The Average Gamer

Friday Night Unplugged #8: Android: Netrunner

Hello and welcome to not only a new run of Friday Night Unplugged but a brand new year. This week we’re starting by diving into Android: Netrunner. An asymmetrical card game from the designer of Magic the Gathering, just like Magic: The Gathering this is a 2 player game. I’m deviating from our norm of group based games, I know. Not everyone can meet all the time and you often find yourself lacking in things to play for just that reason. Android: Netrunner fills that gap.


The Basics:

Android: Netrunner is a 1 vs 1 competitive card game. Like Magic: The Gathering it sees two players face off against each other using their own decks of cards. Unlike Magic: The Gathering both players’ decks, all the extra cards and everything you will need to play for a while comes in one box. Another thing that sets Netrunner apart is that each player has completely different goals.

The Corporation can play various cards to create, upgrade and defend servers, including their hand, discard pile and deck, with the aim of advancing and then scoring hidden Agenda cards.

The other side plays a Runner who has to build their rig, install icebreakers and virus software with the goal of breaking into the servers and then stealing the Agendas for points or trashing other cards by paying their cost. Bits (money) can be earned by playing one action or Click. Each side has a limited number of clicks to spend per turn with gaining a bit, playing a card, drawing a card etc all cost 1 click.

Each deck consists of an Identity card which represents the Corporation or Runner you choose to play as and a 45+ card deck made from either the suggested basic deck or by building your own. Of course half the fun of Netrunner is building the deck itself but that’s another article for another time.

The game ends in one of three ways: when one side has 7 points worth of Agenda cards; in victory for the Corp if the Runner has no cards in their hands; or in victory for the Runner if the Corp has no more cards in their deck to draw. The main, and often the first thing to note is that the Corporation plays the majority of the game with their cards played face down. The runner can never see what they are running at or through until they hit the jackpot or the Corp decides to activate some Ice to get in the way.

Ice sometimes comes in powerful forms. Heimdall here is tough to pass.

Ice sometimes comes in powerful forms. Heimdall here is tough to pass.

Time to Play

As with previous articles I am once again joined by Josh. He enjoys card games but doesn’t really go in for the deckbuilding. In this run-through I’ll be playing the Haas Bioroid Corporation and Josh is taking on the role of Carlos Santiago, the leader of a group called the Criminals.

Turn 1

The Corporation: This started badly. Out of the 5 cards I drew 3 are agendas. If I play all 3 they will be wide open. If I keep them in my HQ (hand) the runner might choose to hit there. I play it safe, taking a “bit” and then using an Agenda to make a server. I finish by playing some Ice I can’t afford to activate. Hopefully the presence of the Ice will be enough to put him off.

The Runner: Free money is the name of the game, I spend a few clicks and a card to gain 4 bits and run on his HQ as it’s undefended. The risk pays off when I pull an Agenda card, heads up for me.

Turn 2

The Corporation: 2 points down already. I draw another card. An Agenda, just what I needed. I pay 2 clicks to draw cards thankfully pulling some more Ice. I protect my HQ with some cheap Ice, not enough to do any damage but enough to be a nuisance.

The Runner: Time to get serious. I throw a basic Icebreaker onto my rig. Another quick job gains me some free money with 2 clicks spare. I run on the outside server the Corporation created. It’s protected but I can dodge its defenses and go straight to the server. Another Agenda, lucky me.

Turn 3

The Corporation: 4 points down, a hand full of Agendas. No money to activate Ice. This is going badly. I spend this turn drawing cards in the hope that it will make pulling an Agenda tough for the Runner. The plan fails as I draw 2 more Agenda cards. I know how many the deck contains and through some fluke of luck I’ve drawn all but 2 so far.

The Runner That’s interesting. A hand full of cards and nothing played to the field. I spend the first click to run on the his R&D(deck) – it’s a hit. An Agenda on the first pull. I can see the Corporation getting nervous. I’m one point off taking the win. I run on R&D again, nothing interesting. I know he’s going to get some high power Ice next turn but he can’t afford it anyway. Finishing, I take a few bits.

Turn 4

The Corporation: This is it there’s nothing else I can do. I spend the next 3 actions installing open servers. 2 are Agendas, 1 isn’t. Let’s hope he picks the wrong one.

The Runner: In for the kill. I have some inside info thanks to a rather well timed card pull and I reveal one of his cards. It’s not an Agenda so at least I know something to avoid. I run again, this time at a different server. With no Ice in the way it’s straight to the core and… it’s an Agenda. I score it and take the victory.

As a Corporation with very few Ice this card was the bane of the game.

As a Corporation with very few Ice this card was the bane of the game.

There we have it. Thanks to bad luck on the draw I seriously got trashed. Netrunner is a deckbuilder and with that comes a big chance of luck. I don’t always draw all my agenda cards at the start of the game, but when I do it hurts.

The Stats:

Android Netrunner is a deckbuilding game from Fantasy Flight Games’ Living Card Game format which, I might add, is amazing. The basis of most deckbuilders is that players collect cards in booster packs at random and trade/buy extras to build decks over time.

The Living Card Game differs from the standard collectible card game (CCG) format in that every base set of Android: Netrunner contains the same number, type and variety of cards. Every expansion is released as a traditional add-on with multiples of each card printed easy to pick up in each set. The LCG format removes the randomness that can often make CCGs a drag. [and a horrible money-sink – Ed.]

The base set contains 252 cards made up of the core cards for 4 different Corporations and 3 different groups of runners. Plus a chunk of faction-free cards for each side. Every set of cards can be mixed together via a simple and intuitive building system and the variety means there is something for everyone. Android:Netrunner also comes with the typical sheets of tokens and over-sized rulebook that Fantasy Flight are known for.

What did we think?

As with any game, Android: Netrunner is full of good and bad things. It’s a heavily thematic game. Everything from your hand to your deck has an alternate name such as the “grip” or “R&D”, damage comes with different names such as Meat or Brain damage but they both mean discarding cards and the arrangement of playzones are a bugger to get used to. When teaching the game to friends, this did cause a few headaches.

The setup for a typical Corporation game.

The setup for a typical Corporation game.
(taken from LudocracyNow)

BUT, and it’s a big but, Netrunner is excellently designed, despite a few rulebook headaches. Firstly the everything from the card design, to the art and fluff really helps push the theme. It’s nice to look at and that’s always a huge bonus.

Secondly the mechanics are great. Each Corporation actually feels different to play and the huge number of cards at your disposal from the core set alone is enough to make any card enthusiast to drool at the mouth. At the front though, the different playstyles of the Corporations and Runners make Netrunner a great game to add to your collection. From the defensive money-balancing game the Corporation plays to the fast paced attack style of the Runner, Android:Netrunner is a breath of icy fresh air.

Android: Netrunner is currently only £28.42 over at Amazon. Go get it.

Coming Soon:

Over the next few weeks we will be delving into the world of grown-up dungeon crawling (no anime themes here) and giving some insight into the world of Tabletop RPGs. If there’s anything you want to see in this new run be sure to hit us up on one of the many avenues available.