I Have a Board Game Idea – Now What? Part 22: Tools of the Trade

Back in part 14, I talked about how when you join the board game design community that you aren’t alone, and provided links to some of my favorite resources for learning more about game design, and getting help with any questions that may arise. My 5th tip to new designers, gives a list of tools of the trade that I’ve either used or heard are helpful. Today I want to dig a little deeper and look a little closer at some of these tools of the trade that can make some of the more mundane tasks a little easier.


Nandeck is a stand alone program that is designed as an aid for game inventors, with the aim of speeding up the process of designing and printing deck of cards (useful during prototyping and play testing). It has the ability to take spreadsheets of information and turn them into fully designed cards. I haven’t used it personally, but it does have a learning curve as you need to learn the scripting language. One of it’s biggest pros is that it is free to use.

Component Studio

Component Studio is a web based tool that allows you to create a wide variety of game components in a super streamlined fashion. From their website:

Stop wasting precious game design time formatting 100 images for cards or tiles that are all just variations on a theme. Component Studio will automatically format them for you and then give you a print and play PDF, raw images with full bleed, or even upload those images directly to The Game Crafter.

And when you need to make a change, change it in one place, and get a whole new set of images.

Like NanDeck, Component Studio’s strength lies in the face that it is data set driven, which allows you to design a template object once, and then have the software render all of the individual components from the provided data. It also has a number of export options, from zips of full bleed images, Print and Play ready PDF’s, export into Tabletop Simulator, or even straight into The Game Crafter’s website.

Component Studio is a subscription service, but after using it a bunch myself, I feel that the cost is well worth it.

Adobe Photoshop, Adobe In Design, GIMP, and Scribus

For those of us who want to do more of the design and layout ourselves, there are traditional software applications that will do the job. Adobe’s Photoshop and In Design are probably the cream of the crop, but are also fairly expensive. Luckily there is GIMP and Scribus, open source alternatives to Adobe’s products.

Regardless of the software you decide to use, there will be a learning curve involved. Adobe’s software also offers so nice bells and whistles, but for the most part, they aren’t always needed.

game-icons.net, volframalpha.com, deviantart.com, and artstation.com

Along with software tools, I wanted to mention a few websites that can be of great help to a game designer from a design point of view.

game-icons.net is an awesome website where you can get all sorts of icons for use in your prototypes. Currently, there are over 3000 icons available, and it keeps growing. There hasn’t been much that I haven’t been able to find from this website, but if there is, you can request it be made for you (no guarantee though). The best part is that it is completely free.

Need help with some convoluted math? What to do some historical research? Look no further than volframalpha.com, a search engine for all things math, science, technology, and history.

Both deviantart.com and artstation.com are great resources for commissioning art for your game. They both have portfolios of artist’s past work, as well as the capability of posting your project similar to a job posting. I have only used deviantart.com, but it was simple to use and I am extremely satisfied with the results.

Do you have any favourite design tools, or thoughts on some of the ones I mentioned today? I’d love to hear about them. Until next time, happy designing.

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