My first Netrunner Tournament 

Netrunner Logo

As I posted a couple of weeks back, I have decided to get into the Netrunner LCG and, about two weeks after starting to play I decided to attend my first tournament, hosted at A Fistful of Dice in Portsmouth by the Portsmouth group Netrunner and Ales. It was a FFG supported Winter kit game (although the kit hadn’t arrived and so the prizes were sent out when it arrived) and it was billed as a beginner tournament meaning that decks had to be built from just the core box and one deluxe expansion. On the day there were only a couple of actual beginners there but it was a wonderful learning experience.

Netrunner 2015 Winter Kit

The fact that it was limited to the core set and a single deluxe expansion helped me, since I only actually had one deluxe expansion when I bought in, Creation and Control and despite picking up Order and Chaos just prior to the tournament I stuck to Creation and Control simply because I’d had the most experience with cards from those decks and so was comfortable using them, something I wouldn’t have been if I’d switched over to a Wayland corp deck.

The decks I took where a Noise Anarch deck and a Haas Bioroid corp deck, using the Core set and Creation and Control. I realise that that is a bit counterintuitive, since Creation and Control focuses on HB and Shapers, rather than Anarchs but I greatly prefer Anarchs to Shapers and I was determined to use them so that’s what I went with. Additionally, I tend to use Shaper cards with my Anarchs so access to Creation and Control helped.

My decks were-

Haas Bioroid deck

Agenda (9)

3x Accelerated Beta Test (Core Set)

3x Priority Requisition (Core Set)

3x Efficiency Committee (Creation and Control)

Asset (9)

3x Adonis Campaign (Core Set)

2x Snare! (Core Set)

3x PAD Campaign (Core Set)

1x Haas Arcology AI (Creation and Control)

Upgrade (1)

1x SanSan City Grid (Core Set)

Operation (12)

2x Archived Memories (Core Set)

2x Biotic Labor (Core Set)

3x Beanstalk Royalties (Core Set)

2x Shipment from Kaguya (Core Set)

3x Hedge Fund (Core Set)

Barrier (6)

2x Heimdall 1.0 (Core Set)

1x Wall of Static (Core Set)

3x Heimdall 2.0 (Creation and Control)

Code Gate (6)

1x Tollbooth (Core Set)

2x Enigma (Core Set)

3x Viktor 2.0 (Creation and Control)

Sentry (5)

3x Ichi 1.0 (Core Set)

2x Hunter (Core Set)

14 influence spent (maximum 15)

21 agenda points (between 20 and 21)

48 cards (min 45)

 

Noise Anarch Deck

Event (11)

2x Déjà Vu (Core Set)

2x Demolition Run (Core Set)

1x Special Order (Core Set)

3x Sure Gamble (Core Set)

3x Dirty Laundry (Creation and Control)

Hardware (8)

3x Cyberfeeder (Core Set)

1x Grimoire (Core Set)

2x Akamatsu Mem Chip (Core Set)

2x Clone Chip (Creation and Control)

Resource (10)

1x Ice Carver (Core Set)

2x Wyldside (Core Set)

1x Aesop’s Pawnshop (Core Set)

3x Armitage Codebusting (Core Set)

3x Daily Casts (Creation and Control)

Icebreaker (10)

2x Corroder (Core Set)

2x Mimic (Core Set)

2x Yog.0 (Core Set)

1x Ninja (Core Set)

1x Gordian Blade (Core Set)

2x Crypsis (Core Set)

Program (9)

2x Datasucker (Core Set)

2x Djinn (Core Set)

2x Medium (Core Set)

3x Parasite (Core Set)

15 influence spent (maximum 15)

48 cards (min 45)

I managed to refine my decks a little before the event and I was fairly happy with the way that they played, although my inexperience was definitely showing through. The day was fairly standard, with 5 rounds of 70 minutes each, with each player playing both the runner and corp in that time. My games were actually quite varied, with me playing against Shapers, Criminals, Anarchs on the runner side of things and then NBN, Wayland and Haas Bioroid on the corp side. The only faction I didn’t get a game against was Jinteki.

My first game was against another Bournemouth player, Ben (of Breakthrough Assault), who I’d travelled down with. Much to my surprise I won my first game of the day, as the runner, but that was muted fairly quickly when he beat my corp deck to take me to 1-1. Ben player a Kate Shaper deck and a Haas Bioroid corp deck similar to my own.

Game 2 saw me loose at the corp in turn 2, on the runners 7th click due to having too many agenda in hand and no IC. I’d originally started with 2 Agenda, 1 IC and 2 Operations in hand and taken a mulligan to try and improve my position only to be left with 3 Agenda, 1 IC and an Operation which was made worse when my mandatory draw was another Agenda. There was little I could do here and my opponent just ran my hand repeatedly and won very easily.

