Step 10: Pretty up your Prototype: Stage 2 – Tools and Supplies part 1

Besides a computer, a game designer is going to need a few more tools to help make everything easier.  This post got too big so I separated it into two smaller posts (but they’re both still kind of big!).

Cue Cards: Perfect for making your first prototype.  They’re thick enough to ensure you can’t see too much through them.

card sleevesCard Sleeves: We always have a huge supply of card sleeves at the ready.  Card sleeves allow you to slide your prototype card into it and since they have an opaque backing, you cannot see through them at all. Also they make shuffling really easy!  You can buy these at a hobby or game store (wherever they sell collectible card games). It’s good to have a selection of different colours in case you make a game that has different decks of cards in it. (tip: make sure you print cards to fit inside your sleeves.  Sounds obvious – but there are a couple different sizes of card sleeves, so just make sure you know which size you have before you print your prototype!  (In case it didn’t sound obvious, this is coming from a man who learned this the hard way!)

Card Boxes: Card boxes help keep our games separate and tidy.  It’s not mandatory of course, but if you’re transporting your games all over the place (or even when shipping to a publisher), some sort of card box is handy.  They also come in different colours which helps keep different deck distinguishable even before you open the box.

Colour Laser Printer: Both Sen and I each have a colour laser printer which is pretty mandatory if you plan on designing a lot of games.  Inkjets cost too much and you’re replacing cartridges too often, but lasers give great quality for clipart based printing.

Cardstock: We always print on a thicker card stock as that gives the cards some weight and prevents the cards or even the board from being disrupted by a slight breeze. We also have a supply of multi-coloured cardstock as that helps distinguish between different decks of cards in the same game more easily.  For our game, But Wait, There’s More, the cards are business card sized, for which there are no card sleeves.  Since there isn’t much shuffling in the game, we decided to print on multi-coloured cardstock.  There are 4 different types of cards and each one has a different colour, which makes them easier to sort and easier for players to identify.

Paper Cutter: You are going to be doing a lot of printing and a lot of cutting!  Get a decent paper cutter otherwise you’ll go insane cutting cards with an X-acto knife!  I prefer the sliding paper cutter as opposed to the old fashioned long-arm cutter as the long-arm cutter can often cause paper to be mis-aligned.

X-acto knife, metal ruler and Cutting board: That said, you’re still going to need an X-acto knife, a metal ruler and a cutting board for smaller or irregular shaped pieces.  We don’t use it as often as our paper cutter, but it’s still used enough to make it mandatory.

Matte board: Matte board is great for making games that have small tiles in it.  If you print tiles on cardstock and don’t affix it to matte board then you’re going to find that the tiles will float around on your table because they have no weight.  Matte board can be purchased from any framing store and sometimes they might even give you some for free as they often have no need for the areas they cut away.  The benefits of matte board are that you can get different colours in case you need tiles with different backs, it’s got a good weight without being too thick, and it can be cut by pretty much every paper cutter out there.

One game we made early on called Scene of the Crime involved placing Scrabble sized tiles onto a board.  We printed the page or two of tiles and spray glued these onto matte board, then cut them with a paper cutter.  This made our prototype way more playable and even added to the fun factor (or at least reduced the frustration factor!).

Stay tuned for the next post as it will continue the list of tools of supplies needed to make a prototype.

-Jay Cormier

For those of you who don’t know, matte board is the stuff used in picture frames to provide a border.

My paper cutter is worse than Jay’s because it locks down before each cut – you’d think this would be a benefit, but it’s not! When you’re cutting hundreds of cards, it’s nice to go fast – we put things in the card sleeves anyway, so perfect cuts aren’t as important.

The other nice thing about card sleeves is that they come in myriad colours, so you can keep your decks separated in a multi-deck game – makes for much easier sorting come game end.

I’ll wait to see what else you’re going to post before I add more to the list…I wonder what other designers find essential?

-Sen-Foong Lim


7 thoughts on “Step 10: Pretty up your Prototype: Stage 2 – Tools and Supplies part 1

    • I have an HP Color LaserJet 3600N (N=networkable) that has served me well – I got it as a floor demo from BestBuy for something silly like $265 a year and a bit ago. I haven’t had to change my cartridge yet and we’ve printed a bunch of stuff from here. Note that I also have a B&W LaserJet for my non-coloured printing.

      Jay’s printer is an HP as well, but I don’t know the model number.

      The other benefit of a laser printer over an inkjet (other than cost) is the fact that ink will run if it gets wet, like when you handle cards after you wash the dishes or something like that.

      As for specific re: cost savings of laser toner over ink cartridges, Jay would know more as he works in that industry when not designing games 😀

      Glad that you’re enjoying the series – I just took a look at your link and am intrigued by Revolution! I will go look it up – sounds like my type of game, though I’ll probably wait until October so I can play with more (seems like more players = better in that type of game!)


  1. I have almost the same laser printer as Sen – just one generation older – the 2600N. I’ve replaced the black toner – but I have yet to replace the colour toners yet! I’m pretty impressed with the amount of prints we’ve gotten out of this thing! I print black and white for other non-board game projects, but the colour is pretty much 100% just for board games, but we’ve printed numerous versions of each of our games – each in full colour.

    With ink, you’re going to be replacing the inks more often and the cost per page is going to be higher (google ‘cost difference laser and ink printers’). Also, as Sen mentioned – laser doesn’t run or smear if it gets a bit wet.

    If you already have an inkjet printer, then for sure, just use that one. If you were planning on getting a new printer, then I’d recommend a colour laser printer if you’re planning on designing a bunch of games.


  2. I’ve collected some excellent tools for prototyping and here are a few I’d recommend. Gasket Hole Punches. If you need round money counters punched out of chip board – they come in many sizes. I recommend getting a full set from sears for quality and variety. You never know what size counter you will need.

    Round gasket punch

    Also from sears is a snipping tool for cutting out counters.

    There are a few other tools I use regularly like a corner punch for rounding cards corners, Cricut Explore paper CNC from craft stores for odd shapes you just have to have cut out. I recommend cutting 8 shapes out of card stock and gluing them together to make one counter when using this machine.

    Plus I raid every game I find for parts and pieces. Dice, pawns, tiles, etc. I’ll even reuse the boxes for handing prototypes out to friends and testers.

    Hit amazon and game publishers for more specific components. Get a few hundred meeples of different sizes, wood buildings, resource bits like you find in Stone Age, centimeter cubes that most euros have and wood disks and hexes of every size shape and color. and are great places for bits.

    Hope this helps!


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