Game Buzz: Android Netrunner

In the world of CCGs, the top of the line is and always will be Magic: The Gathering.  However, three years after its release, the same designer came out with a new CCG that was not as financially successful, but was, and still is, quite acclaimed critically.  It’s getting a reboot, probably by GenCon:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Netrunner was originally published in 1996, as designed by Richard Garfield and published by Wizards of the Coast.  It was a collectible card game in the mold of Magic: The Gathering – 2 players could build individual decks and compete against each other.  This one, however, featured a cyberpunk theme – more specfically, one player is an evil mega-corporation while the other is a hacker (called the Runner).

After years of asking for a reprint (I believe that Wizards stopped supporting the game in 1999), Fantasy Flight’s reprint machine picked up the license and added it to their Living Card Game line.  Now, instead of having to buy individual packs of random cards, everything you need for a full game experience is in the box.  FFG has been pioneering this method, most recently with the Lord of the Rings Card Game and sometime in the near future with the Star Wars LCG.  They also set the game in the Android universe, which seems to be a new focus for them, especially after Infiltration.

The base set for Android: Netrunner comes with 250 cards – 134 for the Corporation, 114 for the Runner, and 2 reference cards.  There are also some tokens – two click tracker tokens and cards, 51 one credit/advancement tokens, 8 five credit tokens, 6 brain damage tokens, 12 bad publicity/tag tokens, and 23 generic tokens.  At the start of the game, players choose sides and build their respective decks (starter decks are suggested for new players).  You get five credits and five cards in your hand to begin the game (each player can choose to use a mulligan to redraw).

Players alternate turns during the game, with the Corporation going first.  However, unlike most games, there are different rules for each player.  The Corporation has three phases: draw, actions, discard.

DRAW: The Corporation player draws the top card from his draw deck (called R&D).  If his deck is empty when it comes time to draw, the Runner wins the game.

ACTION: The Corporation player has three clicks to spend on actions, and must spend all.  For one click, he could draw a card, or gain a credit.  He could also install an agenda, asset, upgrade, or piece of ice.  This is basically playing a card from your hand (HQ) to the table facedown.  Cards can be played facedown to establish remote servers, where agendas and assets can be installed.  Upgrades can be played on any server (including the central server, which is your hand/draw deck/trash pile), and ice can be played on any server to protect it.  Clicks can also be spent to play operations cards, advance already installed cards (which also costs a credit), trash Runner resources if the Runner is tagged (this costs an additional two credits), or trigger a click ability on an active card.  You can spend all three of your clicks to purge virus counters.

DISCARD: If your hand exceeds your current hand limit, you discard here.

The Runner’s turn has two phases: action and discard.

ACTION: The Runner has four clicks to spend, and must also spend them all.  Rather than being required to draw a card, he can spend a click to draw a card.  He can also gain a credit, install cards, play events, remove tags (this has a credit cost), make a run (essentially trying to steal Corporation agendas and trash their cards), or trigger a click ability.

DISCARD: Once actions are done, you discard down to your current hand size.

The game ends if a player has seven agenda points in his play area (they win), the Corporation draw deck is empty (the Runner wins), or if the Runner dies (the Corporation wins).

I think this is the type of game it will be impossible to really visualize without knowing the cards.  I think my interest in it is mostly based on its reputation, so I’ll probably seek out a game at GenCon.  I’ll be interested to hear what Netrunner fans think of the reboot – FFG always changes stuff, and the reverence the game is held in may spark some outrage.  However, I think people are generally pretty excited now.  Thanks for reading!


  1. I’m a bit of a purist, so I don’t like how FF taakes their own worlds, etc and paste them over classic games. They did it with the old Dune game as well.

    • The retheming of Dune was a necessity since the Herbert estate would not grant them the license for the Dune universe. I don’t know if there was some similar negotiation with Wizards of the Coast for this retheme, but it’s important to remember that Netrunner is 16 years old, and for a cyberpunk theme, it was probably necessary to update some of the cards.

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