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How do we save Netrunner?


This is maybe less true than it first appears. I think that a fair bit of Netrunner skill is about learning to deal with games where you don’t have “that one specific card” in your deck, or you just can’t seem to draw it. Most games, it’s not the end of the world if a few subroutines fire, so long as you survive. The three main ice types aren’t that situational, as you encounter all of them in most games, and their differences mean you have some idea what types of effects you’re likely to be dealing with when you run without a full rig. Small amounts of damage are often not worth preventing, and situations that open you up to large amounts of damage are often avoidable. Tags can be removed with plain old credits.

I haven’t played any other competitive card games, and I’m not a particularly great Netrunner player, so perhaps I’m wrong about this. Certainly it makes life easier if you have the cards that counter your opponent’s strategy directly, and learning to counter things without the “right” cards takes some time. But I don’t think it’s fair to say that Netrunner is only about having the right specific counter-cards.


(I’ve been in a sort-of-self-imposed suspension from competitive play, so feel free to take the below with copious grains of salt.)

I think that it wasn’t as large of an issue initially, and I don’t think it’s a problem with the game at a fundamental mechanical level. Part of the learning process is adapting to things. New players are often to afraid to run at all, but then they maybe learn it’s safe to run as long as they can break sentries. But as players get better and better—and thus skill differential shrinks—card choices start to matter more again, and powerful cards can have outsized impacts. To some degree this problem has existed for a long time. When Supermodernism was the threat, Plascrete was essential. When Noise was still around, Jackson was basically required. The Astro Train necessitated Clot.

And since Damon, I think, things escalated with cards like Hard-Hitting News, Obokata Protocol, Skorpios+Hunter Seeker, Brain Rewiring, Șifr, Aaron, Inversificator, etc. Damon’s love affair with bombastic card effects only increased the likelihood of metas where deckbuilding made the game depend more on the match-up than the players. I used to say that Netrunner looks like a card game like Magic, but played more like a mixture of poker and chess. Nowadays, I think it plays a lot more like Magic than it used to. (And, hey, some people like that style. But then it’s competing for attention with M:tG, Hearthstone, et al.)

It doesn’t help, IMO, to have silver bullets like Film Critic and Employee Strike restricted without banning the large threats they counteract. I realize that those cards are un-fun, since they simply stop the Corp from using their cards. But if players think they have to use their restricted choice (e.g. Film Critic) to deal with your restricted choice (e.g. Obokata), it doesn’t get more rock-paper-scissors-y than that.


I’m not sure our actual opinions are that far apart, but I wanted to point out what was mentioned above (i.e. counterplay not involving tech cards) is a fundamental part of the skill in a game of netrunner. I think tech cards tend to be…overrated maybe?

Look at the current tier 1 Val lists. Some run Strike, some run Critic, some run the same shell out of Max with Levy as the restricted pick. They’re pretty light on tech cards in general. Almost the entire deck is money, breakers, and draw. I’d say we’re in a good spot when that type of deck can be as good as it is.

I’d guess everyone in this thread has stolen an Obokata without Film Critic – it’s harder for sure but totally doable in most situations. The spots where you need Critic are often because the corp has built their deck around making Obokata hard/difficult to steal and managed to execute that plan without being disrupted. Does it tilt me off the face of the earth when it happens? Yes. But that’s where the poker part of the poker/chess hybrid comes in.


I believe you have defined a line between ‘good’ and ‘great’ netrunner players.

Many good players will give up when they don’t have the right card to counter a threat either in their deck, or in hand at the right moment. Giving up on executing any game plan because yours didn’t come together is obviously a losing play, but it’s one that players commit to often, and then blame ‘jnet shuffling’ when it happens.

Playing to your own strengths is easy. Playing around your opponents strengths is harder. Playing around your own weaknesses is the next level.


Great statement.

However, some of us have no weaknesses.

[insert fully expanded galactic mind.png combined with tim&eric_mind_blown.gif here]


Would that be NEXT level?


@spags You now need to win Worlds 2018 so we can get a NEXT SPAGS in 2028


Welcome to the game! Thanks for chiming in with your perspective. I agree with a lot of it, mostly the frustrations with how FFG manages the game.

Others have chimed in about the mechanics issues you brought up, and I will agree as well. With experience, I think you’ll see that (for the most part) you don’t need specific counter-measures if your fundamentals and meta-knowledge are sound. I hope you stick with long enough to see that for yourself.

