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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Oct 5, 2012

Review – Android: Netrunner (Tabletop)

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Product Information

MSRP: $39.99

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Age Range: 14 and up

Game Type: Living Card Game

Set Up Time: <5 minutes

Game Time Length: 30-60 minutes

 Players: 2

There was a huge reason why I was excited to go to Gen Con this year, and that reason was the release of Fantasy Flight’s new Living Card Game Android: Netrunner. My hopes were crushed when I learned that the game sold out in mere minutes of the exhibition hall being opened. It was a bittersweet feeling because while the game being sold out upset me, it could only mean that the game was so good that people had to have it. Richard Garfield came up with the original Netrunner which was a collectible card game back in 1996. It was produced by Wizards of the Coast, but it didn’t see a very long shelf life. This new version has been reworked and produced by Fantasy Flight games, and the game is better than ever.

So there’s a story?

Believe it or not, Android: Netrunner does have somewhat of a story provided for a background of the game. It’s set in a dystopian future where monolithic megacorps and individualistic netrunners collide. These corporations can scan the human mind and interface it directly with electronic data. This way more data moves every second than was ever processed in the first five-thousand years of written language. The overall network is the pinnacle of modern human civilization, and while these corporations seek to secure their most valuable data on the network, elite hackers known as netrunners seek to steal it at all costs.

What’s in the box?

Straight out of the box you’ll have everything you need for two players to get into the game as Android: Netrunner is a Living Card Game that’s designed for two players to enjoy. You’ll receive cards enough for three different Runner factions and four Corp factions. There are also neutral cards used to beef up each deck you use to play with. You’ll find some chits that will keep track of miscellaneous counters, brain damage, credits, tags, and clicks. The rulebook is included as well, and it’s a lot more menacing than it looks. It’s full of color and well-written, though it looks intimidating at first. Everything is already organized when it comes to the cards, which is a big plus.

How do you play?

Setup for Netrunner is really simple. You need only to choose first whether you’ll play the Runner or the Corporation. Then you’ll choose from the available factions for each side. With the Runner you have the Anarch, Criminal, and Shaper factions to choose from. On the Corporation side you’ve got the Jinteki, NBN, Haas-Bioroid, and Weyland Consortium factions. Each faction works in a different way, with their own different strengths and strategies. For example, the Jinteki faction focuses on damaging the Runner for stealing agendas. The Anarch faction puts focus on avoiding damage and trashing the Corp’s installed cards.

Once you’ve chosen your faction you add neutral cards to your deck to meet your minimum. Each faction comes with an identity card that will have a number printed in a gray box at the bottom right of the card. This is the minimum card number you need to have for a deck. Once you choose your neutral cards to add, you’re nearly ready to go. In the box you’ll find a click-tracker which is a card that keeps record of how many clicks you’ve taken in a turn. During your turn you have a certain number of clicks, or actions, you can take. This card keeps track of them. You’ll also find a reference card that shows you what you can do with each click on your turn. Some of these actions can be as such: gain 1 credit, draw 1 card, advance an agenda, install a card, and more. We’ll get into the details more in a bit.

Each player starts off with 5 credits which are the currency needed to pay for installing programs, rezzing cards, and activating some abilities. Once you’ve got your cards set, your credits in front of you, and your click-trackers set you’re ready to begin. Each player draws 5 cards from their deck and the Corporation player takes the first turn.

In Netrunner you win by scoring points. Each player scores them in a different way. The Corporation scores points by advancing agendas and the Runner scores points for stealing them from the Corporation. In order to advance an agenda the Corporation needs to install it in a server. Cards can be installed for the Corp on remote servers which exist next to the player’s deck. To install a card, which costs one click, you simply place it facedown in an upright position. Only the Corp player installs cards facedown, and only they have remote servers. I’ll get to the Runner’s gameplay in a bit.

On the Corp player’s turn they can spend a click and a credit to place an advancement token on any installed agenda. Once the number of advancement tokens meets the agenda’s advancement cost the Corp immediately scores it. They place the agenda in their score pile, and it’s score cost gets added to their overall points. If at any time a player has 7 points accrued they win the game.

