Tauni Beck looked at the two card games she and her husband, Brent, were going to launch at the February 2012 New York Toy Fair and realized there was a major problem.
The products they’d made, Grandpa Beck’s Golf and Cover Your Assets, were improved versions of old face-card games. But because different artists had worked on the games at different times, the boxes didn’t look like they were from the same company—and Tauni felt a strong prompting from the Spirit that they should.
“I knew that the golf one needed to change one more time [because] it was really important that we go to Toy Fair with two games that were branded in a connected way,” Tauni says. But reprinting the golf game box would come at a high cost: “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, we’ve already printed this thing twice. … How am I going to tell Brent this?’”
Tauni thought and prayed about the matter for a week before bringing it up with Brent. Together, with only six months to complete the project, they decided to have their game box reformatted and printed once again.
“Having two games that were branded together was more powerful than two disparate games because it made it a real brand,” Brent says. And in the midst of the massive Javits Center in Manhattan where countless other companies were marketing their toys, they hoped that having a real brand would help them stand out to distributors and retailers.
When everything was taken care of, the Becks packed up their games, flew to New York, and set up a booth at Toy Fair, hoping against all odds that they’d meet someone who was interested in their company—but no dice. Days passed, and hardly anyone talked to them about their business.
“I was like, ‘We have just dumped thousands of dollars down the drain. What have we done?” Tauni recalls thinking.
But then, on the second-to-last day of the fair, two distributors from Lion Rampant Imports in Canada approached the Becks’ table. Tauni watched as one of those distributors looked down at the boxes. And then back up. “You have a brand!” she said, impressed.
Tauni was thrilled to realize that their efforts to rebrand the golf game had paid off. “It still gives me goosebumps,” she says, explaining that those distributors, and the owner of the Red Balloon toy stores, who also came to their booth, decided to take a chance on them. “The Spirit helps us in so many ways in our everyday lives. And so, we had a brand. … It was a long time before we really made any profit from it, but we were on the way. I know it was inspiration. … It opened the door for us.”
Many more opportunities have come to the Becks since that day at the toy fair. Little did they know then that their company, now called Grandpa Beck’s Games, would turn into a thriving business that has sold more than two million games worldwide. Or that Cover Your Assets would be ranked by Buzzfeed as one of the best card games to purchase on Amazon, where it has a 4.9-star rating. The Becks’ collection of products has expanded too—the company now sells nine card games (not including a collector’s edition of Cover Your Assets) in a total of nine languages. The games are available in major retail stores like Target, Barnes & Noble, and Deseret Book.
It only takes looking at a box, let alone the cards, to see why the games are so appealing to customers. Each one has beautifully illustrated art and creative themes to suit anyone’s fancy—gnomes, pirates, bears and bees, dragons, and archaeologists all make the list—and new games are regularly released. Their latest game, Cover Your Cookies, came out in March 2023 in a collaboration with the massively successful Crumbl Cookies company. A reinvented version of Cover Your Assets with a delectable cookie on each card, the new game is now available in all Crumbl stores nationwide—because when one places an order of cookies, clearly a card game needs to go with it. And yes, it comes in light pink packaging to match the classic Crumbl box.
But it’s not just the growth the Becks have seen in their company, or the creativity they put into their products, that makes their business special; it’s the purpose behind their work. By bringing friends and family together through their games, the Becks hope to not only provide people with entertainment but to strengthen meaningful relationships. So during the challenging days that inevitably come from running a business, they hold on to that purpose—a purpose they believe God truly cares about and has always had a hand in.
Ever since they were young, games have played an important part in Brent’s and Tauni’s lives. As kids growing up in the same ward in Washington, they often played games with their families. Years later, when Brent and Tauni were dating seriously, he even proposed to her during a game of Scrabble. By luck of the draw, Tauni happened to pull out the tiles she needed to spell her name at the start of the game. She exclaimed over the coincidence, and Brent and her parents encouraged her to put her name on the board, despite it being against the rules. As the game progressed, Brent then spelled out the letters M-A-R-R-Y and M-E on the board, placing a cutout paper square with a hand-drawn question mark on it at the end. Looking back, it seems like fate—at the time, Brent was working day and night to become an airline pilot, and they had no plans to be in the game business.
When Brent and Tauni were newlyweds on a tight budget, games continued to be an outlet; they would buy one game a year to play on date nights with friends. And when their children were old enough to participate, Tauni started keeping a basket of classic card games like Uno, Phase 10, and Rook by their kitchen table. Those games were so well-loved that, before long, the boxes were completely worn out and the card games had to be stored in Ziploc bags.
When the kids grew into teenagers, games were a special treat on Sunday evenings. Because Brent was working full time as a pilot and serving as bishop, he was often away from home during the week and his Sundays were full of meetings and phone calls. But game time was reserved just for the family.
