Card Game Corner by Degenerate Johnny

Card Game Corner: Game Overview - Android Netrunner

Card Game Corner: Game Overview - Android Netrunner

It was my sixth turn, and my mind was going a thousand miles an hour. My opponent was playing as NBN (a corporation) and I was playing as Gabriel Santiago (a criminal runner). During the last turn, my opponent placed two advancement tokens on an installed card (which was faced down) in one of his remote servers. Each advancement token costed my opponent an action. He decided to use his third and final action for the turn by placing a fifth piece of ICE (server protection, also faced down) on that server. Throughout the game, I managed to steal three agendas from my opponent, which gave me a total of six agenda points. However, my opponent managed to score five agenda points by advancing and scoring his agendas. All I needed to win the game was one more agenda point while my opponent needed two. I found myself staring at the advanced card as well as the newly installed piece of ICE. My programs can easily break through his two walls, and two code gates on that server (that’s how I managed to steal the last agenda). However, I had no programs to break through a sentry, and I was afraid that was exactly what my opponent installed as his fifth piece of ICE. Since my opponent was guarding his hand and deck with sentries, I could not make runs on them. Therefore, this server was my only option for a run. With the extra protection and two advancement tokens, it had to be an agenda. I could not allow him to score it (gaining a probable two agenda points), and possibly win the game.

I decided to take a chance and draw a card as my first action. I was hoping to draw a sentry breaker program so I could make a run on any server. However, I did not draw a sentry breaker; I drew something better. What I drew was a card called Inside Job, which allowed me to make a run and bypass the first piece of ICE. This meant I could disregard my opponent’s mystery piece of ICE, and break through his other pieces of ICE to access the advanced card. I used my second action to play Inside Job, and make the run. I had enough credits to boost up the strength of my programs and break through my opponent’s four pieces of ICE. This allowed me to finally access his advanced card. My opponent smirked and flipped the card over. It was not an agenda; it was an asset called Project Junebug. He proceeded to spend one credit to activate the asset’s ability, which caused the card to do two net damage to me for each advancement token on it. This meant I had to discard four cards from my hand. Unfortunately, I only had three cards in my hand. Because the damage exceeded my hand size, I “flatlined” and lost the game. My opponent and I shook hands in a show of respect for a good game. “Well played, I was convinced that was an agenda,” I said to my opponent. My opponent responded, “That was the idea.” He flipped the fifth piece of ICE over to reveal that it was a wall that could have easily been broken. In retrospect, I would have reconsidered my run if I encountered that wall to begin with. The strategy of having a fifth piece ICE I can break through would mean that my opponent had an ambush waiting for me. This is only one of thousands of scenarios you can encounter when playing Android Netrunner. It’s a game about strategy, risk taking, and deception.

Netrunner’s History

For those who don’t remember or were not part of the card game scene at the time, Netrunner was originally a collectible card game (CCG) that was developed by Richard Garfield (the creator of Magic: The Gathering). The game was eventually published by Wizards of the Coast during the mid-90’s. It was based on a role-playing game called Cyberpunk 2020, which was the second edition of the original “Cyberpunk” or Cyberpunk 2013 (wait does that mean we are living in a cyberpunk age right now?). It was a game that involved each player to take on the role of either as a runner (hacker) or a mega-corporation in an epic battle for supremacy. Although Netrunner was a moderate success, it didn’t achieve the same amount of players as Richard’s more popular creation did. I can tell you personally that one of the reasons was because of its over-complicated rule system. Back in those days, it took two weeks’ worth of devoted study for veteran players like me to get a full understanding of the rules. Unfortunately, not many were willing to devote that amount of time for a card game. Therefore, the amount of new players began to shrink, and it was only a matter of time before this game would face its end. By 2000, Wizards of the Coast ceased production of the game, and official tournaments also ceased. Netrunner was officially dead… or was it?

Even after being discontinued, Netrunner retained a strong cult following of players who shared the same passion for the game. Stores still ran unofficial tournaments for devoted players, and programmers were setting up sites and software for players to enjoy the game online. After seeing that there was still a viable market for the game throughout this entire time, Fantasy Flight decided to pick up Netrunner and revitalize it. By inputting some minor adjustments, Fantasy Flight re-released Netrunner as a living card game (LCG) called Android Netrunner. It was premiered at GenCon 2012, and has yet to slow down. It has achieved a great deal of popularity throughout the card gaming community, but it isn’t as widely known as Magic yet.

