Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How to Create Custom Cards for Your Game Prototype

I create quite a few prototypes of card games and board games of my own design. I am often making custom cards for these prototypes. Here is a simple rundown of how you can create custom cards for your own game prototypes, easily and economically.

The first thing you'll need to do is create your custom cards in a digital format. I use a handy template that I created for Microsoft Word. It helps me create standard-sized cards and print them nine to a sheet of paper. You can create your own template fairly easily, or you can download mine here.

Sample cards from the prototype of Terra Machina

When creating cards for a prototype, I like to keep things simple. I use a simple layout with no card art. I will, however, use a stylized font for card titles, and perhaps add a colored border to add a little bit of visual appeal.

Once you have your cards ready, you'll need to print them out. You don't need a high quality printer for prototype cards. Any consumer grade inkjet will be fine. Print your cards on regular copy paper. I used to print to card stock, but the method I use now doesn't require that and is more economical.

Terra Machina cards printed with my home Epson printer.

Next, you'll need to cut out your cards. Scissors work fine, but I love my Westcott paper cutter. It saves a lot of time. They are also very affordable. Definitely worth the investment if you'll be making a lot of cards.

You will need two more products to finish your cards: ordinary playing cards, and card sleeves.

It shouldn't be hard to find a deck of playing cards for about a $1. A word of advise, though, if you expect to do a lot of prototyping, buy a box of twelve or more identical decks, that way you can be sure that cards which need to share the same back will. If you have different kinds of cards that perform separate functions in your game, you might consider buying another few decks with a different back. This allows you to create two or more decks of cards for your game that can be easily told apart without seeing the card faces.

I have a dozen of these Streamline poker decks in both red and blue.

You can buy quality card sleeves from several different companies, but I like to use the "Penny Sleeves" from Ultra Pro. They're called penny sleeves because you can get 100 sleeves for $1. They aren't the best quality, but they're more than adequate for prototyping.

After your cards are designed, printed, and cut, simply insert each of you paper cards into a sleeve along with an ordinary playing card. This produces a prototype card that is durable and has the feel of a genuine playing card. As you playtest your game, if you decide to make changes to any of your cards, all you need to do is print out the updated versions and swap them out with the originals in the sleeves.

One printed card, one ordinary card, and one sleeve. Together they make a single custom card.

That's it! I hope this brief tutorial was helpful. Have fun with your board game and card game prototyping and playtesting!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tips! I've personally used this method and it works great!