Running Nets: The Structure of a Turn

Get a Job you Hippy!

So if you’re anything like me and you’ve got quite a few boardgaming friends, then chances are Cards Against Humanity hit your gaming group like a bolt from the blue sometime in the past few years and hasn’t let up. It’s a great game, and a fantastic opener, but what it’s done more than that is introduce the world to the simple, easy to play game that makes everyone laugh. It’s easy to pick up, bring to anyone’s place, have a few laughs, make a few questionably racist or awful plays, and go about your day.

But you’ve probably also played quite a bit of the game, and are possibly sick of it, as well as feeling a bit icky or guilty due to the content. It’s a great game, and I still pull it out every now and again, but I’ve been pulling out Funemployed even more lately, and that’s not a problem, because it’s a fantastic game.

Your answer to boring nights

The rules could not be more simple. Each turn, one player draws a job card from the job deck and plays it where everyone can see it. That’s the job that everyone will be applying for, and each player draws a hand of four attributes from the attributes deck, and after each pitching one they don’t like for one from the common access pool in the center of the table, begins interviewing for the job. The person who drew the job interviews the player, where they have to reveal all the characteristics that they have drawn and convince the interviewer that they are uniquely qualified for this position. For anyone who’s ever interviewed this is easy and immediately relatable, and funny to boot.

But if you’re nodding along, swirling your brandy, twiddling your mustache and going “Hmm, this game does seem quite amusing, bully!” then you haven’t even heard the best part yet. While the job deck contains some normal jobs like Schoolteacher or Lawyer, it also contains things like LARPer or Gynecologist, and while the attribute decks contain Expert or Quick-Witted they also contain things like Slimy, Has a Katana, or Is a Dragon. And there are so many different combinations of attributes that it goes well around the bend from useful and meaning that you’re stuck arguing that being telepathic makes you a better LARPer than the person who is actually a DRAGON, because who wants to interact with a Slimy Narcoleptic Kleptomaniac dragon anyways?

Hilarious and easy to explain, perfect for people who don’t mind getting a little ridiculous. Highly recommended.

The Turn Structure of Netrunner

Nothing is more scary than a Ronin without a lord …

We’ve danced around the mechanics of Netrunner enough in our little meandering through this wonderful game, and now it’s time to get a good solid look of the fundamentals of the turn structure so we can start talking about some of the more granular details of the game. I’m going to punt on the concept of Central Servers (which I had originally planned to introduce now) because there is one big part of Netrunner that we haven’t talked about yet: making a Run.

It’s sort of essential to the entire game, and you can’t get away from talking about Runs without talking about Clicks, and with them Credits and Tags and Bad Publicity and all sorts of other things. Now that we have some indication of the kinds of cards we can play, how do we play them? Before we get into the specifics of all those terms, let’s talk about Clicks specifically. On each players turn, they will have a certain number of Clicks to spend on actions during your turn. These for the most part gate the things you can do each turn. The Runner gets 4 Clicks, and the Corporation gets 3.

There are other abilities that you can do during your turn, called Payment Abilities and you can also do things like Advance Agendas or Rez cards, but most of your interaction with the game and your opponent will come from spending these clicks. Careful use of them, and planning for the future, is the difference between a close game and a blowout for one side.

Corp Side

Corp action card of great justice!

Before we get into the specifics of the turn structure and what Corps can do with their Clicks, it’s important to note that while the Corp side gets one less click each turn, they have to draw at the start of every turn. On the face of it, it’s a positive for the Corporation: a card a turn means that as you play ICE, Assets and Operations, your hand is continually refilled. But this reliable draw is not actually a huge benefit, as you’ll see when we get to the Runner section it’s actually a bit of a negative. But enough of that, what else can we do with our clicks?

The first thing that you can do is easily the easiest to explain: a Corp can spend a click to play a card from hand (note to our eagle eyed viewers, it is a separate action to play an Agenda/Asset/Upgrade/Ice and to play an Operation, but that’s only because the first four go into play while the last go into the bin when it’s done). If that card has a cost associated with it, the Corp must also pay that cost to be able to play the card from hand. So even though that Restructure to the right gives you a huge 15 credits, you need a click and 10 credits to even play it. So as I said in the last article, you need an awful lot of planning and forethought to get through a turn in the proper order. Not only do you need to plan out where and when you’re agendas go, you need to protect them with ICE, and compliment them with Assets and Upgrades, and Operations further complicate things.

