N.J. mom goes from viral video to board game entrepreneur | Elizabeth Wellington

Chardonnay Go is not a drinking game.

But it sure is funny.

We’re talking a raise-your-glass, roll-the-dice kind of board game where players do a litany of silly things — for example, I had to scream at the top of my lungs while reciting the names of three boy bands. (I went with New Edition, Jackson Five, and Menudo.) The goal: to be the first one to make it through the vineyard to the tasting room.

Along the way, your plastic barrel might land in time out (where you have to turn around and face the wall until you can get out). You may find yourself at the Porta Potty (Ack! No hand sanitizer — move back six spaces.) Or you just may be crowned the chick whose job is to keep your pals’ wineglasses filled. (Think wine and a word that rhymes with witch.)

“So it’s kind of a cross between classic board game and dirty charades,” explained the 45-year-old slightly frazzled mom, comedian, wine lover, and now tabletop game creator Dena Blizzard, who soft-launched Chardonnay Go this week and plans to do an official Facebook launch next week. Games are for sale on ChardonnayGo.com and, soon she said, folks will be able to buy them on Amazon. (That fact has Blizzard so excited her stomach hurts.)

“It’s a giant play date for moms who don’t have time for themselves, but they want to laugh, get together, and just have some Chardonnay Go,” Blizzard said.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
The Chardonnay Go board complete with wine barrels, time out space and, ack, the Porta Potty.

You don’t have to drink wine to play Chardonnay Go — sparkling soda, cranberry juice, or beer will also do the trick. Whatever you drink, if you’re playing with people you know, you will have a crazy time — and you’ll have an even better time if you play with people you don’t know (like I did). Through all the challenges, you will definitely make some new friends.

At this point, you might be thinking, “That name — Chardonnay Go — it sounds so familiar.”

Last year, Blizzard’s Chardonnay Go video went seriously viral on Facebook, racking up 24 million views.

In it, Blizzard spoofed Pokémon Go, but instead of digitally catching monsters, Blizzard frantically searches for real glasses of chardonnay in her tree-lined Moorestown neighborhood. Most of the glasses are hiding in bushes. But it gets knee-slappingly funny when Blizzard actually breaks into a woman’s kitchen and pickpockets a dude for his chardonnay. “Some people don’t even know they are playing,” she says.

“The video went around the world three times,” Blizzard said. (Chardonnay Go was picked up in France with English subtitles.) Blizzard’s son, Dean, shot the video; he was 16 at the time. “We shot it quickly, came home, started making dinner, and when we were doing the dishes, my girlfriends started calling: ‘You know, you have 30,000 hits.’ ”

Last fall, Blizzard decided a board game was the next step.

“If women love wine this much, we couldn’t just give them the video,” Blizzard said. “People really underestimate how much women love wine.”

So she began developing the game.

The timing, said Kimberly Mosley, president of the  American Specialty Toy Retailing Association in Chicago, couldn’t be better.

“People are looking for ways to get away from the screens,” Mosley said. “We have noticed that our manufacturers are adding adult offerings because grown-ups need to play, too.”

Especially in this climate.

But it’s technology, said Shari Spiro, CEO and founder of Ad Magic in New Jersey — the same company that manufactures the irreverent adult card game Cards Against Humanity — that has helped the growth of the niche market. Gone are the days, she said, when someone needs a windfall of money for their dream board game to become a reality.

Take Exploding Kittens, another Ad Magic game. Exploding Kittens makers Elan Lee and Shane Small raised $8.8 million on Kickstarter.

Ad Magic is also manufacturing Chardonnay Go. Blizzard made a little more than $20,000 through her Kickstarter campaign and invested somewhere around $40,000 to make it happen. But, Spiro said, Blizzard’s built-in audience is the real deal. Not only was she able to create a community of fans from that Chardonnay Go video, she hosts a Facebook live show, Tipsy Tuesdays, where she sits on a comfy couch, drinking wine and riffing. That attracts anywhere between 40,000 to 60,000 viewers each week.

“She’s just hysterical,” Spiro said of Blizzard. “I think her game will really resonate because moms are busy, they have a million things to do, and sometimes they just want to relax [or even act out] with a glass of wine.”

The road to Chardonnay Go was long if not always funny.

Born and raised in Waterford Township, Blizzard graduated with a degree in biology from Rowan University and earned a master’s degree in gerontology from St. Joseph’s University. The plan was to be a reporter covering senior health issues.

She hated it.

But by the time she finished grad school, she was married and pregnant. She had three babies before she turned 30.

When she turned 30 — reeling from the realization of her own  mortality — she decided to try her hand at comedy. Her husband, Jim, bought her a stand-up comedy class at Comedy Cabaret in Northeast Philadelphia. Blizzard worked in small clubs, and before she knew it, she was traveling to New York, opening for folks like Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric, and Nate Berkus.

“I was a stay-at-home mom by day and a stand-up by night,” Blizzard said. “Those three and half years in warm-up were the basis of the game. To be able to walk into a room of 300 people and immediately get them to feel like they are best friends and having a shared experience.”

Instead of trying to get into clubs that were uninterested in the goings-on of motherhood, she decided to make her own videos about the things that irked her. Some were short, such as the one about finding half-eaten food, drinking glasses, and silverware under her daughter’s bed. Her children kidnap her in another. But Chardonnay Go — so named because the wine had the same number of syllables as Pokémon (Blizzard is actually a merlot girl) — was the first to go bonkers. That was, until August, when the Back to School Rant racked up 93 million hits on the One Funny Mother and Bored Teachers Facebook page.

There are already plans in the works to expand the game: She’s thinking a less-racy church-lady version, a man pack, a millennial pack. Eventually, she hopes to see Chardonnay Go for sale in Target, Urban Outfitters, Barnes & Noble, and any place that sells, well, wine.