What is it?

Android Netrunner is an LCG version of the original Netrunner CCG that takes place in the setting of Android. You are probably saying to yourself, “Wait, what? First it was a CCG, now it’s an LCG? What’s the difference? Also you mentioned that Netrunner was based on the Cyberpunk RPG. What’s this Android?” OK, I understand your confusion. No worries, I’ll explain.


I’ll give you a brief overview of the differences between customizable card games, and living card games. A CCG is a game that contains starter decks of predetermined cards with rules to start you off in the game. Eventually, you’ll want to play more competitively, so you’re going to have to get better cards for you deck. This is accomplished through purchasing booster packs (pack of random cards), trading with other players/stores, and purchasing single cards from card game retailers. The problem with CCGs is that you don’t have all the available cards at your disposal for each set. The game is comprised of ultra-rare, rare, uncommon, and common cards. The rarer the card is, the more expensive it will be to obtain it. For this reason, many have called CCGs “rich player” games. Honestly, I don’t agree with that term, but I can understand the barrier of entry for those who are a little strapped for cash. CCGs may be expensive to some, but it offers balance to players with the help of a vast library of cards in each new set.

An LCG is a game that gives you all the game’s cards at your disposal with a purchase of one core set. However, the game becomes competitive with expansion packs that are usually released on a monthly basis. Unlike the randomization of booster packs from CCGs, everyone will be getting the same cards with the purchase of an expansion pack. This allows more players to compete effectively according to their play style without the fear of emptying their wallets for specific cards. Unfortunately, this means that not many (if any) retailers will have specific LCG cards available for sale (no profit if something that has no rarity). Most likely players will need to purchase a second, third, or even a fourth core set (depending on the game) if they wish to have multiples of certain cards in an effort to play competitively to their play styles. This may cause the game to be semi-pricey, but not as bank breaking as CCGs. Also the purchase of more core sets will give players more multiples of cards than they know what to do with (which could be a bad thing for unprepared players). Fortunately, expansion packs offer enough multiples of each card so that everyone can stay competitive with the purchase of just one pack. This is why it’s called a “living card game”; it creates a living atmosphere for players to develop new strategies that become unique as more packs are released. 

What is Android?

Android is the setting for many of Fantasy Flight’s cyberpunk board games and novels. It takes place in a not-so-distant future where Earth has colonized the Moon and Mars. Mega-corporations have more power than governments, and cyber-hackers are running wild. Heck, there’s even a space elevator. Wait a second, is this Eureka 7 (it’s an anime)? It seems that Fantasy Flight wanted to integrate the Netrunner franchise with one of its newer and already established properties, rather than sticking with a role-playing game from the early 90s. Honestly, this new setting is not so different than that of the original game. As a matter of fact, it seems to be a little more involved (just my humble opinion).


The plot behind Android Netrunner is that four mega-corporations are at war with three factions of hackers in a race to collect critical data. Each corporation monopolizes a particular industry.  One such company is called Haas Bioroid. This organization is the world leader in A.I. and cybernetic technologies (they aim to replace normal humans). However, HB has a rival company known as Jinteki. This organization specializes in biotechnology and cloning (they want to replace original humans?). Of course we cannot forget the media, and there is no bigger media presence than NBN. This organization controls the net with state-of-the-art monitoring programs and satellite tracking systems (in other words: Big Brother). Finally the fourth company is the Weyland Consortium, “Building Better Worlds” (sorry, I couldn’t resist). This shadowy organization is responsible for the space elevator that they call “Jack’s Beanstalk” to increase trading and commercial progression at an exponential rate (basically they want to rule the economic world).

As was said before, the mega-corporations are banding together to combat three runner factions. Each faction has its own agenda and specialized methods to hack into corporate servers to steal data. One faction is built up on hate for not only the corporations, but society in general. These hackers don’t care who pays the price. They just want to do as much damage as possible through the use of viruses and corrupt programs. Why? Because they can. These hackers are known as the Anarchs (some people just want to watch the world burn). Another faction of hackers is only in it for the money and personal gain. They’re basically the lone wolves who don’t care about anybody but themselves. Through the use of backdoor hacks and cyber-warfare, the Criminals are ready for anything that can turn a profit (makes sense). Finally the third faction of hackers is actually less aggressive than the other two. However, don’t let that fool you. These hackers are probably to be feared the most. They mod programs and consoles beyond their limits, and they build their rigs so that no security system can ever hope to stop them. These are the Shapers, and the art of hacking is their passion (think of Angelina Jolie’s character in the movie, Hackers).      

