Back in March, Brian Calhoun’s Chickapig board game reached shelves in Target stores, along with a stuffed toy and a new children’s book about young Joe Chickapig’s adventures.
Now he’s releasing two more games — Chicapiglets, a game for the younger siblings of the original game’s fans, and 25 Outlaws, a fast-paced poker game with a playful Wild West swagger.
When the Rockbridge Guitars luthier and game developer came up with the idea for 25 Outlaws, “I’d already been thinking of a way to make poker faster,” Calhoun said. “I like poker, and I read somewhere that, in the Wild West, there was a 20-card deck. Tens through aces.”
He developed 25 Outlaws, intended for ages 17 and older, with his friend Dave Matthews. The game eliminates the frustration of boring hands and quickens the pace.
“There’s this placebo effect because you always have good hands. It’s really fun,” he said. “It’s the most fun parts of poker, but you can hold people up and steal their money.”
The outlaws have varying quick-draw speeds. “You can come in with your slow outlaw and take someone’s money,” Calhoun said.
Once the game began to take shape, Calhoun was fortunate to have a friend to help him put faces to the colorful characters. Matthews is an artist as well as a musician and songwriter, and
“I needed place-holder names, so I named them after all my friends,” Calhoun said.
“Dave said, ‘You should finish your game and let me draw the outlaws.’ He is just an amazing artist. When he picks up a pencil and draws, it’s just remarkable.
“It was his idea. He said, ‘I hope you’ll let me draw these characters.’ He drew them all summer on tour in 2018.”
25 Outlaws is recommended for ages 17 and older. “There is gunfighting, and there are cards where you give someone a drink and it slows them down,” Calhoun said.
There’s also a mild learning curve. “It’s not a pull-it-out-of-the-box game, but once you get through one round, it’s really very simple,” Calhoun said.
Chickapiglets is aimed for children ages 4 and older — especially the younger siblings who’ve felt left out while their families played Chickapig, which is designed for ages 8 and older.
“We needed a game that 4-year-olds could play,” Calhoun said. “Kids are amazing play testers because they’re so honest. If they’re bored, they’ll get up and get their toy truck.”
Feedback from youngsters showed him how to simplify the game — and to increase its appeal by introducing collaborative goals. Everyone has a stake in helping Joe Chickapig chase the pooping Cow.
“Sibling rivalry is for real, and if one kid wins and the other is grumpy, they won’t want to play again,” Calhoun said.