Don’t Stack the Kak

When Kakugo was released I was really impressed. As the corp, it’s a barrier your opponent absolutely cannot ignore if they want to pass. The low strength seemed a fair exchange as well.

A year or so (?) on and I’m feeling pretty burned on this card. Stacked Kakugos, Kakugos on all centrals, etc. etc. fuuuuuck. It’s an attritional side of the cardpool I think doesn’t lead to good play outcomes, but I feel the basic premise of the card is still good. The thing I feel that’s missed is that it’s not unique. If it were unique, the corp would have to position it carefully to understand the attack vector of the runner. Why is a card like Loki unique but Kakugo not? Is it because Loki is a “character” à la Fairchild prime?

What are your thoughts on this mighty but controversial card? Love it? Hate it? Somewhere in between?


I’ve never had a problem with it, and in fact dropped it from my Palana (now MTI) list because it seems too expensive for what it does most of the time.

Maybe I’m not bothered about it as runner because I play feedback filter or Caldera in pretty much all my decks, and the choice of paying 4 to get past, or paying 1 and taking 1 net damage seems ok. If they do stack up Kakugos on centrals, I’d normally install Turning Wheel and bounce off it as often as permitted, then have one big turn where I draw up and go in to access a lot of cards.

Maybe from a design point of view, Data Loop is better, in that it allows for plans that try to make the runner get in on low cards, whether it’s scoring Obokata or just killing them, but it doesn’t support gameplans that try to whittle down the runners deck to nothing.


It’s a great design. It’s a great card of course, but ultimately it’s also very expensive for a piece of ICE that lets the runner bounce of safely and that is not overly taxing. It’s also a poor card to put on remotes and does not prevent important runs from getting in.

It also suffers from Caprice syndrome. Yeah, it’s good defense but the Runner can just go somewhere else. And, unlike Caprice, it’s not that difficult to make that one, important run (Say, Legwork) through it. It’s unlike for you to cover all your centrals with it nor is it that great of an idea to stack them (because they’ll just run elsewhere).

Loki is unique because it has no type, like Mother Goddess. It may also be unique to prevent weird rules interactions, since it copies other cards.


Is the problem Kakugo, or is the problem Obokata Protocol?


Thanks folks for the responses, some good perspectives.

I’m going to make a case here: if an ice can turn a game on its own, it deserves a second look. In the “new” MWL format we’ve had at least Fairchild 3.0, Surveyor, and Mother Goddess get restricted, while other ice like Architect come off (since the function of the MWL is no longer to try to simultaneously handle ubiquity AND power). Fairchild 3.0 came off, OK that’s fine I guess. (Although Surveyor and Fairchild 3.0 together is a bit of a nightmare.)

When you look at Surveyor and Mother Goddess, they turn a game immediately. The runner can’t steal, the corp windmills agendas, gg. Kakugo doesn’t do this, it allows the runner to get to 3 or 5 or 6 points but nevertheless unable to complete the game. Slower, more attritional, subtler effects seem to naturally fly under the radar when it comes to restriction. In short, Kakugo results in an impossible gamestate as much as Surveyor or Mother Goddess, it just does it a lot later.

Is the problem Obokata Protocol? I’m not sure, I think in a vacuum it’s one of the most appropriate costs in the game: you get almost halfway to the win, at the expense of whatever you’re holding. I love gleefully dumping my grip and then ruefully wishing I hadn’t later. You can always leave it and try to steal it later too. Great card. But when two effects together create an untenable situation, they shouldn’t be in the same deck, end of story.

All of this emerged from playing Smoke again for the first time in over a year and getting a bit bummed out. Yesterday morning I tinkered with the standard Paragon Smoke and put in a DJ Fenris among other changes. DJ Steve gives Smoke that little extra staying power, so I consider this solved… for the moment. :grinning:

I really think you are overselling the card.

One must keep in mind that Kakugo only deals damage if you run through it. And if the Runner is running through it, they are accessing cards and hence, winning. It’s very hard for Kakugo to “turn a game around” without the Runner winning. Think about it this way: If you would have gone through Data Raven the same number of times, would the result be any different?

I don’t think it’s comparable to the other cards you mention, which are not on the list for turning the game on their own, but for power reasons.

Architect was incredibly strong but only in the card pool it originally belonged to. The main issue with the card is that it was a 3-strenght sentry for 4 credits that heavily punished face-checks but which no breaker could break efficiently except Mimic. When it was released, there was no Mongoose, no MK Ultra and Caprice, Batty and Crisium Grid were far more important than they are now. It’s no longer an issue.

The problem with Mother Goddess is that it’s literally unbreakable without IA and downright abusive when paired with certain other cards. And you had a lot of decks abusing that fact, using it as a 3x gearcheck to the expense of everything else. It’s not just that the card is powerful (it is), it’s that it warps the game by virtue of being a typeless ETR. People ran AIs just to break this thing.

Surveyor is simply too cheap and too versatile (2 inf). it’s cheap enough to play early, a monster in late-game, it punishes face-checks and can win you the game. Every single kind of deck can use it and lots of decks can turn it into a monster.