How do we play?

I’ll give you a brief description of the rules; the rulebook goes into great detail on how the game is played. Fantasy Flight made some minor changes to the game to make it easier for new players to play. Firstly, you pick two identities (one runner, one corporation). Then you build one deck for each identity (each competitive match requires you to play as the runner for one game and corporate for the other game). The game begins with the corporation starting first. Each side is given a set number of “clicks” (3 for the corp., 4 for the runner), which are spent in order to take certain actions throughout his/her turn. These actions range from drawing cards, gain money, installing cards, making runs, and advancing cards (actions vary between sides). Once one player uses all of his/her clicks, that player’s turn is over (the clicks will be replenished at the start of that player’s next turn). Each competitor goes back and forth until a winner is determined. 

How do we win?

Each side can win a game if one of two outcomes occurs.

The Runners wins:

• If he/she manages to score 7 agenda points by making successful runs and stealing agendas from corporate servers (deck, hand, discard pile, and remote servers).
• If the corporation has to draw one or more cards from his/her draw deck that’s depleted.

The Corporation wins:

• If it manages to score 7 agenda points by advancing and eventually scoring agendas from its remote servers.
• If the runner “flatlines” (damage is done to the runner that exceeds his/her current hand size).



• Diversify your ICE: Pieces of ICE are the guardians that stand between the runner and the contents of your servers. Therefore, various pieces of ICE can catch runners off guard, and stall their actions.
• Utilize decoy tactics: Never underestimate the power of bluffing. By making runners think that you’re protecting something valuable, you can set up those runners for traps (useful tactic in game-winning situations).
• Enhance your economy: The more money (credits) you have at your disposal, the more options you have on the table.
• Slow your opponent: Tagging an opponent will make him/her rethink his/her tactics, and fear certain cards that may or may not be in your deck. Either way you have the advantage.


• Run, Run, Run: Make runs frequently, and methodically. Forcing opponents to raise defenses, and spend money will place him/her on the defensive.
• Prepare for the unexpected: Does he/she have a Scorched Earth? Should I take the tag or not? Prepare yourself, and make sure that your next run is not your last.
• Conserve your credits: Big runs require big money. Make sure you have enough and more to break down your opponent’s defenses.
• Undermine your opponent: Use cards that can make your opponent’s assets (Assets and ICE) become liabilities. This will cause them to second-guess their actions.

Last Impressions

After playing several games of Android Netrunner, I have realized that there isn’t much of a difference between the original game and this one. The gameplay is just about the same, and Fantasy Flight has done a pretty decent job recapturing the original feeling of the game. This is both good and bad. It’s good that the game has maintained the nature of the original. However, the rules are still incredibly complicated. Even though I was already familiar with the original rules of the game, I still needed to refresh on the complexity of the game. This means that new players will have a steep learning curve if they wish to participate. Fortunately, Fantasy Flight does a nice job of explaining the rules so players can jump into the game (much better than the original rulebook).

   Throughout my experience, I noticed that not a single deck was alike. Each deck I played against offered a variety of challenges and surprises. This means that players can customize their decks to whatever way that makes them comfortable. However, competitive play requires players to purchase more than one core set. Even I had to purchase two core sets in order to construct a competitive deck. This can prove to be a little bit pricey to players. Therefore, I would suggest players to observe the game being played before they make a decision to purchase a core set. One must consider the entertainment value of the game before he/she decides to commit. Before getting into the game, I would suggest watching the tutorial video below. It will give a quick overview of the rules, and what you can expect to encounter when playing the game. Good luck to you all.

We’ll see you around the corner!

Degenerate Johnny is a Business Major who geeks out way too many times. You can follow him on Twitter at @degeneratejohny

Card Game Corner by - 5/26/2013 2:36 PM908 views



5/26/2013 3:12 PM

1 0

I remember hearing about this one back in the 90s when I first got into M:TG, shame it didn't last that long!

Great article though, looking forward to future ones!
Degenerate Johnny
Degenerate Johnny
5/26/2013 6:31 PM

1 0

Thanks DarkTetsuya, I appreciate it :)

I honestly thought the game was ahead of its time. Now that we're seeing it reemerge, it may very well achieve more success than its previous version. I've learned to never underestimate the power of cult followers.
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