Saturday, 28 September 2013

Run, Nab it, Run

A late report by James.

The Bracknell Bunch are trying to like Android:Netrunner. It’s certainly rather swish. It’s cyber-cool. It’s mega-corporations and hacking. What’s not to like? One could wear shades and a trenchcoat while playing this game. But it’s not quite clicking with anyone though. ...Yet.

Since they played it last, Chris has studied and re-studied the rules. James prepared by watching the video tutorials a second time. Boy, they’re slick. All throbbing blue laser arrows and sound effects, with a futuristic female voice-over. Presented like that, it gets you gasping for a game. Then you lay it out on the dining table and it’s like when you tried to play Tron down the car park in 1982. With a Frisbee.  To compensate, James made a hacking run arrow, using paper and a blue felt tip. If only his wife would have done the futuristic voice-over. From behind the dining room door. 

Perhaps not entirely fair that, because the game really is supremely well illustrated. It’s just the gameplay. When you think you know all the rules, some cryptic instruction crops up on a card and heads need to be scratched. So this game (third time for Chris, second time for James), James was doing the hacking – all subversive, like. Chris was the corporate giant. James started extremely well. Chris’ servers were about as secure as an Etch-A-Sketch left next to an unattended hammer. James was in and out and it was all rather exciting, as everywhere that James dipped his crafty little cyberpunk fingers, he nabbed a scoring card. He roared into the lead.

But then Chris began to seal things off good and proper. James’ gameplay ground to a halt. While new to this it does seem like you get some cards and think, who in the world would ever use that? Even so, it’s quite exciting to build things up and during the game, the whole thing almost clicked. Almost.

It was quite the stalemate for a while, as James’ attacks were fended off. His early success with the ‘sneakdoor beta program’ had been shored up by Chris’ Hadrian’s Wall barrier. You do find yourself slowly immersed in the game’s world. At first you feel silly saying you’re ‘rezzing your ice’. But it seems a bit arsey not to say it. Then you’re in the zone, spouting all the jargon. But some of the game mechanics don’t seem to produce the fireworks you hope for. Some results feel like damp squibs. And when James won, his first thought was merely, “Oh, right then.”

But somehow, both players do fancy another go.   

James 9, Chris 4.

Next, Agricola. Now, to be politically correct, James seems to be Agricola-challenged. To be blunt, he’s crap at it. But he does enjoy it. This time, he mapped out a game-plan  that would amass a frenzy of bonus points at the end of the game, mostly through occupations. As the game rocketed to its conclusion, James’ master-plan hinged upon Chris not using the occupation space in the last round...

Chris used the occupation space in the last round. James’ recruitment extravaganza (worth a game-winning seven points in his mind) was blocked, so he planted a bit of grain instead. For three points.

But James had been utterly deluded. Because Chris’ little-bit-of-everything tactics  won him the game by a mile. Looking back, James was never really in the running. Plus, Chris kept nicking all the stone. It’s like he wanted James to lose.

Chris 46, James 31.   

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