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Prototyping Cards

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nswoll
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After reading a recent thread, I think some people might appreciate this.
Here's some tips for quick card prototyping:

1. Use excel with a data merge system to make your cards.

I use Cardmaker (https://www.nhmk.com/tools.php)

I print cards even for the first playtest. I do this because a.) I type faster than I can write and b.) It's much faster to make changes later
Using an excel data merge program means you can change multiple cards very quickly and easily.

2. Use the cheapest printer paper you can find and sleeve your cards.

This is MUCH cheaper than label stickers or cardstock. Especially if you have to change anything. Plus if you scrap the game you can just reuse the sleeves.
I buy card decks from goodwill or the dollar store for a dollar to use as backers, but I've also played without backers in the sleeves and it works ok. (I know many people just use MTG commons and lands which you can acquire very cheaply)

3. Make sure your program doesn't leave spaces in between cards on a sheet because that's just extra cuts.

Cardmaker will do a 3x3 grid of poker size cards on 1 sheet of paper with no spaces. This is even easier with a paper cutter, but I don't mind using scissors myself.

Good luck and happy prototyping!

Jay103
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Good advice.. I used nandeck

Good advice.. I used nandeck for my stuff, and could get the cards to print into files I could import directly into The Game Crafter's interface to order a deck..

And there's nothing quite like having a real deck, once your game is somewhat stable!

But otherwise yeah, printer and sleeves are a great way to go.

Rick-Holzgrafe
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That's how I do it,

That's how I do it, too.

Here's an unabashed plug: I am the author of Multideck, a Macintosh app that does what you are talking about: merges a spreadsheet into a card template to quickly create decks of cards. If you own a Mac and you're interested, please check it out. You can use it to make PnP decks, art for online print-on-demand services like The Game Crafter, and for online gaming platforms like Tabletop Simulator.

Thanks!

I Will Never Gr...
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I really need to learn how to

I really need to learn how to use Datamerge ..

nswoll
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Cardmaker

With the program I use (https://www.nhmk.com/tools.php) Cardmaker, it's a pretty simple process.

I type everything in excel, convert to .csv, open cardmaker, and select the reference file.

Then I just create areas on the card and link them to the columns on my csv.

The Game Crafter
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Component.Studio

Check out https://component.studio

Not only will it help you make your cards quickly and easily, but it will allow you to export your cards to images, PDFs, Tabletop Simulator, and The Game Crafter.

If you use code Xmas2020 before December 25th you'll get 2 months free access.

questccg
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I prefer the HARD way TBH...

I Will Never Grow Up Gaming wrote:
I really need to learn how to use Datamerge...

Hmm... I'm not sure I want any automated tools to create my digital assets. First of all, I have a PC that NEVER goes "online". It's an older Win XP CPU with Adobe Photoshop 2nd Edition. Not quite the first version but not as fancy as the latest one.

Second of all, I don't rely on that computer to keep a backup of my FILES. My other PC is a laptop and on it I only store TXT and XLS files for my different projects which can be hooked up to an external drive (1TB data).

This way I have backups and files not available via the NET on an external device that gets plugged-in when my Laptop is NOT connected.

It's not like I am paranoid or anything. I'm just protecting my files. And in a day in age where Time-To-Market is important ... Having only HALF of the information needed for one project ... Is a BIG hindrance to anyone looking through my PC.

So I would never OPT for a "Datamerge" solution because it's impossible to do with one (1) PC not even plugged into any NETWORK. I can waste 2 or more hours tweaking with files... I don't really care it if takes more time. And usually I'll land up with TGC files on a PC and USB Key once the game is ready to go to the level of a "professional prototype".

Before then it's just AIs and PSDs on my old XP PC. And I print them off to a connected Laser Printer (which is old as all heck ... But still works in Win XP)!!!

Being cautious ... is being smart TBH. And to be real honest, my Laptop has a mind of it's own. It runs virus scans in background during 7 hours and then notifies me that ALL is OKAY! It also runs containment for a few of my programs ... Again as precautions. But it also JAMS for 5 minutes ever like 6 hours or so... Weird I know. Before I used to RE-BOOT the Laptop... Now I realize just walking away and returning in 5 minutes, the Laptop is usually back to normal.

I've tried a "chkdsk" to see if it was physical damage to my HD ... Nope. The Laptop was DEAD about 6 months ago... Keep shutting down every 5 minutes. Had to do a "Factory Reset" to recover the poor PC.

So it's temperamental ... It still works great with a few "kinks"! lol

It's one tough SOB!!!

I Will Never Gr...
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Datamerge does not require internet though ..

questccg wrote:
I Will Never Grow Up Gaming wrote:
I really need to learn how to use Datamerge...

Hmm... I'm not sure I want any automated tools to create my digital assets. First of all, (snipped content)

It's not like I am paranoid or anything. I'm just protecting my files. And in a day in age where Time-To-Market is important ... Having only HALF of the information needed for one project ... Is a BIG hindrance to anyone looking through my PC.

