Thursday, 6 June 2013

Android: Netrunner

Is Netrunner all its cracked up to be, I mean how has it locked down the hotness section on Board Game Geek since its release basically never losing a top 3 position? Well I am here to help you make that decision for yourself. First I will give a brief overview of how the game is played, then I will compare it to the other LCGs I have played.


Players take on the roll of either a Corporation or a Hacker (Runner) and their goal is to either advance your own goals/agendas (Corporation) or sabotage corporate plans and steal their valuable information (Runners).

Each turn players get a limited amount of "clicks" which serve as your 'actions' for the turn. There are predetermined actions you can take or playing cards from your hand (Installing Cards) or activating abilities on cards in play requires 'clicks' as well.

The Corporation player must 'install' agendas and place enough advancement counters on them to score the agenda points. In order to stop the Runner from stealing their 'Agendas' the Corporation player must install 'Ice' and 'Upgrades' in order to protect their Assets and Agendas.

The Runner must steal agendas from the Corporation player, this is initiated by 'starting a run'. During a 'run' the hacker will need to bypass the corporate security measures using 'programs' and 'hardware'. If the Runner successfully makes it to the agenda and steals it, the Runner instead scores the agenda points.

Corporations will also play 'Asset' cards to both help them achieve victory faster and mislead the Runner.

The Corporation player will 'install' ice in order to protect their Agendas from being stolen by the Runners. 

In order to get past the Corporate defenses and protect themselves the Runners will need to utilize 'Programs' and 'Hardware'.
Program: Icebreaker are the programs Runners will play to combat the Corporation's defences, each Icebreaker is broken
into a subcategory that specializes in breaking certain types of ice.  

Now that you have a basic idea of the types of cards I will demonstrate a hypothetical run. 

>>>>>>>>>>>;Example Run<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Here are the different types of servers the Runner can hack:
Central Servers:
R&D - corporation card draw pile
HQ - Corporation Player's Hand
Archives - Corporation trash / discard pile

The Corporation player may also have multiple 'Remote Servers' where cards can be installed.

My favourite thing about Netrunner by far is the huge community behind it, you will have no problems finding someone to play with and there are so many extra materials available online, here are some of the ones I found useful:

Complete Tutorial
Solo Variant
Deck Builder
Full Card List & FAQ
Awesome Looking Player Mats

My Thoughts:

There is a lot of terminology and since both players have different rules the learning curve for Netrunner is quite high. That is not to say that it is higher than other LCGs, if I were to rank it in difficulty out of the LCGs I have played, I would say it is the 2nd hardest to learn.

In terms of the LCG matching its universe/theme, I think that Netrunner does better than all of the other LCGs out there. They did a really good job keep the ambiguity of each faction making sure to emphasize that there is no real 'hero', only lesser evils. The Game of Thrones multiplayer does a fantastic job capturing the treachery and backstabbing from the books, but I feel like the 2 player game lacks, so Netrunner has replaced Game of Thrones in this aspect for me. 

Until playing Netrunner, the Warhammer Invasion LCG was my go to 2 player competitive game. Although they play totally differently, they both feel very me vs. you and sometimes you need a game like that. Netrunner has replaced Warhammer for me though because the real world is becoming more and more like a science fiction movie each day and if you keep up with the latest technologies and research...cyber crime is already a issue and as someone who is anti corporation in real life, it feels nice to make their plans crumble around them.

Netrunner almost feels like an evolved, better Call of Cthulhu, players compete over the same victory points and try to cripple their opponents enough that scoring the points is easy. I found that CoC had a run away leader problem and Netrunner did not, Netrunner is also just more fun. However I do tend to like the actual deck building in Call of Cthulhu better than any of the other LCGs. I also found the counters in Netrunner to be a better quality, it could have been cool to have a statue representing who is the corporation and who is the runner but it would serve no purpose, the Cthulhu statues just blow any card game components out of the water, they are really well done.

In terms of difficulty, I find Call of Cthulhu and Warhammer Invasion to be around the same difficulty and the easiest to learn out of the LCGs I have played. I think that Android Netrunner is a little more complicated than both of them but is still easier to learn than the Game of Thrones. The reason I fell that the Game of Thrones is the hardest is because it is more difficult to teach someone diplomacy and when to backstab than it is to teach someone a structured rule. Although this applies more importantly to the multiplayer game, with just 2 a Game of Thrones is on par with Warhammer and Cthulhu.

Who Would Like Netrunner?

Family Gamers: Like I said the learning curve is pretty hard, but once you've got the hang of it this will make a great father - son game. Netrunner is no harder than learning MTG and there are TONS of online resources like cheat sheets, player mats, rules summary, turn breakdowns to make playing your first few games a breeze.

Casual Gamers: I think that LCGs make great games for casual gamers because they leave the option to expand and get more into the game without draining  the wallet and more importantly without you burning out from the game itself. The advantage LCGs have with casuals is you can play it right out of the box but you can also make the experience what you want based on who you are playing with. Being able to appeal to different groups and ranges of gamers is important in casual friendly games.

Gamer Gamers: This is where I think Netrunner shines. Because of the deckbuilding component LCGs do really well with Gamer Gamers, there is room to bend the games rules and really make your own strategy. The only thing that hinders Netrunner is its 2 player limit, but tons of choices, additional content, great gameplay, new mechanics and a large following makes Netrunner great for all avid gamers. 


  1. Father-son game?

    1. You don't think so? If this was out 15 years ago I would have rather played it with my father than Magic The Gathering. I guess it matters how into the hobby your family is but I've always liked Sci-fi.

    2. Netrunner DID exist 15 years ago! The original game (same game mechanics) was published as a ccg 1996-1999.

  2. I like the father-son game comment. I'll have to learn/teach this to my 11-year old. Sounds like fun.