Article on Concerns about Competitive Play

The guy from Running with Scissors wrote this article in response to the Winning Agenda piece on what they perceived as biases against competitive players. Tons of great food for thought, especially given Stimhack’s competitive focus.

The point about how much community effort is focused on supporting competitive play over other kinds of play was really interesting to me, given how often people (especially here) complain about FFG’s lack of support of the competitive scene. The article argues that the structure of Organized Play and the natural communities found in FLGSs tends to be strongly supportive of competitive play, marginalizing other styles at their expense (one example cited is that GNKs give out prizes in a top-heavy manner, always awarding the best prizes to first place. This might seem obvious, but if you think about it as a choice it is clearly guiding the community towards decks and play designed to win games reliably against the field, which may or may not be what most people are trying to do).

Not sure I have much to add aside from what was written, but I know at my local store a few people get frustrated from time to time getting their pet projects clobbered by the standard decks without ever getting a chance to see them flourish. You see this in people’s complaints about how NEH FA puts too much rush pressure on the game, ruling out slower runner decks entirely. For competitive players, who cares? The strong decks are the strong decks and if the game is putting rush pressure on, you build a runner who can keep up. For others, it means that they can’t as freely explore the design space not because they’ll lose, but because their explorations get curtailed immediately. It’s not that their Iain Sterling connections deck loses a game to NEH Fastro, it’s that it never gets a chance to do what was cool about it in the first place because the game was over beforehand.

The article also encourages finding ways to provide organized play opportunities for non-competitive players, since FFG will not do so and those non-competitive players are the financial lifeblood of the game in the first place. Are draft cube tournaments a good way to do this? I love the King of Servers team tournament (though I imagine that will be very competitive, it will allow more exploration space than the standard game) and feel like that could be fun for a local GNK, if it didn’t require so many people. I know folks do tournaments where you’re not allowed to use some set of standard IDs; would that be fun? Are there good prize structures to allow rewarding non-competitive players for playing in their style?


I’m not sure that’s true. I know lots of competitive players who dislike NEH Fastro. This is both for how it plays (removing large chunks of interesting game space; incredibly high stakes based on the first few cards on R&D and the runner’s stack; a lot of decision making taken out of the runner’s hands and replaced by random accesses) and also for the constraints it places on the variety of decks seen (variety is one of the high points of Netrunner - most Netrunner cards are not playable competitively, but to even further constrain the pool of playable cards due to NEH constraints seems like design madness).


That’s definitely true; I didn’t mean to imply that disliking Fastro’s place in the meta is something for non-competitive players only. However, my anecdotal experience is that competitive players see NEH Fastro as a challenge to be thwarted, whereas the more casual players just feel like it’s a frustrating obstacle between them and their desired line of play.

We used to have a guy at our store who spent months trying to make his Sage-osaurus deck work, and he spent his last couple of weeks at our store really frustrated that it never had time to ‘go off’. He was moving for work related reasons and said he was hoping that where he ended up had a less competitive netrunner scene. I don’t think that’s an uncommon story.

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I read that article earlier and agree the most part of it.I don’t know why there are a lot of people complain about competitive play,to me,be more competitive is to enjoy more fun from the game.When I fall in love with a game I always wanna be more competitive in this game,simply because I wanna get better,face stronger player.There’s really no need to draw a line between competitive and casual play.I got my junk deck beaten by NEH FA again and again,and I improved it again and again,and I enjoyed the process.In fact,look at many tournament results you’ll notice that there are still many non T1 decks make good results.This is a game where player skill rewards you more than deck itself.Of course there are many design space still haven’t been explored,which really make me excited about the future of this game.

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I think your example about Sage-osaurus guy is not really what I mean. I totally understand and agree that anecdote is more representative than many would like to admit.

My experience of competitive players is, a lot of the time, that NEH Fastro is a stumbling block to a more interesting game. Here’s a big rich game, full of interesting decisions with huge deckbuilding possibilities, and because of some very powerful cards and strategies it has become massively reduced into a much more condensed game where a handful of cards are playable, some are almost mandatory, and that depends incredibly heavily on the top 10 cards of R&D and the runner’s stack. Chess would be much less fun if a dominant opening existed such that moving anything except pawns and knights caused you to lose the game, for example. (And such games only lasted 10 turns.)

