Sunday, 30 June 2013

Android: Netrunner - My Journey in a Dystopian Future - Part 6: All Hands on Deck

Deckbuilding is the heart and soul of FFG’s Living Card Game model and nowhere is it more evident than in Android: Netrunner. By deckbuilding you can customise the game to how you want to play it. Do you want to be a Criminal runner specialising in controlling the Corps’ cash flow? Build it. You want to be a Corporation that aims to trace, tag and flatline your opponents? You can build it. 

Now, as you already know, this blog series is a beginner’s eye view of this card game, so again, I’ll reiterate that I’m no expert, but I can show you the basic mechanics of deckbuilding and what I’ve learned so far.
First off, take a look at the card below.

The 45 in the bottom left corner means you can build a deck for this identity with a minimum size of 45 cards. While there isn’t a maximum deck size as such, for tournament play you need to be able to shuffle your deck without assistance and if you have a lot of cards, then the likelihood of drawing the cards you want to see during a game are reduced. This is why it is recommended you build decks with 45 – 49 cards (this doesn’t include your identity card). 
The 15 in the bottom corner refers to the number of influence points you are allowed in this faction’s deck. The majority of cards in Android: Netrunner have an influence cost. The card pictured below has an influence cost of 3 – represented by the 3 orbs in the bottom left. So you could include this Jinteki card in the Weyland deck, leaving you with 12 more influence to spend as you see fit. You don’t have to use all your influence, but players generally do from what I’ve seen.

In the core set of the game, all Runners and Corporations have this 45 / 15 setup, but there are other identities available or coming soon with different combinations, such as the following examples.

Other limitations 
You are only allowed 3 copies of a card in a deck.

For a Corporation deck, you need to include a certain number of Agenda points. For a 45 – 49 card deck, 20 or 21 points worth is required.

There are some cards that you are only allowed one of in a deck. This will be mentioned on the card itself.

A Corporation deck cannot include out-of-faction Agendas.

Other than these restrictions, you are free to customise your deck how you like it, employing devious tricks and surprises that will make the game a lot of fun to play.

Different people will go about deckbuilding in different ways, but here is how I’ve been doing it: 
Firstly, I think of a theme. What do I want my deck to do? I’ve already mentioned a couple of examples at the start of this article, but others could include an aggressive Runner deck that aims to trash as many of the Corps’ cards as it can; or a Corporation deck that looks to install, advance and score agendas as quickly as possible.

Of course, you need to ensure your deck has the ability to adapt and win by other means if you’re having some bad luck drawing the cards you need.

I then choose the identity I want and separate all that identity’s cards into separate piles – Operations, Agendas, Assets, Ice etc.
I look through all the cards and pick out all the ones that fit with the theme I’m looking to build this deck around.
I will then gather all the neutral cards from the core set and see if any of those could be useful and if so, put them in the pile.
I then go through the cards in each of the game’s Data Packs and again, add any I think would work towards my theme, (we’ll discuss Data Packs in a future blog post, but these are card supplements released on a monthly basis). 

Chances are, I will now have a BIG deck of cards, so I start to break it down and remove cards that I think aren’t the strongest for me. If I’m making a Corporation deck, I’ll start with the Agendas and make sure I have the 20 – 21 points worth.

An important thing to consider if you have enough cards that are going to help with your economy as credits are crucial for both sides. Neutral cards like Hedge Fund, PAD Campaign, Sure Gamble and Armitage Codebusting will help with this while not taking up any of your valuable influence points. 
Once I’ve got the deck narrowed down to between 45 and 49 cards, I’ll count up how much influence I’m using. Usually, I’ll find I’m using too much and have to take something out, perhaps add something else in to compensate and generally just adapt the deck until I have 15 points of influence or less. So far, I’ve not built a deck that hasn’t used the full allowance.

Then it’s down to the testing. Players who are entering tournaments will want to test and practice with their deck as much as possible, with different opponents – refining it as they learn what works and what doesn’t.
For a more casual gamer such as myself, I’ll practice with the deck on my own and with a friend of mine when the opportunity arises.

Whatever your methods, I can’t recommend deckbuilding enough. It will transform the game for you and become an obsession in itself – you’ll find yourself sat thinking about card combos and little tricks you could pull to make a deck more interesting and fun to play – and of course, more devastating for your opponent! 

CardgameDB is a great site for deckbuilding. The site has a database of all the cards and you can easily add them to a deck and save them online. It'll even give you a sample hand of cards so you can see what you're likely to draw from the deck you've built.

