Review – Android: Netrunner, the “Living” CCG

This week’s review features the card game, Android: Netrunner.

In 1996, Richard Garfield (of Magic: The Gathering fame) created a cyberpunk collectible card game called Netrunner. However, if you’ve heard of a little thing called Magic, you know where Wizards of the Coast decided to invest their money/time. In 2012, after Fantasy Flight Games purchased the rights to the game, they released a new “living card” version of the game.

A “living card” game is Fantasy Flight’s branding for a CCG that differs from the normal booster pack model shared by games like Magic and Pokemon. When you purchase a base set of Android: Netrunner, you get a full play set of all of the cards in the base set. Likewise, every time you buy a “datapack” or expansion booster, you get a full play set of cards released in that update. This guarantees that every player has access to the same amount of cards, which means players don’t have to drop hundreds of dollars just to get four incredibly powerful/popular cards.

Personally, I believe one of the coolest things about this game is the setting. Android: Netrunner is set in a cyberpunk universe where one player acts as a “Runner” or hacker and the other player acts as a “Corporation” (think evil, very evil.) The Corporation plays defensively, setting up servers and ICE to protect their agendas. Corporations then spend money to advance their agendas, allowing them to score agenda points. Runners hack into the Corporation’s servers to bypass and destroy protections with programs, hardware and gear in order to steal the agendas. The player who can score 7 agenda points first wins.

My initial impressions of Android: Netrunner are pretty favorable after several hours of play time. I think there’s a strong learning curve in the beginning, mostly surrounding all of the terminology. However, once you understand the terms, it becomes much more straightforward. Every player has actions they can take on their turn, giving them access to resources such as single card draw and making money. This prevents issues like Magic’s “mana-screw” – where players don’t have enough resources to do things on their turn. There is a lot of dynamic fun with the different Runner and Corporation identities, allowing you to construct different deck archetypes and develop lots of new combinations and tactics.

Do I think this is a “Magic-Killer” game? Gosh no. Do I think this is a fun game and worth a purchase? Definitely. There are more and more Netrunner play groups popping up in the gaming community, and Netrunner does see tournament play. It is certainly gaining traction with gaming communities and creating a dedicated fanbase. I appreciate the accessibility in the “living card game” model too, so if you see this game – give it a try! You won’t be disappointed.

– E.B.

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