So, today on Hack the Planet I shall be covering the differences between Central servers and Remote servers, and how each side/faction plays with them differently. So, first up, the obvious. Central servers are the starter ones: hand, deck, discard pile. Remote servers are any servers that are created by the Corp during the course of play by installing cards. “Well, yeah, I’ve also read the rule book, so already knew that. Great insight.” I hear you saying. Well, yes. but not everyone has, so I need to cover the basics.
So, now that we have our definitions, strategically what is the difference? Again, starting with the obvious: remotes are where Agendas go to be scored by the Corp and assets go to get used. This means that the cards are active for the Runner to run against them. Assets that the Corp hopes to get money from. Agendas that are telegraphed by having advancement counters on them. Also Traps.
This means that remote servers are the best place for a Runner to be running for high value targets, but also the riskiest since outside of Snare! the rest of the traps need to be activated, say by pretending to be Agendas. Further, to establish remote servers the Corp has had to put some amount of effort into them, unlike the centrals, meaning a successful run against a remote likely set the Corp back a click more than the same card out of hand.
On the other hand the centrals are luck shots. Short of Noise or other mill abilities there shouldn’t be anything good in the Archives. Sure, a particularly overburdened and sneaky Corp may toss something in there, but if they have to resort to that maneuver they’re likely losing anyways and HQ becomes a much sexier target.
HQ is an even worse luck shot. If they think you’ll be running it the Corp should evacuate anything good out of there, leaving you with remotes or R&D. This is in fact part of the point of the fast advance strategy: making HQ a worthless target. Even if there is anything worth finding in HQ you’ve likely only got a 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 shot at finding it.
R&D, while still a luck shot, is a much more interesting one. Due to the nature of the game, if the Runner can get a lock on R&D they’ll be seeing every card before the Corp does, letting them know the game plan. There’s also enough R&D digging running around these days to make that a viable strategy. If the Runner can get an R&D lock strong enough it should become impossible for the Corp to win as the Runner will steal all of the Agendas long before the Corp can even think about scoring them.
So where does this put us? Let’s start with the Runner. The Runner has two main strategies they can pursue, both by focusing their deck or by switching up their tactics during play. Firstly they can play to attack the Corp’s remote servers. Whizzard is excellent for this, destroying assets that he accesses and forcing the Corp to spread thin protecting themselves. During the course of the game it’s always good to stage random assaults on the remotes if for no other reason than to convince them to spread themselves thin protecting their assets/ agendas.
The other strategy the Runner can pursue is to focus on the centrals. Criminals will often focus on HQ since that’s where a lot of their cards direct them. Meanwhile it’s relatively easy to build a Runner deck around R&D. Between Medium, R&D interface, Cyber-Cipher and many others it’s not hard to set up to run R&D every turn, and to get deep enough in that you’ll see everything before the Corp can stop you. Constructed properly you’ll never need to access any other servers and still be able to win. And, of course, Noise can build a deck to focus on Archives. Many Noise decks will focus on both R&D and Archives, forcing the Corp to spread themselves some while also being able to ignore the potential traps remotes can house.
So how does the Corp respond to these threats from the Runner? Firstly, R&D easily becomes one of – if not the – most important server to defend. Often you’ll see giant ICE walls protecting it from harm, in fact I’ve seen fast advance decks that only bother with one or two ICE elsewhere, and those just to keep the Runner from free reign on HQ or their remotes. Of course, as far as remote servers, the Corp has all of the control as far as what servers exist and how juicy of targets they are. This is where the bluffing aspect of the game comes into play: how to protect traps vs real Agendas. Really, unlike the Runner, there’s not a lot the Corp can do out of game to prep for these strategies. Instead the Corp will want to alter their tactics in the course of the game in response to what the Runner is doing, putting their ICE where the Runner is likely to go.
Hopefully this gives you an idea of how to respond to the different server configurations you’ll see in this game and how to best attack/defend them. If there’s anything in this article you’d like to see me go into more depth on feel free to let me know in the comments.