Judge Calls and Etiquette

When to call a judge came up several times during the worlds livestream and made me realize that there’s a lot of disagreement on best practices/etiquette. FFG tournament rules describe judges:

When a judge is observing a game or an issue is brought to his or her attention, the judge should inform players when they are not following the game rules. Players have an initial opportunity to resolve any situation among themselves, but any player may alternatively ask the judge to make a ruling

Worlds 2017 had several game losses due to mistakes like flipping over a stack all at once for Information Sifting or running after playing Peace in Our Time. The question is what to do if this happens in one of your games.

If you recognize an illegal game state that cannot be perfectly reversed, I think you should call a judge. Perfectly reversed means that no new information was gained, including the information that the other player intends on passing a relevant action window. For example, if the runner forgets to collect credits from Daily Casts before using a click on Magnum Opus, that’s easy for both players to agree to resolve the mandatory trigger. You could call a judge if you’re not sure, but it’s not really needed in that situation in my opinion. Another example is remembering after a Maker’s Eye that Peace in Our Time was the runner’s first click, disallowing a run. New information would be if the corp decides to rez or not, or obviously if the runner sees cards off R&D. This should definitely be a judge call. At a worlds-level event, this would also likely be a game loss.

Nobody likes to win on a technicality–especially against someone you know–but you shouldn’t be afraid to call a judge in this situation, that’s what judges are for. It’s unfair for the other player to pressure you into resolving it without a judge or think you’re a jerk for calling one. There should be no stigma involved in calling a judge, especially not at the highest level of competition. Calling a judge does not mean you’re accusing the other player of cheating or trying to get a free win and it doesn’t make you a jerk.

A notable magic site just published a relevant article from a top-level player that provides an insightful viewpoint:

I’m interested to hear other people’s ideas on judge etiquette and alternative perspectives.


Good and timely topic, and thanks for posting the article and the quote from FFG.

I look forward to the discussion.

I think the following things are true:

  1. Lots of rules get broken all the time and are not caught. Watch the stream from Worlds and you will see several cases.

  2. Some people will try to use a minor mistake to get a cheap win. Again, watch the Worlds stream for a clear case when someone said this about their request for a judge.

  3. Some people will try to cheat and pressure people not to call a judge so they can keep trying to cheat the same way.

  4. FFG – unlke Magic – does not have a formal judge training system and some judges make bad decisions.

In other words, it is not a simple situation.

I like that FFG encourages players to try to work things out between themselves as a first step. That is certainly what I try to do. The idea of using the rules to win a game leaves a bad taste in the mouth of most players. But I am wary of creating an enviroment that shames people or ridicules them for calling a judge. That kind of culture, it seems to me, creates opportunities for abuse.


@Zebadiah that’s generally how we play in France.
By “settling the situation by ourselves”, we stop and call a judge before homebrewing rulings.

Please, let’s not make this part of our game culture.

We play this game for fun. There isn’t money on the line. Please, just don’t do this.


@BubbaTheGoat some tried this here too. They gained bad rep, and many opponents were then using that same trick against him. These guy stopped Netrunner then.

On an opposite side, then we had @Calimsha aka the phenomenon that had in his early carrier very bad playing habits too, still attaining tops but rollbacking sometimes stupid stuff.
Some stopped to play because of that too. (CF201err5?).

Overusing “I can rollback, there is no information cost” is right, once in a game. It’s not right once in each turn, because it cost opponent’s bluff & nerves.


Is there a default protocol for the exchange on an Info Sifting access? We saw one on the top table on day 1 where the Corp handed the pile to the Runner as if it were an Indexing pile. The runner received the pile immediately into a full reveal. The Corp immediately called for a judge.

I get why that’s disallowed. But it seems that there should be a standard protocol for card exchanges like this where the Corp must set the pile down for the runner to access rather than passing the pile hand to hand.

No, but there’s no official default protocol for many other actions like accessing HQ. For example, the runner could roll a die to determine which card to access or always pick the leftmost card. The corp could attempt to get the runner to access a particular card by holding it higher than the rest or attempt to take advantage of a runner habitually choosing one side over the other by placing the agenda on the other side.

The only reason why turning over the whole Info Sifting stack isn’t allowed is that it’s against the access rules which require accesses to be resolved one at a time.

