By STEVEN NALLEY
Dennis Hoyle’s first step toward creating an award-winning card game was prayer.
Hoyle, who recently earned his master’s degree in business from Mississippi State University, was a senior there at the time. Hoyle said he has been playing card and board games his whole life. He has even created a few games himself over the years, but he only started looking at them as a career as a senior. He started a blog with the intent to come up with one card game concept every week, he said, but that blog only lasted about three or four weeks when. After struggling to update the blog one morning, he came up with his best idea yet.
“I was praying about it, just asking God for help, and it just came together,” Hoyle said. “When my wife and I sat down to play it, everything seemed to be right. That was really the point where I thought I had something.”
Now, MSU will host a release party for that card game, called Drop Site, at the McCool Hall Atrium from 12-2 p.m. Thursday.
The event is free and open to the public, with refreshments available. Visitors will have the opportunity to meet Hoyle, play Drop Site and buy their own copies of the game.
In Drop Site, competitors play cards face up to adjust the values of drop sites or create new ones on the playing field to match the values of cards they play face down. Once the playing field has a certain amount of drop sites, each player earns points based on how many face-down cards match drop sites, and a new round begins. The first player to 100 points wins.
Hoyle said his game was heavily influenced by Lost Cities, which is both a card game and a board game. Both formats require players to place cards of ever-increasing value in a pile, he said, and Drop Site inverts that.
“That’s a really good structure to build the game around,” Hoyle said. “You’re taking risks because you can only go so high and you want to have as many cards as possible. I took that mechanic and applied it to ‘Drop Site,’ where the cards in the middle can only decrease.”
The game’s theme is humanitarian aid, and the cards depict boxes of supplies parachuting from the sky. He said the main reason he chose the theme was because it mirrored the card-dropping feel of the game.
“When I teach people to play, I tell them, ‘There’s a sense of urgency that you feel, and that sense of urgency relates to the urgency you might feel when you’re trying to get help to people very quickly,’” Hoyle said. “It resembles, in an abstract way, at least in my mind, aid shipments being dropped to the ground. You have to play cards that are lower in value, which in my mind relates to dropping from the sky. You can go down, but you can’t go back up.”
Hoyle also said he wanted his game to have a unique and positive theme.
“I have never seen a game where you play to bring aid to people,” Hoyle said. “There are plenty of games about warfare, so this is kind of an antithesis to that.”
In 2010, Hoyle and Drop Site earned the Cartamundi special prize for best card game at the Premio Archimede, an international competition in Venice, Italy, for creators of board and card games who have never had their work published before. As part of the prize, Cartamundi, a card company based in Dallas, is publishing 1,000 copies of Drop Site for Hoyle to sell, with new card designs by Italian artist Scribabs di Paolo Vallerga.
Hoyle said he learned about Premio Archimede not long after designing Drop Site, finding it to be a well-known event among the few game design competitions in existence. He was surprised to win, he said, but he knew that if he could, it would open career opportunities for him in the gaming world.
“I had a good chance because there are fewer card games entered, and there are really good awards for the winner,” Hoyle said. “It entered my mind at this time to start a board game business, so I thought it would be good to win an award to help start a business, which it has been.”
Hoyle and one of his fellow game designers, James Tanner, have founded Bellwether Games, with a second card game and two board games in the works. Hoyle said he couldn’t have gotten as far as he has without help from the friends at MSU who test his games, including his wife, and that’s one of the reasons he is currently only selling his game at Thursday’s event and online at www.bellwethergames.com .
“Basically, I want to have a connection to people who are buying my game,” Hoyle said. “I want them to come to our website and see what other things we’re offering.”