I will concede that there have been periods where one or a few mechanics/strategies got so powerful and common that some kind of direct counter was all but required (Astro FA, prison, etc.), but those are generally the times where the feedback from the community for FFG to manage the MWL is loudest. Currently (in my opinion), now is not one of those times. Point is that the community would agree with you, that we don’t like to have to include specific counters.

Since, you’ve mentioned a few online card games and cost, I’m not sure if you’re aware that Netrunner has a fan-made, completely free online platform where you can play the complete game: jinteki.net. It doesn’t have flashy visual effects, but it’s pretty good given how it’s developed and how quickly it get updated with newly released cards.

While I think Netrunner is a great game (probably the best game I’ve played, which includes Magic and some of the other LCG’s), the Netrunner community is one of the best reasons to stick with it. Where there has been places where FFG has fallen short, the community has come through to more than make up for it. This has been original content for new and experienced players, guides, videos, art, promos, tournament structure, online platform, data analysis on balance, just being awesome humans, etc.

I will end on a hopeful note that it seems the new design, development and test team (Boggs uber alles) has been best case and it does seem that FFG is slowly adapting (seems like an under-resourced Organize Play team is their current biggest problem).


The community tries its ass off with new championships, store champs, beginner deck builds, Discord and Slack channels, active forums like this one, etc. the vibrant and passionate community is a real strong point to Netrunner, and it is really fantastic in lowering the barrier to potential new players.

As many have mentioned above, I feel like FFG need to deliberately release product that is targeted squarely at new comers. The core box is something, and it’s helpful. For beginners to stay invested though, they really need to buy up the data packs, and big boxes, and start deck building. That is a daunting task, because as boardgamegeeks complexity rating shows, Netrunner is a complicated game. It’s also hugely fun and rewarding, and so working through its plunging depths is certainly worth it.

However, one thing I’d point out is that community run events, championships and custom built decks on NRDB require a time investment from people to actually peel back layers and actively investigate the various sources of information that contain these decks and events. That’s all well and good, if someone is inclined that way. But many people like pick up and play games, and the core set is designed firstly as a tutorial of sorts, but then as a door to what we know of Netrunner now; deck building and expansion purchases.

If you continue to give people products which keep stripping back the level of effort, while increasing the fun factor, I’d imagine you’ll end up with two camps of people.

  1. Those who just enjoy having a dabble with a few beginner decks and don’t take things any further
  2. Those who the game engages with them, and they stay engaged either with continued purchases of entry products which don’t require a huge investment, or actually become competitive.

I think Netrunner biggest issue right now is that the game is dominated by depth and complexity, a reliance on using NRDB as a source it make viable decks to play on Jnet; and in fact Jnet. Jnet is wonderful, and I love playing on it, but it’s not an entry level tool. It is reasonably intimidating for new comers, and people again have to dig deeper, talk to the community, make an account, get shown by experienced players how to use it, etc. that is all really great, if you can be bothered with that time and effort investment.

For beginners they need a casual option. Hell I’d love a casual preconstructed option. I’d play it, and I’ve played Netrunner on and off for two years. I’m not that competitive, but I dabble just because I really like the game. I’d play it more, if I knew I could join a group who were as casual as me. I find those left at the FLGS are actually hardcore (albeit friendly and very helpful) players who play in store champs and REALLY know the game well.

We need to find a way to create a casual community within Netrunner, and I think a pre constructed product, that could be supported through a beginners social comp would be a wonderful start to that.


We are actually doing that for our league right now. It’s a funky meta, but we have at least one new player jumping in. Others of us are enjoying the change to a limited pool.

I second the recommendation to give it a shot.


This perfectly describes my situation and preferences, as well!
Creating decks is definitely the part about Netrunner I enjoy the least. I’m also not a big fan of net-decking, though, and that’s because the majority of decks have been created with the competitive, tournament level player in mind. I much prefer staying at a more or less casual level.

So, when I stopped playing Netrunner over two years ago, I started looking into games with pre-built decks. I’d very much like to see some kind of Starter Decks for Netrunner, as well.

Way back, when I first fell in love with the original Netrunner game, I developed my own drafting system by categorizing my card pool according to the different functions (e.g. economy, breakers, support, tag-removal, etc.) and simply randomly drawing a number of cards from each stack to create my decks.

But a couple of different, well-designed pre-constructed decks that are fun to play and reasonably balanced with each other would be an awesome thing to have available as a purchase option.


I agree, the price of a core set is not too steep, but it still feels like an investment, not something you can just try on impulse. The price point of a Destiny starter deck is FAR more approachable! I know that’s not even a legal deck, but you and a friend buy one each of those for the price of a night at the cinema and get several hours’ worth of games and a cheap introduction to the game for it.

