Hard-Hitting News Retrospective

With Flashpoint about to rotate, we’ve now seen every Standard meta with HHN in it. There’s been a lot of discussion of the card over the years, with opinions ranging from calling it integral to the game’s balance to a complete mistake. Now that we can view it with hindsight, I’d like to hear how people feel about its role in the game!

Personally, I think it it fills a role the game very much needs, but I can’t help but think something else could have filled it better. It’s a hurdle for new players to learn, basing huge portions of their strategy off something they’re meant to just intuit will be a factor without anything in the game suggesting what they need to be afraid of. At higher levels, it rewards runner strategies that hoard credits instead of interacting, which isn’t the most interesting of play patterns. And it’s so singularly straightforward in its design that it’s dominated its entire mechanic, pushing out any variants of its strategy.

What do you think? Could a tweak to the design of this card have improved your experience? Are you horrified to see what will happen to the game without this stable linchpin of its ecosystem? Were there some metas during its lifespan during which it added more fun than it did in others? Let us all know!


I believe some sort of multi-tag needs to exist. I’m not sure exactly what needs to change to make it seem fair. HHN is already fair in that it gives you a turn to clear the tags when compared to something like mid-season replacements.

The other option which I don’t think is a route the game should go is better single tag punishment. It’s how the early tag and bag decks worked with sea-scorch but I think it’s better to move away from that territory.


I think HHN was a mistake, for the reasons outlined in the OP. I think there are many fun things about it, but it punishes early runs hard, making it very hard for a Runner to plan early aggression. In my opinion early aggression should be viable, and you can’t really do that without ending your turn on few credits every now and then, in which case HHN puts you at an immense disadvantage.

As for better possible designs, Reboot has been really happy with the following rebalance of Big Brother:

If you combine it with Sea Source, it accomplishes something pretty similar, but being a 2-card combo makes it significantly less likely that the Corp actually have it in hand early. Additionally, it’s obviously twice the card slots, making it a way larger commitment. I think it gets you a lot of the good with way less of the bad.


I stand by what I said seven years ago: insta-win should be gated behind 4+ tags. This makes much more interesting room for effects that work with 1–3 tags. And I think we’ve got a lot of the way there, with more cards which remove tags as part of their cost (how does that work, in lore?), as well as designs like Freedom of Information and Predictive Planogram.

I find it instructive to compare HHN to another controversial card which warped how you played: Account Siphon. I think Siphon was good for the game, but possibly a bad core set card: for a very long time, the only credible tag punishment was double-Scorch, and that could be guarded against by yet more Siphons (and Vamp). But people learned never to leave an open HQ vs Crim, and/or to have a way to sink a bunch of credits to defang a Siphon run. HHN’s counterplay is much less exciting: it says “don’t run, make money instead”. That steers runners away from the fundamental interaction in this game.

A burst of tags is an important thing to be able to deliver, especially if you want to gate game-winning effects behind high tag counts. HHN’s terminal condition was good because it meant the runner had at least one full turn to deal, but I would give tags based on the number of stolen agendas or the runner’s number of agenda points. Probably the latter, to prevent Sportsmetal/Psychographics silliness.


inhales deeply for a full 47 seconds…

As the person who ran the balance team from 2018 to 2021, I probably had more people allcaps at me to ban it than anyone else in the community. :sweat_smile:

My thoughts on it are big and complicated and I won’t go over them all in here. Personally, I love the play patterns HHN creates, especially the ability to create tense forks for the runner. But I’ve seen enough newbies and casual players ragequit at the first HHN being played to understand that those play patterns are counterintuitive to someone who’s been playing in a card pool without HHN until now (eg Startup players, or core-only players in the FFG days).

I’ve also talked a lot with people on GLC who’ve been turned off Standard by its existence, and decided to stick with Startup permanently. One of the most frequent complaints about it is that it draws out the process of losing the game. In other words, it makes people feel like they’re dead, but they have to wait another 2-5 turns for the corp to find enough tag punishment to finish the job (whether that’s a psycho or a boom). This was brought up both by people who started playing with Gateway, and by people who played early in the FFG days (before Flashpoint) and recently came back.

In my own personal observations, more casual players rarely know how to respond to an HHN. They don’t know when it’s correct to turtle up and try to clear tags over several turns or when to just decide to go tag-me. They don’t know how to manage their economy while tagged to protect themselves from a Market Forces. And Gaslight made it even harder to know exactly where to run to prevent yourself from losing next turn. Of course, to me these are fun and interesting situations. But they’re situations that I learned alongside everyone else, because I was around when the card first came out and we were all figuring out how to deal with it. A newcomer is being pitted against people who are playing it pretty much optimally, and they have the added disadvantage of not knowing the card pool well enough to know what kind of tag punishment to expect following an HHN, and how many credits the corp needs to be on to play them.

