Thursday, 5 September 2013

Intruder Alert!

Wednesday night saw James and myself take on one of the more inaccessible games around Android:Netrunner. On reading many reviews and speaking to the guys in the shop I knew that the game was unapologetically theme heavy and awkward to learn. Admittedly James and I probably aren't its target demographic as it is a Living Card Game akin to Magic (But not a CCG - Big difference apparently!) but almost every review and person I've spoken to says it's worth the learning curve.

It is set in a Blade Runner style (The word dystopian gets used a lot) future where Corporations are the real powers and Hackers known as Runners are their sworn enemies. It's a strict two player game where one side plays the Corporation and the other a Runner. Corporations are essentially defending their servers from attack by Runners and Runners are trying to gain access to those servers to steal information. The prime winning margin are things called Agendas. The Corporation installs them into their servers and tries to Advance them (Pay for them) and thus they can be scored. Conversely the Runner tries to steal them from the servers using programs that cut through the Corporations defences.

Still with me? The language gets a lot worse. After you've used a few clicks and spent some credits to rez your ICE or ICE breaker you feel like genuine nerd.
A dystopian landscape
The Final Flight Fantasy website has some really natty videos to help train you to play which we both watched ahead of the evening but after 5 minutes of me trying to explain the rules James felt his soul leaving his body and pleaded that we launch straight into it and treat the start as a training game.

When playing these more complex systems, getting a handle on what is a good move is quite impossible. Therefore we dove straight in placing down impressive looking cards and talking the talk. Our game play did speed up although a rule referral was never far away and irritatingly the rule book didn't supply a break down of the individual cards to aid comprehension.
Action tracker - thats clicks to you

In the end the result was a narrow win for me as the Runner. 7 Agenda points to 6, 7 being the winning margin. Chatting afterwards we agreed that the game didn't really click with us. We couldn't generate the tension that is supposed to be the best part of the game. I had a pretty powerful card and it seemed to rip through James' defences if I had enough money. We were left pondering whether we had played it entirely correctly.

We decided to give it another chance the next time we have a games evening because there is a cool game in there somewhere, we just need to see if we can find it.


  1. At the start I was intrigued; but even the briefest precis of the rules had me thinking it wouldn't be my cup of tea. But I'd be interested to hear how it goes on a second play.

  2. Awesome - I'm so glad someone in the gang has taken the plunge! This is the pioneering spirit of GNN!!

    Netrunner is a game I've pondered picking up for a while, and my reservations have been similar to yours, Chris - the theme is sooo uber-nerdy, you've really got to embrace your inner Matrix/Neuromancer-adoring super geek. I know it's there within me, but not sure I could convince another Bristol GNN-er to go there too (and I have plenty of 2 player games with less alarming themes to play).

    That said, by all accounts it's worth the learning curve, so I look forward to hearing more...

    Have any of the Bracknell-ites got race for the Galaxy? It scratches a similar sci-fi-nerd itch, but in a very slightly more acceptable place. I highly recommend it. Perhaps next time we all get together you can introduce me to Netrunner and I can return the favour with RftG.

  3. Joe, I've played Race before, once, and had a similar experience. However the gang I was with gave me the briefest introduction before going into it and they were all experienced. I want it to work and I think it's one of those that rewards persistence. And probably someone showing you he ropes...

  4. Having not played Android-Netrunner this is gonna sound a bit ludicrous but I think Race for the Galaxy IS more accessible. It takes a few plays but as the games aren't long it doesn't feel like you're getting the investment/reward equation wrong (see: Battlestar Galactica)

    I think the slight criticism of Race is that the card designs aren't that intuitive, so first couple of plays can be confusing.

  5. Yes the icons are a bit of a bear to learn, although I think we're all more used to interpreting icons on cards than we were when Race came out, as it ushered in a bit of a vogue for non-language dependent cards (I think).
    It does come with a very comprehensive crib sheet, and as you say, Sam, games take about 20 mins, so within an hour you'd be completely up to speed.