How to Create Inexpensive Cards for Playtesting

March 19, 2014 Leave your thoughts
There's a Reason Why It's Called a Prototype
There's a Reason Why It's Called a Prototype

When creating a game, the last thing that should prevent you from prototyping are the materials you use to create them. Oftentimes, we use little things (in this case, the question of what materials to use) as an excuse to slow or even halt the development process. Printing or casting materials that you might not even use later on down the line can be expensive and time consuming–more reason to save this for later in the development cycle.

At least for prototyping card games or games with cards, cost and your choice of materials shouldn’t be a problem.

Put That Printer to Use

To create inexpensive cards for playtesting, simply print out your design on regular printing paper and cut them out. If you want something a bit sturdier, glue the blank side of the printed sheet to another sheet of paper. This was the process I went with for with Hackronyms. I ended up designing the back sheet to provide a decent looking back for the cards.

If you don’t have a printer, there are many places you can probably print out your cards. I chose to print them at a nearby copy center, but public libraries in your neighborhood might be cheaper. To further decrease costs, cards printed in this manner can even be in black and white (so long as color is not an integral aspect of the game).

Although I’ve had to glue some of my cards back together, they have lasted me numerous play sessions and were less than $5 to print.

Index It

Even simpler, just use index cards. Draw or print out what you want on each card and use these to playtest with. The benefit of doing this is that you can more easily replace old cards and make changes to new ones.

I’ve seen many games being playtested in this manner.

For me, although I do think color helped others realize how serious I was about developing this game, this method could still be quite useful for early-stage development. I’ve also used it to block out different gameplay ideas.

Using Playing Cards

My friend George Skleres has another suggestion if you have a bit more resources. He has suggested getting as many playing cards as needed and large sheets of sticker paper. Simply print the design of your cards on the sticker paper then apply these larger stickers to the front face of the playing cards. You will have the sturdiness of the playing cards with the uniqueness of your card design.

Edit: Other Prototype Suggestions

I recently read Michael Iachini guest post on Stonemaier Game’s blog. Michael lists all of these methods and more. Although the post is specifically written about how to generate playable games for reviewers, everything before “Print on Demand” should be useful to anyone wanting to start prototyping with cards.

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