So we can play cards, but how do we get those cards and credits to play those awesome cards? Well, it’s a bit a trick question since most of the time, we get cards and credits from cards themselves. Playing cards to either draw you more cards, or get you credits is the main economic engine of Netrunner. Failing that, you can always spend a click to draw a card or spend a click to gain a credit. So you can always do those under any circumstances, so 1 Click for $1 or 1 Card is the baseline that you’ll be comparing any cards that make you money or draw you cards against. That Restructure is going to make you a mighty $5 for a single click, 5 times the effectiveness of just the base ability, but it takes an even more mighty $10 to play.

The last two things you can do are a bit esoteric but they are ultimately important. A common resource that your opponent will be building is Virus Counters. Programs like Datasucker or Parasite will eventually spiral out of control until all of your nice orderly servers are left a smoking ruin. Luckily, the Corp can spend three clicks (THREE CLICKS!) and purge virus counters on every card in play. Running an anti-virus sucks, but it’s better than letting everything die. The last thing that the corp can do (which we briefly covered earlier) is trash a resource if the runner is tagged for $2. This is an important detail, because once the big bad corporation knows where (or who) the runner is, you can begin smashing into businesses and shutting down all the runners connections. It’s a great bit of theme, and it feels great to break up a runners Professional Contacts.

Runner Side

Runner card of UNSTOPPABLE ANARCHY

So I mentioned that the corp player gets a free draw every turn, but only three clicks per turn. Well the runner doesn’t get that free draw but it gets four clicks per turn, so if it wants to, it can draw 4 cards on it’s turn, or make $4, while the Corp can also draw 4 cards, but can ONLY make $3. The Corp may have essentially the same number of click type actions, but has less flexibility as they HAVE to draw a card every turn. And did I mention that if the Corp goes to draw for a card and can’t they lose automatically-NO BECAUSE WE’RE ZOOMING PAST RULES LIKE WE JUS’ DON’ CARE.

Like the Corp player, the Runner plays cards from his hand (either Programs, Hardware, Resources of the Operation analogue Events) for a click, can gain $1 for a single click, and can draw a card for a click. Those are the same rates that the Corp gets and so again, everything is considered against that baseline. The previously mentioned Private Contracts allows the runner to draw a card AND gain a dollar, and given that you’ll be clicking to draw cards a whole bunch, you might as well get $1 every time you do it. Or in the case of the lovely Special Order to the right you can make sure that your card Draw finds the target you’re looking for every time by simply tutoring it right into your hand. Neat!

There are two more things you can do as a runner player, and one is crucially important, and the other really isn’t. You can spend $2 and a click to remove a tag and given that the Corp can blow up our stuff by spending a click and $2, spending $2 and a click of our own to prevent that seems like a good trade. It also means that a Tag is a really bad thing to have happen to you, and that’s not even discussing things like Scorched Earth or Closed Accounts (oh god Closed Accounts) which can really ruin your day. Luckily for us plucky runner types Tags usually only happen when you bumble into something or do something really unfortunate, so the Runner has a little bit of control over the matter. Plus, since you can remove a Tag using a click and $2, if you keep a little money free and do all your risky actions (that might give you runs) you can remove the Tag on your last click just in case you run into a Snare! or something.

Lastly, and most crucially, the runner can spend a click to make a run … and that’s all the time we have! Seriously though, I’ll go into the rules for Runs a little later, after the Central Servers article, and introducing the whole package makes runs make sense. It’s how I prefer to introduce the game in person, and I’m hoping it works in the online space just as good. In basic terms though, Runs are how we spend our money, use our Programs, Hardware and Resources to snag the data, beat the corps, and get the babes/hunks/pizzas. Fun stuff!

Next Time!

Gosh I hate this card…

Holy cow, I’ve only got one more scene setting article until we can begin talking about the real meat of the game, runs! We’ll get there together, as long as we keep the Diesel flowing …