CBS 19: Locally-made board game Chickapig takes off

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- Mooooove over Monopoly. There's a new board game in town. It's called Chickapig, and, as the name suggests, it has a farm theme. But it also has plenty of strategy.

"I wanted a game that the better player is going to win most of the time, but everybody is still going to have fun and feel like there's a chance they could have won, and maybe sometimes they will win," said the game's creator Brian Calhoun.

Calhoun's full-time job is a custom guitar maker. His Rockbridge Guitar Company claims famous clients including Jason Mraz, Keith Urban, Richie Sambora, and Dave Matthews.

In fact, Matthews and Calhoun are friends through their music connection, and after the musician played Chickapig with his family, he got on board to help promote it.

"He offered to help me get the word out," said Calhoun in an interview in his apartment above the Rockbridge Guitar Company studio in downtown Charlottesville.

Calhoun said the idea for Chickapig came to him after he played a boring board game with friends four or five years ago.

But the path from idea to reality is not straightforward. Calhoun spent months brainstorming how the game might work, and he handmade the early boards and pieces.

"I used my guitar shop downstairs, and I made little jigs to make all the pieces faster," he said.

Once the basic rules of the game were hammered out (four players or teams work to move their chickapigs across the board, sometimes avoiding a cow manure obstacle) he crowd tested it at Kardinal Hall beer garden, where the game is still played weekly.

And when it was time to mass produce the game, Calhoun didn't want to look too far.

"It was really important to us to keep Chickapig made in the U.S., and we tried to make as much as possible of it locally," he said.

Charlottesville company Cardboard Safari already manufactured 3-D cardboard animals, and employee Mike Skrivan said they had the equipment and the knowledge to help Calhoun.

"We designed the game pieces, we started cutting the game pieces, and from then on, everything has taken off like gangbusters," he said.

Charlottesville-based Gropen design/build firm is also manufacturing some of the game parts.

To date, 3,500 Chickapig games have sold at prices ranging from $49 for the basic model to about $500 for a giant magnetic version. Calhoun said most of those sales are coming through the Chickapig website, but the games are also available at some local stores.

Calhoun said he's thrilled at the game's success, and he thinks he understands what's at the root of it: personal connection.

"What I found is different groups of people who didn't know each other would play, and they'd [end up] friends with each other," he said.

A Chickapig video tutorial and more information is available on the game's website, at the link in the Related Links box.

See the story and accompanying video on the CBS 19 website.