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Let's Talk About Sandburg

Dare I say OP can provide his own salt…

Sandburg is definitely a high power card, but realistically it’s not going to prevent you from playing the game any more than existing high powered cards do (notable ones like Account Siphon or Caprice Nisei that everyone will have troubling dealing with at some point in their Netrunner careers). There are answers, they exist, your deck will have to change with the times. It is a living card game afterall.


Unrezzed regions at install is Lukas or Damon job though.

[quote=“BubbaTheGoat, post:13, topic:7859, full:true”]San San City Grid is the ultimate ‘Deal with this or lose’ card, and has been in since the core set. This is not a Damon ard design thing, it’s a Netrunner card design thing.

While this may be correct (whether it’s the ultimate such card is up for debate, but it’s certainly one of them), it’s probably also fair to say that there is a distinction between “deal with this” cards that actively prevent themselves from being dealt with (e.g. Caprice, MoH, Sandberg) and those that don’t (e.g. Ash, SanSan City Grid).

I do think Sandberg is a good card though, or at least not a problematic one: it’s just an alternative way to leverage money to victory. You’d already have lost to a deck using that money for meat death or fast advance shenanigans, like you’ve pretty much already lost by the time Sandberg gets rezzed at fifty credits, the only difference is that it just takes a few more turns to formalise it. Having said that, recursive decks just got killed apparently for that very reason (Damon feeling that even if it’s not a design problem, people think it is), so who knows?

Fair, but there’s a big difference between a “deal with this or lose” card and a self-protecting “deal with this or lose” card.

I think mostly people dislike it because it grinds out the game though. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit recently.

I play a lot of Race for the Galaxy; for those who aren’t familiar, it’s an engine-building card game with a heritage drawn roughly equally from eurogames and from CCGs. The designer is Tom Lehmann, who I respect a lot: he has a lot of smart things to say about game design, and is usually happy to share.

He’s written about the design of the end game conditions for Race, one of which is that a player has 12 cards on their board at the end of a round. Apparently it’s not uncommon for people to say “But the game finished just when I was getting started!” So should the game go longer? No. The 12 card limit is the result of a lot of playtesting, and represents the point after which the winner is probably determined. If the game continued past that point, it would often be a somewhat unnecessary continuation towards a foregone conclusion. Once one player’s win chance drops below a certain amount - say 5 or 10% - it’s desirable that it immediately drops to 0, so that players can maximise the time spent playing the interesting bit of the game.

Hopefully you can see how this also applies to Netrunner. Quite a few of the disliked archetypes - Museum asset spam, DLR, Sandburg/IT Dept - commit exactly this game design crime of dropping one player’s win percentage close to, but not precisely to, zero. I came to Netrunner from board games, so I’m not completely au fait with the card game lingo, but these sorts of decks seem to be referred to as “Prison” decks. I’ve seen a few people say that it’s desirable that they exist, and I can only think “Why?!”

Surely it’d be better that they just won the game outright once they get to a certain point? Yes, the opponent can concede, but in a tournament setting it’s understandable that people will want to continue until their chance of winning is 0%, not 2%.

Anyway, I’m not totally sure what the point if this is apart from to get my thoughts out there and see how people react to them. I guess I don’t feel that we should be giving a pass to these sorts of cards in the interest of “meta diversity”. They can be better.

For example, imagine a Sandburg with an extra clause that said the corp wins the game if they keep it rezzed for X turns while having Y or more credits. That would very closely replicate its actual effect, but the game would end once one player had almost certainly lost, rather than limping on for turns until we can drop the “almost” from that phrase.

TL;DR: Power cards that don’t directly advance a player’s win condition are bad. Ish.


I totally agree with you as a matter of game design. As Mark Rosewater, another great resource on game design, puts it, players will do whatever you incentive them to do, so you had better make sure you incentivize them to do the fun things in your game. Still, I’m not sure that Sandburg is as bad as you make it sound in this respect. if it ends up enabling a pure prison deck, where you money up and lean on sandburg for the whole game, then that is bad. If it creates more of a back and forth, giving you windows to score when they try to trash sandburg, but then leaving you vulnerable on centrals until you recur it or something like that, then it should be fine. Time will tell which it is.

