Martin sighed, and rubbed the cramps from his shoulders. Tonight was a long shift in the GRNDL IT department, monitoring the channels for activity. He had been doing this job for eight months, and was told he had a knack for it, that foreign intrusions were down to record levels. Truth be told, though, none of it was Martin’s doing. He was good, certainly. But as he leaned back in his chair and eyed the ceiling lazily, he wondered why there would be any foreign intrusions in the first place; GRNDL was a facility strictly focused on energy production, and there was nothing housed on-site that would warrant any undue attention.
He flinched for a second, thinking to himself, that’s not quite true.
There was one file, housed deep in the substructure. He was told that it was integral to the facility’s operation, and that no-one had clearance to access it. It was there just to be there, to Martin’s eyes. Every once in a while, his thoughts would idly wander to the file and its contents. What could –
ALERT ALERT ALERT FRINGE SPIKE
Martin shot up at his desk. What the hell?
He checked the readouts, half submerged in the Network already as a reflex. The machine wasn’t lying; an AI presence was poking a lot of small holes in the outer walls. At the rate it was going, the barrier would be breached in seconds. “Fuck fuck FUCK FUCK
,” was all Martin had time to say before he leapt in completely. If he could get the Archer online, he’d be fine; there were other options, but nothing as low-key as GRNDL would attract the attention of something that could get around Archer. He just needed to get there.
His avatar got to the control panel, and with a flurry of motion, the program lurched to life. As it did, a low rumble behind the avatar got Martin’s attention. The file was opening in response to Archer activating, and Martin got glimpses of…something? Images of weapons, and a space station, and he saw an account…Oh, God, that ACCOUNT, there’s 15 zeroes on that thing-
Before he could think about what that meant, the barrier gave way. A large red mask flew through it, with several small pods in tow behind it. As the Archer began acquisition, the pods arced through the air to land on it. Suddenly the program began to weaken and flicker. Martin panicked, and tried to think of tricks for how to keep the Archer online. There’s gotta be something I can dooooOOOOOP
Suddenly, he was pulled from the Network, back to meatspace. The first thing he saw was a man in a three piece suit, a blur mask on his face. He was attaching himself to the interface.
“Sit back, kid. Watch.”
His eyes glued to the monitors, he saw what the stranger was doing. He saw, but he couldn’t explain it. For every bit siphoned out of the Archer, energy flowed from the stranger back into it. The pods began to wither, and eventually fall off. Before too long, the Archer found its target, and launched a brilliant blue bolt into the mask. It pierced the nose at the bridge, and the mask shattered into pieces.
The stranger left the Network soon after. As he returned, Martin was awash with questions, which he posed to the man. “How did you do that? How’d you get in here? Who are you?”
The man just sighed, and guided Martin to the monitor. “Look here, kid. This’ll answer your questions.” As he looked, the account appeared again, with its impossible balance. Just then, the number flickered, and came back slightly lower, although the slight difference was still several times his salary.
“I solve problems.”
Martin then felt an object pressing against the back of his head. Then he felt nothing anymore.
What is Netrunner?
Android: Netrunner is a living card game that came out in late 2012. In it, players will either take the role of a megacorporation, trying to advance their shadowy agendas of financial control and worldly power, or of a runner, an individual trying to steal the Corp’s agendas to either strike a blow for the people, make a profit, or because fuck it, why not?
The original version of this game, simply titled Netrunner, released in the mid 90's, and despite love from the fans, went into hibernation until Fantasy Flight picked it up and gave it a slight retooling.
How do you play?
The best way to learn that is to read the rules
, but the extreme basics are as follows:
The whole game revolves around certain cards the Corp player has, called Agenda cards, with each Agenda being worth a certain number of Agenda Points and having a particular cost. The Corp is looking to play this card, and invest money in it equal to that cost. When they do that, they score the agenda, and get both the Agenda Points, and the usually-sweet benefit associated with it.
