This week, a combination of circumstances meant it was just Yehuda and I who faced off across the gaming table. This was an opportunity for me, as I was keen to play Tash Kalar; Arena of Legends. Unfortunately, Yehuda wasn’t… Instead, we settled on Fantasy Flight’s version of Android: Netrunner.
This used to be a Collectible card game – meaning you had to buy expansion packs that were randomly stocked and so had no guarantee you would get the cards you want. Great marketing, but poor from the gaming perspective. Now it is a Living card game which means you know what you get in each box or pack.
The game features a Corporation player and a Runner squaring off in cyberspace in a dystopian future. The Corporation is trying to advance its evil plans (Agendas). They score victory points and seven are needed for a win. The Runner is trying to hack into the Corporation’s systems (drives) and steal those Agendas to also get seven points. The Corporation has ICE (defensive software) and traps that it can use to damage the Runner and even tag him so as to hunt him down and cause him further damage.
Yehuda had played before, but it was new to me. That partially explains why I mishandled the Corporation side. And, although I came within one card of eliminating Yehuda, he wore me down and eventually claimed the win.
The game play is quite involved but makes sense when you understand the core mechanics. The rules are pretty good, but we found some of the card text to be less than complete. (I think there is an up to date FAQ and rules set on the web.) It’s an asymmetric game so I recommend you try playing both sides before you decide if you like the game. Each is quite different.
For example, the Corporation must draw a card each turn, but gets it for free. However, if it runs out of cards, it loses.
For example, the Runner must pay (an action, effectively) to draw a card. But it gets four actions a turn – one more than the Corporation – and does not lose if he runs out of cards.
For example, the Corporation can set traps and bluff, but does not seem to have his own offensive opportunities. He needs to (on the one hand) wait till the Runner starts something, while simultaneously spending resources trying to complete his Agendas. And the Runner, therefore is the one doing most of the attacking.
You can play it out of the box, or build your own deck to see how it fares. If you have time, the deck building aspect seems to offer lots of opportunity for quality gaming time. And there are plenty hints out there in real (ahem) cyberspace.
Overall, I just scratched the surface of this, and I am keen to play it again.