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Game On

Two area residents create a party board game called UP-2-U that gives Beavers and Ducks fans a chance to battle it out to see who can build the tallest tower
by: VERN UYETAKE, Karon Paul says she loves games. So when she had an idea for a new party board game at a dinner party in 2006, she got to work. The result? UP-2-U in stores now.

On Saturday, the University of Oregon Ducks play the Oregon State University Beavers at Reser Stadium in Corvallis as the rival football teams compete in the 2008 civil war.

'Everyone likes to feel a part of something and wants to belong,' said Karon Paul, a Tualatin resident whose children grew up attending West Linn schools. '(Supporting a school) brings a sense of competitiveness. That's why I like games. It's the pride.'

Now, Paul and her family live in a 'house divided,' she says. Her son is a Duck; her daughter is a Beaver. But no matter who she's rooting for, Paul is a lover of games.

The new party board game she invented called UP-2-U incorporates her love of camaraderie, strategy and school pride.

Players use strategy, luck and a steady hand to build the tallest tower using wood game pieces - and cards and dice - with schools' colors and mascots.

Each player begins with 24 small wooden pieces - 12 with the school's logo, 12 with letters. A roll of the dice indicates which type of pieces to begin stacking. Pieces are stacked one-at-a-time to create the tallest tower. If a player rolls a penalty they follow the instructions on a playing card. When all pieces are played the player with the tallest tower wins.

So far, the games are created using UO Ducks, OSU Beavers, University of Washington Huskies and Washington State University Cougars game pieces but Paul hopes to extend the game to universities across the country - but in good time.

This endeavor is a result of a dinner party in September 2006 with UO and OSU alumni.

'There were napkin rings in the shape of a mallard duck on the table. I started stacking them, just having fun and we started saying, 'oh, we should paint these green and yellow and sell them at tailgaters,'' Paul said. 'I came home and kept saying, 'I'm going to find a woodworker. I just have this idea.''

Paul had no prior experience creating games. She spent 20 years working in corporate human resources for Columbia Management Company, Columbia Funds. That is where she worked with the chairman and CEO, John Kemp. They both left the company in 2000, he to retire, she to begin consulting with a more flexible schedule, as her kids were in school.

'I failed retirement,' Kemp said, a Sherwood resident who spent 15 years living in Lake Oswego.

Paul and Kemp later worked together under Kemp's consulting company, J-K Pursuits, LLC. So, when Paul's idea for a family game came about, she turned to her business partner.

'I took John to university stores and showed him licensed merchandise. I said, 'there's nothing out there like this,'' Paul said of her game idea. 'You have Duckopoly and checkers but this is different.'

They both decided to put some money into the project and see what would become of it. Paul worked with woodworkers from Tigard and Sherwood to design game pieces and a design firm to create the look and feel of the game.

'We went through lots of revisions - revisions, revisions, revisions,' she said, emptying a paper grocery bag filled with the original tiny wood game pieces onto her living room floor. 'Things kept changing, ever so slightly. When we applied for a patent the game looked different. It had no cards or bases.'

Through the planning process they learned a lot about the game industry.

'I've learned about manufacturing in China, getting things trademarked, licensed, patented, working with the Collegiate Licensing Company,' Paul said.

Paul and Kemp went through dozens of mock-up designs for the logo and game pieces.

'We were doing all of this not knowing if a university would license it,' Paul said. 'You have to have a prototype.'

But in September 2007, a meeting at the UO licensing department was encouraging.

'I got a phone call (afterwards) that they were going to go ahead with the licensing,' Paul said. 'I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it.'

The first completed UO games arrived in February 2008 and were used to pitch the game to the other Northwest universities who were 'very excited about it,' she said.

The game's wooden box was designed to look like a college book on purpose.

'We wanted something that looked nice and could sit on a coffee table,' Paul said.

'It's the kind of thing that avid fans would have in their bookshelf,' Kemp said.

And the games' name UP-2-U also was well-thought out. The 'up' represents that players build a tower. The '2' means that it's better to stack two pieces, than one. And the 'U' stands for university.

The games at $44.95 are for sale at Graham's Book and Stationary in Lake Oswego, the Duck stores, OSU Bookstores and Just Sports at Washington Square and Clackamas Town Center. They can be purchased at www.up2ugames.com with free shipping and handling.

'I've long believed that the game would have it's greatest appeal at holiday time,' Kemp said. 'I'm interested in finding out the level of acceptance of the game. If it's successful we'll carry it across the country.'

Now through the end of December, UP-2-U is participating in the 'A Season of Wishes' campaign to raise awareness and funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oregon. For each game sold on the Web site, UP-2-U will donate 10 percent to the foundation, with a minimum contribution of $1,000.

'With the economy the way it is, a lot more people will be staying home, playing games, watching movies,' Paul said. 'I just can't believe (the game) is done. I just love games.'