Game Design = Iteration
Once you have your basic rules and theme in place game design becomes iteration. You test and test and test, and as you go you make changes to your rules to improve play, simplify, balance. In our game we have many unique characters with a wide range of themes and abilities, we have objective cards, scenarios, and forage cards to balance.
All of this constantly shifting information (except for the core rules) has one thing in common - it is printed on cards for purposes of play testing. We are doing a lot of play testing and getting a lot of great feedback. We are changing, clarifying, and balancing like crazy. The problem is that we were taking the feedback and making painstaking edits to our cards in photoshop after each play test. This workflow was just too slow.
nanDECK to the Rescue!
We learned of some helpful tools at a recent seminar put on by the amazing people of Protospiel. They mentioned 2 tools by name that could take a spreadsheet of data and build a deck of cards: Multideck (mac) and nanDECK (pc). We both use PC so nanDECK was the obvious choice. With nanDECK you create a script to generate your cards:
This may look intimidating, but there is a very handy visual editor window to help you along, and plenty of tutorials on the web. Here is a side-by-side comparison of a card made with nanDECK and one of our production quality cards:
I was able to get them looking virtually the same in just one afternoon. We will probably do our final production of cards in photoshop to make sure every pixel is perfect, but in the mean time we get to iterate on our cards rapidly while still presenting our game with our professional designs to our play testers.