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Teaching Netrunner on the Fly

Originally published at: http://stimhack.com/teaching-netrunner-on-the-fly/

Discuss the latest article by @Trypios here.

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I think it’s probably worth mentioning all the left-out features at the end of the demo. One of Netrunner’s attractions for gamers is that it’s got a lot going on in terms of decision points, and saying at the end that the full game has even more to offer in terms of mechanics is probably a good selling point, depending on how beleaguered the demo-ee appeared to be.


Very good point and an absolute must to explain that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Otherwise the game would be boring.

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Glad to see you filling a gap in teaching Netrunner :smile:

I was surprised to see the SUSD picture for the article, I assume you got permission?


excellent teaching resource! i intend to use it, this situation crops up fairly frequently for me as well. the only thing i would change at all is that the corp page in particular refers to players as “he.” it’s a small thing, but using more inclusive language like singular they is an easy win :slight_smile:

I asked permission from everyone I credited at the bottom of the text. SUSD is the only one that didn’t respond…

I’ll change it tomorrow! English is not my native language, hence a few mistakes here and there

I’m sorry, but it looks like the link to the Power Point presentation is down.
Can you provide a working link, I’d like to get the PPT.

Don’t know why, but there are some problems with the domain, hopefully temporarily. Try this alt. domain: www.trypios.com/netrunner/presentation.ppsx

thanks, that worked.

This is a great resource and certainly will be using it in the future. Similar to yourself I’m in a smaller location (Hong Kong) where we have a small group of English speaking friends who are learning together. It’s been tough to find any group outside of ourselves and To avoid pure meta incest this may be a valuable tool to help include more.

Also, my ear pricked up at the mention of Cyprus as my mother lives there and I visit every year. Would love to visit game stores and maybe join a night next time I’m in town! Anywhere I can head for info?

I taught Netrunner to three people at a small local convention recently, using the FFG-recommended deck lists, and about halfway through the second game many of their weird deckbuilding choices started to make some sense to me. I’m going to try to explain them by responding to the article’s criticisms. Sorry about the resulting wall of text.

Before I get into it, I would like to say that I’d love an update from @Trypios on how teaching with the article’s decks went at Cyprus Comic Con.


  • I’ve only been playing Netrunner for a few months myself, and I’ve only taught it to four people total. (For the first person I taught I used these decks.)
  • Since I’ve never used the article’s decks, my criticism is going to be pretty one sided. I’m sure there are benefits to the article’s decks that I’ve missed.
  • In every demo I gave, I played Corp and the new player played Runner. All of the people I taught seemed to enjoy the game, but none of them wanted to switch sides and play again, probably because each demo took about an hour. I’m not sure what I could do to speed things up.
  • My thinking on the FFG decks has definitely been influenced by the top comment on this Reddit post about them.

First, the Corp deck. A lot of the criticism is about how this deck would cause problems to someone playing it in their first-ever game. But usually someone will be playing against it in their first game, which is different. If they did stay for a second game, I think having just seen this deck in action would help them with it.

I do think the FFG deck might cause problems if you were trying to teach two players at once by having them play each other, but my limited experience has been that that’s a less common situation. If I did end up doing a double demo, I would probably sit beside the Corp player and give them a bit more advice than the Runner. I don’t know if that would be sufficient to avoid problems. It’s quite possible that if I’d been giving double demos, I wouldn’t like the FFG decks as much.

The other main point of criticism seems to be that the deck is not great for winning games. I’m sure this is true, but I worry that making it better at winning games might make it worse at teaching Netrunner. Again, this might well be different when giving a double demo, since you’d want the new Corp player to at least have a chance.

Jinteki is quite poor to be able to utilize it’s traps and beginners won’t be able to bluff remotes effectively.

I had very few money problems. The new players were often reluctant to run, though I did try to encourage them to run more. This meant that I had more time than usual to click for credits or wait for economy cards. And I usually got at least one turn out of Melange in the middle of the game.

New Jinteki players won’t play the shell game. They won’t take risks bluffing an agenda as trap and they end up losing. I’m a big fan of the Jinteki church, but it’s a terrible choice for a complete beginner.

I don’t think this is a big problem, because the new player is the Runner. I probably didn’t bluff as much as I would have if I’d had more experience playing Jinteki and I’d been playing to win. I treated the traps as being there to teach the Runner that traps exist, rather than to really hurt them.