Maybe I can better summarise that if as you say, for casual players NEH Fastro is a frustrating obstacle between them and their desired line of play (and I’d agree), then for competitive ones I think it is often a frustrating obstacle between them and their idealised state of the game as a whole.


I’ve been pushing this a fair bit in the Kansas City area/meta. I want to really promote alternative formats because (I hope) it should make things more accessible to less competitive players who want to try out new ideas, and because while I consider myself a competitive player, it’s nice to take a break from NEH Fastro and PPVP Kate all day every day. So far, it seems to be decently well-received; most of the participants in the last event I did (which I’ll talk more about below) were from our less tournament-competitive players.

That said, I don’t think drafts are necessarily the way to go. It might work in some cases, but I would guess that in a lot of cases, it fights against that so-called Johnny impulse to build and do things your own way. For instance, if somebody wants to try to make a Sage deck work but the competitive decks squeeze it out, drafts aren’t a solution either, unless that player happens to draft Sage.

Our last event was “Core Set cards are not allowed; anything else goes,” which was a fun exercise. Life was very different without Scorch, Astro, and Account Siphon! I plan on running “Core Set + Deluxe only” and “1 Core Set, 1 Deluxe (player’s choice), 1 Data Pack (player’s choice)” in the near future as a way to explicitly appeal to players who don’t have a full collection yet.

I also think it might be a good idea not to push the idea of a tournament with these limitations overly much. For our no-Core-Set event, players only built a Corp or a Runner deck (not both), and I gave a prize to the person who won the most games, but I also let people who weren’t playing predict who would win each round, and gave out a small prize to the spectator who correctly predicted the most match wins. I wanted to make the format something that could interest (and entertain!) even people who didn’t want to go in for the format’s restrictions, or who were perhaps not thrilled with the idea of playing in competitive tournaments at all. I hope things like that will build the community and increase the amount of people excited about Netrunner without using “more tournaments” as the primary vector. It seemed pretty successful, so we’ll see how the Core + Deluxe event goes!


These are all super ideas. At a more basic level, how do you organize these non-standard events in your community? Our local scene has very little organization and we basically have the same kind of event on the same day of the month every month that’s advertised on the store website. If we were to do something different, I feel like it’d be hard to communicate it properly. Do y’all use Facebook groups for that, mostly? Or do you just run different events past the store and have them update their calendar, and then just let people who wander in know what’s going on?

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I wonder if this is something that is unavoidable? The key thing there is interactivity. Someone who wants to see their pet project work, regardless of whether it wins the game or not, is fundamentally seeking interaction. While Netrunner is obviously a game that requires a level of skill, if we think about competitive deckbuilding specifically, is there not an argument that it will inevitably lean against interaction with the opposing player/deck? In seeking to be competitive, one will hope to be proficient at reading the game and making tactical plays, so that in a game of equally “good” decks you can win more over an opponent slightly less skilled in the dark arts of Netrunning, that much is obvious.

But what are you seeking to achieve by competitive deckbuilding? To win more of course! Let’s say you and your opponent have a skill ratio of X:Y so you are expected to win X/X+Y of your games. If your aim in competitive deckbuilding is to increase that win ratio, what does that mean? It means your goal is to deviate the determination of the outcome of the games away from the actions of the players, to make the actions less important, in short to reduce the interactivity. You might not succeed of course, and if you and your opponent are both equally as “good” at deckbuilding, it will all be a wash!

But is it not the case that successful competitive deckbuilding must necessarily mean a reduction in interactivity within the game?

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Thanks! We have a Facebook group that we use to keep area players in touch with each other. That goes a long way for sure, although in and of itself it isn’t enough – having active enough players who want to play many nights each week is what’s allowed us to get to where we are today. We also work with the store to advertise events, so if people who aren’t already in touch with our Facebook group buy a Netrunner product or ask “what kind of Netrunner stuff is going on here?” they direct them to us. …so yeah, basically what you just said.


