Review of Android - NetRunner

Actually that was the first time I heard about the game Android: NetRunner when my teacher told me that we would play it in class on the Game Design class two month ago. I searched on the website, and it seems that it’s a very great new Trading Card Game, like Hearthstone. But I didn’t get any sense until I got the game - There are so many cards with so many characters which excited me greatly, and the nice punk art style also encourages me to explore the game deeply.

Game Overview

This game is about the story between corporations and hackers. It’s actually a Living Card Game. Not like the TCG games I played before, in NetRunner the two players play different characters - corporation and hacker. Corporation cannot play against corporation, and hacker cannot play against hacker.

As a student of computer science before, I have to say that NetRunner performs a highly similar situation towards the real hacking thing. The corporation needs to build servers and protect them with ices while the hacker using his resources to hack the corp’s server. Making runs is always exciting and adventurous.

Play The Game

For the corporation, the main work is to use his clicks to build servers and advance them, protect them with ice - like firewalls of our computer. In servers there is a type of card called Agenda, which the player can get score from them when they are fully advanced. The corp can also install and advance other type of cards in servers to make the hacker confused. Every turn the corp is forced to draw a card and get three initial clicks.

In the original deck pack, there are four corporation identities to choose. Each identity has a unique skill that can be applied during the whole game. Each identity has 28 special cards for him, and there are 22 general cards for all of them. There are two ways for the corp to win: get seven points first, or kill the hacker. The corp can do damages to the hacker and force him to drop cards from grip, and once the hacker has no card to drop, he will die.

For the hacker, the main work is to use his resources to invade the corp’s servers and steal the unfully advanced Agenda cards and get score from it in his limited clicks. The player installs virus programs on hardware, using these virus to break the ices outside the server when making a run, try getting the Agendas as well as avoiding himself from being damaged. The hacker has four initial clicks every turn.

There are three original identities for the hacker to choose, and also each has a unique skill to help him invade more easily or protect him from damages. Each identity has 33 special cards for him, and there are 15 general cards for all of them. The hacker can win through the following two ways: get seven score first, or when the corp has no card to draw.

Thoughts After Playing

NetRunner is a game full of strategies and mind games. The corp needs to determine whether to install Agendas or others, to install what kind of ices, to get credits or draw cards - these all will affect the game results. The hacker may bet on which server to invade that he can get the most benefits. Sometimes luck is very important - I once invaded a server at the beginning turn when there was no ices, and I got two Agendas with each values three agenda points. I don’t like this. But most of the time, you can still hold your fortune.

Like Magic: The Gathering, NetRunner doesn’t limit the number of cards in your deck, but put a restriction on the total agenda points inside. Though for corps they will lose when they have no card to draw in R&D, it’s not a very good idea to build a very huge deck, because larger deck means more Agenda points, so it also increases the chances for the hacker to steal an Agenda.

There are many expansion packs of NetRunner now, and the company FFG is still designing new cards for the game. To some extent, to get all the cards you want is a big purchase. But unlike many TCGs, LCG games do not have randomized rare cards, which reduces the unbalance caused by purchasing abilities.

There are also many functions in NetRunner like Tag and Trace. The corp can trace the hacker and tag him, which is not a good sign for the hacker. And different Counters, to help perform the function of the original cards. Well actually NetRunner is the most complicated card game I’ve ever played. That’s also why I love it very much now.


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