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Go to the Android: Netrunner page

Android: Netrunner

28 out of 32 gamers thought this was helpful

The first time I played Magic: The Gathering, I drew nothing but land and got demolished in a handful of terms, and didn’t touch the game again for a year. The next time I played Magic: The Gathering, I drew nothing but cards I couldn’t play without land, and received my killing blow within the first dozen turns. I haven’t played Magic: The Gather since. So when I was told it was part of my class assignment to play Netrunner, a Living Card Game, I was highly skeptical that it could be at all enjoyable.

I’ve never been happier to be wrong. One of the best aspects of Netrunner is the reduction of chance from your deck. Since there aren’t different rarity measures for cards (i.e. the same cards are in every expansion pack), everyone is on equal footing (at least if you’re playing someone with the same expansions, or a straight-out-of-the-box session). Additionally, actions players can take with their different “clicks” (essentially, their action counter for each turn) facilitate something happening to advance your cause every turn. Clicks can get you cards, money to place cards, or “attacks” against your opponent. While there is a reduction of chance from the cards in your deck and hand, the unknown factor comes in based on player bluffs or misdirects which is one of my favorite aspects of any board or card game. Naturally, it’s harder to bluff or read bluffs if you’re new to Netrunner, but learning techniques from experienced players, or realizing that you should be bluffing or juking your opponent more, makes learning the game fun as well.

My critiques for the game are the same as just about every other review on the internet for Netrunner. The rule manual is a chore to get through, and the terminology overcomplicates the basic mechanics. Having said that, the terminology contributes to a world and theme that is hard to beat in any other LCG or board game, so calling for it to be removed entirely could cause some serious drawbacks. The devil’s advocate in me wants to point out that with such specific terminology, identifying play and cards and actions for each player later in the game is supremely easy once you’ve mastered the jargon of the Android universe (which only takes a handful of play throughs in Netrunner). I’m also not sure why Fantasy Flight Games didn’t simply include a piece of paper with a link to their YouTube video that walks through the game play. Not only does it explain all the rules more concisely and clearly, but it’s good marketing material; the video makes the game look as exciting as it is, whereas the rule book makes the game seem like a chore.

Another barrier to entry is that it seems like the worse both players are at Netrunner, the longer it takes to play. If both players are experienced, a round of Netrunner takes, roughly, the advertised thirty minutes. If one player is experienced and the other player is a novice, the game is over very quickly, as one player gets demolished in about fifteen minutes. If both players are novice, expect it to take at least an hour, due to referencing the rule book over and over again. If nothing else, FFG should manufacture some cheat sheets for quick reference. There are action reference cards for each role (Runner or Corporation) but a little more detail about card arrangement on the playing surface, as well as some details about the types of cards in your hand would be supremely useful. Another caution is that while this may seem exciting for couples since it is a two player game, be sure your significant other is in for the long haul; Netrunner isn’t a great entry game for novice gamers, or anyone you’re trying to convince to play more board games, since it can take so long during the first game (if your significant other loves theme then this might be just as good as any other game to try to baptize them in the game culture).

But let’s sandwich in these critiques by rounding out this review with more reasons why this game should be played. The asymmetrical play I highlighted very briefly above is brilliant. At the very least, if you end up discarding the game, you feel compelled to play at least four rounds – a novice round as each occupation (Runner or Corporation) and then at least one more round in each role, to really get a feel for the game. Then, you might hate it, but that’s a great value right off the bat. The art is also beautiful. I’ve never felt compelled to get involved in deck building games, and yet I find myself reading and theorizing about how different cards could work together because the artwork is so beautiful to look at in the first place.

All in all, this is a game well worth the money – you will continue to get the bang for your buck for years to come, just from the out-of-the-box decks.

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