Dropping into Tuesday night board games at Quarterstaff Games last night, I finally got to try my hand at Android: Netrunner, the latest of Fantasy Flight Games’ living card games, and the next iteration of a beloved collectible card game, Netrunner, designed by Richard Garfield himself. I’m honestly not sure what about Android: Netrunner caught my attention — probably the same thing as Dominion: the galaxy of possibilities in playing the game without necessarily the same level of investment as a traditional CCG; plus the extension of the Android universe, which we local fans think is one of the original game’s greatest assets — but I’ve been following the discussions on Boardgamegeek.com since the first announcement. And while I’ve stopped following those discussions because they invariably looped back to the pros and cons of the living card game format and whether X card or faction is wicked broken, I maintained my interest.
With only one play under my belt as the criminal runner Gabriel Santiago against Haas Bioroid, it’s hard to say a lot that’s helpful or likely to be terribly accurate. But that never stopped anyone before, did it?
Part of what drew me to Android: Netrunner was that it was supposed to be playable out of the box, particularly in the wake of having been interested in the Call of Cthulhu card game until I let those arguments about the “need” to own multiple core sets to play it properly dissuade me from exploring further. Android: Netrunner, however, absolutely is playable out of the box. Pick a faction, add the neutral cards to those and you’ve got a deck. While I lost against Haas, it didn’t feel like an unmatched loss, if you know what I mean. There were cards that worked together and I was able to see some of those match ups from the very beginning.
I didn’t really know what I was doing for the first half of the game, so maybe I dawdled or didn’t generate enough cash regularly enough — there were more than a couple turns where all I did was drum up credits, especially once I figured out that Sneakdoor Beta is a persistent effect letting Gabriel use his ability against a second of the corporation’s core servers — but I started to get the sense of recognizing when the corporation’s resources are low as part of dancing around its intrusion countermeasures.
It was a first brush with a new game. I liked it for the most part. The prospect of having multiple first brushes with Android: Netrunner is a little intimidating, owing to the number of factions with unique cards to learn how to use, but it’s also a promise of lots of variability in play. It’s kind of like opening a new Dominion expansion, only the entire game is different and there are cyborgs.
There was also the slow process of “All right, so I spend a click to go on a run, then the ICE requires this strength hacking, which means this program needs this many clicks . . . ” but you’ll have that with any game. I repeatedly found myself in the position of discovering halfway through a run that I didn’t have enough credits to bypass all the subroutines. In retrospect, I wonder if I was playing too cautiously, being unwilling to take the consequences. Particularly with regard to the final, make or break run. I can’t remember now if the credits I spent on the layers of ICE were something I could have saved by taking the penalties of the subroutines.
And as game jargon goes, it’s pretty easy to find the analogies between clicks and actions, stacks and decks and so forth for anyone who’s suffered through the innumerable variations on “victory point.”
Best of all, it was fun to play without worrying about deckbuilding at all. I’m looking forward to trying out all the factions, on both the runner and corporate sides of the board.