I will admit that I ended up losing a lot. I’m not sure if it’s because I wasn’t bluffing enough, or if I was too distracted by having to watch my opponents extra closely for things I might have to explain, or if I was too easy on them early in the game, or if the decks aren’t that well balanced, or if I’m just much worse than I thought at Netrunner.

The benefit of Jinteki here is all the net damage. The amount of net damage in this deck seemed pretty well suited to teaching the Runner to worry about damage while being unlikely to kill them unexpectedly. In the HB deck in the article, I’m not sure there’s enough damage cards to really instill a sense of caution.

As I said before, I want to avoid combo cards like Trick of Light and Chum, in case the player sees it early and doesn’t know what to do with it.

I didn’t end up using Trick of Light ever, but I did use Chum later in one game. I think it worked well for providing a glimpse of Netrunner’s complexity without being completely incomprehensible to a new player. Also, the complexity of these is offset by their being in the Corp deck. In a typical demo where you’re playing Corp, you can explain them when you use them, rather than hoping the new player will figure them out or ask about them when they see them in their hand. And you can decide not to use them at all if you really think they’d be too much for someone you’re teaching.

Priority Requisition and Nisei MK II are liabilities. HB has better agendas, in case they get locked. Playtesting showed that Kate easily locks the remote.

I’m not sure how much of a difference this change would actually make. There’s no fast advance cards, so all of the agendas under consideration will have to be installed for one Runner turn. And as I said above, I think the amount of net damage in the FFG deck is about right, so I’d be reluctant to trade that away even if HB’s agendas are substantially better.

New players use Neural EMP just as soon as they draw it, they don’t know how to set up a kill. Better go for a big remote and scoring.

I don’t think I ever actually used Neural EMP, so you may be right that it should go. On the other hand, if a new player did this, it might help teach them that actually flatlining the Runner requires a plan.

Jinteki PE & Restructure? Who are we kidding?

Just hold on to it until after you’ve used Melange!

Melange Mining Corp. is a difficult card to understand right away and slows the tempo of the corp. The extra credit that HB provides, makes a huge difference.

It might be confusing to a new player who was playing Corp, but my opponents didn’t have much difficulty understanding it once they saw me use it. It does slow the Corp’s tempo, but that’s ok because the new player is the Runner and they’re generally already going slowly.

More importantly, Melange is a great tool for getting the Runner to start actually running things. By the middle of the game, they’ve often seen a trap or two, so they’re reluctant to run. Watching me get rich while I pointed out that they could stop me by trashing Melange turned out to be a reliable cure for this.

In the article decks, I suppose that the smaller number of damage cards might reduce the need to give the Runner a really obvious reason to run.

HB is richer, cards are simpler…just make sure to skip the NAPD Contract bad publicity text and the Snare tag. They may ask about Guard wording, that’s nothing.

The complexity wasn’t enough to upset anyone or drive them away, so I’d worry that simplifying things further might mean underselling the game.

On the other hand, if you tell me that your demos went faster than mine, then I’m willing to consider the benefits of simplification!

Now on to the Runner deck, about which I have less to say:

Freelance Coding Contract – They might sell important breakers and be locked out. Also, the most they can get out of this card is 8cr, late-game and IF they won’t trash the spare programs.

I mostly agree. I think it does help to teach that cards can have multiple uses, but it’s not that useful. I did have a player sell both Pipelines, which was bad. If I were going to use these exact decks again, I would definitely have to pay more attention when the new player uses FCC and stop them from making this mistake.

Public Sympathy. What? How is that going to be of any use? Kate wants to run, not hold as many cards as possible.

It gives the Runner something they can do to protect themselves against all the net damage in the Corp deck. It does make sense to take it out when using the article’s Corp deck.

Aesop’s Pawnshop. Again, avoid ‘when your turn begins’ cards. There are no good cards to sell anyways. Probably just the completely useless aforementioned Public Sympathy.

They could sell Ice Analyzer! No, I agree, this seems like a bad choice. I’m not sure the ‘when your turn begins’ trigger is actually a problem, but new players don’t seem to be inclined to sell anything even if they have stuff they could sell.

Ice Analyzer is questionable, just like Professional Contacts. The first is difficult for a beginner to keep track of, the latter is a tempo-loss, since Kate has solid economy already with Magnum Opus. They’re both 1ofs, so I excluded them.

