Running Nets: Deckbuilding Intro

Because let’s be honest, your friends are BASTARDS

I’ve got another board-game recommendation this week, and this is one you’ve probably heard of: Cosmic Encounter. If you haven’t played this glorious game before, the goal is to spread your particular brand of alien amongst the stars and land your ships on your opponents planets as colonies; get enough colonies and you are victorious. Each turn, you’ll draw a card which tells you which player you are attacking, and once the attacking player decides how many ships to send into the battle, both sides can invite the other players to pillage or defend the system, and each player plays one or more cards that modify the strength of your side. The loser (lowest at the end of all that) loses all their ships and the winners place their ships on the other system as a colony.

But oh god, there is so much more. You could also choose to negotiate instead of playing an attack card. If both players play negotiate cards then you have a minute to decide on a reasonable outcome, usually involving some exchange of cards and a colony for each player. That’s good, and benefits both sides. But if one player plays a negotiate card and one person doesn’t, the person who tried to negotiate shows up to a space knife-fight with a space-pen and loses all of their ships.

Oh my god there is so much awesome in this picture

Oh, and did I mention that each player gets one or more species cards which give you crazy abilities. You might get the ability to send spores and infest attacking players. Your lost ships might subdivide, splitting every time they are destroyed. Or maybe you’re space pirates, stealing other people’s ships and holding them for ransom. But you also might be giant crazy yellow peep aliens (no really) and just have crazy amounts of ships. Or you might decide to play with two or three of those crazy abilities. The game is a mix of hilarious abilities, some truly devious social gameplay and some great table talk.

Beware though, this game has the potential to cause some serious problems if your gaming group is either too vindictive or too attached to “winning.” This is a game where treachery is rewarded, and you can have your entire game shot out from underneath you and if your group can’t handle either of those, stay clear. If you can, man there is a lot of win in this game, and the expansions just add more crazy abilities and cards. Highly recommended.

Let’s talk about in-flu-ence!

I waged an internal war on whether to include Salt-N-Peppa or Pitch Perfect here …

So when I was writing up the first Weyland article I realized that I hadn’t talked about deckbuilding or influence yet, so the concepts might be a little confusing to some people. After all, Weyland has some amazing tools to murder the Runner but most of those tools like Scorched Earth or Traffic Accident require tagging the runner, and that’s not something that Weyland does easily. They like their ICE big and ridiculously hard to get through, but actually tagging the Runner is a weakness for them. That’s clearly not a problem as there is even a name for those odd Weyland builds that DON’T include murdering the Runner but to talk about how we can enable our Scorches and Traffic Accidents we need to get a little into deckbuilding, specifically the ID. I want to cover Deckbuilding more at length once we get through the factions, but looking at the ID is a good place to start.

The ID

Before we start talking about the IDs I want to give a shoutout to something that may seem small, but especially in the industry, can be a big thing. Netrunner, as a game that’s set in the (not so) distant future always makes sure to be very inclusive about different races, cultures and sexes in the game. Take Kate McCaffrey for example, she’s half Scottish, half African American (IIRC, I’m suddenly suspicious of my memory) and is also a woman. The IDs in Netrunner are a wonderful melting pot of humanity that isn’t full with white male protagonists in their 30s partnered with older white males “on the verge of retirement,” and that breadth of inclusion is positive and should be noted and encouraged.

Even the cycles sometimes have a theme or setting that you would not expect. With the last few cycles (think of a cycle like a set in Magic, broken up into smaller bite sized releases called data packs) they’ve shifted to having a location theme; first it was the moon, then it was SanSan (the megacity formed from the merger of San Francisco and San Diego) but for the current cycle they are going to Mumbai in India. Even now, Mumbai is the center of a bunch of high-tech industry so it makes sense to base a cycle there and it gives the game fantastic flavour. Anyways, back onto the ID card itself.

Each player starts the game with an ID card in front of them, a plucky hacker for the Runner player and a faceless megacorp or division for the Corp player. This ID gives theme to the deck, as well as placing some constraints on it. The first and most straightforward constraint is the minimum deck size that the ID allows. Netrunner is a game of silver bullets, answers and counters, so having a slim lean deck is essential to building something successful. A larger deck size means that all of your important cards will be more diluted, and you will have to search harder to find a particular answer or card. For the Corp player they also have to worry about Agenda density, as there is a specific number of Agendas needed at minimum to qualify as a legal deck. This is to avoid players simply not putting enough Agendas in the deck and unfairly stacking the game in favour of the corporation.

The next thing to consider when choosing an ID is the Influence allowed by that ID. All IDs come from one of the 7 possible factions (or 3 mini-factions) in Netrunner: Weyland, NBN, Jinteki and Haas-Bioroid on the Corp side and Shaper, Anarch and Criminal on the Runner. An deck can include any cards they want from their home faction without cost, but cards outside of that will cost them. If an NBN player wants to include a Scorched Earth for example to combo off their powerful tagging cards like Midseasons Replacements, they will have to pay 4 influence to do so for each copy of that card they include. So Anarchs can use Shaper Hardware, Jinteki can include HB ICE and everyone can get along together but influence limits will constrain this happy cooperation. You can see all of the IDs we’ve seen so far have 15 INF (which is the standard) so if you want to include three copies of Scorchced Earth in a deck other than Weyland, you’ll have just three INF remaining for other cards like out of faction ICE or Operations. It’s a concern in deckbuilding that we’ll get into in more depth, but it’s worth mentioning as a balancing factor for cards and a powerful source of the theming in decks. Anyone can use NBN’s tagging cards for example, but no one will do it as powerful and pervasively as they will, as they simply can’t afford to pay the high INF costs.

The final thing to consider when building a deck is the inherent ability that’s printed on the card. For some, like Kate McCaffrey it grants you a significant ongoing ability, in this case providing a substantial discount on programs and hardware. Nero Severn on the other hand gives you protection against Sentries, preventing running into (or in the lingo, face checking) a Sentry and just exploding. These benefits exist on the Corp side as well, with Engineering the Future giving you a credit every single time you install a card, which is HUGE. Others effect the game for both players, like GRINDL or Harmony Med-tech. You wouldn’t think that changing the requirements from 7 points to 6 is a big deal, but that’s an entire Agenda less both sides need to score.

Next Time!

Man I love Weyland’s theme

So yeah, that was a little bit of a deckbuilding diversion. You really need to understand the concept of Influence to really understand the factions. Weyland doesn’t work as well without NBN tagging toys, or some nice timely Jinteki or HB ICE. But next time we’ll get back into Weyland next week and figure out where they fall down. Because while I’ve talked glowingly about the faction, they are pretty widely viewed as one of the weakest, and we’ll figure out why.