Tactile and Digital Prototypes in Board/Card Game Design

My question is: can digital prototypes of a analog game (e.g. card game, board game) be a helpful part of iterative development? Or does the loss of the tactile interface and presentation mean the game will drift, poisoning the feedback cycle?

Some background: I took part in Cardboard Game Jam, courtesty of the Boston Indie game development community, the GAMBIT/MIT center, and lots of local luminaries. The task was to forge a new game quickly in a 48-period, and repeatedly iterate your way into a working game. Quick paper prototypes were key.

In the middle of writing out the contents of a 120-card set, I thought of writing some code to handle this for me. It would be trivial to generate the set of cards through code and even keep track of state electronically. Indeed, it could even been possible to track other aspects of the game state and open up some chances for web-based playtests.

But is this a good idea? I’ve converted other analog games before and the nature of the interface almost always changes the way gameplay works. Maybe the distortion is worth the easier iterations; maybe not.

If you have experience, I’d love to hear it!