Favorite Physical Tools

A few days ago, I wrote about some of my favorite software tools for prototyping. Today, I’ll list some of my favorite physical tools.

Rotary Paper Trimmer: I use this to cut out cards printed with nanDECK. It’s much faster than using scissors and gives more satisfying, straighter cuts. I have a large one that makes it easy to line up a large piece of paper on the grid lines, which is also helpful. (I print on ordinary printer paper rather than cardstock, then put the slips of paper into a sleeve backed with an old CCG card, like making proxies.) Mine is a Fiskars that I got at Costco a long time ago.

As a side note, Dragon Shield and KMC sleeves are the best I have found, but they’re on the expensive side. Most of my prototype sleeves are ugly holographic Ultra Pros that I got in the bargain bin at an Origins booth.

Plastic Cubes: Whether these are player markers, resources, trackers, or something else, almost every game needs cubes for something for another. The best deal I found is at educational supply store EAI.

Glue Stick: Liquid glue is messy and warps paper. Tape doesn’t roll on well and sticks up. Glue sticks are perfect. I mostly use glue to mount printed gameboards to posterboard to give them some heft (laminate at OfficeMax for extra durability), and to mount small paper squares to craft-store chipboard squares to make counters.

Cutting Mat/Utility Knife/Metal Ruler: This trio of items is how I cut posterboard to the right size to mount printed gameboards on. The cutting mat and ruler are from a discount craft store; the utility knife, from a hardware store. I used to use an X-Acto knife; the utility knife is a much better tool for cutting cardboard.

B&W Laser Printer: I have a Brother laser printer which I love. It’s reliable, sharp, and above all, cheap to operate. I do color printing at OfficeMax/Staples/Kinko’s; it’s cheap enough that trying to maintain my own color printer doesn’t make sense..

Sharpie Permanent Markers in a variety pack: For adding small amounts of color to home-printed B&W documents, and making changes post-printing or on-the-fly. Also for playing 1000 Blank White Cards.

Swingline Laminator:This is the newest item on the list–a Christmas gift last year–but already I love it. I would not have even thought to get it for myself (lamination is hard, right?) but the device is inexpensive ($20-$25), easy to use, and the sleeves are inexpensive as well. Laminating is a surprising way to give printed-out materials a lot of durability, heft, and even gravitas.

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