This has made me question the prevailing view among both the community and the designers of the game that tag punishment should be more granular. Gating victory behind multiple tags just draws out a losing position in a way that is anti-fun from the point of view of someone who hasn’t learned the correct lines to get out from that position. And making low-tag punishment weaker just means that the Corp has to chip away at the runner and HHN them over and over again before they can finally seal the deal. Strong single-tag punishment like Scorched or Exchange of Information meant that you could clear all but one tag and the game could still end a turn later. Nowadays there’s practically nothing I’d slot into a tagging deck that doesn’t need 2+ tags to be effective, making the game grindier and forcing the losing side to stay in a subjectively unfun position longer. I know that more granular tag punishment has been a growing trend in the game all the way since this card was release (in the same cycle as Boom!), but I think the natural progression of that trend has been negative both for onboarding new players and by ensuring that the strongest tag-based corps are prison decks.

You’ll notice this isn’t even my thoughts on HHN itself, but rather on the design direction of the game as a whole. This just goes to show what a defining card HHN is, that thinking about it means thinking about the whole concept of tags in Netrunner. It was a very special card, one of Damon’s greatest gifts to us, and I’ll always be very fond of it, but I think it’s overstayed its welcome.


I agree with what @endgame wrote above, and has been expressed by others elsewhere: HHN should have scaled with the game state. Eating an HHN in the first few turns is unreasonably punishing, I would say, even for decks that have prepared for it.

Also, even though HHN gives you a turn to respond, if you’re unaware of it, 90% of the time you’re unprepared. One turn is not enough, mitigating HHN is done at the deck building stage.

Mind you, I don’t think I’d be so harsh on the card if Boom! didn’t exist. The combination means that you can just lose in the first few turns with the only “mistake” being running early - which I think is an integral part of the game, and is fairly dangerous even without HHN. I feel the game is less fun because of HHN & game-ending tag punishment.


Good point, though I can often get down to one tag after eating HHN. But your point about other cards making it really terrible is definitely true. One big offender is Economic Warfare, meaning that by midgame you need to be at least 4 ahead on the corp or you get a face-full of tags. Coupled with the horrid Prison Ob it’s just not a good time. I’m not on team “concede at the first HHN”, but I’m often on team “screw this” after the second.

The other is Rashida. HHN randomly punishes early aggression super-hard, and Rashida’s existence forces early aggression. I avoid Standard because of these two (individually), and their combination is even worse.


To be clear, I still play Standard (in fact I only play standard except to teach new players). And even though some games might be unpleasant, there’s plenty of archetypes out there. For me HHN doesn’t ruin the experience, it just means sometimes I’m disappointed and have less fun.

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For me, if corps don’t have cards like Rashida that propel then forwards massively, and cards like HHN which protect those cards without having to use ice, the game just becomes stale. It becomes about counting credits and once you have enough as the runner you just sort of win. With these cards involved the game has more texture. You can still just out credit your opponent, sure, but that makes HHN into a card that gives you options. You can now present the runner with a threat and play HHN in the same turn, forcing players to make decisions. Save HHN → triple advance the agenda I installed costs a tonne of money and 5 clicks, so you only have one additional spare click to do stuff with.


While I agree that Corps absolutely need protection tools which aren’t just playing a ton of ice, I feel Rashida+HHN is an iffy combination - one card punishes you for interacting early, and the other is balanced around you being able to do so. Additionally, Rashida becomes even swingier than it already is when you add in having to guess whether they drew the HHN to punish early.


Did anyone write articles or record videos about how to deal with these sorts of sharp cards? I collected but didn’t really play during Flashpoint, so I may have missed them.

One of the worst things about HHN was that there would be frequent times when the higher win % play was to just hope they didn’t have it for the first few turns, since not contesting what they were doing would just put you in an even worse situation later, Then when they did have it early alongside their high threat cards, it felt like the game was a forced loss on a super early turn. This was also true of SEA 2x Scorch, but in that case, the chances they actually did have it very early were extremely low.

Forking people is cool. Forking people on turn 1 or 2 before they’ve had a chance to do anything is not, it’s just deciding games with opening hands.


I hated HHN in my weeflerunner days, I love it now, and I won’t be sad to see it go.

My favorite HHN story was actually on the receiving end. I was playing against anarchomushroom at BCOM as Maxx. Counted my credits, decided I could survive double econ warfare into hhn and I needed to pressure. Ran, stole an agenda, and braced myself.

They rezzed a Jeeves, then triple econ’d me into an HHN. That rused me so far into the shadow realm I didn’t win another game on the day, but I couldn’t even be mad.


