I haven’t played Android: Netrunner in some time, so forgive me if this train of thought is somewhat outdated.
I have just read the NISEI ‘Without a Trace’ article on “demoting [traces] from an “evergreen” mechanic”. Though i’ve often thought that traces (and tags) could do with a rethink i do like the idea and their inclusion in the game. It occurs to me that traces would perhaps be more of a worthwhile mini-game mechanic if the capacity to increase trace and/or link strength were less certain to the Runner and/or Corporation respectively and therefore less reliant on open information, which, in other words, means that the trace and/or link strength would need to be less reliant on the trace and/or link strengths printed on the cards in play and on credits. I suggest possibly using cards in the Corporation’s HQ and/or Runner’s Grip. My initial thought is that these cards could be ‘spent’ by the Corporation/Runner to increase their trace/link strength by the value of the play/rez/install cost of the cards being spent. (Spent cards would be trashed after the trace was ‘successful’ or ‘unsuccessful’.) There are a few variants that could be implemented. Here are the questions that occur to me would produce different variants along with my answers.
Q. Would both Corporation and the Runner be able to spend cards from their HQ/Grip?
A. I would argue yes, both should be able spend cards in their HQ/Grip.
Q. Would the Corporation be able to spend Agendas from their HQ?
A. I would argue no, the Corporation should not be able to spend Agendas from their HQ.
Q. Would the Corporation and/or Runner still also be able to spend credits in their credit pool as well as cards from their HQ/Grip?
A. I would argue yes, both the Corporation and Runner should still be able to spend credits in their credit pool as well as cards from their HQ/Grip.
Q. When does the Corporation/Runner spend cards from their HQ/Grip?
A. I would argue that this should be when the Corporation/Runner also spends (or would have spent) credits. (Alternatively the order could be that the Corporation spends cards, then the Runner spends cards, then the Corporation spends credits, then the Runner spends credits, or the order could be that the Corporation spends credits, then the Runner spends credits, then the Corporation spends cards, then the Runner spends cards. At least, i think these are the variations worth more consideration.)
Q. Would the cards spent by the Corporation and/or Runner on the trace/link be open information when they are spent during the trace?
A. I would argue no, neither the Corporation nor the Runner’s spent cards should be open information when spent during the trace. I think the spent cards should be placed facedown (‘in play’) next to the spent credits (such as they are).
Q. Would the cards spent by the Corporation and/or Runner on the trace/link be open information when the trace’s strength is compared to the link strength?
A. I would argue yes, at this stage both the Corporation and Runner’s spent cards should be revealed and turned faceup.
Q. Would the cards spent by the Corporation be placed faceup or facedown in Archives when they are trashed?
A. I would argue that the cards spent by the Corporation be placed faceup in Archives when they are trashed.
As well as feeding some unknowns into the trace mini-game I think there would be few other (beneficial) effects of being able to spend cards on trace/link.
Higher cost cards, which, if i’m given to understand the situation well, have always had an inherent problem in the game due to their higher cost, become useful and perhaps particularly so if the credits to spend on them are lacking.
Players would be able to take advantage of the knowledge they have (or think they have) of the cards in the opposing player’s HQ/Grip.
I’m thinking this could be a good change (or addition, if you will) to the core rules for traces, though i suppose various variants could be used on individual cards that use trace. If anyone gets a chance to playtest these rules, or has any thoughts, i’d be interested to know what you make of them. (Alas, i don’t think i’ll get the chance to playtest them any time soon.)
(Incidentally i realise that this doesn’t address the complexity of traces but then, though i understand the wish to make the game more accessible for beginners, i wouldn’t want to do that. Navigating the complexity of traces was one of the things that i enjoyed when i played Android: Netrunner, especially when i first started playing.)
It’s actually an interesting thought. Maybe we should leave “Trace” as is and call this mechanic something else. It could be a bit simpler, though. Maybe just a new mechanic where you pitch cards. I think Mnemic had a similar mechanic he called “Ante”. If you are unfamiliar with Mnemic, he made like 1000 custom cards with interesting new ideas. You can see them here
Edit: I remembered wrong, in Ante you secretly choose up to X and spend that money, the winner gains an effect. In some circumstances the looser gains the bit money.
I thought more about the trace mechanic and i came up with my own house rules for them, which i posted in a thread i created on the GLC Discord, here: Alternative trace rules suggestion. Here is that Discord message:
Here is my suggestion for a change to the rules for traces. I thought people might like to try them out. I haven’t playtested them. There are three key changes:
- The number of credits to be added to the trace strength and the Runner’s links strength is hidden information (not open information).
- The Corporation and the Runner simultaneously commit credits to the trace strength and the Runner’s links strength respectively (as opposed to the Corporation going first and the Runner going second).
