Meet Your Maker: Mike Craughwell

Creator of Kartoffelkreig, the armored potato game.

Michael Craughwell, center, poses with James Evans, left, and Lagan Trieschmann dressed as the game pieces, potatoes. —Anthony Esposito

When is a potato not some ordinary spud or boring tuber? Mike Craughwell will be happy to show you at the third annual Martha’s Vineyard Mini Maker Faire, taking place on Saturday, May 12, from 10 am to 4 pm at the Ag Hall in West Tisbury. The Faire showcases Island “makers” — flint knappers, woodworkers, stop-motion filmmakers — anyone who comes up with a clever new idea. In the next few weeks we’ll introduce you to a few. Mike, who bubbles with exuberance, graciously sat down with me to talk about his new tabletop armored combat game called Kartoffelkreig, fought with potatoes.

So why potatoes?

I don’t know. It was just that you could stick things into them, and the image in my head was instantly funny. On Jan. 30, I was sitting here at the table with my son and suddenly struck by this idea, and asked him, “Do you think it would be funny to do battle with potatoes?” I did quick five-minute sketches for the armor pieces, and posted the idea on the Internet, and everyone seemed to really like it. I made it with humor in mind, but there’s the appeal of full seriousness about giving something that’s ordinary, merit.

What’s with the odd-sounding name, Kartoffelkreig?

“Kartoffelkreig” is German for potato war. I’ve always liked German, it has nice alliteration and compounding words. I get pleasure trying to chew my way out of them. Some people find it frustrating, but out of the frustration is born your own nonsense word. It’s part of the fun to me.

Is the game meant to parody earlier tabletop battle games, or the original Mr. Potato Head that required real potatoes?

Well, it’s a joke. It’s a game that’s funny, but it’s an actual game with rules and everything. And it’s quick. In general, I don’t like battle games where there’s a lot of slow strategizing, hiding, and being really careful; we wanted to disincentivize this, so it’s a quick game. There’s no advantage to playing it safe. The best strategy is to really throw yourself in there.

Does this philosophy carry over to life?

In general, I like things in life where you go and do stuff, as opposed to not doing stuff. Like, I came up with this game on the 30th of January and in 2½ months it’s up on Kickstarter. Some people have their games in development for three years. This one is so simple it’s meant to be something you whip out at a “beer and pretzel” party; well, that’s for nerdy people. But it’s regular people who really like it.

Do you look at produce differently these days when you go to the grocery store?

I never had much of an interest in vegetables. Now, looking at them, I’m weighing the pros and cons of the different ones. It’s just another way to look at things. We tried sweet potatoes, and they’re way too hard. People are always asking me if they could use oranges, and I say, “Yeah, but it will be messy.” And bananas too would be really messy.

Do you have any advice to people about creativity?

Lots of people talk about doing things, but say they don’t have time. The most important part of doing things is doing it. When I started I had a full-time job, but most people can squeeze out an hour. When I do something, I really throw myself into it.

See the Kartoffelkreig Kickstarter page for details, and Mike’s zany video explaining how the game works, at