Picture of Chickapig board game.

Chickapig is a Charlottesville Original

About a decade ago, Virginia native and Charlottesville resident Brian Calhoun finished a board game and it left him, well, unsatisfied. As a matter of fact, whatever the game was, Calhoun deemed it boring, and as we all know, board games are supposed to be fun. So, as a testament to the Virginian entrepreneurial spirit, Calhoun vowed to come up with a game that was fun for the whole family.

With some homemade pieces and an old chess board, Calhoun fine-tuned his idea, and he soon called the game Chickapig. It quickly became a cult-hit in Charlottesville, drawing big crowds during Chickapig game nights at Kardinal Hall and other places. Several years ago, the game launched with nationwide distribution. Calhoun has since developed a children’s version, called Chickapiglets, and has written two children’s book. His latest book, ‘Chickpiglet, who lives where?’ hit the shelves on in early 2021 and is available at Shenanigans, as well as New Dominion Bookshop. The lift-the-flap book is geared toward 3-5-year olds and builds off of characters from Chickapiglets.

Well, how does Chickapig work? Also dubbed Farmer’s Chess, each player is in charge of a flock of six Chickapigs. The goal is for each player to move their Chickapigs across the board to pass through the goal on the other side of the board. Other players will try to derail their opponents’ Chickapigs using hay bales, cows, and cow poop. Yes, as a golden rule, keep in mind that cows love poop, Chickapigs do not.

For his day job, Brian Calhoun works at Rockbridge Guitar Company, a custom guitar shop where Calhoun and his colleagues build and repair guitars for world famous musicians. Among his clientele are artists like like Jason Mraz, Richie Sambora, Warren Haynes, Brandi Carlile, Keith Urban and Dave Matthews. Calhoun co-founded the shop in 2002.

(Sidenote: Custom guitar shop Rockbridge Guitar Company, located on 101 West High Street, is open to the public by appointment only. If you are interested in guitar manufacturing and repairs, we highly recommend a visit.)

Charlottesville-based musician Dave Matthews, who, according to himself, is not a crazy gamer, was enamored with Chickapig and he is now a partner in Calhoun’s venture. Matthews actively promotes and markets the game, and plays whenever he has a chance. We’ll let you in on a little secret; Dave Matthews had a custom made Chickapig board installed on his tour bus.

Although the goal of the Farm-to-Table game is to facilitate an hour or so of family fun, incorporating strategy and problem solving, Calhoun has made a conscious effort to utilize the game’s educational strengths as well. He partnered with Charlottesville Area Independent Schools, where students set up their own leagues. And the game helped students at the Virginia Institute of Autism develop their social skills.

And since there is some affiliation with the game of chess, former US Chess Champion Judah Brownstein, a friend of Calhoun’s, set off for the West Coast in a custom-painted van to promote the game a few years ago.

So, the next time you walk into your local game store, or your independently owned book store, and you see this game called Chickapig, now you know. This was hatched behind a kitchen table in Charlottesville, with an old chess board and homemade pieces and it’s a testament of how entrepreneurship can make a difference.

One poop-dodging Chickapig at a time.

Chickapig won Best Board Game at the 2019 National Parenting Product Awards, and in Charlottesville the games/books are sold at Shenanigans, Alakazam, and Rock, Paper, Scissors, as well as Barnes & Noble, Walmart and Target.