- Not all the credits committed and added to either the trace strength or the Runner’s links strength will be spent. Only one player will spend credits, they won’t necessarily spend all of the credits that they committed and added to the trace strength or the Runner’s links strength, and the number of credits they spend will be determined partly by the number of credits the other player committed.
Here are my suggested steps to resolving a trace:
1 - A trace initiates.
2 a - Commit credits.
The Corporation commits a number of credits to increase the trace strength. The number of credits committed by the Corporation is hidden from the Runner.
At the same time the Runner commits a number of credits to increase their links strength. The number of credits committed by the Runner is hidden from the Corporation.
Once credits have been committed they are not available to be spent again until after 3. b. .
The actual physical process of committing credits could simply involve each player writing down the number credits they will commit on a piece of paper and placing that piece of paper face down on the play area. Alternatively some (mini) standard playing cards could be used, with a red suit representing ones digits and a black suit representing tens digits. When credits are committed the player places the playing cards face down on the play area.
N.b. ‘Committing’ credits is not ‘spending’ credits. No credits are spent at this stage.
2 b -. Reveal committed credits.
Both the Corporation and the Runner simultaneously reveal the number of credits that they have each committed.
N.b. Revealing committed credits does not mean those credits are spent. No credits are spent at this stage.
2 c - Establish trace strength and links strength.
The Corporation adds the number of credits that the Corporation committed to the base trace strength. (The base trace strength is given in the square brackets next to the word ‘Trace’, thus: “Trace [N]”.) This establishes the trace strength.
At the same time the Runner adds the number of credits that the Runner committed to the number of links on the Runner’s identity card and to those produced by the Runner’s installed cards. This establishes the Runner’s links strength.
N.b. Adding the number credits committed by the Corporation or Runner to the trace or links strength does not mean those credits are spent . No credits are spent at this stage.
3 a - Determine if the trace is successful or unsuccessful.
If the trace strength is greater than the Runner’s links strength then the trace is successful.
If the Runner’s links strength is equal to or greater than the trace strength the trace is unsuccessful.
3 b - Spend credits.
If the trace was successful the Corporation spends a number of credits equal to the Runner’s links strength minus the base trace strength.
If the trace was unsuccessful the Runner spends a number of credits equal to the trace strength minus the Runner’s total links on the Runner’s identity card and those produced by the Runner’s installed cards.
3 c - Trace ‘if successful’, ‘if unsuccessful’, and ‘when a trace is determined to successful or unsuccessful’ conditional abilities are triggered.
4 - The trace is complete.
This is just the original trace rules from CCG Netrunner
I didn’t play ONR, but i didn’t think that the rules for spending credits (AKA ‘bits’) in ONR traces were the same. I checked the ONR rules on Skipper Pickle’s website and according to those rules the rules for spending credits in ONR traces are different to what i’ve suggested. In ONR any credits the Corporation has used to increase the trace strength and any credits the Runner has used to increase their links strength are spent regardless of whether or not the trace was successful or unsuccessful, whereas that’s not the case in the alternative rules i’ve given. Also, the rules in ONR for determining the base trace strength and the base links strength are different to those in ANR and NNR and the alternative rules i’ve given. There is also a limit to the amount of credits a Corporation can use to increase the trace strength, which is not the case for traces in in ANR and NNR and the alternative rules i’ve given
I like the spending cards idea, except that the runner is at a distinct disadvantage since any cards they spend would make a trace>tag>kill combo that much easier. Not to mention Big Deal, which I dare say may play a pretty prominent role in such a play. The runner shouldn’t lose the cards they “spend,” somehow, or they’d just die.
I also like Tots’ method, FWIW, but don’t really see how it would change the actual play. It’s still throwing credits at each other, just at a discount. It’s the hidden part I like.
The idea about spending cards would need some work, and i think i’m agreeing with @holzpubbnsubbe that this should be a separate mechanic if it were developed. I didn’t even take a look at the card pool when i proposed the spending cards idea. It was very much an initial thought.
Note that only the Runner or the Corporation (or neither) would spend credits, not both the Runner and the Corporation. Here’s an example i posted on the Discord thread:
If the Corporation boosts a Trebuchet trace to 100 and the Runner boosts their links to 80, then the number of credits the Corporation spends = 80 minus the base trace strength ( on Trebuchet ) = 74. The Runner doesn’t spend any credits.
Part of the idea of these trace rules is that players are, on the one hand, wanting to win the trace, and on the other hand thinking about how many credits they could cost the other player and how many credits the other player could cost them.
Kk. So it isn’t so much throwing credits across the table, but more of a psi game. Which does make more sense.
The stakes would be higher as well since either side’s spent credits would be more of a swing, so whoever “wins” the bid has ceded a financial advantage to the other side.
Is that balancing effect a bug or a feature? It’d make it simpler for the Runner to deal with tags on that or the following turn, which kind of defeats the purpose, no?