Kakugo is a good card but not similar to any of them. It’s not cheap and not very versatile. It does not help you stop that one run, it does not punish facechecks and it’s not expensive to break. It works well with other cards and is good, but it’s really not very similar. I truly compare it to Data Raven.

In my experience, players tend to overextend as Smoke against damage decks. Quite simply, you don’t need all those cards on the table, just three breakers, a cloak and that stupid stealth resource is enough. Keep the rest as life points and consider not installing those Daily Casts.

You also don’t need to run that much. Yeah, you can run practically for free on R&D and see one card. But don’t. Save your cards for when you can play The Maker’s Eye or Indexing. Remember, all the cards the Corp draws go into HQ and from here to the remote. You don’t have to check every turn, you have several vectors of attack.

Hope that helps.


I think the fact you mention this occurred to you while playing Smoke is perhaps relevant.

Smoke decks tend to go “all in” on really efficient decks on a particular axis. Once set up, they can access any server with little or no regard to the credit cost of breaking subroutines. The best counter is for the Corp to pressurise the Runner on an entirely different axis, like clicks or damage or tags. The one of these that Smoke maybe has the most trouble with (given her small deck limit) is damage.

Credits are the most common form of resource pressure. Kakugo is interesting precisely because it targets, in the mildest possible way: one net damage, a different resource in a way that you can’t inherently pay your way around. (The actual ETR subroutine on Kakugo is kind of trivial, I’d say it’s on balance beneficial for the Runner because it allows you to bounce without passing and getting damaged!)

I think it’s positive for the game to be able to choose to pressure a number of different resources. If it was just two decks butting heads along the axis of a single resource to see which was most efficient, it would get very stale very quickly.


Kakugo is one of the best ICE designs because it’s almost always relevant.


I’ve actually been playing Paragon Smoke almost exclusively for the last several months (in the casual lobby of jnet). And while I’m very tired of seeing Kakugo (for a while it seemed like 75% of my opponents were running Jinteki net damage or Builder of Nations with Kakugo), I find that it’s pretty rare for me to actually lose to it. My typical gameplan is to install Film Critic (if I draw it), poke around and hopefully gain a few agenda points in the early game, accumulate a bunch of Turning Wheel counters, then go for Indexing (to dodge Snares and Breached Domes) to win. The biggest annoyance of those decks is them dropping NGO Front (advanced) or House of Knives (unadvanced) in the remote behind Kakugo, because then you have to check them. Not drawing Film Critic also makes the game harder. But I find that, if I selectively run when I feel I can either steal points or clear out NGO Fronts from HQ/R&D, I’m typically able to pull of the win (though typically with five or fewer cards left in deck). Sometimes I’m backed into a corner and have to make big digs into R&D with The Turning Wheel and hope I win before I hit enough Snares to kill me, but I find that typically works out for me as well. The turn I win is often (though certainly not always) the last turn where I have the cards left to run through Kakugo.

I feel that playing against those sorts of decks is the kind of thing that could be fun and engaging when playing against a close friend in person (like I said, these are often VERY close games where I have to take a lot of calculated risks), but often feels like a boring slog when playing with a stranger on jnet (often in the midst of grinding out several games). I think that the designers should be focused on the former play experience more than the latter, and that Kakugo is a well-designed card that’s healthy for the game overall. But it’s definitely easy to feel otherwise when the bulk (or all) of your time playing Netrunner is on jnet.

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Kakugo is a very interesting card and well-made. I think it’s best to compare it to Envelope to see why.

Obokata Protocol was made at the same time (both in Red Sands) and it’s obvious that the cards complement one another. At this time, Jinteki lost RP, its big Glacier identity, so it had to find something else to rebrand itself as, besides the PE Thousand-Cuts deck. The solution was to make Jinteki Glacier primarily tax cards, not credits. They were also careful to make several counters to Kakugo exist in the game as well, however. Knifed and Saker are my favorites, and Prey also works. And that’s for specifically Kakugo, as Feedback Filter always is a safety valve to make sure net damage decks won’t ever be a majority of the meta.

To sum up, I don’t agree with all of their ice design decisions (Anansi, WHY!?) but Kakugo is A+ design.


I semi agree that kakugo is obnoxious. There’s 2 roles that kakugo fills and IMO one is good and the other is toxic.

The first role - tempo net damage: Similar to cards like data loop, and you combine it with something like Fetal AI (rotato in piece), obokata, ben musashi, snare, junebug, PE, prisec, etc… to try and cause the runner to overextend more than they can draw, and punish them. I think this is directly related to the idea of click compression, and is really good for the game.

The second role - attrition: PU is the embodiment of attrition, and I think everyone hates running against thousand cuts type decks. IMO attrition is one of the worst win conditions in the game, and is proof of a small flaw in the default ANR rules that you can theoretically run out of life points total. Worst of all is when you’re against an attrition deck and you’re drawing/digging for a key breaker and its right near the bottom. IMO some sort of patch to the default rules that allow you to add fake cards into your hand as “hit points” once your stack is empty, would solve this issue nicely. It would also reduce the reliance on cards like Levy as a solution to the net damage problem.

