Android: Netrunner

Tagged: Game

Collectible Card Game (2012). Fantasy Flight Games. Designed by Richard Garfield, Lukas Litzsinger.

Android: Netrunner (more commonly known as Netrunner) is a Living Card Game (LCG) (see Collectible Card Game) for two players. It is based on Richard Garfield's previous game, Netrunner (1996). Netrunner is a successor to Magic: The Gathering (1993) (see Card Games), also by Richard Garfield, but it is a useful mark of how far card games of this nature have developed since then, as the two games bear little similarity to each other.

Android: Netrunner borrows elements of traditional Collectible Card Games (CCGs) such as Magic: The Gathering and expands upon earlier CCG formats by providing a style of play whereby each person performs different actions, known as asymmetric play. In Android: Netrunner, one person takes the role of a hacker intent on revealing the corruption within big business (called the Runner), and the other plays the mega-corporation itself (called the Corporation), which is trying to protect its assets and stop the hacker from breaking in. The gameworld is based heavily on Cyberpunk, in particular William Gibson's Neuromancer (1984) and its sequels, and the Cyberpunk game universe. Android: Netrunner uses specific linguistic terms; for example, firewalls are called "Ice" (Gibson's coinage) and cards are "Rezzed" (a nod to the first Tron film) when they become active.

In Android: Netrunner, each player must assemble cards in front of them with different objectives in mind. Corporations must pay to further Agendas, whilst Runners must steal these Agendas before they can be completed. The first person to score seven points, or who forces the other player to discard or use up all of their cards, wins. During each turn play is asymmetric. The Corporation may spend three "clicks" (actions) on actions to protect or further their Agendas, which are initially hidden in front of them behind different Servers. The Runner has four clicks, used to ultimately attack these Agendas by playing cards that add helpful hardware and software to their own system, use resources, deploy items to break through the server firewalls ("Ice"), and perform attacks ("Runs") against the Corporation. Both sides engage in a certain amount of bluff in order to hide the strength of their attacks or the location of their Agendas, as well as assembling strong offensive/defensive cards in front of them to further their own requirements. A game takes about thirty minutes to play.

Android: Netrunner has released monthly expansions since first produced. These expansions are not reprinted, ultimately giving them a similar collectible value to other CCGs.

Despite being a highly technical card game, Android: Netrunner has a well-developed narrative, presented via the flavour text and artwork on each card. The game has a high percentage of mixed-race and female characters, unusual since developers often tend to assume a specifically male demographic (whether it exists or not), designed to reflect cultural and racial diaspora in the Near Future. Fantasy Flight Games reinforces this by encouraging good practice at Android: Netrunner tournaments, intended to encourage a diverse mix of players to each event. Cards also contain intertextual jokes to other related genres; for example the Archer card references the animation of the same name (2009-current).

Android: Netrunner is a popular tournament game and has won several awards including the BoardgameGeek Best Card Game and Best Two Player Game Golden Geek Awards in 2012. [EMS]

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