Android: Netrunner was demoed for me by Ben from Jack In a Box in Ripley, Derbyshire. The demo session and a few follow up closed-hand rounds were offered for free to garner interest.
Card games and I have a love-hate relationship. I’ve only played a couple of the big ones (Magic: The Gathering & Pokémon) and while I loved the rule sets, the combos and the chance to have a collection. Though mine was smaller than a good chunk of the player base in comparison, I was still somewhat proud of it. But what I hated was the economy behind it. The expense of some of the cards, and how much the boosters are given how small a chance you have of actually pulling what you need from the pack. I must have spent nearly £500 on booster boxes, accessories, single rares and the like.
Android: Netrunner is my first foray into the other side of Card games, called Living Card Games. The main difference between LCG and CCGs like Pokémon and MtG is that LCGs do away with the blind-buy model; you know what you’re getting and you know where to get the cards you need. One of the cool things about Netrunner that Ben showed me was a QR Code on the back of the Data Packs (monthly booster packs). He scanned it and the link in the code showed him all the cards in that pack, what they did, and even the art on it. Honestly, the respect for my wallet made me want to at least try it.
The addition of asymmetrical play further piqued my interest, as did the setting of a Cyberpunk future à la Shadowrun. You either play as a Runner attacking Corporation servers, archives, R&D, and the Corp HQ, or the Corporation, defending from attacks and trying to do damage to the Runner, while you both fight over agendas. Honestly, I’d have to record a match to show how it’s actually played. The flexibility of options to both players makes it more about the player skill and less about the money spent on the deck, and that tipped me over the edge.
I’m not sure whether Ben went easy on me, but after we went closed-hand I won each match. The last one went down to the wire. He had one agenda point left until game, I had three, and I had one run left. I put everything into a run on his R&D (his deck), and accessed the top three cards. The bottom two were agendas worth two points each. But only I can look at them, so he handed them to me face down; the game mechanics themselves created a crux moment. Honestly, it was one of those moments that I just didn’t get in MtG or PKMN; the only regular genuine ‘chance’ in those games is drawing from the deck.
With a guaranteed cost to get started and (more importantly) be competitive, I’d like to see LCGs become the future. Not everyone has money to burn but still want to get involved in this sort of scene. I doubt it will happen, but I hope that Netrunner will not be a fringe game in the UK. Richard Garfield, the creator of Netrunner, also made Magic: The Gathering so it has the name power to run alongside MtG despite not being from Wizards of the Coast. One can but hope.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wait patiently for my Core Pack to arrive. I may be some time.