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An assymetric card agme
Published on October 19, 2012 By Jythier In Gaming

Anyone else around here playing this?

Here's a little background for the uninitiated.

Just after a little-known card game named Magic: The Gathering appeared on the scene, another card game by Richard Garfield came out called Netrunner.  The game features two sides that played vastly differently from each other, so differently in fact that you could not use one side's cards in the other side's deck AT ALL.  This was a collectible card game.

Fantasy Flight Games recently took this idea and turned it into something a little better.  They currently are releasing card games in a Living Card Game format.  What that means is that you get packs of known cards instead of packs of random cards.  There is a core set with certain cards, and Data Packs will be coming out soon that will augment the current tools at your disposal.

But enough about that - what's this game about??

Netrunner is about hacking in a cyberpunk world.  You are a Netrunner, bent on discovering what the evil corporations are up to.  Or, you are the corporation, bent on keeping those pesky hackers out of your servers while also advancing your agendas upon the world.

Runners get 4 actions (clicks) per turn, with which they can install cards on their rig (hardware, programs, viruses, resources), make a run, draw more cards, gain credits (money!), or lose tags.  Corporations must draw a card every turn, but can use their 3 other clicks to draw cards from their R&D stack (deck), install something onto a server from their HQ (hand), or even install Intrusion Countermeasure Electronics, or ICE, on their servers to protect them from the evil runner.

The main thing that happens is that corps install agendas behind walls of ICE and advance them, while the runner uses ICEBreakers to get through the ICE to the agendas and steal the information away.  Agendas are worth 1-3 points(so far) and take 2-5 advancements to score for the corporation - any agendas accessed by the runner are scored immediately, unless something else in play stops them.

There is some ICE that doesn't actually stop a run.  Normally these cause 'tags' instead.  The runner runs and hits an ICE's subroutine, for example:  "Trace 3: Give the runner a tag."  That means that the corporation now has a chance to tag the runner.  If the runner gets tagged, the corporation can do horrible, horrible things to him.  Damage causes the runner to discard cards, and if he has to discard with no cards, he's 'flatlined' and loses immediately.  So Scorched Earth, which you can only play on a tagged runner and does 4 damage, is a very powerful card - if you can get the tag to stick.  So runners must be wary of the corp knowing where they are, and destroying the building, or closing their accounts, or any other number of dastardly deeds to slow the runner down.

Given that there is an ICEBreaker that can break any subroutine, but very expensively, the runner needs to worry more about money than ICE.  Without the money, then they have to worry about ICE.

It's extremely fun and a great bluffing game.  The corporation, you see, installs ALL his cards facedown.  So the runner has no idea what that card is until he hits it.  Then, it's too late, and he gets hit with the hammer.  Hopefully.

There are also ambushes, that you can play where you'd play an agenda, which do horrible things to the runner.  So they pay to break through all your ICE only to get further damaged, tagged, or programs trashed.

So why not just hold all these agenda cards in your hand, or never draw them?

Because, the runner can also run your central servers - R&D is a server that can be run on.  HQ is a server that can be run on.  Archives (discard pile) is a server that can be run on.  The corp's cards are NEVER safe. 

There's a good bit of luck, but it's also a constructed deck game where you put what you want in your deck.  That lowers the luck significantly, but when the runner hits your R&D, it's luck whether it's an agenda or not.  So ICE that R&D.  ICE that HQ.

It's a wonderful game, the two sides play vastly differently, and there's a real economic backbone to it as well.


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