One thing to be aware of when using sites like this to hep you with deckbuilding. Generally speaking, it is assumed by the users of the sites that you have 2 core sets.
The game allows you up to 3 copies of a card in your deck, but in the core set there are some cards that you only get 1 or 2 copies of. So, if you want to be really competetive, the general consensus is to buy 2 sets.
Now, I'm from Yorkshire and hence a bit tight with my money, so I still only have one set and so far, I'm fine with that. Buying the data packs is enough for my enjoyment of the game.
Maybe in the long term if I decide to start entering tournaments, then I might change my mind.

Speaking of which, last month, I entered my first Netrunner tournament and in the next part of this blog series, I'll be telling you all about it.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Android: Netrunner - My Journey in a Dystopian Future - Part 5: At its Core

So this blog series is now five parts strong and I wanted to give a shout out to everybody who has read it and those who have supported it on Twitter with retweets etc. It’s much appreciated.
Hopefully there will have been a few people who have read these articles who were unfamiliar with the game, and are now considering picking it up. If so, this one’s for you – we’re going to take a look at what you get in the core set.
Android: Netrunner is available for about £30 / $30 and for that you get the following:

(Image from
248 game cards, plus 2 reference and 2 click-tracker cards
51 one-credit / advancement tokens
8 five-credit tokens
6 Brain Damage tokens
12 Bad Publicity / Tag tokens
23 generic tokens (used as Agenda, Virus and Power Counters)
Rules of Play
With the cards you can make decks for 3 runners and 4 corporations, you’ll just have to swap a few neutral cards between them when needed.
Here are some quick intros to the various factions in the game – provided by Fantasy Flight Games in the Netrunner manual.

Anarchs have strong contempt for the oligarchs, the whole corrupt system, and often for society in general. Whatever the exact target of their rage, their unifying characteristic is their anger. At their best, Anarchs are tireless champions for the downtrodden and oppressed. They are very good at breaking things, spreading viruses and trashing Corporation assets and programs. At their worst, Anarchs just want to watch the world burn.
To others, Shapers seem like idealistic naïfs. They are not motivated by rage against the corporate injustice that is a daily fact of life for the underclass. They are not in it for the money. Many never understand why Shapers do what they do, but it isn’t actually that complicated. Shapers are motivated by curiosity and a certain amount of pride. A Shaper may orchestrate a data raid as underhanded and destructive as the most frothing Anarch, but his goals are different: the Shaper just wants to see if he can do it. Shapers are also tinkerers and builders, and they push their hardware and software beyond their limits.

Criminals are in it for themselves. All runners are technically criminals, at least if you ask the corps, but these runners embrace it. They make self-interest an art form and don’t care who gets hurt so long as they get ahead. Many Criminals engage in more traditional forms of crime as well, stealing data and money with equal gusto. Criminals are good at covering their tracks and employing a variety  of dirty tricks to attack from an unexpected angle.
Weyland Consortium
Aside from its dramatic and public association with the New Angeles Space Elevator, better known as “Jack’s Beanstalk” or simply “the Beanstalk” after designer Jack Weyland, the extent of the Weyland Consortium’s holdings is little known among the general population. This shadowy organisation owns or invests in other corporations, leveraging the enormous assets granted them by the Beanstalk to buy and sell smaller megacorps at an alarming rate.
With headquarters in New Angeles and major branch offices in Chicago, Cologne, Heinlein, Johannesburg and Sydney, Haas-Bioroid is the world leader in cybernetics and artificial intelligence. The most iconic and recognisable products made by Haas-Bioroid are the bioroids themselves, androids built with cybernetic technology and with artificially-intelligent minds designed around sophisticated imaging of human brains. 

The largest media conglomerate in the world is NBN, which at various times in the company’s history has stood for Network Broadcast News, Net Broadcast Network and Near-Earth Broadcast Network. Now simply known as NBN, the corporation is headquartered right on Broadcast Square in New Angeles after relocating from SanSan in the early 30s. NBN also has offices and broadcast equipment along the entire length of the New Angeles Space Elevator, particularly at Midway Station and the terminal space station known as the Castle.
Jinteki owns the patient on the process that creates human-like clones, biological androids tailor-made by the “genegineers” of Jinteki. As this controversial technology becomes cheaper and more robust, more and more humans find themselves replaced in the workforce by cheaper android labour.
As is to be expected from Fantasy Flight games, the box and all its contents - including the 36-page, full -colour rules of play - are of great quality and the art on the cards is stunning.
Stunning cards, for a stunning game.
So what are you waiting for?

