August 26, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It all started Christmas 2011. Ten siblings each brought a few old photographs to the Carta family holiday party upon the urging of sister Kathy Peters. Sibling Susan Kruse wasn’t sure what they would use the photos for, but she knew her family could make a game out of them—she just didn’t know it would soon spark a business plan.

“There are 11 kids in our family, and we grew up playing games. I’m sure it kept our parents happy…we were out of their hair,” Kruse says with a smile, then glances at brother Mike Carta as she recounts how her company came into being.

A week after their family Christmas, Kruse invited her brother over for dinner and presented him with an idea. She wanted to turn the game that their family invented with those photos into something that everyone could play.

“Are you out of your mind? You want to start a company to do this?” laughs Carta as he recalls his initial reaction.

“Sure, it’ll be fun!” Kruse had responded.

On New Year’s Eve 2011, Dixie Moo Games, LLC, was born, along with their flagship game, Caption Throw Down. The game is a version of the entertainment that the Carta family had created just the week prior. Carta suggested they name the company in honor of their mother, lovingly nicknamed Dixie Moo. Kruse chose the game’s moniker.

“The best games are the ones where you make your own rules.” – Susan Kruse

Now in its second edition, Caption Throw Down is well on its way to becoming a game cupboard staple. To play, one player chooses a photograph from the stack provided, then displays it for all players to see. Each player then submits a funny, witty, or insightful caption for the photo. Finally, the individual who chose the photo selects their favorite submission. Winners of each round are awarded points, and the game continues as long as players remain engaged.

“The best games are the ones where you make your own rules,” Kruse says. For that reason, Caption Throw Down contains limited instructions and guarantees that no one has to be eliminated. “I didn’t like games where everyone [continues] playing while you had to sit out. It was no fun,” Kruse shares.

In addition to many of Kruse’s personal family photos that have made the cut, Caption Throw Down includes photos picked up at local antique stores and estate sales. “We can tell if we start laughing right away, it’s a keeper,” Carta adds. Dixie Moo Games also encourages home players to submit their own family photographs via the Dixie Moo website, granting permission for the photos to be used in future editions of the game.

While the family comes together to assemble the individual boxes, all game parts are printed separately around the Midwest. Their picture printer is in Lincoln, their labeler in Omaha, and their boxes are created in Ohio.

Company sales have been driven mostly by word of mouth, says Kruse, the sole owner of the company. She has arranged several Caption Throw Down game nights through local bars and churches, which have been a huge success. Additionally, she created a Facebook page (facebook.com/captionthrowdown), where she uploads pictures for anyone to caption.

Asked whether there are more games in the future of Dixie Moo, Kruse smiles and admits that while she does have ideas, she won’t be sharing them—one of the most difficult parts of having such a creative business, she says.

Caption Throw Down is available for sale online at dixiemoogames.com. The game can also be purchased at retail locations listed on the website.