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Easiest way to prototype a card game?

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RogueLieutenant's picture
Joined: 09/25/2013

I'm going to start working on a (mostly) card game.

What's the best way to do it? I don't want to sit and cut out all the cards I need out of card stock.

Do you just order blank cards and draw on them for initial testing?

What's the process with prototyping a card game?

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
1: Buy card sleeves, then

1: Buy card sleeves, then print your cards out on regular paper and cut them out and tuck them into the sleeves. Your cuts can be very imperfect without negative effect.

2: If you want to handwrite them, buy half size index cards (3 x 2.5) I bought a 200 white pack and a 200 mixed color pack for a few bucks.

I had some fun design/testing with the index cards. I told my family that when they draw a blank card, to just fill it in with whatever they wished they had drawn.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Some other options

RogueLieutenant wrote:
What's the best way to do it? I don't want to sit and cut out all the cards I need out of card stock.

I use Adobe Illustrator and get 9 cards to a standard card stock sheet (8.5"x11") that I buy at Staples. But I still need to cut the cards. I not too long bought a 5-in-1 paper cutter which helps really nice when cutting and cornering of cards also. It's not perfect - but MUCH, MUCH better than using scissors with paper! I've already cut like over 600 cards... (8th Prototype)

(Sorry it's a Canadian link ... Sometime's it doesn't cut 100% straight but it suits my needs)

You can also buy BLANK white cards from The Game Crafter. They are Poker size and have rounded corners. I have been thinking about buying some of those for my next game (Prototype)...

100-999 cards is $0.04 each... That is pretty cheap. As they say great for "Prototyping"...

P.S.: If you are going to go down the home print & cut route, I really would suggest you buy a paper cutter (if you plan on cutting many cards)!

Joined: 07/12/2012
agree with Corsaire

Get some card sleeves and use those.

You may also want to look into nanDECK (or some other software) to create/edit the cards quickly.

danibishop's picture
Joined: 09/30/2013
Mixed solution

Any software solution is usually OK but it is not as fast as Write & Play for early prototypes. As @corsaire sais, both sleeving paper cards (with a standard poker card as back, for thickness and uniform back) and index cards are great. After some prototypes with both steps (1st index cards, 2nd paper print) I decided to create a basic template for 2.5" x 3.5" blank cards in a 3 x 3 grid in a standard DIN-A4 for home printing. You can print a lot of these or just photocopy one to have a stack of simple blank cards for prototyping.

I recommend having a simple template that you can cut with cutter or scissors. As you were asking for "the easiest" I think this is a good compromise between easy and practical, because index cards can be pretty difficult to shuffle and tend to get scratches and folds. With blank paper cards in sleeves yo get the best of both solutions: durability and easy handling of sleeved cards and fast and clean creation/modifications of index cards. This, also, allows you to think about the future design of the cards when prototyping, because index cards don't have same size or aspect of poker sized cards.

matthewarnold's picture
Joined: 07/24/2010
Printable clean-edge business cards

Do a Google search for printable clean-edge business cards. That's what I use. The clean edge is key to this, because perforated cards don't work. When I want to go the extra step, I use a photographer's corner-cutting punch to round the corners.

trollitc's picture
Joined: 08/02/2012
Avery has some pretty decent

Avery has some pretty decent templates for business card sized cards if you don't mind using smaller cards.

I'd also suggest typing up a few basic templates in Word or what have you. Print those out and sleeve them with card sleeves that have either a standard deck of cards in them, or old magic cards, or what have you.

Sleeving them with other cards keeps them anonymous when face down, and gives them the feel of real cards.

Joined: 10/09/2013
Sleeves with professional cards and paper inserts

Corsaire wrote:
1: Buy card sleeves, then print your cards out on regular paper and cut them out and tuck them into the sleeves. Your cuts can be very imperfect without negative effect.

Take this 1 step further and use some commons from a card game (I use my old Magic cards, but a few decks of standard playing cards would also be great) and put them in the sleeves and then slip the cut paper in the front of the card.
This gives you professional backs (although not matched to your game/theme), no worry about transparency or marked cards, and perfect thickness for shuffling.

If you mean software, I am using indesign and data merge so I can keep all my card text in a spreadsheet and spit out the deck from a template really fast. Carraige returns get lost in the data merge so you have to make a special string that you can later find and replace with ^p, but it works gread for really quick cards, and that text is still safely in the spreadsheet so when you make a much prettier card template for late prototypes you can spit them out just as easily.
I do realize that indesign is stupid pricey, so it might not be an option. nanDeck was suggested and that might work great for you if you have a technical mind that can manage some scripting.

Joined: 06/01/2013
Sleeves and index cards

So far I have been using index cards cut in half and card sleeves. Two of the little prototypes I quickly made are just pencil writings on index cards. One (the one I am working on with my 7 yr old daughter) we just used images on the web she liked to print out on cardstock and sleeved them.

Ristora's picture
Joined: 11/05/2013


When I've prototyped cards for a game I used a Word document with a table of an appropriate size. I then bring the file to the University in my town where there is a print shop that offers cardstock at 8.5x11 and 11x17. Turn around time is usually 30 minutes. I then use a $1 heavy duty metal ruler and a $10 box cutter to separate the cards on my cutting table, which is just a dismembered table top sitting on my coffee table :)

I find this to be a nice balance of cost and quality for testing out a game.

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