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How we learned to stop worrying and love 5/3 agendas

FFG has finally cracked the code for making 5/3 (or 3/5 if you prefer) agendas that people will play. It is quite common now to see decks running 6 3-point agendas. Not long ago, such agendas were considered unplayable unless they were called Global Food Initiative.

The trick appears to be adding abilities that make the 5/3 either more costly to steal (Obokata, Degree Mill) or give the Corp an econ boost even when they are stolen (SSL). A handful of Corp acceleration 5/3s (Elective Upgrades) were seeing play after GFI got restricted as well.

One additional argument I’ve heard in favor of putting 5/3 agendas in your deck is that the lower density they create makes single accesses – especially early game – less punishing.

The GFI agenda suite was 9 agendas, all of which are worth 2 points to the Runner. The new 5/3 suites can have as many as 7 3-pointers. On a single access in a 43 card deck R&D on turn 1 (assuming the Corp drew zero agendas), the Runner has a 16.3% chance of scoring 3 points against a 7-agenda Corp. It has 21% chance of scoring a 2 point agenda against a 9-agenda Corp. Is that smaller chance to hit any agenda offset by the higher chance of scoring 3 points? How do you factor in the advantage the Corp gets in a GFI deck of being able to win with 3 scores while the Runner requires 4 steals to win?

Math nerds, help me out here.

I think one of the few 5/3 that was played before was Future Perfect as it protects itself! Which plays into your arguments!


There have been a few big boons to the 5/3 shift.

1a) Defensive Agendas. We saw this early on with TFP, and even more so once Obakata dropped. Degree Mill saw a similar effect as well when it came out instantly going into EdTech.
1b) Strong 5/3’s. Most 5/3’s were not worth running because your 3/2 and 4/2 just had better effects. Now we have the defensive agendas along with ones like SSL and Upgrades.

2) NGO - This card single handedly has allowed decks to run 5/3 because while you can’t never advance them you have a strong way to bluff them out. Even more importantly NGO can create a credit gap between you and the runner potentially opening up a scoring window for a 5/3.

3) Strong 40 card minimum IDs. EdTech is an incredibly strong ID, and being able to get away with just 6 agendas is very strong when you consider how good the agendas are. Further the runner will often have to steal 3 of the 6 agendas while the corp only needs 2 and then they score an echo chamber. Finding half of the deck’s agendas can be very challenging, especially when you have NGO bluffs and enough money to rez some really nasty ice.


i think it took a while for ANR designers to figure out agendas, but they had some weird math to work with from the original game.

ONR had a lot of 5/3s, 3/2s, and 3/1s, but they also pushed the design space a lot (sometimes to absurd levels). here are some values for ONR agendas

9/6 (became gov takeover almost word-for-word)

they also had a lot of 5/2 and 4/3 and they didn’t have many 4/2 until the second set

the numbers were hella weird, and every agenda (except the 4/4) did something
and the 4/4 was basically the most broken thing in the game once players figured it out because you just scored 2 to win, and it was really easy to score (more on that later). being blank didn’t matter nearly as much as the original designers thought it would
it was also Vital rarity, which means you would get it guaranteed in the starter set

also, notable, no 2/1s or any 0-point agendas

so ANR figured out a formula: 1 point for every 3 clicks
so you’d get 1 point for one turn (install and 2 advancements)
3 points for two turns (install, advance twice then three more times the next turn)
2 for anything inbetween

a lot of reprints had to be changed quite a bit to fit this formula:
Private Security Force: originally worth 3 points (otherwise the same)
The Cleaners: originally only 4 advancement requirement
Corporate War: originally a 3/3 (also all the 7s were 12s)

some were actually buffed a bit. Mandatory Upgrades was a 6/1 and Project Beale was originally a 3/1, for example

so they had to fit all of these cards to this new formula, but you would invest all this time building your remote, a whole turn and 2 bits to install and advance 3 points, and the tempo loss if the runner stole it was huge. they’re almost halfway to winning and you’re behind those points, 3 clicks, and 2 credits. the cost wasn’t worth it, and all these agendas were being played in a game that was vastly different from when they were originally designed.

in ONR, you didn’t need to build a remote to score 5/3s because the FA options were pretty crazy. in addition to Biotic Labor, there were cards for 3 and even 4 extra advancement counters in one click (they all gave advancements instead of additional actions like Biotic Labor). they were expensive, but remember siphon only originally stole 1 credit and also gave you 3 tags

there was also a set of 3/1s that lowered the difficulty of all agendas of a certain type after they were scored (black ops, research, initiative, etc.). it should be noted that they didn’t work on themselves (the one that reduced black ops agendas was a research, for example)
but you could score 1 or 2 and start FAing out some of your higher-point agendas.

so it was a conscious design choice to scale down fast advance in ANR. SanSan City Grid, Biotic Labor, and Astroscript were just 1 extra advancement. sure, you could combine a few together to get multiple triggers in one turn for a 4/2 or a 5/3, but it became so much easier to FA a 3/2 because you only needed 1 extra advancement to do it. even 3/1s were easy to FA out, but why bother when you can just FA a 2/1 on its own?
it wasn’t until Jeeves was released that corps started semi-reliably FAing 5/3s, but this was when Astroscript and SanSanCity Grid still existed

i think a lot of people can agree that this would significantly change the game if it were possible to FA out 3 or more points in a single turn… with a single card

nerfing fast advance from the original game was another thing that made 5/3s much harder for the corp. not that this was necessarily a bad thing, just that the payoff wasn’t worth the risk

plus, like @jdc_wolfpack pointed out, having things like NGO Front makes a great bluff for a 5/3 agenda.
the options we had early on were things like Thomas Haas, Test Ground, Exposé… things that weren’t really all that great if they didn’t bluff a run into the scoring remote. the reason NGO Front works so well is because it’s really solid even if it doesn’t bait a run

this is all why it took so long for the designers to figure out reasonable numbers for 5/3s other than ‘it’s only 2 for the runner’


The esperance advantage still goes to the 2 configuration.
(math proof is 0.163 * 3 > 0.23 * 2 : a single access for a 3 agenda deck “virtually cost” 0.489 pts, a single access for a 2 agenda deck “virtually cost” 0.46 pts - redo your calculation with 2 pts this is 10/43.).

Since the 3pts situation also makes you score later in the game, those decks must use very studied ways to score (you will find 1 agenda for 7 cards in the 3 pointer deck, you will find 1 agenda for 5 cards in the 2 pointers. Meaning you’re to “rush” with 5 cards for 1 in the 2 pointers deck, and finance a glacier with 7 cards for 1 in the 3 pointers deck).

This have been studied and calculated in France since eons : best of both worlds is 2x3 pointers and 7x2 pointers. Because if a 3 pointers is seen, the odd for the runner to get the other one is 1/8 (and it doesn’t matter if he stole the first, he still have to score 3 times, GFI just made this still score 4 times).

People are really surprised to see multi access runners topping 3 pointers in 3 pointers deck.
Just calculate esperance, this is not luck, this is a wrong perception of what’s in your deck. A single access cost you 5% more points than with a 2 deck (0.428 pts for 3s, and 0.408 for 2s). Multiaccess decks are better against 3pts deck than against 2pts decks.

With the 2x3 / 7x2 distrib, a single access cost 0.406 pts (but this drop again after a 3 pointer is found) and with GFI, this cost 0.366.

With a 6x3 / 1x2 distrib, a single access cost 0.408 (like 2s).