On a related note, while I don’t think hard hitting news or controlling the message are broken by any means, I do worry that they incentivize some unfun patterns of play. As the runner, the right play seems to often be to sit back and money up for the early turns and hope that the corp can’t get their board state assembled by the time you are rich enough to start trashing things. Again, time will tell, and hopefully this doesn’t end up being too big of an issue.


Judging from the number of times I’ve seen Sanburg decks on Jinteki, I’m guessing that Shaper players are going to pack a couple of Beth Kilrain-Changs upon its release. Yes sir I do want to be a 5 click runner. It’s a connection, so might even be fun to splash in the right Criminal deck.


I think at least half of the culpability for “bad feels” grindy endgames lies with the Runner psychology though. Where you got, say a recursive IG that had stabilised it’s board position and was now impressing a “finite number of runs for the rest of the game” condition on the Runner (whether through taxing breakers, resources, cards or whatever), so the Runner had only a 25% chance of winning, or 10%, or even 5% or whatever if they went for it, it’s amazing the number of Runners that wouldn’t want to roll the dice, not wanting to hit that high probability of failure on their available run. By choosing to retain a slender chance of victory, that chance would slowly diminish, but people don’t seem to want to lose that hope, even if it means reducing their chance of winning. I’m not sure Sandberg is much different: if you suspect, or know it’s out there, you might have to run some servers and risk an unbreakable Heimdall 2.0 to the face, or whatever. But if you don’t take your chances, even if the odds are bad, then even those bad odds will drain away. If you accept you have bad odds, but roll them anyway, the game won’t grind on, and most times, you’ll have better odds than if you let it go longer. Some people just just have a psychological block on rolling bad odds though, even if those odds are only going to get worse.

In that sense, Sandberg in particular is most definitely a good example of this “oppressive endgame” type of card, since it encourages and rewards early game Net-runner and not Net-sitbackandbuildmyprettythings.


I would rather play vs. Sandburg Glacier decks vs. any type of asset spam deck any day of the week. It’s challenging, yes, but at the same time, it is still beatable and is fun to do so. It’s excellent with the ICE suite, but it means that they have to ICE up 4-5 servers. Which means that if you run aggressively, you force them to keep rezzing ICE, which will keep them poor. It’s makes Glacier good, and I’m fine with that. It’s not unbeatable, if anything it makes players better because it makes them understand the idea of high value runs. It has changed the meta and is forcing people to deal with it. It’s basically the same as Caprice. Caprice is a self-defending Upgrade that can straight up lock a runner out of an expensive server.

If you’re criminal, Femme/Inside Job is a really good way to take out Sandburg. Shaper has all sorts of tricks to breaking ICE for cheap and anarch just murders the crap out of any ICE with cutlery+d4/parasite+datasucker. There are ways around Sandburg, you just have to think about them and not go autopilot with your deck instead.


I don’t think Sandburg is particularly problematic in terms of balance. As others have said, there are a lot of ways to play around it and I think its main role is to force the runner to waste resources going to kill it. It’s just that the few games it does win by staying up, it takes ages to finally win.

Caprice is actually a nice comparison. When you win by sticking Caprice, you win 3-4 turns later by jamming agendas through that remote. When you win by sticking Sandburg, you have to build a whole second remote before you can score out, while also reinforcing Sandburg periodically. That takes a lot longer, and leads to the bad feel factor.

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It can’t be that OP if it just straight-up folds to Blackmail. Which it does.


I agree full with you post vis a vis game design goals, though I’m not 100% convinced that sandburg qualifies for this particular sin, as it never reaches that really low percentage chance of losing; there is a vast gulf between a board state saying “you have only a 2% chance to win” and “you have only a 25% chance to win” even though many players conflate these two. Personally I feel that this card doesn’t spend ,much time in the gray area; either the runner still has a real chance to win thanks to the many tech cards available, or they don’t (maybe because those cards are used up or not in their deck in the first place) and their win chance is truly 0% and it’s their fault if they refuse to concede.

whether or not it should be mandatory to tech against a strategy is another question, but not the one your post addressed.

