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Depth and Meta-independence in Netrunner

I know nothing about how you normally facilitate play, but perhaps you should ask your opponents if they saw any mistakes in your line of play. Most high end players of any game spend time analyzing their play and that of others. It’s a time-honored method of improvement.

I am also a bit confused to hear you try to definitively claim the game has little depth and at the same time admit you “aren’t very good”. Doesn’t that imply that there are layers of understanding that you haven’t grasped yet (ergo - depth)?


Sorry man, I really didn’t mean anything personal by it; these are fair questions to ask and chess is many folks’ go-to comparison point simply because it’s well known, which is fine - it just so happens to be a dud of a comparison.

The super quick, no math or gaming theory version: chess is often afforded a status as an example of a game to look up to that it doesn’t deserve from a design standpoint, due to it’s staggeringly long history and unbelievably large player base. This doesn’t make it perfect or even above average, as a game. It just means that it’s a game that’s the most widely accessible and easy to find a well-matched opponent, compared to virtually any other game you can name.


It can also be instructive to swap decks with an experienced player. There are a lot of subtleties that often go unnoticed, which make it easy to assume that one’s opponent was just lucky. But watching someone consistently beat you under similar conditions can highlight some of the differences in how they play: why they choose to run or not run against a given server, what cards they install, when they click for cards or credits, and so on.

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Yes and no! The best I can say is that I have played enough to understand and comment on the game, and kind of project how my future time spent in the hobby will be.

No problem! If you have a link to your explanation written somewhere else already,
I would love to go through it later at some point.

Netrunner is poker and chess combined. And awesome with it

Because we have all played those Caissa decks with Push Your Luck! :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


For what it’s worth, heads-up (ie 2 player) poker has an incredibly lively and dynamic meta-game :slight_smile: While there exists a meta-independent strategy (game-theory-optimal, aka Nash equilibrium, aka min-max for 2-player games) it is not particularly strong, is extremely complex, and never maximizes your win-rate unless your opponent is using the same strategy. And this is despite the game being symmetric (when averaged over position) and with no expansion packs/deck building choices/etc and with extremely simple rules.

Also I think skill vs luck is a false argument, in my view these two are independent variables that are orthogonal to each other–a game can be extremely luck-dependent and extremely skill-dependent at the same time. Adding luck to a game does not decrease skill and vice versa. For me poker is a perfect example, where the short HU games I play last ~10-15min and very good players achieve maybe a 53% win-rate. So for each game luck is quite high since the worse player wins almost half the time. At the same time, the skill involved in being a 53% winner is huge–and the difference between a 52.5% and 53% win-rate is also huge in terms of skill needed (and long-run money earned–many players play 40+ games/hour–online due to multi-tabling–with each game being played for $100+ so the 53% win-rate adds up really quickly to a ton of $$$).


For depth: I’ll agree-ish with you there. Since bluffing/hidden information is a mechanic, adding more cards does add to the depth of the game. But for the most part netrunner will never be as ‘deep’ as chess or Go. It is however as deep (or deeper) as other games of its type (like mtg or ashes).

For meta-independence: I can’t speak very well for chess but I know Go a little better. And I’d definitely say there exists metas within large and small communities of Go. In addition there are tricky lines of play both in chess and in Go that will catch most players off guard unless they’ve seen it before.

And I’ll say that luck or randomness is a factor in both games.

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I feel like netrunner’s complexity has increased dramatically recently, not just because players need to learn more cards (because many recent cards are actually played quite frequently) but because of the significant number of decks that you need to know to beat before sitting down if you want a chance at doing well. I think this may or may not differ from depth, but I think that there are enough mechanics, and layers of mind games, and a need to memorize and learn cards, that there is a fair bit of depth. To me it often does still feel like a very complex and elaborate two player boardgame, rather than a straight up card game. And I am ok with that. Also the fact that (in my opinion) chance in the game relative to chance in similar card games is somewhat mitigated by having drawing a card and clicking for credits be actions that you can take any time is also good. Which also kind of kills luck vs skill arguments, as skill is then effectively playing to probabilities. Someone might win a game making the wrong play but finding the winning agenda in 4 runner games out of 10, and the correct play might only win the game or find the agenda 7 or 8 games out of 10. Learning the right from wrong plays requires a lot of practice, and intuition (this is one that seems to create a little bit of a barrier, skill wise, between those who know what their plan is, and those who don’t, during a game)

