Hello, and welcome to another Hack the Planet. Today we’ll be covering some simple bluffs that can be performed by the Corp in Android: Netrunner. For my examples I’ll be using the Jinteki deck I posted last week. I’d also recommend reading Justin’s article from many months ago on the general concepts of bluffing: he goes into much more detail than I will here.
As far as bluffing goes there are two main aspects available to the Corp: Traps and ICE. Before we go into the how of bluffing though, let’s look at the why. Basically you want to convince the Runner that what you have on the table is not what you have on the table, leading to them making play mistakes and letting you win. Usually bluffing will have to do with provoking the Runner to run when it’s not to his advantage (such as nothing being in the targeted fort, or worse a trap) or not running when there is a valuable prize nestled there, but it seems to be not worth the risk/cost to get to it. Sometimes you don’t even have to bluff: being at 5 points means the Runner may have no choice but run at any targets you give him. Others will be unbluffable: personally when playing Noise I never run at remote servers, instead going only at R&D or the Archives. An important part of bluffing is knowing what bluffs will prove effective and which will be worthless no matter how well you sell them.
Traps are the most important part of bluffing. Both actual Trap cards, but also simply traps for the Runner, such as installing an upgrade or a random asset in a deep server to suggest an Agenda, leading the Runner to spend a large amount of money just to see your PAD Campaign. Either way the key to this kind of bluff is keeping the Runner guessing as to what you just installed. One of the best ways to do this is to set expectations in the game. Most Runners will let an early Jinteki play of card, double advance hang around, assuming it to be a trap. If you let that card hang out for a while, and then score it late game suddenly all the other advanced cards on the table could be Agendas too, leading the Runner to second guess all of their decisions.
One of the best ways to keep the Runner guessing is to play your traps the same way you play Agendas. One of my favorite flat Jinteki tricks is to play three cards, then advance each once on the next two turns. If unmolested you can then score (one of) the actual Agendas on the third turn. If you really want to mess with the Runner in this case, shuffle the three cards before installing and never look at them till it’s time to score one. Not even you know where the prizes lay! Note: this is for fun/learning. If you do this in a tournament your opponent will make you pay for it. That said, there is no better way to learn how to bluff than to do a lot of stupid things and figure out which actually works.
The other aspect of bluffing is in the ICE. This goes two ways: one is to keep the Runner out by letting them assume the ICE is too expensive to actually get past. The other is to lead them to believe it’s just any other ICE when in reality it’s something like Rototurret or Archer which can drastically alter them game if the Runner is unprepared. This is a favored tactic of HB, as their Bioroid ICE often has better bang for buck than other ICE, but with the click to break weakness. Unprepared the Runner can easily find themselves overwhelmed if they are unprepared for it. Janus is feared for good reason, and the 2.0’s double click to double break means the Runner often misestimates the resources needed to bypass unseen ICE.
This shows the other part of ICE bluffing: leaving the Runner afraid of what you have. A single unrezzed ICE isn’t that scary, but toss Chum in front of it and most Runners will balk until they’re more than set up. Also, going past a piece of unrezzed ICE will often give the Runner an idea of what it is, letting you mislead them. Don’t rez the Wall of Static when at 7 bits and later when you’re at 8 they’ll skirt it assuming it to be Wall of Thorns instead. It’s these types of Bluffs that are hard to telegraph to your opponent, but can be very effective when you use them. The credit difference between the two walls means a Runner might think they can’t get into a server they should have been able to, leaving you a chance to score an Agenda when you shouldn’t have. And that’s really the point of all this bluffing: to win when you shouldn’t have.
A few specific examples the deck posted before can afford you to learn on:
The identity: first, the general power of the identity: you can leave important cards hanging out, lightly defended, as the cost just to get over to a remote is now non-negligible. Conversely, putting some ICE out suddenly becomes that much more telling.
Agenda Choice: The Agendas in this deck were intentionally chosen to (for the most part) require 5 to score, meaning they can easily be intermingled with traps to confuse the Runner.
Thomas Hass: seriously my favorite new trap. Load him up with some counters, and when the Runner accesses gain a nice stack of credits.
The rest of the non-trap assets other than Melange: great for just leaving face down until needed to keep the Runner on their toes. This is flat Jinteki: the more forts the better!
Matrix Analyzer: just fun. Adding a counter to a face down card will throw most Runners for fits. Especially if it’s just some random server they’ve been ignoring all game.
Whirlpool: If the Runner’s running one of those fun ICE breakers that have become super popular because it can break anything, Whirlpool can always throw them for fits: they’ll assume whatever else is in that server is super scary that they don’t want to hit. Even if they call the bluff the look on their face as they weigh the pros and cons of continuing vs jacking out should still be priceless. As the only ICE in front of a two advanced card it’s even funnier.
Snowflake/Bullfrog: I don’t honestly like these ICE, but they are great for teaching you how to bluff. Bullfrog of course has fun interactions in that you can plant the Runner in front of traps, or at least in front of cards you want them to think are traps. (Just watch out for blasé Runners when trying this latter trick)
Celebrity Gift: Show a trap and an Agenda. Then install a card in a deep fort. Make the Runner’s puny little brain hurt. Or just show four pieces of ICE and hold a fifth card back. Especially fun if it’s a second copy of a card you already showed leaving them unable to know when they’ve actually seen the fifth card.
So, there are some tricks to play with as you try to learn how best to bluff. Remember, a lot of this deck and it’s plays are to teach you how to bluff, not necessarily to win games. Do not take this deck to regionals, it will not end well.