So I would never OPT for a "Datamerge" solution because it's impossible to do with one (1) PC not even plugged into any NETWORK.

Datamerge does not require being connected to any network though.

What it is is taking data from an excel sheet (easily changed and updated as you make modifications to stats, for example) and merges them in to specific fields in (as an example) Adobe InDesign.

You create an InDesign file with your cards. Instead of entering all of the information manually every time you make a change to your stats, or even images, you enter everything as a data field. Then, you create your excel file and save it as a delineated .csv or .txt file and "merge" it with your InDesign file.

This way, instead of making tedious changes to your individual cards, you can make simple text based changes in a spreadsheet and just 'merge' them to update your cards.

No network required.

It's supposedly quite easy, I've just never learned how to do it and instead I have wasted insane amounts of time doing manual updates to individual cards, and to make things worse I usually don't even put them in InDesign (I use the free Scribus alternative to Indesign, but it works more or less the same) but rather I tend to create them in PaintShopPro or Photoshop, causing me even more headaches.

questccg
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I think you don't know why a Network IS required...

I Will Never Grow Up Gaming wrote:
No network required.

Of course if HALF your files are on ONE (1) Computer and the OTHER HALF of your your files on a SECOND (2) Computer... How are you going to Datamerge WITHOUT a "Network"???

That's the definition of "Networking"...! Is it not???

Like I said: One PC never goes on the Internet. It is STANDALONE. The other PC doesn't have all the files, only the design files (your TXT and XLS files only)...

If Photoshop and Illutrator are on the PC that never goes to the Internet... Tell me HOW are you supposed to DATAMERGE WITHOUT "Networking"???

I Will Never Gr...
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questccg wrote:I Will Never

questccg wrote:
I Will Never Grow Up Gaming wrote:
No network required.

Of course if HALF your files are on ONE (1) Computer and the OTHER HALF of your your files on a SECOND (2) Computer... How are you going to Datamerge WITHOUT a "Network"???

That's the definition of "Networking"...! Is it not???

Like I said: One PC never goes on the Internet. It is STANDALONE. The other PC doesn't have all the files, only the design files (your TXT and XLS files only)...

If Photoshop and Illutrator are on the PC that never goes to the Internet... Tell me HOW are you supposed to DATAMERGE WITHOUT "Networking"???

USB drives work wonderfully.

questccg
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Very clever!

I Will Never Grow Up Gaming wrote:
...USB drives work wonderfully.

Hmm... That's an interesting option. Do all the work OFF-LINE. And use the USB Key as a method to transfer the content from one PC to another... Never looked at it that way!

James (@IWNGUG) ... That could be very cool. I would need to use one of those tools... There is also a TOOL called "Magic Set Editor" (MSE). This allows you to create sets of Magic: the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh! and VS System collectible cards. But there is a Template Library that can allow you to create your OWN cards (in their own respective format).

Anyways it seems like about 6 months ago we had the EXACT same discussion about "automation"... Anyhow now that I am reminded about MSE... I'm sure we've covered this topic ad-nauseam.

Note #1: I don't think it will work. The OLD computer is well... Too old. All these NEW programs won't work in the old windows environment. So I would have to use my main PC and that could be open to a breach of some kind.

Anyways I don't mind doing things manually when needed. But thanks for the tip!

And yeah sure I could use the USB to copy files around. That's not what I thought was clever. Instead only connecting the two sources with a USB is what I thought clever...

For me it probably won't work. But thanks for the advice!

pelle
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Not sure what questccg is

Not sure what questccg is saying. I use datamerge for my cards all the time, fully offline, and since everyone else is plugging their tools, here is mine:
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/299033
(Free, open source, runs on Windows, OSX, Linux, using standard CSV and SVG files, integrated into Inkscape that is also free and open source, and does not in any way require a network.)

To keep an old XP installation around, VirtualBox is a wonderful free tool. You can run an instance with networking completely disabled if you want to (because of the lack of security patches). There is no reason I can think of to keep some old crumbling physical computer around just to run an old operating system. WINE is also great for running older (and some newer) Windows software without needing some specific version of Windows installed.

RANT: Not a fan of cloud services in general. I want all my tools and files right here where I can see them, keep backups, version manage, use whatever version I want to, on whatever computer I want to run it on. Not that I am afraid of anyone stealing my work (haha) but I do not want to lose anything, or be forced to update to something that makes my old projects break. Considering that my projects can easily span decades I simply do not trust a cloud service to be around, unchanged. I also avoid to rely on applications that are tied to app-stores of any kind and that can be subject to auto-updates or locked because of DRM or/and online registration. If I am not confident that I can keep a copy of a tool running (offline) for however long I live I will look for some other tool to use instead. Preferably tools that run in many different operating systems, to avoid things like Apple's forced 64-bit update that killed many games I purchased in the last 10+ years for that platform (no longer using OSX because of that).

questccg
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Not sure I understood correctly either...

pelle wrote:
Not sure what questccg is saying. I use datamerge for my cards all the time, fully offline...

