Happy April 1st, everyone!! Today is the first day of my first attempt at the A to Z Challenge! Throughout the month of April I will be blogging every day, except Sundays, for a total of 26 days. The topic of each blog post will correspond to the subsequent letter of the alphabet. And today we will kick things off with the letter A! A is for Android: Netrunner… I love tabletop games. If you asked me to pick my favorite game, I would be at a loss. There are so many great games out there now. My list of favorites is always changing. It depends on whom I’m playing with, if I get burned out over playing a game too much, or if a new game replaces an older one by scratching the same itch. But Android: Netrunner is one of those games that continues to stay in my top ten month after month. Android: Netrunner, often shortened to A:NR or simply Netrunner, is a card game designed by Richard Garfield — a man best known for creating another popular card game, Magic: The Gathering. Like Magic, the first iteration of Netrunner was a CCG, or “collectible card game.” The current version, published by Fantasy Flight Games, is an LCG, or “living card game.” The difference is that CCGs come in randomized booster packs, while LCGs come with a set group of cards in each expansion.
One of the reasons why Android: Netrunner is so fascinating to me is that it is an asymmetric game. That is, the mechanics of gameplay are different between the two players. You see, Netrunner takes place in a cyberpunk setting. One player will play as the big, bad Corporation; the other will play as a hacker, or as they are called in-game, a Runner. The core set of Android: Netrunner comes with three different Runner decks and four Corporation decks. This offers so much replay value, as well as the opportunity to personalize the game to your own play style.
As the Corporation, the player’s goal is to advance their greedy schemes by scoring agenda points. The Runner, however, is seeking to steal these points, thereby preventing the Corporation from furthering their shady dealings. The first player to seven points wins. In essence, Netrunner is like a shell game. The Corporation player lays her cards face down in positions known as “servers,” and can advance them using tokens. These servers are protected by special cards known as ICE (Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics). The Runner must then use his cards (which include special programs, hardware, and resources) to break through the defensive layers of ICE and get to the agenda card before the Corporation has time to advance it.
My brother is a much more strategic-minded person than I. When we were young, he would badger me to play game after game of chess with him. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like chess. I respect it for being a great game that has stood the test of time. But it can be so dry! When we started playing Netrunner together, I had flashbacks to our childhood playing chess. I sat there, across from my brother, watching the wheels turn in his head as he calculated the best move for his Runner to make. But unlike those summer afternoons filled with chess, I remained thoroughly engaged during our Netrunner sessions. I feigned unease as he broke through layers of ICE, knowing that the server he was about to access held not an agenda, but a card called “Project Junebug” that would give him damage equal to the amount of advancement tokens I had played. I was becoming as devious as the Corporation in the game! Like chess, Netrunner requires you to study your opponent and determine how they like to play. I often find myself adjusting my usual strategy when I play against different opponents. Unlike chess, which is an abstract game, Netrunner drips with theme and offers many different ways to experience it all. After playing with the set decks, you can personalize your game by deckbuilding, i.e. interchanging cards from different factions into a base deck. (My personal decks use Gabriel as my Runner base and Haas-Bioroid as my Corp base.)
All in all, Android: Netrunner is an incredibly well-designed game that provides a wealth of opportunities to make each play session feel new and different. It’s a rich strategy game with an engaging theme. Also… it’s just plain fun! If you’re looking for a two-player game, you can’t go wrong with Netrunner. It’s a great game just out of the box, even if you only have the core set. Then, if you want to experience more possibilities of what the game has to offer, you can go and buy the expansion packs for whatever factions you like to play. Android: Netrunner is an extremely popular game, so you’re likely to find a partner at any game shop near you. If it sounds interesting to you at all, I highly recommend it. Netrunner has been in my top ten games for a long time, and I imagine it will remain there for quite awhile. Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I owe my brother a rematch…