Sunday, 16 June 2013

E3 2013

So the Electronics Expo 2013 has happened and it might have changed everything. I’ll explain how shortly, but first you need to know where my thoughts were, going into the event.
In fact, let’s go back a ways. Like millions of others, I had a PlayStation and then a PS2. I had no reason to believe, when the 7th generation loomed on the horizon, that I wouldn’t be continuing the trend with a PS3.
But things started to unravel for Sony. Mixed messages on subjects like backwards compatibility and then the ridiculous price tag of nearly £500.
Then I saw Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter on the Xbox 360 and the deal was sealed. I jumped ship and spent the following six years in gaming heaven. Despite a rocky start with the whole “Red Lights of Death” debacle, the Xbox went from strength to strength, while the PS3 floundered under poor framerates, badly designed online mechanics and lacklustre exclusives.
Ultimately, the PS3 sold well, but largely due to its Blu-ray drive, with software sales remaining heavily in the 360s favour.
And so when another generation of consoles crested the hill, again there was no reason to believe I would be breaking from a brand that had made the last six years such a joy.
Then the rumours started to circulate. From dark corners of the Internet we heard about the “Xbox 720” and how it would require an Internet connection at all times or it would cease to work. It would block pre-owned games. It would monitor your every waking thought through the Kinect sensor. It would have an affair with your wife. It would watch your dreams.
Even those of us with sane heads on our shoulders couldn’t help but feel a little worried. Rumours have to start somewhere after all. So it was with nervous anticipation that we all tuned in to see a “New Generation Revealed” at the Xbox Reveal event in May, to witness Microsoft quell all the rumours and blow our minds.
The console was revealed and while not to everyone’s tastes, I thought it looked great. As did Kinect and I was pleased to see that while the controller had been changed enough to look and feel fresh, it was still very much the Xbox controller recognised around the world as the best design out there.
But the rest of the conference focused on the console’s capacity for television and films; for Skype calls and switching channels. All nice features no doubt, but the Internet immediately erupted at the distinct lack of games.
At this point, I wasn’t too worried. With E3 just weeks away, I knew they were taking the opportunity to divide their conferences – using the reveal as a platform to showcase the entertainment and connectivity aspects and use the Expo for the games. If only they had mentioned this plan in the first place, a lot of the disappointment seen on social networks and blogs could have been avoided.
With many questions still unanswered, Microsoft looked to clarify their policies ahead of E3: 
  • The console will support trade-ins, but only if publishers allow it for their games.You can lend a game to a friend, but only once, and only if they’ve been on your friend list for at least thirty days.
  • The console needs to connect to the Internet once every 24 hours to update game licences etc, meaning you can play single or local multiplayer games for a day, but if you haven’t connected to the Internet by then, the games will no longer work. You can, however, continue to watch TV and Blu-rays.
Despite noting great features such as being able to play your entire library of games from the Cloud from any Xbox One console, the “clarifications” only fuelled the fires of Internet opinion. To their credit, Microsoft were at least sharing information, unlike Sony, who had been very quiet since their PS4 announcement. Nevertheless, Xbox appeared to be shooting themselves in the foot.
But E3 arrived with the promise from Microsoft that this would be all about games, games, games; and indeed it was. The Xbox briefing was wall-to-wall games, opening with Sony stalwart Metal Gear and showcasing massive titles like Battlefield 4, Halo and Forza 5 and new exclusives such as Ryse, Sunset Overdrive and Project Spark.
In all, if was a fine briefing and went a long way to showing that Xbox One was still very much a gaming platform. If the gamers could forgive Microsoft’s weird restrictions, they would clearly find a happy home on the Xbox One.
Then the PS4 happened.

For the first hour, Sony’s briefing was your standard stuff, save for the reveal of the console itself. Games, business jargon and buzzwords.
But then, in a flurry of punches to match any Ali threw at Foreman, Sony landed blows aimed directly at Microsoft.
First they brought out a load of Indie developers and showed their support for a corner of the industry many feel has been side-lined by Microsoft.
Then Jack Tretton stepped up and threw these haymakers:
  • The PS4 will support used games. You can trade in at retail, sell to another person, lend to a friend or keep the disc forever. It’s up to you. 
  • The console will not require an Internet connection to play. If you play single player games, they will not stop working if the console doesn’t connect every 24 hours.
  • The console will cost £349. £80 cheaper than the Xbox One.
Sony used the euphoria in the room to slip in the fact that to play online with the PS4, you would now have to pay for PS Plus (bringing it in line with Xbox Live’s subscription model), but nobody cared. They also went on to show Bungie’s Destiny, which looked beautiful, but it didn’t matter. The damage had already been done.
So where do I stand now on these consoles.
I prefer the look of the Xbox One and they have a better range of exclusives, but the idea of paying £429 for something with these restrictive hoops to jump through is incredibly off-putting.
Sony’s price tag is hard to ignore and they are winning popular opinion with their focus on what the consumer wants, but are they innovating enough? Haven’t they basically come out and said everything will stay the same, the games will just look a bit prettier?
The next few months will be crucial for Microsoft. I don’t think they will adjust the price, but unfortunately I also think it isn’t in their nature to do a u-turn on their policies. They believe their model will work going into the future and they might be right, but a console needs those early adopters and so far, they are turning away from the Xbox. But time will tell.......