One of the most important abilities that a Corp player has is the ability to protect his installed agendas. The Corp does this by installing ice on the server where an agenda sits. Think of ice as sort of a firewall blocking incoming hacks from the Runner. In order for the Runner to get past this ice, and she must do so in order to access any installed card on a remote server, she will need to have an icebreaker program that is strong enough to deal with the ice. Each piece of ice has a number of subroutines on it, along with a base strength. The Runner’s icebreaking program needs to be of the same or higher strength in order to interact with the ice. If it’s not then the subroutine triggers an effect. Some of these include dealing net damage to the runner, giving the runner tags, and ending the run altogether. If the icebreakers can interact with the ice, however, they have ways to break subroutines. This stops them from going off and allows the Runner to get past the ice. If the Runner bypasses each piece of ice on a server then she accesses whatever card has been installed.

This is where bluffing comes into play. There’s no limit to how many pieces of ice the Corp can install on a server, nor the amount of remote servers he has. Some of the Corp factions have what are called snares that, if accessed by the Runner, do certain bad things to them like damage, ending the run, or giving them a tag. So, as a Corp player you’d want to install a snare in a server, put a lot of ice on it to make the Runner think you’re protecting an agenda, and as they spend their efforts trying to run on that server they’ll hit a snare that could flatline them.

The Runner will flatline at any time they take more damage than they have cards in their hand. When a Runner takes damage they discard cards from their hand at random in the amount of damage taken. There are three types of damage in Netrunner, and they are net, meat, and brain damage. Both net and meat damage affect the Runner by making them discard, where Brain damage works differently. When a Runner is hit with Brain damage they reduce their hand size by the amount of brain damage they’ve received. Brain damage sticks, so it’s a constant burden on the Runner.

When it comes to the Runner’s gameplay some things are a bit different. The Runner has three rows in which she’ll play her cards. They are the resource, program, and hardware rows. Runners install their cards faceup and can make use of them immediately. The Runner’s deck consists of cards that increase their credits, memory, and link strength. In order to install programs Runners need memory, as each program has a memory requirement. Runners start each game with 4 memory and can increase this amount by installing hardware.

As the Runner you’ll want to spend clicks beefing up your credits, installing icebreakers, and keeping your hand at a reasonable size. The Runner has 4 clicks to spend on her turn versus the Corp’s 3, but the Cop automatically draws a card each turn to even things out.

The rest of gameplay comes down to the cards and how they each play out. I won’t go too much into detail on these, because the mostly speak for themselves. Each player can play one-off cards on their turn, which will give them credits or other abilities to help them out. From here you’ve only got to outwit your opponent and score points. As you play you’ll find your own way of getting things done, for instance I’ve become fond of playing the Jinteki Corp because I like damaging the Runner. This is a fun way to win games, and seems to work in my favor. No matter what you choose you’re sure to have fun.

Conclusion

Android: Netrunner is everything I imagined and more. I’ve never played this game and not had fun. It takes less than 5 minutes to set up a game and each game only takes from 30 minutes to an hour. I’m still playing through the different factions, and so far I like the Jinteki Corp the best. When it comes down to it I prefer playing as the Corp just because I feel like it’s more fun. I’m sure that will change as I play more Runner factions, and I’m looking forward to that. You can pick up Android: Netrunner right now for $40, and it’s worth every bit of that. The only problem is that while you get all the cards you need in the core set, you’ll actually have to purchase two core sets to get enough cards to complete a nice tournament-worthy deck. Aside from that the game is great and it’s a perfect buy. You’d better get your copy fast, though, as they sell out quick.

The Good

  • extremely fun to play
  • not too difficult to learn
  • plenty of options to choose from
  • no randomizing of cards
  • low setup and game time

The Bad

  • need to buy two core sets to get enough copies of each card for a good tournament build
  • sometimes hard to find

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