ATM, I think kakugo is mostly played for the first reason and these decks will occasionally win by attrition (which semi sucks but is mostly okay). When kakugo is played for pure attrition, it is one of the worst designed cards in the game.

Regarding anansi vs kakugo above: one of my biggest problems with kakugo is that they invented a new clause for it so that all the usual generically helpful tech cards against these sort of ice wouldn’t work. Kakugo should’ve been a net damage data raven, and that way nexus, femme, hunting grounds etc… would provide value against this card. The most obnoxious thing about kakugo is that unless you have tech that’s only really good for beating kakugo (ankusa to a strong extent, knifed to a lesser) you literally have no answers to it in a standard deck. Anansi IMO is the opposite, in that it hoses a lot of the cheeky tricks that runners have, but a standard runner deck will always have a killer and should be able to get past it unscathed.


Kakugo fills a great role in my Jinteki deck. With only ten ice, my goal is to slow you down, not stop you. I want repeated runs to have a cost, and Kakugo is great for that.

Not only that, but my goal is a net damage kill on my turn, and often the math can be one card is the difference between making a kill or not. I relish those effects like Kakugo that limit options and help me get my kill. Great card.

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I am absolutely on the opposite page regarding the role of net damage in the game!

When people build decks, aiming to draw cards as quickly as is humanly possible is often one of the key goals. Being able to draw cards quickly already has many benefits like reducing the variance of the cards you see, building your combos quicker, getting important cards in play. And being able to shrug off incidental chunks of damage. The presence of “tempo damage” (i.e. can you get enough cards in hand in a single turn to run through a Data Loop and a Kakugo to steal an Obokata from under the nose of Ben Musashi?) just emphasises even more strongly this already strong deckbuilding imperative.

Attritional damage on the other hand has the exact opposite effect. It punishes speeding through your deck willy-nilly, it punishes wasting good hit points by playing them simply to draw more hit points from your deck. It adds a slight note of caution to hell-for-leather speedster deckbuilding. As an additional benefit, it penalises decks that don’t even aim to start playing Netrunner until they have a particular pre-determined board state installed (because if you wait for that, you have very few cards left) and encourages actually engaging with the opponent, like in a two-player game, say. :stuck_out_tongue:

I think having decks that can deck out Runners present in the pool to at least some degree adds interesting nuance to deckbuilding and gameplay choices regarding how fast you want to burn through your cards.


I’m trying to figure out how to word this politely…

But Kakugo and Anansi are the same type of effect. Anansi is a more egregious version of Kakugo. Yes, you can ‘defeat’ it with just any Killer (and a pile of cash), but both cards flaunt the typical ‘On Encounter’ style of extra-abilities on ice, and both cards tax on a different axis (unless, with Anansi, you have a pile of cash and a Killer.) Anansi is even worse in that it can just kill runners that try to use tricks, while Kakugo can never do that.

I also disagree that attrition is a bad win condition. Attrition decks have another name in other games: “Control” decks. Runner attrition decks are “Remote Lock” decks. I absolutely believe that attrition is a viable win condition, and why there’s rules for what happens when Runner and Corp run out of cards in their deck.


Okay, enough.

I was measured in my approach before, but I’m going to say it:

Fuck this dumb fucking card.

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Dare someone say it? OK, I will.

I do like me some Kekugo on me servers every now and then.
It’s mildly painful and makes games exciting. Like a good Jinteki card should!

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Dumb fucking card.

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I only sport mildly flavoured Kakugo-linos. They do a third less net damage (which is, in game terms, fortunately rounded up) and the exchange fee of “pay three cards to recharge your Crowdfunding” tastes so sweet.

Here’s the thing. It makes games exciting until it doesn’t, and then for the rest of the game it’s a dumb fucking card which reveals incomplete testing on FFG’s part.

On turn one Kakugo is spicy and a decision point. Fair.

On turn ten, two Kakugos on R&D and one on the remote is a boring slog where the net damage player is clicking for credits and the Netrunner player is clicking for credits.

Options would have been:

  • Kakugo is unique. The net damage player would have to pick the server that is most relevant and defend it. The Netrunner player would have to get the win elsewhere.
  • Kakugo has limited or selective uses via power counters. House of Knives and Kakugo is already dumb, but at least the misery would be over.
  • Kakugo’s net damage effect can be countered at a cost. Ask the runner if they prefer the net damage or some other cost. This allows a runner with no cards left to have a late game that trades economy for net damage prevention.

Lame card and poorly tested. Your move.

Play Shaper with Feedback Filter, Kakugo costs you 3 creds extra.

I understand a bit where you are coming from, but it’s an expensive ICE, if you bounce 20 times into Kakugo to load your Turning Wheel, you only have to do your dig once. You can play Film Critic to counter Obokatas.
You can play credit denial and derez them with Emergency Shutdown.

Not sure, if you are saying the deck I like to play is bad against Kakugo, this might be true!