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Android: Netrunner - My Journey in a Dystopian Future - Part 4: Corporate Sell-Out

In the previous post we looked at some of the main points I’ve picked up playing as the Runner. Now we’re going to see how things look from the other side of the table.

Playing as the Corporation is an entirely different beast. For both sides, economy is incredibly important, but while a Runner must learn to work with what he has – basically being near poverty the whole time – the Corp player should be rolling in it. You are the big, bad business after all.
But why is the Corporation having lots of cash so desirable when it doesn’t actually cost anything to install cards?
Well, the fact is it might not cost you to install the cards, but it does cost credits to rez those cards.
Take this example. Your opponent declares that he’s making a run on one of your remote servers. You take a look at the outer most piece of Ice – an Ichi 1.0 you installed earlier.

To rez this, you’re going to need 5 credits. If you don’t have enough, the Runner just skips happily on and continues the run. You were unable to rez the Ice and so the Runner didn’t have to break its subroutines to progress. 
If you find yourself low on funds as the Corporation, the Runner will have a field day with you – running on remote and central servers, accessing cards, taking cards out of your hand and you won’t be able to do anything about it. 
Thankfully, there are cards available to you to keep those credits rolling in and 3 of them are neutral. We’ll be looking at deckbuilding in a later post, but a neutral card is one that can be added to any Corporation deck without limitation beyond a cap on 3 copies. 
Hedge Fund

Granted, I haven't seen all the cards currently available for Android: Netrunner, (there are monthly released Data Packs which we'll get to in later articles), but so far, this card is an auto-include in a Corporation deck for me. And all three copies at that.
Spend 1 click (action) and 5 credits to play this card and you'll gain 9 credits.
It's become a card so integral to the games that I've played that I'd be tempted to mulligan (redraw) my opening hand if I didn't see Hedge Fund.

PAD Campaign
PAD Campaign, with a rez cost of 2, will give you 1 credit at the beginning of each turn. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but over a number of terms those credits can mean all the difference. Rezzing PAD campaign will also force the Runner to decide whether to let it stand or make a run on it and trash it. 
The problem is it will cost him 4 credits to trash, not to mention costing a click making the run when he could be looking for Agendas elsewhere. 
With its high trash cost and 3 copies in my deck, I will often install PAD Campaign unprotected.

 Melange Mining Corp.

At a rez cost of 1, Melange Mining Corp will cost you a while turn, but you’ll get 7 credits from it. With that ability and such a low trash cost, a Runner will probably look to get it out of there, which is why you shouldn’t rez this until you’re planning to use it and, if you’d like to keep it, you best put some Ice in front to put the Runner off.


Tempted to pick up Android: Netrunner? Then be sure to join me for Part 5 where we’ll be rifling through the core set to see just what you’re getting for your money.
Until then……

Thursday, 6 June 2013

E3 2013 Preview

With E3 just days away, I thought I’d check in to offer a few of my thoughts.

The Xbox One reveal was last month, so why haven’t I written about this yet? Am I as disappointed/burning with rage as the rest of the Internet appears to be?
No, is the short answer. I’ve pre-ordered my Xbox One. I think the console looks great and the features look very cool. With E3 coming up, I understood why they decided to use the console reveal to concentrate on the TV and entertainment aspects, leaving the games for the conference. I just wish they’d made that clear to the world before hand.
I also think they need to be clearer on their pre-owned games strategy and answer the myriad of other questions that have come up.

I think E3 will see Microsoft come out all guns blazing. I hope to get to see what those “15 year one exclusives” are.
There are seven of these that are from existing franchises and I can only account for a few of them.
Forza 5 we know about. I’m assuming Halo 5 will be one. I would have said Alan Wake 2, but that’s made by Remedy and they’re making Quantum Break. PGR 5 and Crackdown 3 perhaps? There are rumours that Mirror’s Edge 2 will be announced, but could it possibly be an Xbox exclusive?
And then there's Titanfall, the first game from Respawn Entertainment.