There definitely are mini metas, which imo is good for the game. However I feel that if the game grew dramatically, you’d have a significant increase of competitive players, and a reduction of players not playing generally accept top tier decks. That being said I think there are often a number of decks that can win events on both sides of the table (though I respect that IG in particular atm strongly pushes people who want to win to play whizzard, which is unfortunate, let’s wait for mwl).

Not super fond of comparisons to chess, the game is asymmetrical, we don’t use the same pieces, and don’t even always have the same goals. The poker comparisons I can see, and enjoy them. It’s a huge part of the game for me, and I trash talk a lot during the game, trying to add that extra bit of poker table trash talk into the mix

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Uh, wow. This expresses something I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on despite thinking a lot more about games, luck, & skill ever since I became obsessed with Netrunner, a game that certainly has both.

I couldn’t disagree more with the second part. There’s a reason the tournament top tables are mostly occupied by the same experienced people tournament after tournament. It’s not because they play the hottest netdeck either (in fact, at least around here it seems there’s plenty of people playing netdecks in the middle of the standings).

Skill plays a major part, though. I think it’s unreasonable to expect someone with a tenth of the cardpool to have powerful enough of a deck to beat someone close in skill level. I’ve went 7-1 with 2-core decks vs three beginners with a larger cardpool (though not complete). The one loss was IIRC winnable, but I made a mistake that may have been avoided by careful consideration (aka more skill). Point being, I guess, is that perhaps you’re unable to leverage skill because you aren’t experienced enough. Maybe your “landslide losses” are because of your opponents leveraging their skill against you?

Edit: oh yeah, is the Stimhack mentor program still running? Maybe you might want to check that out in case you decide to give Netrunner another go. :slight_smile:


At the highest level, the ‘meta’ isn’t dependent on the opening, but on planning a sequence later in the game based on your opponents previous decisions in those positions. Highest level players prepare lines out of any opening.

Well I read an article about this, but I’m not a specialist :wink:

Too Lazy to google now while on train, but Richard Garfield gave a speech to this effect a few years back. Poker and magic are examples of high variance high skill games. Chess is low variance high skill. Tic tac to is low variance low skill, and something like war is high variance low skill. in his opinion, he wants high variance for accessibility / excitement, but high skill for replay-ability.


Asking your opponents for advice about how/when you lost the game (imho, most games are lost several turns before the final points are scored). One of my most satisfying games was one I lost relatively recently to an opponent who I know is a much better player than I am. When I asked him about the game, he said I had a good deck and played it very well, I almost won, and the loss really did come down to finding the last agenda first.

I only get better by asking other players, especially the players who beat me, what I could have done better. Lots of people on Jinteki are willing to discuss a game after it ends, especially if they win.

I once won a match against a much better chess player by opening with either f3. This is widely considered to be a very bad, if not the worst possible opening move one could make in chess. I believe in my case, I won because the opening was so extremely unorthodox, that my opponent didn’t have a prepared opening to respond to it. It was enough to throw him off-balance, and I quickly locked him in check while slowly building my board state and securing the eventual win.

I think it is okay to carry some lessons from chess into netrunner. An unorthodox approach that catches your opponent off-guard can be advantageous. Once you have your opponent in a difficult position, do not relieve pressure to develop your board state, keep your opponent locked down. You cannot win in a single move, you win by building a board state that secures your win, or rarely when your opponent makes a blunder and you capitalize on it.

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If you substitute study and preparation (particularly surrounding openings) for deckbuilding, there’s certainly some parallels to be drawn between Chess and Netrunner metagames.

Yeah, I heard that speech! Good one!

This is true for any 2p game and imho you could add “have a good breakfast and sleep well”, as an advice.

Sure this helps but it kinda miss an important point, which is “how do we get better at this game ?”.