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Zarden Sawtooth

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Android: Netrunner

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Android: Netrunner is a remake of the Netrunner CCG (Collectible card game) from the mid 90’s. This version is a living card game as opposed to a collectible card game, based around a cyberpunk theme. The game is a 1-on-1 battle between a mega-corporation (Corp) that is trying to control the world through technology and a genius hacker (Runner) trying to expose the data and secret agendas of the corp.

First off, the game has a really steep learning curve. If you have never played card games before it may well be 5-7 games before you can understand the gameplay. However, once you do the game turns out to be really fun and you just can’t stop playing. There are an overwhelmingly large number of rules to understand, not all of which are mapped out clearly in their 36 page rule book. In keeping with their theme all the cards are also named differently; trash pile is archives, draw pile is R&D, any agendas or assets you install are placed in remote servers and your hand is called the Grip for the runner and HQ for the corp, all of which follow a standard format for placing them on a tabletop.

A player may play as Corp or Runner (card on right shows runner Kate “Mac” McCarthy). The objective of the corp is to progress its secret agendas and score points for each agenda it advances. The corp uses several layers of protective ice on these agendas to prevent the hackers from getting through. The hacker (runner) has to break through the ice to reveal these agendas, in turn scoring them for themselves. The runner uses a host of programs and hardware to support this to help them break through. The first one to 7 points wins. Due to the asymmetrical nature of the game the corp has a more ‘come at me’ defensive attitude while the runner plays as the attacker. This suits different players and play-styles well.
Resources are available in the form of clicks (4 per turn for the runner, 3 for the corp) and credits. A runner has additional resources like memory and viruses which constrain how many programs can be run at a time. When the corp installs a piece of ice or any agenda/asset he installs it facedown so the runner has no idea what it is until he makes a ‘run’ on the corp and encounters it. This makes for some very creative mind games and bluff tactics. Each of the base decks have some distinct and unique advantages that require you know the strengths and weaknesses of that deck and turn them to your advantage.

Starting out learning this game by yourself is hard. Due to the steep learning curve for the game, players with different skill levels make for some really boring games. You want to get some experience playing with someone at your own level of experience when trying to learn the game. As with most card games luck plays its part in the game. However the structure and pace of the game is such that even if you get lucky in the beginning the game doesn’t spiral out of control. There is ample opportunity for the unlucky player to make an amazing comeback in the game. Thus balanced gameplay really impressed me and is probably what makes netrunner so balanced in spite of its asymmetrical style.
Another thing that really draws you into the world of android netrunner is the artwork and the quotes at the bottom of each card. Drawing out your Giordian Blade (It can slice through the thickest knots of data) program and ripping the opposing code gates in half to sail your way through to capture a well advanced agenda is very satisfying.

However, one problem which happened a few times when I played netrunner is that sometimes the game may get really drawn out when after a while nobody is drawing the right cards. Especially since the corp controls the majority of the flow of the game, the game may just be a credit-rich runner making endless runs on HQ and not drawing anything significant. Although this occurrence is rare if the game is in its nascent stage it can make the game extend well over its hour long standard play time.

In closing, great artwork and well balanced gameplay is what makes Android: Netrunner a very fun and engaging experience. Though the time commitment is high, it also makes winning more rewarding and forces you start strategizing about your next game. Making custom decks and seeing how they play out is another great experience netrunner delivers. Netrunner is a game you can sink hours of play into and be left wanting for more.

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