1 Like

I had to request an opponent lay his hand down on the table at worlds for HQ access. He was CI with 10+ cards in HQ, which he was holding up with one hand.

I’m not going to touch that at a premier level event.


The rules do say that the runner accesses a random card from HQ. I would interpret that to mean that the players have a joint responsibility to make sure the choice is actually random, which means many of the things you suggest are technically not allowed. It might be tricky to enforce, though, because it’s not specifically the responsibility of either player.

1 Like

This had been a subject of debate years ago; iirc, lukas even weighed in. I think it ended up allowing what I described, but I don’t remember 100%. Either way, the runner can always randomize the access, so the corp can do whatever doesn’t obstruct that (e.g. simply saying, “You should access the leftmost card wink”).

It’s so easy to mess up once fatigue sets in. I’m so afraid my kid Z will miscue accesses at competitive events. I tell him to never touch a card while it’s in another player’s hand…and to ask the Corp to spread access cards out rather than keep them in a pile. The “look at x cards” makes for such bad habits.

1 Like

At one point, when trying to research how Magic does some tournament stuff, I read a blog post by a Magic judge who decided to try always calling a judge in a tournament he was playing in, even for things that he’d normally consider definitely not worth calling a judge over, as an experiment. I don’t remember his conclusions very well, but I do remember that I enjoyed reading it. Haven’t been able to find it again to post the link here, though.

1 Like

That sounds really interesting, let us know if you find it :slight_smile:

The judge’s are often overly harsh in their calls, which is starting to lead to a stigma on calling judges. I personally got a game loss round 1 for something that should have just been a shuffle and I was personally feeling a lot of salt about the idea of calling judges after that. We need judges to make fair calls if we want players to feel comfortable calling them frequently.


@jakodrako put this up on the Facebook page:

Hey everyone.
Please call judges. We like to help. Netrunner players hardly ever ask for our help for some reason. You should never feel embarrassed to call a judge for any reason.
Let’s change this about Netrunner culture.

1 Like

This type of advice is what we need more of, and wider dissemination of. Netrunner players should have at their disposal a set of best practices for playing in a tournament.

If I was a newer player I’d say this ought to come from FFG themselves, such as “how to access cards from HQ” or helpfully on ambiguous cards e.g. “corp divides all cards in HQ into two piles, choose a pile and access all cards in it one at a time.”

As I’ve been playing for a while now, I know to expect design and technical writing from FFG that virtually ensures game losses. I would have made Peace in Our Time a resource that is trashed at the end of the runner’s turn, at least giving both players a visual cue that it’s still in play. I know some players are leaving Peace on the board to accomplish this same effect, but even that’s technically illegal.

Unfortunately, I think it’s up to the community to come up with a tutorial for tournament card handling and common situations. This would go such a long way to making sure we’re all equipped with at least the minimum. Good vibes would result, I think. No one wants a game loss (well, I gather some people want their opponents to get one, but that’s a bad attitude in a game that’s full of uncaught errors).

Maybe one of our fantastic content creators, TOs, or judges will take up the challenge!


How was the call you’re referring to unfair? Was it something that wasn’t covered in the Floor Rules and the judge used their discretion in a harsh way?

I’m not super familiar with the floor rules but when I told people the circumstances of what happened they all said that floor rules indicate it should be a shuffle. All that had happened is I had seen the bottom card of r&d but nobody had any other info about what was in r&d, so bringing back the deck to an unknown state is very easy.

1 Like

I actually asked the judges at Worlds R1 about this, wondering if I could force them to roll a die. They noted that however randomly the Runner decides to choose is fine.

I fear I disagree with this. Judges are a luxury, the moment you call one you no longer have to worry about what your opponents motivations are with whatever happens outside the cards (is it an honest mistake or a way to gain a slight advantage, is he going for a cheap win, etc) and the rules and a volunteer expressing them is going to take care of all that for you.

A lot of comments in this thread are about how you’d view someones actions, how the culture of players would be, etc. You can do away with all that stuff by asking for a neutral party to help you out. Calling one isn’t telling the other person you think he’s a cheat, it’s telling him you don’t want a reason for this game to create bad feelings and don’t want to have it devolve into an argument between you two over just a silly cardgame.