Continuing the 2017 mission to get more games played, Thursday I managed a few rounds of Netrunner. For those who haven’t ventured into card games, this post will give a bit of background to the game, how I got involved and how I fared coming back to the game after 2 months away from it.
Dabbling in Magic
I had dabbled in Magic The Gathering a couple of years ago, learned the basics and started investing in cards through playing draft events at a local store. It wasn’t long before I realised the massive money drain that collectible card games can be. Buying random booster packs searching for the cards you need for your deck, or heading to eBay to pay crazy prices for single cards.
After a year of playing on and off, I called it a day. My wallet unable to keep up with the release schedule.
I loved the fantasy theme and did enjoy the game, so I’ve kept my card collection. There’s always casual play if anyone is interested.
Enter the runner
No, not exercise.
Like many gamers, finding time to indulge in the hobby can be tricky with the pressures of everyday life.
Last summer I was struggling to get any kind of gaming into a schedule that mostly revolved around work at a new job. By the time I had finished a long day and battled traffic to get home, the last thing my brain could handle was rulebooks and army lists. As a result, gaming took a back seat.
I then remembered a colleague at my old work, Dean, had mentioned buying the Android Netrunner card game core set, but unfortunately couldn’t find any opponents. I took the plunge, got the core set and through some web searching found a group that met in the city, and welcomed new players.
Dean and I got our demo game, playing against each other, coached by one of the groups players.
The group is a friendly bunch that meet on Thursday evening in a pub in Glasgow – their focus is on living card games, a format pioneered by Fantasy Flight.
So what’s Netrunner all about?
Android Netrunner is a living card game (LCG) from Fantasy Flight Games, based in their Android universe, is a card game of computer hackers versus mega corporations.
The game’s set in a cyberpunk future Earth where mega corps own and control almost every facet of human life. Technology has advanced to create human clones and Bioroids, humanlike androids, colonisation of the Moon and a 70,000 km high space elevator.
Players take on the role of a mega corporation or a computer hacker. Corp and hacker have different sets of cards and play using different game mechanics to meet their distinct objectives.
The corp is aiming to further their company Agenda’s while the hacker is playing to steal the Agenda information.
The corp builds central and remote servers which they protect with ice (think firewalls) while his Agenda’s are being progressed on the servers.
Meanwhile the hacker is building a rig consisting of resources, hardware and programs, their aim to perform “runs” (hacks) against the servers, gain access and steal the Agenda information before the Corp completes the work.
I really enjoy the immersive background that’s been built up around Netrunner. The artwork of the cards, the little added flavour text on the cards, the backgrounds to characters and companies. All of it combines to build a theme, that as a massive fan of science fiction classics like Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell and the novels of Arthur C Clarke, I soak it all up.
One of the great things about Netrunner is the low cost of entry. The basic core set provides cards for both players and includes all the main factions for corporations and hackers, plus all the required tokens.
And you can get some great games from just that set. A lot of the core cards see plenty use in tournament play and in top decks.
If you want to take things further
and expand your box off tricks then adding 1 or more of the 4 deluxe expansion boxes, widens the possibilities for all factions.
And to be honest, you could stop there, with a large library of cards at your disposal to build very decent decks.
Fantasy Flight also expand the universe very 9 months with small data packs of 60 cards. Again, these are always heavily themed, usually around a story plot, and run to 6 packs, released 1 per month.
The main point about Netrunner, and all living card games (LCGs) is that you always know what you’re going to get in a box or pack of cards. So you can pick and chose what you’re interested in playing. There’s no random gamble with booster packs.
Back to hack
So, how did things go with my return after 2 months?
Well I chose to go with 2 decks I’d built 2 months ago but never played…there was no way I was going to remember what cards I’d used!
For my corp I went with NBN – Making News – Someone is Always Watching
And for my runner (hacker), Gabriel Santiago – Criminal faction
And as for Dean, he was similarly coming back to the game after an absence. He was armed with…
Corp, Haas Bioroid – Engineering the Future – Effective, Reliable, Humane
And his runner was Valencia Estevez – Anarch faction
The game is played in 2 rounds. Player 1 with their Corp, Player 2 as Runner. The second round you switch, Player 1 will play with their chosen Runner and Player 2 with their Corp. The result of the 2 rounds will be win, lose or draw.
I’ll not go into the details of the terminology for each area on the table, suffice to say it’s all suitably thematic, with the Corp having a deck called “Research & Development” and their discard pile called “Archives”. Each player typically has a 5 card hand from which to play their turn from. The turns going back and forward between players.
I started out well, running with Santiago. Dean struggled to get the cards he needed when drawing from his deck, so I was able to exploit his inability to protect his servers. Quite quickly I was accessing and stealing his Agenda’s. By the time Dean had his defences in place it was too late, I had the resources and programs I needed to break through even the most formidable ice (firewalls). Round 1 to me.
We then switched. Round 2 Dean was hacking with Valencia Estevez. I was at a distinct disadvantage, as I’d never played against the Anarch faction before – they’re big on using viruses and other methods to drain Corp defences to access servers.
Agin, because we were getting back into the game mechanics, the game built slow and steady. I scored a few Corp Agenda’s and Dean managed to steal a few. Eventually I just couldn’t defend against his viruses and he won round 2. A draw!
We decided we had time for another round, Dean keen to try his new Anarch runner deck again.
I hadn’t even started to build my servers and the ice to defend them, when Dean decided to go straight for the motherlode and attacked my R&D section. Poor shuffling (as opposed to my usual poor dice rolling!) gave him access to my Corps Agendas quickly. That combined with a devastating programming his rig allowed him to take apart my Corp in a ridiculous show of card combinations that ended the round in about 10 minutes!!
Back to the drawing board
A very enjoyable return to Netrunner for both of us. I need to get back to the deck building and find a Corp that can block those Anarch viruses as I’m sure Dean will be bringing an enhanced version of that deck the next time we play!