The trouble is, because Netrunner is asymmetrical, you’d basically need to sell 2 of those to each person. If a bunch of people each buy a Destiny starter set, it doesn’t matter if one has a Rey starter set, another has a Kylo starter set, and another has one of the new ones from Legacies. They can all play against each other. But if 2 people bought Netrunner runner starter decks and meet up at a beginner night, they can’t play against each other!

That’s said, it’s still doable. 30-card intro decks, one for each side, could fit into a 60-card pack and sell for $15. For bonus points, those packs could contain some important cards that are 1x in the revised core, reducing the need for a 3rd one. Maybe the IDs could be full-bleed or something too, to make it seem more premium.


I was going to complain that Destiny can also fit a decent learn-to-play guide in a starter deck box, but I went and looked up the old demo rules and the font is only moderately tiny. Tokens might be a bit trickier.


I think this is a really solid idea. My understanding is that the Preconstructed Thrones decks they’re putting out are 69 cards, so it’s within reason to think they could do 1 30 card runner deck, 1 30 card corp deck and maybe even include a card-sized timing of a run/rules reference. Not sure what to do about tokens. Maybe make a simple app to keep track of Credits/Tags/Brain Damage/etc. and include a link with the product?


Sure, meeting people is fun and all, but card games online are the future. First OCTGN and now Jinteki.net are the only reasons I got far into this game and still play. I’d pay Netflix money to keep access to online play.


I hadn’t even thought about how to resolve the Instructional Manual issue. Even 30 card Runner/Corp decks, if the game also needs to include a manual and tokens, then we’re expanding beyond the “clam shell” packaging that a 60 card deck would come in.

Not to say that the manual needs to be the 30 page Rules of Instruction that comes in the core set, however, it’s not quite the same as the 2 page pamphlet that comes in Destiny.

I would think a good competition would be to see if the rules could be distilled to the same “pamphlet size” as SWD.


Gotta say, it’s part of the genius of Destiny that the rules can be distilled to just 2 pages! (Of course you still need dozens of pages of FAQ after so many cards have been printed, can’t get away from that in any card game!)
But with Netrunner too, the size of the rules need only be such as to explain how to play with the cards IN the actual starter box! If there’s no cards with traces, you don’t need to explain traces. You can easily make a simple runner deck that is just events and icebreakers, which means no paid abilities outside runs! Imagine how much of the rulebook you can cut out from that!

And of course, as was said, you could have a QR code on the pack with links to the full rulebook and l2p guide for anyone who wants it.


i would say I’m not really a fan of having non-legal decks in the intro product. What’s nice about the Thrones decks is that they are legit real decks. Having to go buy even more product if you play against anyone else feels like it could be more of a turn-off.

I could see the decks going for less than $15, though. Since they’re possibly 40 to 45-card Runner decks, maybe $10?

In regards to packaging, they do have those larger clam-shell packaging that they’re using for the L5R clan packs. (They have two smaller bunches of cards that are side-by-side horizontally instead of vertically.) And a fairly lengthy 20-odd page booklet, which could probably fit a condensed version of the rules easily.

EDIT: In case anyone hasn’t seen them yet…


I mean, the demo rules really are pretty decent, though they could use a few updates now, and they do fit on one two-sided sheet.

Now that I’ve thought about tokens a bit more, they probably depend on the decks. If you avoid tags, bad pub, brain damage, and Pheromones, then you don’t need tag/bp or brain damage tokens, and you can have players use face-down credits for power and virus counters. And you probably want to avoid all those things anyways. If they put in click tracker cards, then two click tracker tokens will suffice. So if we assume 25 tokens, same as a Destiny starter, we can have two click tracker tokens, five 5-credit tokens, and 18 one-credit/advancement tokens. Still requires a non-clamshell box, probably.


And even apart from the packaging, even the most minimal token set would increase the price significantly.

On top of which, I’m increasingly losing my sense of whom these sets are for. People who are uncertain enough of their interest that they don’t want to spend $40 for a complete game, but will spend at least $20 for a deck that only teaches the most basic concepts and which they’ll need to upgrade from almost immediately? Also, they don’t know anyone who currently owns a set and can teach them, but do know someone who’s interested in learning with them, but also the price point is crucial because this is meant to be an impulse buy? There might be a few such people whom such a product could coax in, but it doesn’t exactly strike me as just the shot in the arm this game needs.