For one thing, I think my cards are too complex. Like for "Crystal Heroes" (CH), I have an Attack Pattern which varies per Class of Tile. Then I have a PATH (with STATs and choices), then I have a Gradient per House... The major pain points are the Attack Pattern and the PATH.

pelle wrote:
To keep an old XP installation around, VirtualBox is a wonderful free tool. You can run an instance with networking completely disabled if you want to (because of the lack of security patches). There is no reason I can think of to keep some old crumbling physical computer around just to run an old operating system. WINE is also great for running older (and some newer) Windows software without needing some specific version of Windows installed.

Okay ... But can you RUN Win XP in a VirtualBox with the hardware of a Win 10 PC??? I don't think so... So therefore I could not "virtualize" my OLD XP Box onto a Win 8.1 or Win 10 PC. Like how does Win XP know you are installing Windows with Drivers from a Win 10 (or 8.1) system and find these drivers in Win XP?! What you said doesn't make sense to me...

Anyhow ... I'm glad it all works for you. I'm preferring the MANUAL EDITS every 2 to 3 months (or so). I don't pump out new cards all the time. Only once my playtests are conclusive or that I have "features" which I have had time to consider carefully such that I decide to implement them.

Note #1: I have a VirtualBox on my Win 10 Laptop. It's a shell OS on a Microsoft Signature PC. The VirtualBox in the actual PC because the shell OS is CLEAN (ergo the Signature PC). If you've never heard of a MS Signature PC, well they don't sell them anymore. But there was a time Microsoft was selling PCs and Laptops that had 0 BLOATWARE. No extras... Only the "core" Win 10 with Defender. No need for other software to protect the OS.

So I can understand a Win 10 running a VBox 8.1, 8.2 or 10.0.

But what I can't understand is a VBox on a Win 10 with drivers for a Win XP virtualized. I don't get how that works. How does the XP know the right drivers for hardware that never existed during it's inception??? (The host of the VBox which is a Win 10 or Win 8.x)

pelle
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Questccg, VirtualBox is a

Questccg, VirtualBox is a virtual machine. The guest OS (XP in this case) running inside of the virtual machine only sees that virtual hardware. The drivers bundled with XP is enough to get almost everything working, and then you can optionally install VirtualBox Guest Add-Ons to get special drivers to handle things like changing the size of the virtual screen window (XP running inside of the virtual machine will think that you just unplugged your monitor and plugged in one with a different size, or something like that).

When everything works as it should (and for me that seems to be the case with XP) it does not matter what hardware you have (as long as it is powerful enough) or what Host OS you run.

Networking is also completely virtual. You can even set up a virtual network between different virtual machines, that is not connected to the outside world at all. Or you can run a network only between virtual XP and the host Windows 10, again without connecting it to the outside real network at all. Or if you want to you can seamlessly connect the virtual network of the virtual machine to the real network card (although XP will still believe it is using some simulated old virtual network card it has drivers for).

I have had the same virtual Windows XP machine for many years, running on at least 5 different real computers, running different host operating systems. XP has no idea I move it around, as it only sees its own virtual environment, with whatever CPU I have configured it to believe it uses etc. The installed games and applications just keep running without having to know anything about drivers or changes to real hardware in many years.

"For one thing, I think my cards are too complex. Like for "Crystal Heroes" (CH), I have an Attack Pattern which varies per Class of Tile. Then I have a PATH (with STATs and choices), then I have a Gradient per House... The major pain points are the Attack Pattern and the PATH."

That is EXACTLY the kind of complexity that I manage using my extension. I can combine multiple templates to make the same card, or toggle parts of a template, change attributes etc, based on text in the spreadsheet cell. I do not want to have to deal with that complexity (and the risk of forgetting to change something somewhere when updating many cards) so that is why I started developing a tool to do that. But if manual layout works better for you I am not going to try to convince you you are wrong. :)

Juzek
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I use the card sleeve method,

I use the card sleeve method, but all my cards and assets are kept in google slides. You can change the slide size to be a poker card size, and it keeps it safe and backed up. Best things are that Google keeps track of old versions, I can work from any computer or my phone, and I can use cloud print remotely.

Not sure what everyone is concerned about the cloud. Seems safer than my own computer. Just keep a unique complex password and change it every so often

Jay103
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Juzek wrote:Not sure what

Juzek wrote:
Not sure what everyone is concerned about the cloud. Seems safer than my own computer. Just keep a unique complex password and change it every so often

And bear in mind that if you keep information in a gmail draft as a way to put it on the cloud, hitting "delete" by accident will permanently remove that information.. it doesn't go into the Trash folder.

Grr.

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