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Android: Netrunner

28 out of 32 gamers thought this was helpful

Cyberpunk. There, now you understand Android: Netrunner.

Android: Netrunner is an asymmetrical, 1v1, living card game from Fantasy Flight Games. It is based on the 1996 card game, Netrunner, by Richard Garfield who is best known for designing Magic the Gathering. I’m going to avoid specifically spelling out the rules of the game, except where they are relevant to reviewing the game, as you can learn to play from any number of online sources.

Now, back to my first sentence. Android: Netrunner is game about embodying a cyberpunk character, in the high-tech, low-life Either someone who is running an insidious corporation, trying to push agendas, or a hacker (known as a runner) trying to break in and steal those agendas. I’ve never played a card game that captures its theme so well. Everything in this game makes you feel your role, from the card art, the mechanics, to how your play area is laid out on the field and the naming of each of the game’s locations on the field. The corporation doesn’t have a hand, deck and discard; it has HQ, R&D, and the archives respectively. Likewise the runner has a grip, stack and heap. All this terminology is a hurdle for new players, however it aids the player is engrossing within the setting.

During play, each player’s play area is organized differently. The runner’s area is called a rig, with sections for programs, hardware, and resources. As the game progresses as a runner, you feel like you are building this epic computer to hack through the corporation’s defenses and steal agendas. While the corporation is spending time being defensive and protecting itself, you are always the one to attack. The runner is always the initiator, and always has the last say in how he reacts to a situation.

On the flip side, as a corporation, your play area is comprised of remote servers. Each server can have an agenda or other asset loaded into them. In order to stop the runner from just hacking in and steal them however, the corporation can install firewall-style programs called ice. Ice are installed in front of a server, essentially representing a wall the runner must make it through to their goal. As the game progresses for the corporation, you are installing more and more ice, and nefarious agendas. You quickly grow from a small vulnerable corporation into a massive, nearly unbreakable structure.

Both sides of Android: Netrunner are unique and feel their part. However this awesome setting and theme does not diminish the quality of the game. Some elements of Netrunner are much more open than in other card games. Each turn, each player has a number of ‘clicks’ they are free to spend as actions. A click could be placing a card down, or drawing a card, or gaining a credit. This choice really opens a wide range of possibilities to the player, and allows some great play dynamics. You are no longer limited to drawing a single card and just having to live with what you have that turn in a card game. Players can choose to draw cards for their clicks, if they don’t have a good hand, or gain credits if they are low. I’ve also never played a card game where I felt this in control during the entire duration of play. Even if you are losing game, being able to perfectly manage your clicks each turn is very rewarding.

Android: Netrunner is absolutely a game that can be played by a plethora of players. With the living card game format, players are not troubled with trying to collect cards. They know exactly what they are getting with the core game, and each expansion pack. It is definitely a hard game to get into, with the many rules and nuances of play that are common to these types of card games. That is only compounded with the use of unusual naming conventions for many of the core elements of a card game.

Finally I can’t really recommend Android: Netrunner enough. The game is loads of fun from either side of the field, with unique gameplay to boot. It grants players an unparalleled level of freedom with how they handle their individual turns. Most importantly, for me at least, it makes me feel like I am embodying the spirit of a cyberpunk justice warrior or an evil bureaucrat.

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