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Utica local and MMA fan join forces for unique board game

Casey Pritchard
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 3/22/23

Utica’s Foam Hammer Games is bringing mixed martial arts to the world of board games.

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Utica local and MMA fan join forces for unique board game


UTICA — Utica’s Foam Hammer Games is bringing mixed martial arts to the world of board games.

Caged In: MMA Card Combat is a two-player board and card game where players control a fighter and use cards to attack, defend, and position themselves around the cage.

Originally designed by Michigan resident Dan Schuhrke, he and Utica resident Paul LaPorte got to know each other and went in on the project to bring it to the store shelf.

LaPorte is the owner of Foam Hammer Games and originally designed and published the wrestling card game, Book It! He had been in discussions with like-minded people on a board game development Facebook group when he met Schuhrke.

LaPorte said he saw a post about a mixed martial arts game that asked for feedback. LaPorte is a fan of MMA so he reached out to Schuhrke and asked to take a look.

Schuhrke said he made the game for fun. “My buddies and I are real big fans of MMA and we all like board games, so I just thought, ‘Hey, I’ll just make my own board game.’ There are none out there, as far as I know,” he said.

Schuhrke sent over his prototype, and looking at it, LaPorte told him that “... we could really do something with this.”

A partnership was struck between the two, and the prototype was reviewed, tinkered with, and balanced over the course of four years.

One big element that Schuhrke said needed a lot of work was the implementation of the ground game, which wasn’t as fleshed out as he liked.

“In MMA, they fight on their feet and on the ground,” Schuhrke said. “We had to work on that part of the game.”

“Through the whole time, we refined the game and discussed how we wanted it to look in its final form, how we wanted the art and design to look,” LaPorte said. “Fast forward four years later, and here we are, ready to launch.”

Damage to your fighter is tracked on a player board that shows damage to various locations of the body as well as fatigue. The game ends when a fighter is knocked out, submitted, or at the end of three rounds of play, where a victor will be decided by the player who has been damaged the least.

LaPorte said it’s a strategic game that’s easy to pick up and has enough depth to sink your teeth into without being bogged down by rules.

“From the very beginning, we wanted to make sure the game was accessible,” Schuhrke said. “It’s not rule-heavy, and it’s not complicated. The complication comes in with the strategy.”

LaPorte said in testing, players were able to easily pick up the game and play without any outside help or coaching.

Caged In will launch its crowdfunding campaign on on Wednesday, March 29, with a goal of around $15,000.

This covers the cost of manufacturing and shipping, and the campaign will run for 30 days.

If the campaign is successful, LaPorte and Schuhrke said they’re brainstorming ideas for expansions to add more content to the game. But before that, it’ll be back to testing and balancing before release.

“We want to make sure the product we release is well-tested, well-liked, and a solid product, Schuhrke said. “But there are certainly expansion ideas for the future.”

And in addition, LaPorte said Foam Hammer Games has blueprints in place for three to four games in the future.

“Keep an eye on our social media for demonstration days,” LaPorte said. “We’ve discussed things with Hobby Zone in Clinton, as well as other stores in the area. We definitely want to do a tour and show it off in the Mohawk Valley, Syracuse area, and more.”

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