There's a classic puzzle that you'll certainly have heard even if you can no longer remember how to solve it. You have to get a fox, a chicken and a sack of grain across the river to the other bank in a boat that will only take one at a time. You can't on either bank leave the fox with the chicken or the chicken with the grain... Potomac doesn't represent quite this same puzzle but you're bound to be put in mind of it as you play.
Designed by Geoffrey Simon with delightful art by Jesus Verona, Potomac is published by Djeco. The 5–10 age range on the box show this as a children's game, and of course it's a game that kids will enjoy playing, but the surprise is that this is a game that adults will be equally happy to play with their children, and maybe even without! You have six (wooden) woodland animals that you need to get onto a raft, across a river and into the forest, where they'll be safe from the wolf that stalks the opposite bank. It's a dice game, in that you roll a custom six-sided die that determines whether you can move any of the animals (3 of the 6 sides). Two of the die faces move the wolf to the left or to the right, and one moves the raft along the river. When it gets to the end, the raft is deemed to have gone over a waterfall and a second (final) raft appears. The players win if they can get all their woodland creatures into the forest; they lose if the wolf catches any of the animals (ends up in the same square) or if any of the animals are in the raft when it goes over the waterfall. And obviously the players lose if both rafts have gone while there are still creatures on the far bank.
Potomac is fully co-operative and players can move any animal. That means that even tho' the game is dice driven, there's quite a lot of choice and scope for decision-making. It also means the game is playable solo. You can never have more than two animals sharing the same square, so that too requires some thought. Four of the five forest squares give players a single-use token that can help them to a collective win: two of the tokens freeze the wolf for a turn, and two allow players to leapfrog, avoiding the wolf if it moves into their space or leaping directly from the raft into the forest.
Potomac is a decent little game and one that teaches children to think tactically and plan ahead. If the die pushes the rafts forward quite quickly, players may need to push their luck and take chances to get their animals across but, on most plays, you'll beat the game by optimising the moves that the animals take and ensuring where possible that they don't wander directly into the path of the wolf. Djeco's high-quality production adds hugely to this game's appeal, so Potomac is definitely one to consider for your Christmas list.