We have a Facebook page and a forum (part of the UK Netrunners forum), too. This helps a lot for organisation and planning of events.

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It’s unavoidable when casual players are playing against competitive players and both are trying to do their own thing. I think the article’s suggestion is that it a) doesn’t have to be this way all the time and b) the existing structures for the game are privileging the play styles of the competitive players. In a GNK tournament, the classic example of an organized event bringing strangers who play netrunner together, the entire structure of the night is to reward the competitive player and punish the casual one, both in prizes and in gameplay. The competitive player will win and get paired upwards into more competitive matches and closer to the prize support. The casual player is likely to face many other people aiming for the prizes and their (in this example) slow connections deck is going to be precluded from doing its fun thing by NEH chaining out again and again, and they might not find the kind of matchups they enjoy playing until they’ve lost several times in a row playing frustrating games.

We’re so used to thinking about this game in a competitive manner that it becomes hard to see the casual player as someone who’s being ill-served by the community and game. We’re more likely to see them as just someone who doesn’t understand cost-benefit analysis of cards and maybe they just need someone to help them out with their deck building to get them up to speed. That’s the privilege and entitlement the article talks about, and it’s a very interesting lens to think about interactions between casual and competitive players.


Without reading the whole article (I only had time to read the TL;DR at the top) I can say this - The entitlement/privilege points are misguided, because without competitive players, players that only want to play at a kitchen table would have no new packs to buy. The game would have been cancelled long ago if not for competition.


We were discussing this article in the Slack chat and had some interesting ideas for alternative formatting. Something I thought that would work if we want to go back to a league system would be a “win more-restrict more” style league. One implementation might be to let the losing player pick a card that you can’t play with for the rest of the league. This way good players have to get progressively jankier as their pet cards are restricted while promoting interaction with players who might not be as competitive. Players that lose more get to hold on to their cards and have a bigger pool available to them. At the end of the league the top players are given the prizes, but they might have needed to struggle a lot to get there. After that the pool opens up again and starts over.

This could be a really great way to keep competitive execution while encouraging more diverse deckbuilding.


While true, it may also be fair to say that many of the kitchen table players don’t feel the need to have new packs to buy! FFG have said that the vast majority of Netrunner sales are from people who buy a Core Set and nothing else.

Having said that, I don’t think it’s particularly useful for anyone to put much emphasis on the competitive/non-competitive divide. I think there are a lot of ways to enjoy Netrunner, more than just “plays in tournaments/doesn’t play in tournaments,” and I think it’s useful to explore ways to support and enrich alternative ways to play the game. After all, as I said above, I certainly play in tournaments, but I also enjoy playing in drafts, in alternate-format games, etc. I think there are plenty of tournament-competitive players who would also enjoy other formats.


I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I think it’s important to add that the alternative playstyle is not currently being well served in terms of organized play in general, and that could lead to a loss of casual players which is bad for the game, hence the article’s suggestion that competitive players should consider doing some work to provide for casual players in a way ffg is not.


Yes! Definitely. Those words can go right in my mouth as far as I’m concerned, and then I’ll turn around and say them.

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I really like this idea.

Fleshing out the rules a bit more:

  • League is X weeks long
  • Each week is 3 rounds of Swiss
  • Every time you win a game, your opponent must name one card for that side that you are no longer allowed to use in the following weeks of the tournament
    • Example: You win your corp-side game, and your opponent names Hedge Fund as a card you are no longer allowed to use for the rest of the league
    • Example: You win your runner-side game, and your opponent names Noise as a card you are no longer allowed to use for the rest of the league
  • Card restrictions apply to the next week and following (not the current night)
  • Points are awarded for Swiss standing each night
  • Each player’s list of restricted cards is public information
  • Winner is the person who has the most Swiss points cumulative over each week

I suppose my main questions are the following:

  • How many points for each place in Swiss?
  • Should there be points awarded for achievements? What kinds of achievements?
  • Should thought be put into rewarding attendance, or making up for missed points from not being able to attend?

