CYstarters Spotlight Story: CNB Games

By Gracen Kostelecky, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

This story is part of a series featuring each of the fifteen startups in the CYstarters 2018 summer cohort. Each team has the opportunity to focus on their startup or business idea while receiving $6,500 or up to $13,000, along with mentorship, accountability, and educational sessions on how to build a business.

Alexander, Hyla, and Schwarz share about their business, CNB Games to a community of supporters at the CYstarters’ 2018 Demo Day event held at ISU Research Park, Core Facility on August 1, 2018

Get to Know: Cody Alexander, Nick Hyla, and Ben Schwarz

Cody Alexander
 Senior at Iowa State University, studying industrial design
Melcher-Dallas, Iowa

Nick Hyla
 Senior at Iowa State University, studying industrial design
Hometown: Lake Villa, Illinois

Ben Schwarz
 Senior at Iowa State University, studying industrial design
Lisle, Illinois

Video games are at an all-time high in popularity. Platforms like Twitch and eSports have contributed significantly to the recent success of video games, but did you know that board games are outperforming digital video games? The size of the board game market has become a billion dollar industry and has risen for seven consecutive years according to the market research firm ICv2.

Specifically, table top games like Dungeons and Dragons are gaining popularity as more and more people are making a conscious effort to avoid staring at a screen, and are instead choosing to interact with friends face-to-face.

Unique to Dungeons and Dragons are dungeon masters. What is a dungeon master? These are Dungeon and Dragon aficionados, who organize, and are in charge of the details and challenges of given adventures. For most dungeon masters, it takes up to eight hours setting up one game or story. Many players are looking for a more streamlined approach to setting up a game, and now there is a solution – CNB Games.


What is the origin of CNB Games?

We all play Dungeons and Dragons quite a bit and spent a lot of time setting up our games. Some people really enjoy this, but most don’t. We thought there had to be a better way to get maps, stories, and miniatures instead of just scouring the internet and visiting local gaming stores. That is where the idea of an all-in-one subscription box came to life. We write the stories, design the maps, and provide the miniatures, all in a monthly subscription box.

In addition to solving a real world problem, we all needed internship credit to graduate in our program. We were able to leverage our time in CYstarters as internship credit, which really pushed us from just having a cool idea, to actually turning it into a business.


Who are your customers?

The obvious answer is individuals who play Dungeons and Dragons, or even individuals who aren’t currently playing, but are looking for a game that they can play with their friends. We have specifically identified two types of players. First, we are going to create a product for people who are just getting into Dungeons and Dragons, those who just need the basics to get started, and might not have enough experience to write their own stories or create their own maps. We will provide an “intro” box to help jump start new players into the Dungeons and Dragons world.

The second group is advanced players who have been playing a long time but don’t want to spend the time writing stories and seting up the game. We will have a unique box subscription for them with more advanced stories, maps, and miniatures.

CNB Games subscription box, which includes maps, stories, and miniatures.

What are some challenges you have faced?

How to scale efficiently. We are exploring using molds instead of 3D printing the miniatures. We also are possibly going to use decorative chips that represent miniatures, instead of having to print multiple miniatures per box, which is very time consuming.

Although board games are increasing in popularity, table top role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons are still a foreign concept to many people. We have to do a lot of explaining and educating indivuduals who are not familiar with the game, but once they understand it, then they understand how our product fits in the industry.


Our production goal is to figure out a more cost effective way to create our miniatures. Once we get our production costs down, then we can truly start making solid profits on each of our subscription boxes. Luckily, we still have another year of school that we can keep working on our manufcaturing and marketing. By the time we graduate, we aim to have a profitable business.


How can others help you?

We are looking for someone who has experience in manufacturing and molding. Any advice in the area of manufacturing would be very beneficial.


How should people get a hold of you if interested?

You can find us at or email us at