When Bernie Moran's job with Coca-Cola was moved to Atlanta, he took that as an opportunity to do something completely different, something that he had been thinking about for a long time.
"We've been in business for less than a year, but I've had the idea for this game for around 10 years," Moran said.
With the creation of Madd-Capp Checkers, Moran is now a toymaker, and has taken the traditional game of checkers and – literally – given it some pop.
Moran explained that checkers is a traditional board game that everyone knows, but there's no brand associated with the game. "If you become a brand, you own that category. We want to make Madd-Cap a brand in a brand-less category," he said.
Madd-Capp uses a traditional checkerboard, and many of the same rules of play, but gives it a twist that makes the game more strategic, fun, and quicker to complete at the same time.
A popper (think "pop-o-matic" – a la "Trouble") containing three dice dictates which pieces are moved in each turn. Players may move their own pieces or their opponent's pieces, depending on the pop of the dice. A player wins when they capture and eliminate their opponent's playing pieces, just like regular checkers.
Traditional checkers can be played by children as young as five, Moran said, but Madd-Capp is skewed a little bit older, for people ages eight and up. "Young kids love the popper. Teenagers even like it," Moran said. "The game is easy to learn but hard to master."
Some traditional board games can take a long time to finish, but a Madd-Capp Checkers game can be completed in 12-18 minutes. The popper makes it more challenging, so it's "never over until it's over," Moran said.
To add to the appeal of the game, Madd-Capp Checkers is also "themed."
The first two themes Moran developed are pet-oriented. The dog version has dog bowls as playing pieces and "dog bones" are used to crown the kings which, like traditional checkers, can move in either direction. The cat version also uses food bowls as playing pieces, but they are crowned by "fish skeleton" treats.
Moran said a football version (helmets crowned by shoulder pads) and cupcake version (crowned by a candle) are also in the works.
The themes help with marketing and make the game play more fun, Moran said. Themes also provide more sales outlets, such as selling the dog- and cat-themed games in pet stores and catalogues.
Madd-Capp Checkers is a family business, Moran said, and his wife Bobbi and brother John have played a major role in making the game a reality. The company started shipping games just about a month ago, and in Connecticut it can be found at Toy Chest in West Hartford as well as Wooden Toy in Wethersfield and R.J. Julia's in Madison.
It's also sold in other states as well as through Amazon, said Moran. The game retails for $25.95.
"The game industry is a billion dollar industry. We're trying to carve a niche in the board game category," said Moran.
"I'm a small entrepreneur from Connecticut. My job was eliminated but I always wanted to do this. I've followed my dream to create this."
For more information about Madd-Capp Checkers visit the company's website or Facebook page. The company recently had a kick-off at A.C. Petersens and will be holding demonstrations at the Toy Chest on Thursday during the West Hartford Holiday Stroll.
Moran would like to acknowledge the work of the following local individuals who helped him get the company to the starting line:
Designer - Luci Gardner, West Hartford; Web Designer - Ken Picard, Simsbury; Artist - Jeff Fagan, East Hartford; R&D - Patrick McCauley, Essex; Attorney - Ryan and Bud O'Donnell, West Hartford; Patent Attorney - John C. Linderman, Hartford; Bankers - Nancy Brecher (People's), West Hartford; Insurance - Ned Wentworth, Bloomfield; Warehouse and Fulfillment - Steve Baumbach, Plainville; Sales Representation - Christine and Alan Blumberg, Guilford; Printing - Trish George, West Hartford.