Regarding this specific example, this hypothetical card text would make the card many orders of magnitude stronger. Not needing 2 remotes, not needing scoreable agendas (see also: IG asset spam), and not needing to actually spend money defending your win condition (since you never have to actually score and probably have little need to actually defend centrals robustly) would take this card far beyond strong, oppressive, or game warping and straight into the realm of game re-defining.

I get the sentiment (that card that drag out a game that’s already over should just end the game themselves) but if you’ve established this kind of lockout with sandburg and haven’t scored out or gotten a concession from your helpless opponent, then one of you is probably being a stubborn asshole :stuck_out_tongue:


Sscg costs 6 to rez. Sandburg is free. You get to play a deal with this or lose card, and even if the runner deals with it, you haven’t been set back.


I think this is probably fair. @beyoken tells me that it’s not as strong as it originally seems, and I trust him to have done the testing. This thread was the trigger for writing down some thoughts that had been percolating in my head for a while and seemed to also be relevant here, so I wasn’t really intending to aim them at Sandburg exclusively.

I’ve tested it, and I agree with that.

Installing and rezzing a whole 'nother remote’s worth of ice takes time (which you could have used to make money) and money. Pressure runners get that much more time to harass your centrals, and setup runners just … don’t have that much trouble dealing with it (jack-out Andy and spy-cam Hayley are not gonna get locked out of the Sandburg remote, and both have Plop to boot).

In practice, it behaves kind of like a Marcus Batty / Blacklist hybrid. If you play for the lockout, it rarely works, but sometimes you can surprise the runner with a nasty piece of ice or mess up their math on a scoring turn.


Of course you are set back!

First, you have to actually go, put this card on your deck and make it work. That’s a massive set back in and on itself. If you are getting a single +2 strenght out of a card that sucks up a whole remote, you are simply losing.

It’s a lot of work and Runners can easily pay a handful of credits more to get rid of it before making an impactful run.

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this. I think this is the smartest type of play, actually, rather than aiming purely for the lockout. a surprise rez at the right moment can fire a whole lot of nasty subs that normally rarely land, as well as generate scoring windows out of thin air.

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Of course you are set back!

You have to actually go, put this card on your deck and make it work. That’s a massive set back in and on itself. If you are getting a single +2 strenght out of a card that sucks up a whole remote, you are simply losing. And it makes you slow, which is dangerous in the era of Au Revoir Andy.

I think it’s very easy to overstate its effect, IMHO.

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Yeah, that’s surprisingly difficult to do.

Sandburg devalues a lot of good ice. In particular, buffing the strength of Bioroids, Tracers, and ice like Pup is counter-productive, and, on the other side of the coin, rezzing something like Tollbooth or DNA Tracker is much worse when it’s going to lower the strength of all your other ice by 2 (and don’t get me started on Assassin). Grail and NEXT are pretty much the only ice suites that give you the hard EtR and punishing subroutines that make Sandburg worth it, but now you have to deal with those ice suites’ drawbacks.

Every ice and every econ card you cut from your deck also devalues Sandburg, so you start having to choose between cutting ice and economy, or cutting your Blackmail tech, or your Siphon tech, or whatever.

Life is hard.

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You are mistaken, the problem with Museum is the player experience it creates. It goes to time even against its counters (especially slumlock).

I’m not sure it’s beyond the pail, but our local best player has a deck that feels brutal to me. Subliminal, samberg, Indian Union stock exchange, and cheap ice. Trashing is tough because Jackson and interns can cycle cards back in. It’s…it’s hard. I’m not going to go so far as the OP and say it’s overpowered (also, still not sure if it was a joke post or not).

But at a certain stage, when he interns in his sandberg for a second time, gaining a credit for it because he’s got three stock exchanges out thst have one piece of ice in front of each that has +8 strength, i just start fo feel like I can’t trash everything enough and have money left over. It’s a good card.