20 May 2015

Android: Netrunner

I've been playing Netrunner with a good friend of mine and I have to say: I can see why people are so fanatical about it.

I'm not a stranger to card games; I played Pokemon throughout grade school, Magic the Gathering from when I was probably 10. I own two Dominion sets, a Resident Evil deckbuilder, and the core Lord of the Rings LCG. I've played a dozen rounds of Fluxx and (bleh) Cards against Humanity. I even tried the lackluster DC Comics Deck Builder, and the bizarrely fiddly Legendary from Marvel comics. Add to it Space Hulk: Death Angel and Warhammer Invasion and Warhammer Fantasy's Battle for Atluma- I've played a whole lot of card games.

Android: Netrunner might be better than all of them.

It's good enough that I'm not working at all on my FC campaign or even looking through systems to switch to when the campaign is over. I'm just looking through these NBN cards, trying to figure out exactly how much tracing is enough tracing  and how many bioroids I should be running in this Haas-Bioroid deck I'm considering. [1] I'm peeking at Shaper cards to steal for my Anarch deck, which I'm hoping will set enough fires that any corp I face will collapse.

Compared to Magic the Gathering, A:N is elegant and creative. In MtG, most of the challenge is in deckbuilding and sideboarding; deck archetypes are strong or weak to each other in varying arrays and there's nothing you can do about it in-game. You have to sideboard in or out cards after losing, and you're still playing pretty much the same deck and so are they.

In A:N, though, you don't really sideboard anything, and you're not expected to. Decks are flexible and play differently every time, because the game puts a massive focus on deception and reading your opponent.

I distinctly remember playing MtG once: I was playing monored aggro and he was playing some sort of white midrange. [2] The dude across from me had been holding back these two cards from the beginning of the game. I recognized that they were probably Wrath of God and then either Akroma or Serra's Angel, so I played around it by pretending I didn't notice but not playing any more cards. Predictably, he wrathed, so next turn I played another hasted creature. He played his angel (I forget which) but it didn't matter because in response to that I just used my last burn spell. I win, dickhead. [3]

Anyways, every round in A:N is like that because the Corp is playing most of its cards face down and the more dynamic and reactive Runner has a plethora of options available to them. Every single turn you are asked "Do you feel lucky?" as you gauge what level of risk you're willing to put on the table. Every single turn your opponent has to decide if you're playing real threats, if you're feinting, or if it's a feint within a feint. It is a turn-based fighting game, and reading your opponent (and reading their reads of you) is essential to overcoming them.

It's a very good game. I hope that I can continue playing it and that my gaming partner will continue to show interest in it! [4]

[1]Answers: "There's no such thing as too much tracing," and "As many as you can reasonably justify, plus two more for good luck."

[2] I usually played a goblin deck. Onslaught block had only recently started, so there were a lot of neat things going on with the tribal subtype. We played kitchen sink casual magic, which is basically Legacy. But without the banlist. Nobody had money enough to buy Black Lotus or anything with Mox in its name, and we only had a vague understanding of things like mana curve or efficiency, so it ended up generally being a good-spirited rumble. My opponent in this story was a smug, tubby, tall dude who always had really fancy sleeves and occasionally used a foil-heavy combo deck he was really proud of, even though it didn't go off half the time because I was just playing aggro and if you needed more than a handful of turns to win, I'd have battered you to death with fast, efficient goblins like always. He was ok, but had sort of a Dennis from Always Sunny vibe; you could tell he thought he was better than everybody else for some reason and I guess he thought everybody admired him or something but nobody really liked him and we only hung out with him when we were playing Magic. Ah, memories.

[3] I've never been one for gloating, or basking in my glory. Win or lose, I just want to improve my play. That's the kind of guy I am; stubborn and self-critical. A lot of things in my life are like that, now that I think about it.

[4] I only play with the one person right now, and online, but I imagine that I can find some more people who are tolerant of newcomers and won't tease me when I make staggeringly stupid mistakes!

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