Hack the Planet: The Primary Aspects of Netrunner

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Hack the Planet, wherein the author imparts the closest he can to wisdom. Today I’ll be covering important aspects of Netrunner. As always feel free to tell me just how wrong I am down in the comments. That’s what they are for.

Android: Netrunner is a complicated game. There are a number of important aspects one should work on mastering to be the best at it. I’m going to distill this down to three key concepts: Economy/Efficiency, Bluffing, and the Dynamics of the Run.

Economy/Efficiency

This covers two aspects: the in-game economy of bits, and also the economy/efficiency of your clicks. For the former you need to understand the different types of economy: trickle and burst. Also how to use the economy you have set up. A Runner deck needs to plan for both a full rig that can break into any server, but also the economy to fuel it. It doesn’t matter how sweet your rig is if you can’t afford to run but every third turn. Of course, there are two ways to accomplish this: have a rockin’ economy, ala Shaper or Criminal, or use a cheap to run rig like the Anarchs like to do.

Corp side you need to be able to fuel both your defenses and your game plan, be it scoring Agendas or nuking from orbit. Since your economy is also on the defensive you need to make a decision on how easy it is for the Runner. Do you play the Operation economy, leaving you nigh-invulnerable to Runner attacks, but with no recurring actions? Do you go for stronger recurring options which the Runner is more apt to trash, meaning you need to spend some resources protecting them to keep? Or do you go for PAD Campaign style low return high trash which can generally be lightly defended and still give a usable return on investment? And of course, conversely, how will you as the Runner will be attacking these varying economic options to keep the Corp from doing their thing?

For efficiency of cards we have the standard click equivalency: 1 click = 1 bit = 1 card = 1 run. While this is flawed it’s still a helpful place to look at cards. The problem is two-fold. One, it takes no account of board state – when your hand is empty professional contacts is better; when full grip but broke Magnum Opus is better since you’d have to pitch those extra cards. The other flaw is that 1 run part. Basically, since a run is a gamble (you may get something, you may get nothing) you can’t equal it out to the others. A given run could win you the game, or simply cost you a giant stack of creds and cards. That said, there is still room for efficiency discussion. Because you only get so many actions every turn efficiency is very important in this game. The problem really is that efficiency in this game is a fluid dynamic, not a fixed value. For instance, any discussion of Kati Jones will quickly get into how many actions get her to most efficient (hint the longer you use her, the more efficient she has been) which can’t account for board state: it’s most efficient to get the pile of credits off of her at a point where it lets you into a server you otherwise couldn’t have. In the future I’ll write a whole article on efficiency since it’s too broad of a subject for the middle of this article. Just know that you need to pay attention to the efficiencies of the game throughout and how things change.  Early game cards are more important, while late game credits to fuel your already set up cards are. Of course this can change, with event heavy decks caring more about cards even late game.

Bluffing

I’ve given a whole article on bluffing before, and Justin gave an even better one before that. Short version is that one of the more important components of this game is bluffing: traps, Agendas, ICE, all are used to give the Corp the edge they need by tricking the Runner to make play mistakes. There’s a reason Corp cards are installed face down. The key for the Corp is to use their plays to keep the Runner from getting to the Agendas be it by false leads, overextending of runs such that they can’t get in, underextending such that they waste time they didn’t need to, or just convincing them to not bother with the real prize. Meanwhile the Runner needs to see through these bluffs to get to the sweet, sweet meat.

Dynamics of the Run

Another subject worthy of a full article. The way the Run works is at the very heart of this game. The interactions of ICE and breakers. Unrezzed ICE vs. the Corp’s bank account. What prize you’ll hit at the end of the run. Given that neither player can play cards, only use what’s already on board – or at least summon using on board cards – It’s important for both players to build their stockpiles, make their preparations and hope they’ve read the board correctly. And then the run begins.

To win at this game you *have* to understand how the run works. Otherwise you can’t properly plan, be it constructing defenses or breaking out the tools to breach them. The interaction of the various breaker types with the ICE types. Most importantly is how Sentries, with a few exceptions, are the ones the Runner needs to be scared of since they do more than just stop you. In whole, knowing the flow of the run, what can happen, what cards the Corp is likely to flip, how your actions need to react to the changing board state, the cost to get in to any server as well as the value of said run. These are all important things that really can only be learned through play. So get out there and run, run, run!

 Parting Words.

Knowledge is power.

Unsaid in all of this is another important facet – one not quite to the same level as the main three, but still important: knowing the cards. This feeds the three main aspects: knowing what’s available on the other side helps shore up your bluffs and see through their’s. It helps you know the efficiency of your actions – if drawing cards is a help given the current board state or not. And knowing what ICE may come and how much it costs to break in helps plan for the run.

Hopeful this has given you an idea of how to get better at this game: what aspects to study to up your game. You’ll need it if you want to do well at the world championships.

Happy Hacking!

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