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Potato Man

We recently featured Aurum (Pandasaurus) on Board's Eye View. It was an unusual trick-taking card game because players had to not follow suit on each trick. When we played that game, some of the members of the Board's Eye View team with long memories were put in mind of a 2013 card game Potato Man (Zoch Verlag) because that too involved tricks that did not follow suit. Now, coincidentally, Potato Man is back, published in the USA and being brought to a wider audience by Mind's Vision.

Potato Man is designed by Gunter Burkhardt and Wolfgang Lehmann. It's a game for 2-5 players and its jokey theme features cartoon potato characters illustrated by Victor Boden, Guilherme Cavalcante and Wanjin Gill. The game is played with four suits of cards, each of which has a different range of ranking values: red (5-18), blue (4-16), green (3-14) and yellow (1-13). These are the cards that form the deck from which players will be trying to win tricks (highest card played). In addition, there are scoring cards that show a sack of potatoes. There are three of each colour and they have different points score values (red 1, blue 2, green 3, yellow 4). This reflects the fact that red, for example, has higher values - and so more chance of winning a trick - than the other colours. If all the sack cards in the colour that won you the trick have been claimed, then you instead take a gold sack card (worth 5 points). You get nothing if all the gold cards have also all gone.

The other twist in the game are the Potato Man cards. These are the yellow 1, 2, 3 cards. Only if red 16, 17 or 18 are played in a trick, then that trick is won by yellow 1, 2 or 3... It might sound silly and unintuitive but the rule results in some interesting tactical play as you try to finesse other players into playing otherwise potentially winning cards to tricks they can't win.

Potato Man is a light and easy-to-play trick-taking card game. It's best with four players because with fewer or more you need to tweak some rules. When you play with just two, you each have a manageable hand of 12 cards but you also each have an eight-card draw pile; also you each play two cards for each trick. With five players and only four suits you have to allow a colour to be repeated in each trick. Finally, with three players, you should take out all the green cards so you are playing with just three suits. The rules suggest you play the number of rounds equal to the number of players, totting up and carrying over the scores from round to round. You'll need a paper and pencil for that: theme notwithstanding, Potato Man doesn't come with chips :-)

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