Ice Analyzer’s not that hard to keep track of, but new players are reluctant to run without all their icebreakers, so by the time it starts getting credits they have little use for it. Plus they have Modded. I agree that this should likely go.

Professional Contacts is useful because they’ll be doing a fair bit of drawing, due to all the net damage and also Public Sympathy. Diesel might be a better choice in some ways, but as mentioned in the Reddit comment I linked way up at the top of this, leaving out draw cards like Diesel means that the new player is “always seeing only one card at a time, which helps keep the game moving and avoids information overload.”

Modded is a great card, but Kate is too rich already in a very small 30-sized deck.

Clicking Magnum Opus for credits is boring. Making it easy to get and keep money keeps the focus on the non-boring bits of the game. The new player will still need to pause and get money sometimes, which is sufficient to teach them that they need money.

Net Shield is out, because…HB, no Jinteki.

Agreed. With the article’s Corp deck, removing this totally makes sense. Of course, with FFG’s Corp deck, this should stay in.

With all of that said, this article was very helpful to me when I was preparing to give demos, even if I didn’t end up using the recommended decks. Thank you for writing it!

Hey Absotively, you’re right…I should post an update.
Comic Con was great in general, lots of ANR attendants, more than a dozen but I can’t say I enjoyed it to the fullest as I had a gig the previous night, only slept 4-5 hours and was at the tables from 10:00 to 19:00 with only a single meal / 20’ break around noon :confused: There was also a lot of noise (not the hacker extraordinaire), loud music and a super loud announcer shouting at the microphone every 5 minutes. All these made the teaching process very hard.

All complains aside, I consider the whole teaching process a success. There are some things I would change in the order of presenting the material, but not the decks to be honest. The decks went almost 50-50% and I played only 2 games myself. The rest of the games, I was sitting on the side, impartially advising the newcomers without giving away spoilers about each other hands/hidden cards. I will comment on the presentation after ‘defending’ my deckbuilding choices.

First of, I agree with the legal decks you were using for teaching (Weyland vs. Kate) as they are both balanced and logical. That is for when you have time for complete explanation and a full length game. I considered Weyland at first, but decided to leave traces, tags and bad publicity out of it. I stand by my statement that Jinteki is poor and needs to bluff a lot in order to win. Takes much more experience than playing HB and scoring out. From my experience, new corp players don’t think about killing as much as setting up a fort and scoring behind it. I always advise the runner to have 4 cards at his/her hand, hence it becomes quite difficult for the corp to kill.

Your experienced is based on you being the stronger player and if that’s the case, Jinteki is fine. You can set up a kill and lure them into it, with Neural Katana and snare or Junebug, holding your ready to fire EMPs at hand etc. Newbie corps waste those cards since they don’t really know the combos and IF they kill, it’s by mistake or a reckless runner, hence why I give the advice to always hold 3-4 cards on the grip. Still, you admit you were losing a lot and that’s why I believe a noob runner is stronger against Jinteki.

You’re right about the limited net damage in my decks, but that’s only about teaching the damage mechanics. HB is not about killing, unless you’re Cerebral Imaging or Cybernetics Division.

About the liability of agendas. Indeed, there are no FA tools or 2/1 agendas in the deck, but the runner might take an installed non-advanced card in the remote as an asset instead of agenda and let the corporation have it. An advanced card like any 4/2 and 5/3 will signal the runner into running it.

Melange, it’s a great card in general but there’s no time for it in an HB deck. I didn’t say it doesn’t work in general but in my decks.

Restructure is still a bad choice. I push the runners to run often and pressure the corp, especially in the beginning. This keeps the corp low in funds and left clicking for credits. IF they melanged, next turn they need to set up another ice and lose their cash again, no time for restructure usually.

Public Sympathy is bad even for damage protection. If the runner gets hurt, just redraw, no need for PS.

As for ProCo, it’s a good card and IF I’d include it, I’d remove a diesel and the Magnum Opus completely. I chose MO as it restricts their memory units (yet another mechanic). You don’t want the runner being TOO rich to balance it out.