“He would get home, finally [on Sunday], and we would sit down and have family dinner. And I would tell [him], ‘You cannot answer the phone until the kids are going to bed,’” Tauni recalls. “So we would have dinner, and then we would play games for a little bit and have fun discussions, and then the kids would go off to bed. … And then he would go back to answering the phones. So those games brought us together.”
It wasn’t until about 2005 that Brent first considered creating his own game. At the time, bankruptcies and pension losses in the airline industry made Brent want to back up his situation financially—and he didn’t think real estate investments were his best route since they had dropped in value as well. But he had an idea of something else he could try. For years, he and his family had loved playing a face card game called golf. Brent thought some adjustments and illustrations would make the game more dynamic and engaging, and he wanted to create a new version with those improvements. On top of that, he was willing to bet that if he played his cards right, he might just be able to break into the game business to sell it.
When he floated the idea by Tauni, she knew the task would be easier said than done. But she supported it from the very beginning, and Brent’s optimism and work ethic gave her the courage to think it was possible.
“I believe in my husband one hundred percent,” she says. “He will doggedly work at something until he’s successful. … I knew that [with] anything Brent actually had control over, he would land on top.”
As they got started, the Becks found that their different skills complemented each other—Brent excelled at seeing potential and opportunity, and Tauni could see pitfalls and corrections to make along the way. While Brent had an eye for business, Tauni worked on the creative side of developing the games. They also decided to make the daring move to retain complete control over the company.
“Instead of trying to have something licensed to somebody else, we were audacious enough to try and self-publish and self-promote, which is a lot harder, but it has a greater gain in the end if it works out,” Brent says. “And we’re very blessed that something worked out, because I had no idea how competitive or hard it was.”
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Even though the game business is incredibly competitive, the Becks had two things on their side—a personal touch and beautiful illustrations.
It took years to figure out how to produce and print Grandpa Beck’s Golf, and even then, the company, formed in 2008, wasn’t completely up and running. But although there was still a ways to go, Brent and Tauni decided to create a second card game, which needed to be illustrated.
Tauni had discovered this new game, which would become Cover Your Assets, during a Church young single adult activity she and Brent had attended as leaders. The game had a unique mechanic, or element of play, which she’d never seen before, and with a few improvements she knew it would be a success. So the Becks reached out to their friend Apryl Stott, who had been a member of their home ward when Brent was serving as bishop, about illustrating it.
“I was like, ‘Well, I’ve never illustrated a card game before, but I’m always up for adventure.’ So I said, ‘OK, as long as you’re OK that I don’t really know what I’m doing,’” Apryl says with a laugh.
While she may not have worked on card games previously, Apryl was a talented artist with a bachelor’s degree in illustration and design from Brigham Young University. She thought she’d do her friends a favor by working with them on the project. After all, ever since Brent introduced himself as bishop in her Seattle ward and immediately invited her to play games in their home, Apryl felt she could rely on him and Tauni whenever she needed something. She decided to take the job and let the chips fall where they may.
That was just the beginning of Apryl’s influence on the company—after her work on Cover Your Assets, the Becks asked her to redesign the box of Grandpa Beck’s Golf so it was ready for the toy fair in New York. And since then, Apryl, who also does illustrations for the Friend magazine and has become a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator, has worked on nearly all of the products produced by Grandpa Beck’s Games. Her style is evident in every last detail, from a bear claw “tearing” its way through the interior of the Bears and the Bees box to the personalized characters of the Skull King game (the pirates on the cards each bear the likeness of one of the Becks’ family members, with Brent featured as the Skull King himself). Even the rule books have creative touches that match the theme for each game.
Illustrating a game is a lengthy process; Apryl estimates that it takes six months from start to finish before the art is approved for print. And it’s a collaborative effort: Tauni first thinks big picture about what theme will suit the game based on the way it plays. Apryl and Tauni then brainstorm styles and color palettes, and Apryl comes up with initial sketches. Next is the final card art and game logo, followed by illustrations for the game box, rule book, any special elements, and a recipe card.
“I love collaborating with the team. We have an awesome team, and I feel like we really balance each other out,” Apryl says. “[Brent and Tauni] really are just so kind and lovely. Working with them has been one of the greatest joys in my life.”
Another way Grandpa Beck’s Games stands out from other brands is the obvious personal touch the Becks give each of their games. Every box includes a picture of Brent and Tauni (known affectionately as Grandpa and Grandma Beck) with some of their 19 grandchildren, as well as Grandpa Beck’s personal cell phone number for those who have questions about the rules or who simply want to reach out. Brent says he responds to all texts and emails (he gets between 50 and 200 messages a week) and will take calls whenever he can.
“When they call, then I can have fun talking in person. I [also] love when people send in pictures and show their family—especially when they have the kids, the parents, the grandparents all playing together, bridging those generations. That’s a really fun thing,” he says.
