I haven’t played Android: Netrunner in some time, so forgive me if this train of thought is somewhat outdated. Also, i’ve categoriesed this as ‘NISEI Discussion’, though perhaps it would be better categorised as ‘New Cards and Spoilers’ or simply ‘Netrunner General’ (or to go in multiple categories if that’s possible).
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.)