Lastly, the most important thing in the article: TIME
I prepared a lot before the event, practicing at home pretending I was teaching the game to an imaginary person. Having all my materials down, the visuals and the limited mechanics; the explanation/teaching took 10 minutes at MOST. I have to add that work as a music teacher and explaining stuff comes somehow natural to me when I have my material down. Playtime was about 25 minutes in most cases, but I was quite pushy with both players to rush with their decisions. I also took care of Kate’s discounts, HB credits paying attention at what is going on and astro fast advising (see what I did there :stuck_out_tongue: ). There were some slow players that took their time and the game went up to even 40 minutes! These are the ones that have lower attention spam, missed a few bits of the rules and kept asking questions all the time.

One last comment, I chose HB because I strongly believe it’s easier for a new player to understand the glacier strategy. It’s the first thing that comes to mind: Runner = attacker, Corp = defender. Protect the servers and score. Jinteki is ok, but needs the shell approach, bold moves and setting up a kill. Beginners won’t thing that way unless already involved in other card games.

Hey Joe, sorry for the late response, I didn’t get a notification for your msg. You can PM me or Facebook me if you need anything in Cyprus: https://www.facebook.com/trypios

I’m glad to hear the Comic Con went mostly well!

I’m now a lot surer that FFG’s decks are meant to be used with an experienced Corp player for the first game. I do still think they work very well in that situation, but I will agree that yours are likely better for two new players. I will have to try them out when I get a chance.

You’re probably right about why I was losing. Though part of it may also be that I didn’t particularly want to flatline them, because I worried it would give them a bad experience. Which means you’re probably right that less damage would be better, but I still think they should see damage cards early and often, so I still probably wouldn’t go as low as your decks.

Also, I did usually only have one or two remote servers. This was partly because I didn’t want to give them too many to choose from - it took them long enough to make decisions already! - but also I’m not sure this particular deck is meant to have a lot of servers. Compared to most of the PE decks I see online, it has a fairly low ratio of ambushes to agendas, and there’s quite a lot of ice. But I don’t have much experience playing Jinteki, so I may be wrong about this.

Your point about the agendas also makes sense, and also fits with my belief that their decks are meant to generally have an experienced Corp player - the new player might need the hint that a card might be an agenda to push them to run, and I think pushing the new player to run is more important here than giving the experienced player good odds. The agendas are also balanced out a bit by the Junebugs, of course.

Sure, Public Sympathy is bad for damage protection. What it was good for was making the runner feel less helpless with regards to damage protection. The one player who used it was much more willing to run after he had it on the table.

For time, I don’t think I spent more than ten minutes on the initial explanation, but I didn’t have the foresight to time it separately, so I may need to tighten it up a bit. I suspect that being unable to see the new player’s cards and give them specific advice slowed things down a fair bit. I wonder if a small tip sheet would help.

You have the notion that a newcomer has to be the runner, but the decks were designed to be fair for both players as beginners. I believe a new player can start learning either side, not necessarily the runner. I started as corp and refused to play as a runner for a lot of games actually. A tip sheet (sounds like dip-shit btw :P) is a good idea, I’ll make one; face-check often, hold enough cards on your grip, try to keep the corp poor trashing assets or forcing them to rez ice - rush agendas behind ice that no icebreaker is presented yet, defend centrals first, keep the runner poor bluffing an asset as agenda forcing them to run and spend money for nothing etc…

I will work some more on the subject during the xmas holidays and maybe publish a 2nd version. The plan is to:

  1. change the presentation structure a bit of an even easier tutorial
  2. build similar decks based on a single core set
  3. have a 2nd set of decks that introduce the extra mechanics (traces, tags, net/meat/brain damages, bad pub etc). Most probably Weyland and Gabe.

It’s not that the newcomer has to be the runner, only that FFG’s decks are designed for the newcomer to be the runner.

I look forward to seeing the changes!

Hm, you’re absotively right…at the very beginning of the book it does suggest; the beginner starts with runner, but I never noticed. I don’t completely agree with that but their choices make more sense now. Although, 2nd game sides will switch and the noob will have to play a hard-to-pilot corporation… :confounded:

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You are not supposed to switch sides, you are supposed to have an exiting matchup where the newbie have a fair shot at winning.

“We have written this guide with you, the demonstrator, playing as the Corporation. Have your new player use the
Runner deck for his or her first game. If you and your new player have time for more than one game, we recommend
he or she play the second game as the Corporation.”.

It does recommend to switch sides. I don’t agree with this approach though, I started as corp and played more than 10 games before trying out the runner. Even if it’s all about the runner though, check out how weird the card list is