Our store used to do a month long league and we didn’t bother with setting up formal swiss rounds. You just played games and reported them at the counter with the FFG point spread for match wins/splits. I don’t remember if you got penalized for playing the same person each week but I think that would have been a lot of overhead for them to track. The alternative would be an ELO system of some sort that resets with the league restrictions, but I wonder if the ELO catchup mechanic + the restriction mechanic would make things too swingy. I would be inclined to just give out 2 points per reported match win, 1 point per reported match split with a max of 2-3 reported matches each week.

Isn’t this what Netrunner nights are for? I don’t know about anyone else, but our weekly nights are packed with jank. Just a few weeks ago a Blue Sun deck milled my DLR Leela completely. It was hilarious and fun. By the time our GNK or FFG events roll around, I’m craving some ‘competitive’ play. Recently our tournaments here have been offering last place prizes as well as promo raffles inside GNK boxes, as a sort of grab bag for not dropping out. One of our new guys got TWO Corporate Troubleshooters at the San Antonio ANRPC in his raffle box. I think that’s awesome, but I don’t see what else can be done without damaging the integrity of events.

I do see how people can start arguments about casual vs. competitive if your only Netrunner play is GNKs and online. You get out your cards, build a deck, and show up and get stomped by someone running the newest flavor of NEH. But is it really a problem? The type of player to vocalize the complaints in the article about the competitive scene often come from a flawed perspective, and are justly tuned out in almost every other hobby that isn’t inherently broken. It’s their fault for not putting in the time - researching why they got beat by NEH two months in a row, coming to casual nights and improving, looking up decks, getting involved in communities.

Achievement leagues exist, prize raffles exist, last place prizes exist, as does good, plain casual play. Asking your meta to build non-competitive decks every now and then is not an impassable barrier.

Not only that, but having the tact to respect the competitive sides of things is something these complainers seem to not have. Finding the optimal paths to victory is natural for any game, and the ones that aren’t flawed or imbalanced last - like Netrunner. Debates about how these types of people feel and how to accommodate them are often wasted breath, at least in the world of hobbies.

I really had to struggle through facepalms at the beginning of the article when the author tries to apply concepts of privilege to something as simple as casual vs. competitive. Maybe Stefan was getting it from the podcast itself. I had an inkling I was getting into a mire about hope of false equality and feelings about losing, but in the end I’m not exactly sure what I read - it felt like a void of buzzwords and nothingness about an age-old debate.

I’m not expecting a response, just expressing my opinion on what seems to be a non-issue, especially in this wonderful community. If your meta is experiencing these problems, there are many ways to please all kinds of players without bending backwards to the unaccommodating ones themselves - best of luck.


I found this article to be very bad (as well as wrong).

The article even starts out being grossly incorrect.

The game we are playing is produced by a single company which also sponsors and directs the community. Historically (anywhere beyond, say, 50 years ago), this has not been the case: Either a game has not had an ‘owner’ per-se, only someone who owned the rights to a particular league or format, or the owner has not been an active participant in the on-going life of the game- all they do is sell the board/cards/rulebook etc.

The birth of CCGs is Magic the Gathering, owned by Wizards of the Coast. Wizards is all about sponsoring and directing the community, and the community benefits immensely from it. If we look at other LCGs, obviously they are all pushed by FFG in this same way. This is often one of the big differences between card games and board games.

As a good example, I used to be something of a ‘competitive’ warhammer player. Despite flawed and complex rule-writing, very unbalanced gameplay and the intense amount of effort required to even create an army to play with, Australia had a flourishing competitive scene for a time. Knowing that the IP owning company was not at all interested in supporting a tournament scene, players created their own.

This amuses me as an ex Warhammer player. Warhammer is a prime example of a game scene that desperately wished for Wizards level support, but instead got snubbed by it’s parent company at every level to the detriment of the game and the scene. Games Workshop is not exactly doing well right now and is more of an argument against his points.

So already the article is off to a mistaken start, but then it further magnifies it’s flaws by trying to fit the square shaped entitlement and privilege into round shaped holes.

I will stop there, but near 100% disagreement from me.