An Overview of the Runner's Freestyle Approach to Android: Netrunner
|Android: Netrunner The Card Game | Published 30 July 2012|
“I run, I tinker. I tinker, I run. You don’t tinker? You better not run. Corporate ice is always evolving. Breaking it requires new software, new designs, more memory. Evolve or die.”
–Kate “Mac” McCaffrey
Corporations and Runners are the yin and yang of Android: Netrunner. As the world’s megacorporations seek megaprofits by pursuing humanity’s latest and greatest advancements, Runners struggle to puncture the megacorps’ glossy shells and expose their innards to the human masses. In the game, most Corporate actions are devoid of meaning without the Runner, and the Runner cannot exist without the Corp.
In our last preview of Android: Netrunner, we looked at the wide range of actions available to the Corp player each turn. Today, we turn our attention to the Runner.
Whether you think of Runners as the game’s unsung heroes or as data terrorists, all Runners are undoubtedly skirting the law. Using the best hardware and most sophisticated software they can find or develop, Runners seek to hack into Corporate data servers and steal their secrets. Successfully bypassing Corporate ice can lead to the first and most common of the Runner’s two victory conditions:
In Android: Netrunner, the second Runner victory condition represents a Corporation so depleted of resources that it can no longer pursue its agendas, leaving it an inert, empty shell no longer worth the Runner’s time. However, it is much less common for a Corporation player to run out of cards than it is for a Runner to win by stealing agendas over a series of runs.
“Running,” or jacking into the network and attempting to hack past Corporate security, is the heart of the game and the action that defines the Runner. But it’s certainly not the only action a Runner can take. In order to run with any success, a Runner must take advantage of the whole range of other actions available each turn. After all, life outside the law requires careful planning and constant vigilance.
As we mentioned in our review of the Corporation’s actions, turns in Android: Netrunner don’t follow a standardized sequence. Instead, players spend available clicks () each turn to perform actions in any combination they wish.
Runner click tracker (left) and actions card (right).
While the Corporation is locked into a forced card draw at the beginning of its turn and limited, thereafter, to three clicks, Runners are completely free to spend their clicks as they wish. That freedom, however, offers the opportunity to build strategies that can engender wild successes or abject failures. Freedom demands discernment, and Runners must consider carefully how best to spend their clicks each turn.
: Draw 1 card from your stack.
To play cards, you need to draw cards. The Runner starts with five cards in hand; any necessary pieces of your strategy not in that initial hand require that you draw cards. While the Runner doesn’t need programs, hardware, or resources in play to initiate a run, they greatly enhance the Runner’s chances of success. Corporations are likely to protect their agendas with ice, meaning, at the least, you’ll need to draw icebreakers to access their agendas. While some cards may accelerate your ability to draw into your hardware, programs, and resources, you may always opt to draw cards at a rate of one per .
: Gain 1 .
As a Runner, you start with five credits () but will need to spend them to install hardware, programs, and resources. Additionally, most icebreakers require you to spend credits to increase their strength and break ice subroutines. Accordingly, you’ll need to keep a supply of credits on hand at all times. A number of programs and resources can increase your income, but you can also use any number of actions to gain credits, spending one to gain one .
: Install a program, piece of hardware, or resource.
The Runner’s play area includes his hand (Grip), draw deck (Stack), discard pile (Heap), and the area to which you install cards, bringing them into play for their benefits. This last area is called the “Rig,” and it represents all the tools and resources you can access as you try to hack into Corporate servers.
Each time you wish to install a card in your rig, you must spend one , as well as the amount of indicated on the program, hardware, or resource.
Arguably the most important of the Runner’s tools, programs allow you to interact with the world via the network, and they offer an astonishing range of potential actions. Some accelerate your income, some prevent you from taking harmful net damage (which would force you to trash cards), some can host other programs, and, of course, your icebreakers are programs that can allow you to bypass Corporate security measures.
Your rig starts with four Memory Units (MU), and each program costs a certain amount of MU, as indicated by the number in the silver chip icon to the right of the cost. If you wish to install a program but don’t have the MU available, you can choose to overwrite an existing program, trashing the old program, or you can try to increase your MU by upgrading your hardware.
Hardware represents your computer and all the physical devices that allow you to conduct your raids through the network. The benefits your hardware can provide are limited only by the imagination of the engineers who design them, and given that most good Runners tinker with their own hardware, the advantages these machines can grant are both tremendously diverse and impactful.
Finally, Runners can install and access resources that can help them draw cards, hide from corporate thugs, protect their hardware and programs, and avoid tags. Creativity is the name of the Runner’s game, and Runners can look to different resources for a range of services as wide as those provided by both programs and hardware.
In the diagram above, a Runner installs the icebreaker, Wyrm, into a well-developed rig. The Runner spends one and the one that Wyrm costs, then places Wyrm into the program row.
: Play an event.
Events often cost a number of credits, but to play any of them the Runner must first spend one . After an event resolves, it gets trashed to the Runner’s heap.
, 2 : Remove 1 tag.
Sometimes, you may be low on credits at an inopportune moment and fail to avoid a trace. If so, the Corp may tag you, and you’ll be exposed to all their insidious machinations (not to mention their paid hitmen). In order to get out of that world of hurt, you can spend one and two per tag to free yourself of the vile things and slip out from under the Corporation’s watchful eye.
(See below for a chance to access an article full of in-depth insights into the redesign of traces by lead developer Lukas Litzsinger.)
: Make a run.
Finally, the Runner must “run.” Each run is an attempt to hack through corporate security to access valuable data, and each attempt costs one . While wise Runners prepare ahead of time, it’s also worth noting that if the opportunity ever arises, you can spend as many clicks running as you have available. Exploiting weaknesses is the name of the game; if the Corporation ever lets down its guard, you should be prepared to pounce!
We’ll take closer looks at running later from both Corporation and Runner points of view.
Access New Data
In Android: Netrunner, the Runner must drive through the chaos of freedom to forge a coherent strategy from the actions available each turn. The game’s asymmetrical mechanics ensures that the Corp and Runner players experience each contest differently. While Corporations can also take daring risks, the Runner is forced to gamble more often, as the nature of running means the Runner is bound to head into unknown ice on a frequent basis. Still, though the Runner’s game is predicated on quick reactions and large, calculated risks, there’s a wide chasm between savvy, veteran Runners and the sort of naive novices who flame out on their first runs; the difference often comes down to preparation. Learn how best to use your actions to build a strategy, and the knowledge will serve you well.
Keep your eyes open for in-depth looks at running from the points of view of both the Corporation and the Runner. In the meantime, spread the word about the upcoming release of Android: Netrunner. Use your link strength; boost us to 250 likes on Facebook, and you’ll unlock an article by lead developer Lukas Litzsinger that describes how traces work and provides the rationale behind their changes.
UPDATE: Data accessed!
Based on the classic card game designed by Richard Garfield, Android: Netrunner The Card Game is a game for two players set in the dystopian future of Android. It pits monolothic megacorps against subversive netrunners in a high-stakes struggle for the control of valuable data.