player is assigned a nail.

Each player's turn consists of a single swing at their nail with the wedge end of the hammer. Prior to swinging, the player must rest the wedge-end of the hammer on the log next to their nail. The hammer must be gripped behind the line on the hammer and with one hand (female players have the option of using both hands). The swing must be done in one continuous up and down motion.

Frequently, a player will bend their nail in such a way as to make driving it further nearly impossible. In this case, the player may use their turn to make a single-motion swing at the nail from the side in an attempt to straighten the nail. You are not required to stand in the same place for the entire game. Often it is necessary to switch sides of the log to get a better angle on your nail.

The object is to be the first one to pound in one's own nail. To win, the head of the nail must be flush or under the surface of the wood.


A derivation of Hammerschlagen in the United States is called Stump. Stump has several large deviations from the rules of Hammerschlagen, primarily that the goal is not to drive your nail in first, but to be the last to have their nail driven into the stump. This variation was purportedly developed after a lawsuit threat made by WRB for the continued infringement of the federally protected Hammerschlagen family of marks in Pennsylvania.[citation needed]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Trademarkia. "Let's Play Hammer-Schlagen HS".
  2. ^ United States Patent & Trademark Office.
  3. ^ Star Tribune. "Local bars rev up for Oktoberfest; Hammerschlagen. The glass boot. David Hasselhoff. What of them? All are on the minds of German bar owners." Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN). September 24, 2010.
  4. ^ "Totally dominated Gastof’s Hammer Schlagen in two... | 29nSNGL*". 29nsngl.com. 2011-09-30. Retrieved 2014-05-21.