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How to produce decent prototype cards?

11 replies [Last post]
Joined: 01/19/2010

I have read many of the posts in this site. But I am still challenged in making my card game into a real prototype for playtesting.

I have designed something decent using MS Publisher. I find MS Publisher easy to use for designing cards. I simply cannot master Photoshop of GIMP.

I would like to turn my Microsoft Publisher file into a decent game prototype of sixty 3.5 inch by 2.5 inch (poker sized) cards. Can anyone recommend how?

I have looked at superiorpod and Guild of Blades and, however they all want me to download some TIFF file or the like. Or should I print on card stock and laminate? How exactly?

Many thanks!
David Donohue

Relexx's picture
Joined: 05/31/2010
Depending on the quality you

Depending on the quality you want.

For one of my games I have used photoshop, For my Village game I have used nanDeck, to the point where I am happy with the quality enough to perhaps consider it probably good enough Free PnP
Sample Village Cards

In fact I believe that I am fluent enough in NanDeck that I would use it for almost all my prototyping (Cards, Boards, Tokens)

magic_user's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
I use nandeck....

I use nandeck for my prototypes. I print them with an inkjet printer on 110 lb cardstock and cut them out with scissors. This is "good enough" for prototyping/playtesting. The cards won't last years or even months, and with heavy play the ink will smear. But they will last long enough to see if your game works, and they are easy to change if you spot and fix problems.

Yes, I sometimes miss the feel of a (real) poker deck. But I don't miss the expense and the hassles of making changes.

Good luck. And let us know which approach you take and how it works for you.


Joined: 01/19/2010

Thanks Jim and Relexx!
Could you recommend any source of card stock? Where do you order from?

Have you ever used card sleeves (to prevent cards sticking together)? Where is a good source to buy these?

Joined: 03/26/2010
Software tools

Hi there

I print in home the cards (in paper) and use sleeves or cover them in plastic to protect them and test the game.

This result in a lot of time and money for my part. I switch to electronic "cards".

I use two software tools: MtG Editor and OCGTN (ogtagon)

The first tool is a card editor based in the style of Magic the Gathering cards; I use the same layout to my cards because don't have much skills with design or art work. If you have you must try Magic Set Editor 2, I use to create other cards because is easier to work with layouts and different designs here.
The requirement for this tool is java in the system.

Once you have the cards then you need to create a new game and the components around it to have OCGTN to interpret and help with the test. This tool is a virtual table that can simulate card games
The requirement for this tools is dotnet ver 4.0

In order to create a game in OCGTN need additional tools: winrar and some XML editor (I use XML Maker)
With the first you can open the "packages" and then edit them with the XML editor.
In the packages you store the images of the cards and then the virtual table do the rest.

I have all the components in my PC, a CD and a USB drive this to install the game in other machines and then test it.

Good game

Joined: 07/11/2010
Publisher Template?

Would a publisher template using thegamecrafters PNG guide help you out? Then you could just remove the background image, (Save As...) to PNG, and you should have some high quality cards. Let me know via PM and I can email you one over.

Clever Mojo Games
Clever Mojo Games's picture
Joined: 04/19/2009
Card Prototyping

My solution is pretty low-tech, but here it is...

I design the prototype cards at 2.373" x 3.373" and print them out on full-sheet label paper. I can get 8 cards per page.

Then I cut out the cards, peel off the label backing, and stick the labels to regular playing cards that I buy at The Dollar Tree (2-Decks for $1).

If the square corners of the cut labels stick out a little from the rounded corners of the playing cards I just put the cards in a stack on their sides and use an emery board to buff off the corners.

The resulting prototype cards are a bit thicker than normal but they shuffle fine and are "good enough" for play testing.

Joined: 01/19/2010
fascinating testing methods

Your methods sound very cool. How much work is it to set up a game in OCTGN? How do you encode rules? Does it support pieces other than cards? Can anyone log in to octgn and play your games? Any URLs to share?

Joined: 03/26/2010

To set up a game in OCTGN I think is not much work, I spend more making the cards and reviewing the mechanics and rules than in OCTGN, but you need to have a good idea about the game (Zones of the game for discard, types of actions you can do with cards or decks, etc) All of this can be implemented (Only thing must be do manually is "put cards on bottom of your deck") . The software simulates a table then much rules must be "enforced" by the players as in a real table. I implement some changes in the original table, to my own benefit 3 different discard piles, 3 different decks and two counters (one for life one for gold) and a removed from the game zone.

You can create tokens or add counters on cards.

You need to know some XML to edit the game, on difficulty I experience editing is with a "key" OCTGN uses to relate the image card with the OCGTN code (rules of the card) but I took the codes of other games (MtG, WoW) implemented and with that I resolve the issue.
And as advice To open the package in OCTGN you need winrar or similar software but when is open make sure the box "always open with..." is NOT checked because then OCTGN don't recognize anymore the file...

In home have two machines (PC, laptop) and can connect with this to try the game. I not have yet try with more than two but is one of my priorities once I finish the review I'm doing to have all the associated files of the game with the last version.

You need my files to be able to play the game (I'm implementing only one in OCTGN at the moment) and I'm changing all the cards in the components deck


MtG Editor
I don't find a site to download this anymore because the original owner of the project got a email from WotC about trademark violation. I can send you the installer if you want it, I replace a lot of the symbols in my cards to not have the same problem (and don't have it for download).

magic set editor 2
I really love this program but don't have the time or skills to make my own layouts. And use the MtG Editor for simplicity and because I create all the cards of one of my games there before know about MSE.

Any other help you need can contact me at:
Skype: royalfa13 (from Mexico)

Joined: 06/03/2010
Actual Playing Cards

I don't remember the name of the site, but there is a website from which you can purchase blank playing cards, or playing cards with a traditional back and a blank front. As I recall, the price was expensive compared to a lot of home-made stuff, but we had a guy do it for Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix and they were excellent. They're designed to print with an ink-jet, but maintain a glossy finish.

Another couple of factors to consider are both under the "Finish" category.

I'll print prototypes on the inkjet, but when I get to the Beta version, I take them to Fedex Office and have them do it on the laser. Insist on having the staff print them behind the counter, rather than do the self service. It costs a little more, but the copier/printer behind the counter is MUCH better than the self service printers they try to shunt you off to.

Second, think about texture. Many games, especially Fantasy Flight, use a very rich linen finish that looks (close up) like woven fabric. This is resume paper. I've never seen it with self-stick backing or in card stock, but I print it with laser on that paper and glue-stick it to a sanded (for better adhesion) playing card.

For two sided cards, I prefer to print on one side and fold-and-glue for a full card. I've never been able to get the front and back to line up enough for my taste, so the fold-and-glue strategy eliminates that problem.

Best of luck!


Joined: 03/26/2010

Hi there Chris

What kind of glue you use?? I did that for a type of cards in my game and do not like the result very much.

Only was for a prototype to test the game but would be good to know.


fecundity's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
dpdonohue wrote: Have you

dpdonohue wrote:

Have you ever used card sleeves (to prevent cards sticking together)? Where is a good source to buy these?

Card sleeves are great for prototypes, because you can make changes or add cards easily. If you go through a process that requires special paper and glue, it will be harder to change the deck to make revisions while playtesting.

You can get sleeves at any hobby game store. If you don't have a local game store, any on-line game or card place should have them.

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