The Runner, on the other hand, doesn’t care about building stuff up. They just want to...liberate
it. If a Runner accesses an Agenda, usually through one of their runs, they just outright steal it. They don’t need to pay the cost located on the card. They also don’t get the ability of it, just the points.
The first player to reach 7 Agenda Points wins the game. Each player also has a unique way they can LOSE the game:
For the Corp, business must go on, despite these intrusions. Spending all your resources to keep out one little script kiddy will make your Corp a laughing stock, and you will be dissolved. If the Corp ever has to draw a card, and they have none left to draw, the Corp has lost.
For the Runner, all of your software (and most of your hardware) is plugged into your head somehow. Electricity and internal organs (the brain, most notably) tend to not get along very well at all. If the Runner ever has to lose a card from his hand, and he has nothing left in his hand to lose, the Runner has FLATLINED, and loses.
The Corp protects their agendas with software called “Ice”, designed to keep out intruders or mess with their equipment. The Runner, naturally, can equip certain programs called “Icebreakers” to help them deal with the barriers in their way. Both players need money to get those programs up and running.
There's a number of reasons why A:NR is worth your time and money:
Asymmetrical game play.
The two factions in this game, while utilizing similar resources such as credits and “clicks” (actions), use them in radically different ways. The Corp is desperately trying to keep the Runner out of their systems long enough to bring their agendas to fruition, while not going broke in the process. The Runner is constantly attacking and probing the Corp's network, often toying with firewalls capable of destroying their hardware and melting holes in their brain. The key is that the Corp plays everything face down, with secrecy as their ally. @Rorus Raz
describes it far better than I can:
Excellent usage of theme.
The runner won't know kind of ice there is until they are actually going after something and the corporation pays the money to activate it. Even then, the runner doesn't know WHAT the ice is guarding until he or she reaches it. A savvy corporation may have set up three nasty pieces of ice to guard nothing more than a neural bomb designed specifically to make the runner's head explode. On the other hand, the runner can call the corporation's bluff, and it turns out that the ice they have set up is far too expensive for the corporation to activate, and you run past every piece of ice without any resistance.
I could describe it, but an example works much better:
Let's say that you are representing the Weyland Consortium, and you want your deck to focus not on the protective software to keep your servers secure, but on assets and contacts tailor-made to destroy the Runner and his equipment if you get the slightest whiff of his whereabouts. Well, there's lots of ways you can do that. You can overload his power grid, hoping the surge will fry some of his consoles...
Or perhaps you want to hire a team of professionals to hound him with bullets, making sure he can never rest easy...
Or...you know what? You don't want to think about him today. You're just going to blow up his city block.
Each of the 4 different Corp factions and 3 different Runner factions have loads of different tools and utilities like these. They really make you feel like you are a part of this world, this future.
So you want other people to play this with? Well, aside from this lovely little program called OCTGN
where you can play it online with all of us lovely folks here (ask @Tayrun
for more information), there's a Regional program run by Fantasy Flight, where stores can apply to host a series of tournaments, and which often offer prizes to those that take part. Do well enough in them, and you can get to their World Championship event and get even more cool swag. Or you can just take part because HEART OF THE CARDS, that's fine too.
LCG, not CCG.
What this means is that unlike Magic, in which every booster pack you buy contains random cards, all of Netrunner's “datapack” expansions contain the same cards, in equal numbers of copies. This makes deckbuilding less about the terribly boring “I just spent $TEXAS on this one card that'll make you lose”, and more about the interesting “I'm going to take these cards that everyone knows about and assumes to be terrible, and use them in a way that BLOWS MINDS”. Not only that, but if you aren't interested in doing competitions, then there's loads of variety in cards from just the Core set, and you don't even need
any datapacks. (Although you'll see some of the cards in them and think OH GOD THAT'S COOL AND WOULD WORK REALLY WELL I COULD USE IT IN MY DECK and grab a few of them anyways.) And, recently announced is a plan to keep card bloat from becoming too much of a thing, although it'll be a while before it actually takes effect.
Be awesome. Play Netrunner.