Not all traces give tags, but yes, in cases where a successful trace gave a tag it would change the economics and considerations surrounding the giving and removing of tags, or at least it could. I’m not sure how much i considered that specifc consequence when i first suggested these alternative rules. Playtesting needed.
(It might also be worth noting that another house rule in my house rules is that subroutines with a trace can only be broken with AIs.)
The side that wins the trace only loses, at most, a number of credits equal to the number of credits that the other side committed to the trace. The winner could have committed many credits and spend 0 credits. In order to make the other side both win the trace and lose credits the Runner or Corporation need to commit credits. The more credits a side commits the more credits the other side stands to potentially lose if they win. At the same time, the more credits a side commits the more likely that side is to win the trace… and lose credits themselves.
I went through my thought process on this design again, thinking about the Corporation winning a trace and giving the Runner a tag but at the same time leaving the Runner with all the credits that they started with. I had forgotten that part of the reason i designed it this way is because that’s the case in standard ANR traces because in standard ANR traces the Runner knows how many credits the Corporation has spent on increasing the strength of a trace before the Runner decides how many credits to spend on increasing the strength of their links, which means that the Runner can determine whether or not they will lose the trace before the Runner spends credits, and if the Runner determines they will lose the trace the Runner can spend 0 credits.
Yeah, there is that. Probably the most common case, too.
I like the idea, but it could be exploitable if the corp can spam traces
If you’ve time would you mind expanding on that a little? How do you envisage that taking effect? Why would spamming traces be more exploitable than in standard ANR traces?
The only difference that i can see is that in the alternative version i’ve suggested the Runner would need to commit credits in order to make sure that the Corporation spent credtis, and in so doing risk winning the trace and spending credits themselves. If the Runner didn’t commit any creditst then the Coroporation could keep winning traces for free. So, i think it changes the dynamics but i don’t think the overall costs have changed if the Runner adapts their play. Perhaps i’m missing something.
Also, i’m intending that this makes links more important.
Using Restructured Datapool as an example of a spammable trace, the corp can click: trace 2 for 1 tag, and in a deck built around it they can leverage that tag into a kill or some other tag punishment
The runner basically has these outcomes
- loose the trace, take the tag and probably loose the game for it
- commit lightly, getting slightly drained
- commit heavily, getting majorly drained, and then the corp can just do another trace
If the Runner loses the trace then they could still end up causing the Corporation to spend a lot of credits.
If the Runner commits credits they’d only spend (some, none, or all of) them if they win the trace.
All in all the intent is that a Runner in this kind of situation could potentially commit enough credits to either win the trace and still be left with enough credits to see off another trace or to lose the trace and cost the Corporation enough credits to prevent them being able to flatline the Runner. A Runner would be playing around the possibility of these kind of situations of course.
It might be that this is too strong in the Corporation’s favour. I haven’t playtested. I realise that my suggested alternative is much more likely to put the Runner in a position in which the Runner spends a lot of credits to win the trace and cost the Corporation no credits, so perhaps these alternative rules need to give the Runner a bit more edge in some other way.
Perhaps, when the Corporation wins a trace, instead of the Corporation spending a number of credits equal to the Runner’s links strength minus the base trace strength, the Corporation spends a number of credits equal to the Runner’s links strength up to and including the total number of credits the Corporation committed. This would make links (on the Runner’s identity card and installed cards) more powerful and mean that Runner could cause the Corporation to spend more credits more easily (when the Corporation wins the trace) than the Corporation could do likewise. For example, if the Corporation fired Restructured Datapool and committed 3 credits against a Runner that had 3 link and committed 0 credits, instead of the Corporation spending 1 credit the Corporation would spend 3 credits.
All in all though, i’m not sure that Restructured Data Pool would be much more of a problem to a Runner with these alternative rules than with the ANR rules, and also as i recall cards like Restructured Data Pool could do with a boost.
What’s actually wrong with trace, as a mechanic? It’s an opportunity for the corp to throw a question at the runner; spend money or allow some negative effect. Both sides have some tools to tweak the effectiveness, or the outcome, with having lots of money always being a solution.
Plus it allows for an additional check on power level of cards. An effect might be prevented by the right gear, or just having free cash.
I know NSG made the argument that trace is overly complex for what it achieves, and that fixed costs to prevent negative outcomes are easier to understand. Your propositions all seem much complex (all are beyond simply adding and comparing). What’s the real upside?
The real issue with traces in my eyes is the binary outcome, most traces just succeed or fail, and give a single tag that can have devastating consequences. If a single tag wasn’t game ending, and maybe if there were more traces that reward degrees of success like Midseasons the whole trace ecosystem could be different.
Data Hound, Invasion of Privacy, Midseasons you mentioned. Are they all NBN cards?
Power Grid Overload! I don’t think NSG have printed a card with this mechanic?