Functions for card games: INDEX

When you're laying out a simple card game, you often have repeated content that goes across the entire deck. For example, I'm laying out a deck of event cards in my game Wolfgang. There are seven different MOZART events and seven different WEREWOLF events. I want a deck of 49 cards, each with a unique combination of one MOZART event and one WEREWOLF event. 

If I were to type out this data in a standard sheet in raw text, I'd have to manually copy and paste each cell 7 times and make sure I didn't cause any typos in the process. Thankfully there is a simple function in Google Sheets that makes this process a bit more fool proof. 

Making Your Data Set

Make a separate tab in your Google Sheets document that has all of your card contents broken out into different cells. In this case, I have a tab called Events with the MOZART and WEREWOLF events listed out in plain text. I've highlighted them in yellow and blue here for ease of reference.

You can format this tab however you feel comfortable. You can make it all one big list or split it up into columns. You can even have your data split up into separate tabs. We're keeping it simple in this example though.

Setting Up the Cards

Next, I have a Cards tab where I'll actually have the contents that I'll pull for my Data Merge in InDesign. This is a standard Data Merge spreadsheet so I've got the first row reserved for the names of variables. Each row is a card. Each column is a variable within that card.

Normally, this would contain raw text, but we're instead using the INDEX function to pull the contents from cells in the Events tab. The structure goes like this:

=INDEX(Name of data tab!Cell)

In this example, the highlighted cell pulls contents from cell A2 in the Events tab, so the function is this:

=INDEX(Events!A2)

I repeated that function for seven rows. Then I made the next seven rows:

=INDEX(Events!A3)

And then the next seven rows are:

=INDEX(Events!A4)

And so on, until there are seven of each event.

Why do this?

To edit the contents of multiple cards, I can edit just one cell in my spreadsheet. I won't accidentally forget to edit one outlying card. I also don't have to do so much global search-and-replace, which could also introduce more accidental typos and errors. 

For example, I noticed this text has a typo and it's a bit ambiguous.

X livestock of your Salieri's choice go missing.

"Livestock" doesn't say whether it can be any mix of chickens, sheeps, pigs, or cows. My intent was that it would be X amount of one type of livestock. This error is in two separate cells.

"Your" is a regular old typo from an earlier draft. That just needs to be deleted.

So I change the text in the Events tab:

And that automatically updates the contents of all the other cells in the Cards tab.


Hope you find this function useful in your card games! If you like this kind of tip, I can share some more in the coming weeks. I know it strays pretty far from the usual graphic design info that I usually discuss. It's this kind of basic spreadsheet management that I had zero knowledge about when I first started in this business. I majored in art, not accounting. :)

If you're like me, this will be a big help to making more card decks quickly and accurately. Good luck!

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