Considering the recent spoiler for Automata, where the new “Threat” mechanic is being discussed, I find it possible that a HHN replacement might be introduced (maybe with some tweaked numbers) that includes a Threat pre-requisite.


Something like:

Give the runner X tags. X is the current Threat.

Would be cool, if there were some other conditions attached to it - requiring a successful run and probably something else, like a successful trace (although we don’t like traces any more so probably something else).

Great point that the combo of “must run” and “run punishment” creates a more dynamic game.

In the past, the game avoided “runner has money, thus wins” in redcoats using upgrades (caprice, ash) that are ice-multipliers. I don’t think HHN/Rashida dynamics are the only way to avoid runner money wins.

I think the templating for Threat doesn’t allow the X to be used in an effect. I believe it is only used to specify a threshold. We’ll see. Another option that maintains early-game threat, while ramping up in the late:

Trace(4): if the trace succeeds, give the runner 2 tags.
Threat(4): If the trace succeeded, give the runner 2 tags.

So Oppo Research was spoiled today (no NRDB link yet), with the following text:

Cost: 2, Operation - Terminal, Gray Ops

Play only if the Runner stole or trashed a Corp card during their last turn.

After you resolve this operation, your action phase ends.

Give the Runner 2 tags.

Threat 3 → You may pay 5 to give the Runner 2 tags.

Seems like this covers some of the things that people in this thread have hoped for.


I think it’s a very suitable replacement. It could see some play early on to slow down the runner (if they aren’t using Solidarity Badge), but obviously is only at full effect once the game has kicked into gear (barring an early 3-pointer steal). And there’s no option for the runner to avoid the tags by winning a trace or paying credits like with HHN or Public Trail. It still combos with Economic Warfare to a degree, if you can get the runner down below 8 credits they will still be tagged when your turn comes around again.

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My main issue with Hard-Hitting News was that its effect on the early game shut out entire Runner playstyles. For example, you couldn’t viably play a Runner whose economy was primarily run-based, because it would take too long to climb out of the HHN danger zone at the start of the game without using your run events, and yet the deck wouldn’t function if you didn’t.

The general knock-on effects on Runner strategy also made the game substantially worse, I think (even though the card itself is interesting). The Runner playstyle least affected by getting HHNed is “sit up and build credits for 8-10 turns and then use your warchest to win easily” (which was seen in, e.g., Anarch Apoc and control Shaper). That isn’t a very interesting playstyle to play against with most Corp decks. Worse, the best Corp strategy against that Runner strategy is “try to rush out a win before the Runner can get started” which is also often not interesting to play against (as it generally comes down to whether or not you draw the appropriate cards for the matchup in time – against a deck like fast advance Sportsmetal, running over and stealing agendas doesn’t really help, so the game comes down to whether you can find Clot or multi-access).

Oppo Research seems like it’s a good fix to these general problems: HHN’s effect on the early game is its primary downside, and Oppo Research doesn’t hit nearly as hard. The numbers on it look very strong, though. The non-boosted mode of the card is better than Economic Warfare for credit-draining against a runner who doesn’t have cheap tag removal, because you’re spending 2[c] more than Economic Warfare in order to cost them 2 clicks more than Economic Warfare would – a Runner click is worth more than a Corp credit – and it doesn’t require the Runner to have at least 4[c] to be usable, like Economic Warfare does. With the boosted mode, you’re spending 7[c] more than Economic Warfare in order to cost the Runner 4[c] and 4 clicks more than Economic Warfare does, so that mode is also stronger.

Oppo Research thus seems like a really good enabler for a credit-denial deck – those decks are typically NBN and playing a playset of Economic Warfare, and now they have two better Economic Warfares in-faction (Public Trail and Oppo Research), which also double as win conditions (contrast with SEA Source and Hard-Hitting News, which are not very good as enablers but better win conditions). I think there will probably need to be caution to prevent the credit-denial playstyle becoming too strong, but also that this change to the way it operates is likely to be good for the game; the strength of credit denial decks in previous metagames largely came from “gotcha” moments where you blew up the Runner out of nowhere (sometimes in the very early game), whereas here the strength is more from the more normal play.

I am a little sad that Oppo never got to be in the same rotation as SYNC: Everything, Everywhere, though. SYNC is mostly just inferior to NBN: Reality Plus, but it does have a niche when it comes to tag-based credit denial decks, and it could (if the two cards were ever legal simultaneously) make better use of Oppo than Reality Plus does: if you’re now using your HHN-alikes as the enabler rather than the payoff, an identity that rewards you by draining the Runner further for every tag added is going to provide more value than an identity that refunds you 2[c] once per turn.