I’m also very interested to hear what this “big announcement” for the Xbox 360 will be that will apparently make it “relevant for years to come”.
It can’t be just a bunch of new games, cos that’s just making it relevant for 6 months or so for those waiting for the price of the Xbox One to drop. It can’t be something that will risk people not bothering upgrading to Xbox One either, so I’m thinking it is connected to the new console somehow. At first I thought it’s a backwards compatibility workaround, like you’ll link the two consoles somehow and be able to play 360 games on the new console. But then, how is that better than just firing up your old 360 for when you’re feeling nostalgic?
I don’t know. They’ve got something up their sleeve, I’m sure of it, and it isn’t as simple as “we’re still making some games for the 360”.

In the other camps, Sony will be revealing their console, but beyond that, I don’t know what their plans are. Nintendo, I can only assume are just going to walk out onto the stage and apologise.

All will be revealed on Monday.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Android: Netrunner - My Journey in a Dystopian Future - Part 3: Born to Run

What does a runner dream of if not running?

As I'm only a few months into my journey with Android: Netrunner, this blog series is not an expert's eye-view of the game, but an account of my experiences as I go along. In this article, we're going to discuss what I've learned so far about playing as the Runner. It isn't my intention to go into too much detail on card types at this stage. I just want to give an overview on the main points of being a subversive hacker in the Android universe.

As mentioned in Part 2 the main thing to remember as the Runner is to keep plenty of cards in your hand. If you make a run with just 2 cards in your grip and you end up falling on a Snare (in which the Corporation can pay 4 credits to do 3 net damage), you will flatline and lose the game. So keeping cards in your hand as you make those runs is very important. But how many do you need?

I tend to keep 3 cards in my hand if I think I might hit a Snare, as in the example above. If I'm running on a server that has a card advanced twice, I will make sure I have 4 cards in my hand before attempting the run. There's a chance the card at the end will be something like Project Junebug - I'll receive 2 net damage for each advancement token, losing all my cards, but not flatlining.

But when do you make these runs? On the first click? Second? Third? I've heard people say they never run on the fourth click and while I've been known to do this, I do see the wisdom in avoiding it.
If you make a run on your fourth click and end up getting tagged, your turn is now over and now the Corporation has the chance to take advantage of your tagged state. In the very least he can spend a click and 2 credits to trash one of your Resources, but if he has the right cards in his hand, he could do a lot worse. Scorched Earth, for instance is an Operation card that if played when the Runner is tagged, will do 4 meat damage (Like net damage, this is removing cards from the Runner's hand). If you planned ahead though and ran on your third click, you can now use your remaining action to pay 2 credits and get rid of that tag.

As the Runner you also have to consider what Agendas the Corporation has already scored. Take Private Security Force as an example.

If you make a run on your fourth click and get tagged, the Corporation player could use this ability to give you one meat damage - flatlining you if you have already lost all your cards during the previous run.
Of course, the Corporation might not have scored this Agenda, but could score it during his turn and then use the ability with his remaining click(s). But often, as a Runner, you just have to take that risk. It's all part of the fun.

So I tend to use the first click to gain a credit or draw a card and prepare myself for a run on my second and/or third click, and use that fourth click for damage limitation if needed.

There can, however, be an advantage in running on that last click. Some piece of Ice will have subroutines that say "The Runner loses a click if able". If you ran on your last click, you can ignore this subroutine and concentrate on the others.

Ultimately, it's down to the individual doing the running and just how aggressive they want to be.

Which leads me back to my opening remark. What does a runner dream of if not running?
As a Runner, you live to make runs on the servers of the big, bad corporation. This is how you're going to steal those Agendas. So get running. Yes, you're dirt poor, but this is almost always going to be the case for the Runner, so run anyway. If you have enough cards in your hand to defend against flatlining, then make a run, even if you're strapped for cash.
You will be forcing the Corp to pay credits to rez Ice, you'll be revealing Ice for future runs. And if you run early in your turn, you might even be able to break subroutines with clicks rather than credits.
There are players out there who religiously make at least one run every turn. I can't say I've ever managed to do that, but it's certainly something I'm going to try out. Aggressive running like this may be risky, but it'll keep the Corporation under pressure and spending credits to slow you down. And a Corp that is low on funds, is at the mercy of the Runner.

In Part 4 we'll be looking at the game from the Corporation's side of things, but for now....keep running.