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As a way of saying Thank You for playtesting their upcoming release "Over a Barrel," Bellwether games sent us a copy of Drop Site, their subtly deep card game that won the Premio Archimede 2010 Carta Mundi Special Prize for Best Card Game.
Admittedly, I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to card games. I've been forced into more than my fair share of poker games, Euchre games, etc. etc. So, when I see a deck of cards, I want something to blow me away or have some kind of subtle complexity that makes me border on analysis paralysis. I've taken quite a shining to games like Lost Cities, For Sale, Get Bit, and No Thanks.
Approaching Drop Site with a little bit of trepidation, I examined the small sized box. I liked the art style (done by Paolo Vallerga); minimalistic, with each component of the card having a purpose. Upon opening the box, I removed the rule sheet, a singular page with notes on front and back, and saw a non-descript deck of 52 cards staring back at me. No chips to take care of, no game board upon which to set your cards. The 52 cards stared up at me, almost mockingly. "This is what you get... this is all you'll need" they seemed to say.
Upon my first play, I was a little underwhelmed to say the least. I'm a stickler for comprehensive rulebooks and though the one included from Bellwether is very nice, it glossed over a few points that loophole minded players like me will bring to the forefront (e.g. do you score the bottom card of the drop site or do you score the cards on top of it?). Taking to BGG and watching pertinent videos also didn't seem to help. Luckily the guys from Bellwether are active Twitter users and answered all the questions I posed to them in a very timely fashion. A+ for customer service guys.
As I started to play for the 2nd and 3rd (and 4th...) times, the game grew on me more and more. There's a great press your luck mechanic in this game that you can never really predict 100% of the time. Maybe you'll hold on to two of the same value cards, hoping to place one in your debt and then drop another one as the final site. Maybe you'll throw a wrench into your opponent's carefully laid plans and play drop site after drop site to accelerate the end of the round. Keep in mind however, that all the other players can do this too, so balance is a key factor.
As I said, gameplay in Drop Site is relatively simple. Shuffle up the deck of 52 cards, deal out 5 to each player, then put the deck on the table and flip over the top card, this card is the first "drop site"
On a player's subsequent turn(s), he/she may take 1 of 3 actions:
- Place a card with a lower number on a drop site (ex: a 10 may be played on a 12)
- Start a new drop site by placing another card of any number next to the previous drop site. Zeros have special rules, but you'll have to buy the game to see what those are
- Place a card face down into your "debt," which is simply a collection of cards off of which you are trying to score.
Play ends when a certain number of drop sites are played (5 in a 2P game) or the last card is drawn from the deck. Scoring is then based on whether or not you have a card in your debt that matches the topmost card showing on a drop site. For example, if you have a 12 in your debt and a 12 is showing on one of the drop sites you will gain 7 points. Conversely, every card you have in your debt that is NOT showing on a drop site will set you back -2 points. Play is generally to 100, but can be shortened to 50 if you want something more light-hearted or are pressed for time. If you're anything like my fiancee, however, you'll wipe the floor with your opponent (*cough me *cough) and race to 100 points within 5 or 6 turns.
At 10$ (plus S&H), Drop Site is an absolute steal. It will appeal to non-gamers and is a very nice filler for gamers looking for something to do while other in their game group are setting up another game (say... "Over a Barrel" for instance). If you're someone who has given this game a try and dismissed it, I implore you to give it another chance. I did and am quite glad; and, while Lost Cities remains King of my card gaming hierarchy, Drop Site has become a more than worthy prince.
Drop Site Overall Score: 7/10