Lisa Bench, a sales manager who works with the Becks at a Pinterest-inspired event called the Pinners Conference, has seen firsthand how Grandpa Beck’s Games can bring all ages together. At first, she and her husband started playing Cover Your Assets as newlyweds with other young couples and in large family gatherings. And now, she and her husband play Grandpa Beck’s Games with their kids.
“Sometimes we tell the kids, ‘OK, help clean up dinner, put on your jammies, and go get ready for bed. If you do it as fast as you can, then we’ll have time for one round of Cover Your Assets or one round of Gnoming A ound.’ … Our kids are more motivated and excited to sit and play games with us than they are to watch a TV show or go out for ice cream. … I think the kids feel really special and included with us as their parents having these activities and hobbies that we can all enjoy together.”
Not only does Grandpa Beck’s Games bring people together to have fun playing cards; the games also bring them together to enjoy good food. Included in every game is one of Grandma Beck’s Recipes, from Tauni’s kitchen or from her family and friends. Whether it’s Dragon’s Brew, Snicker Poodle Puppy Chow, or Gold Standard Cheese Dip, the recipes encourage family and friends to create game nights to remember. And with the company’s new Game Night Book full of funny quips, scoring sheets, and customizable awards and certificates for winners, they’ve made keeping a record of those game nights both fun and easy. In fact, the recording book almost makes it feel like the Becks are a part of the game night themselves.
“I knew there was no way we [could] ever compete with ... the big game companies,” Tauni says. “Except for the one thing we can do that they can’t do is that we can make it personal. And so that’s where Grandpa Beck’s Games came from—we wanted people to feel like they were invited into our family.”
Tricks of the Trade
Since Brent and Tauni founded Grandpa Beck’s Games, the company has primarily been a family-run operation. Their children are all shareholders in the company, and the ones who are actively involved join a call each week to give input on the business. They test the products together, too: this year, immediate and extended members of the Beck family traveled to Brent and Tauni’s home in Washington to smooth out the kinks in games that have long been in the works. With hopes of releasing two games a year, for six days the crew brainstormed themes, played games nonstop, and ate many a freezer meal that Tauni prepared for the occasion. Working as a family can be challenging at times, Tauni says, but it has also been a rewarding experience.
“Sometimes there’s kind of a rumble, and it’s not always ‘love at home’ … while we’re in the process,” Tauni explains. “There’s a lot of back-and-forth trying to figure things out. But one of the ... coolest things is that this started out with Brent and [me], and our kids have been swept along with it. And now, it’s a family success. It’s not a Grandpa Beck success. It’s not a Grandma Beck success. It is a Beck family success. Our children are very much a part of that—it’s not like they’re just off on the side. They’re in the weeds with us. Any little success we have, we celebrate together because they’ve been a part of it.”
Another unique aspect of Grandpa Beck’s Games is that Brent and Tauni have intentionally provided opportunities for mothers to work for their business. Their daughter, who runs social media for Grandpa Beck’s Games, and their daughter-in-law, who is their office manager, work part-time and stay home with their kids. The company has been a blessing for them and other mothers that the Becks employ.
“It has been really a wonderful thing, and something that we highly value, ... that these moms have a way to make some money to help their families out and to enjoy their talents and their skills, but still be home with those cute little kiddos,” Tauni says.
The Beck family has also been vital in developing new games, and so far, all their ideas have come from within their circle. For instance, one of their most recent releases, Reign of Dragoness, is based on a Vietnamese game called Thirteen that Brent and Tauni’s kids learned in high school. The family also makes sure that the games are evergreen—meaning they’re fun to play year after year—and they work and rework them until every element feels right. They take perfecting the games seriously: Brent says some games have been in development for five to eight years, and they’ve never had a game go from an idea to the marketplace in less than 12 months.
“We want to maintain the reputation where every one of our games is something that people can consider a family classic,” he says. “And so we would rather have less games than have more games that are not perfect.”
But the Becks aren’t just committed to getting their products right for their company’s success or for the fun of the game—they’re committed to what those games accomplish, and to who they believe has had a hand in it all.
Because their business gives them opportunities to interact with people from different backgrounds, Tauni says they’ve had many conversations with others about the gospel or faith in God, and she believes Heavenly Father has created those opportunities for them.
“He has so often helped in the sweetest ways. He’s opened so many doors for us that I recognize His hand in,” she says.
In return for the success they’ve had, the Becks love to share their games with others whenever they can—and over the years, the number of games they’ve given away has risen to the thousands. Whether they’re gifting them to missionaries or just to someone in need of a little something, they hope that by doing so they are able to help deepen meaningful relationships. And for them, that’s what makes it all worth it.
“Sometimes I feel like, ‘Well, is this really worthwhile to do this? Are there other things Brent and I should be focusing so much time on?’” Tauni says. “[But] we’ve had so many people call us and tell us that playing these games together has made a big difference in their lives. [When] I hear and I see those things, I think, ‘Heavenly Father is in this, and I love him. He wants families to be stronger and more connected. He wants that. I feel like He’s helped us to do this, to bless other families.’”