View Full Version : Stamford card company sends game set to Iraq

04-27-04, 06:17 AM
April 22, 2004

Stamford card company sends game set to Iraq

By Asante Green
The (Stamford, Conn.) Advocate

STAMFORD, Conn. — Disturbed by the war still raging in Iraq, employees of U.S. Games Systems Inc. hope to lighten the load of the soldiers fighting there.
The Stamford-based card and game manufacturer is shipping 1,000 sets of Wizard, a card game similar to Hearts.

“The news every day about the war is so depressing. Every day another American soldier dies,” said Stuart Kaplan, 72, chairman and founder of U.S. Games Systems. “The military is under so much stress. They need something to offset their time there.”

Enclosed with each game is a card, signed by all 28 of Kaplan’s employees, thanking the troops for serving their country.

They decided to send Wizard because it is small and easy to carry, and it is the company’s most popular game, Kaplan said.

“We wanted to give them what we thought was the best,” he said.

The advantage of Wizard is that it takes 30 seconds to learn, Kaplan said. The object is to predict the number of tricks, or bids, you will win in each round. Players receive points for being correct; the person with the most points wins.

A Canadian, Ken Fisher, founder of K. Fisher Enterprises Ltd., invented Wizard about 10 years ago. U.S. Games Systems gained world rights nearly three years ago and has sold more than 1 million games. The company publishes 600 decks of other types of cards and more than 3,000 card games.

“I hope our cards bring a little bit of levity and fun in what has to be a horrible situation,” said Bobbie Bensaid, office manager for U.S. Games Systems.

Bensaid’s 23-year old nephew, Blake Toder, of Las Vegas, is stationed in Iraq with the Army’s 11th Airborne Division. She worries about him every day, Bensaid said.

“I don’t like the fact that he is over there. His last message to the family was that it was very hectic,” she said. “It’s a sad day in the history of this country to be in this type of war.”

Though he never faced combat, Kaplan was drafted and served in the Army from 1956 to 1958. A father of five, he prays for the parents and families, Kaplan said.

“Anyone who has a child over there thought this would be a war that would last a couple of months. But it has now turned into something that is probably going to take years,” Kaplan said. “We just hope that they all come home safely.”

Kaplan worked on Wall Street for about 10 years and began collecting tarot cards for their artistry. In 1968, he formed U.S. Games Systems after reproducing an out-of-print deck of tarot cards he picked up in Europe. He sold 200,000 sets in one year.

Today, he sells decks of playing cards with images of the Civil War, famous people, black history, cartoon characters and more. His collection includes gaming tables, card presses and intricate bone boxes carved by Napoleonic prisoners of war. Most of his ideas come from current events, magazines or newspapers, he said.

About eight years ago, the company photographed and profiled about 70 Stamford firefighters and used the information to create decks of cards as a community service. Cards were distributed to stores and handed out to children. The child that collected the most won a bike or savings bond.

“I’m always looking for new ideas,” Kaplan said.