A homegrown gaming company readies its first release: a rowdy card game called Rumpus. 

Like most of us, Ethan Butler grew up playing board games with his family. They were fine for passing rainy days but nothing to get excited about. Then he got older and discovered the world of modern tabletop gaming, filled with games based on quirky concepts and brain-tingling strategies. “I realized, ‘Wow, these things are better than Monopoly and stuff I played as a kid.’”

Butler, who has a background in web design and graphic design, was so intrigued with this that he began designing his own games. Earlier this year, he launched Hot Cardigan Games with business partners Nathan Snyder and John Hayes. Butler heads up game development, Snyder is in charge of marketing and also does graphic design, and Hayes, who owns Comics Paradise Plus in Morgantown and Fairmont, handles the money.

The company is now in the process of launching its first project, a card game called Rumpus. The game started with an image that popped into Butler’s head one day—a pair of 1920s ruffians engaging in bare-knuckle fisticuffs. “All at once, I designed a game around it,” he says. He drafted a set of rules, made up a test deck of cards, and tried it out.

The game works almost like a rudimentary form of poker—except cards are separated into three suits of mustaches, top hats, and old-timey bicycles—and can accommodate three to five players. Each receives three cards and places one face-up on the table. Players then take turns picking “fights” with one of their opponents. Fighters show their hands; the one holding the most of any one symbol wins.

Other players can bet on these fights— wagering one card on whoever they think will win. Each bettor who is correct takes an additional card from the draw pile. Each losing bet forfeits a card.

Butler says games sometimes require lots of tweaking to ensure the rules make sense and the gameplay walks the fine line between challenging and fun. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.” With Rumpus, it just worked.

He started testing the game on friends and family, then on people he didn’t know. “They’ll give you a more honest opinion,” Butler says. Even the brutally honest opinions were overwhelmingly positive. “People were very happy with how simple it was to play.”

The game raised almost $800 over its $8,000 goal in September through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to print the first run of Rumpus decks. Butler says he hopes the game will help the company build a following for future, more expensive endeavors. Hot Cardigan already has more card games in the pipeline, including a strategy-based game called “Stela” and another called “Moshpit,” a parody of heavy metal song titles. Butler says the company hopes to create and release a board game, too.

In the meantime, the guys plan to have Rumpus on sale by November. It will be available on Amazon and at hotcardigan.com.

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