From there my day went very much the same throughout, I was hit by Scorched Earth and blown to meaty chunks in three of my runner games and just utterly outplayed in the other. From the corp side I won just one game all day after managing to build up a pretty brutal and intimidating scoring server and fast advancing a couple of Agenda. My day ended on a rather disappointing but not unexpected 2-8 score, leaving me in 17th place out of 18 players and the fact I wasn’t last only came down to strength of opposition.

With that said, it was a really fun day and it was great to play people outside my general group. Having a beginner tournament made it significantly less intimidating for me to learn to construct a deck and has given me a much better idea of what I want in a deck and how I want it to perform, which will make it much easier when I attend other, full card pool events, next year. I also learnt that that Scorched Earth can seriously ruin your day and so having Plascrete Carapace in any runner deck is a bit of a must.

The staff and tournament organisers were great on the day and every player was given a corp and a runner card from a Polish core set, with me picking up a Magnum Opus and a Beanstalk Royalties. The Magnum Opus is particularly useful as you only get 2 in the core set so I now have a full set of 3 and the limited text on both means that they are easily useable by an English language speaker.

Polish language Netrunner Cards

As there were only 18 players I still picked up a participation alt art card for Ice Wall, which was sent to me once the kit arrived, as promised-

Netrunner, Ice Wall alt art card

It was a fun day and I met great people who helped me learn the game. If you are new to Netrunner and interested in competitive play then I wholeheartedly recommend seeking out a beginner tournament as it’ll make the transition from casual play a whole lot less daunting. For stores and clubs out there I also recommend running a tournament with this format occasionally, to help new players get used to the game without expecting them to understand the full card pool and associated tactics.

This was my first Netrunner tournament but it won’t be my last. Some local stores are looking at running regular competitions next year (2016), starting in early January and I’ll be looking to attend those and improve my position on the standings.

 

Exploding Kittens NSFW Edition

Name: Exploding Kittens NSFW Edition
Type: Card Game 
Publisher: Exploding Kittens
No of Players: 2-5
Size: 16.2cm x 11.3cm x 3.8cm
Weight: 225g
Age: 30 and up?
Price:  £16.99
Playtime: 15 mins
Rating: 4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

Exploding Kittens NSFW Edition, front of box

I’m not a big fan of Black Friday, what with being English and it basically being transposed onto us as a way to try and persuade us to spend a little more in the weeks leading up to Christmas. With that said, I’m not an idiot and so I generally browse the Amazon deals to see if anything on my wishlist is coming up and, this year, something did and that something was Exploding Kittens.

Like so many offbeat games Exploding Kittens first appeared on Kickstarter where it, and its sister game the Safe for Work edition, managed to accrue $8.5 million in funding in February 2015, making it the most funded game on Kickstarter at the time. I’d heard good things from people who had backed it and, honestly, I couldn’t see how wouldn’t enjoy a game for people who like Kittens and Explosions and Boob Wizards and sometimes Butts and so, when the deal rolled around, I decided to pick it up.

Exploding Kittens NSFW Edition, contents

In the box you get-

  • 56 cards
  • Instruction leaflet

The box is nice and small, being around the size of one of the Tiny Epic game boxes and perfect to just throw into a bag at the last minute. The box is matt black with the title in big letters on the front along with the tag line about boob wizards and this very much set the tone for what you’ll find inside the box. On the front of the box is an illustration of a cat with it’s nether regions pixelated out and this pretty much says everything you need to know about the game.

The box is made from a nice, thick, sturdy card, showing evidence of the upgrades it received during the Kickstarter campaign and although the cards themselves are printed on a card stock that is a little thin, they still seem well made. That said, I’m not convinced that the cards would survive the beer test that well and for a simple and comedic game, thats not a good thing.

As for how it plays, it’s pretty simple, as you’d expect for a 56 card game that plays in 15 minutes. The instruction leaflet very much advises you against reading it, claiming instructions are boring and telling you to watch the video at this link instead.

All told though, it’s a very simple concept. You remove the Exploding Kitten  and Defuse cards and deal one Defuse to each player before shuffling the rest back into the deck and dealing 4 more cards to each player, for a total hand of 5. You then add Exploding Kitten cards to the deck equal to the number of players minus 1 (to guarantee a winner).

After that decide who goes first and I like using the ‘who has the shortest spleen’ method. On their turn players can play as many cards as they like before drawing one card from the deck and adding it to their hand unless they draw an Exploding Kitten card. Drawing an Exploding Kitten card means a player is out, unless they can use a defuse card and last player out is the winner. If a player Defuses an Exploding Kitten then put it back in the draw deck wherever they choose, allowing them to try and force it upon another player.

Cards played before drawing can allow the active player to miss their draw, make another player draw twice, look at the top card in the deck etc. All of which can help minimise the chance of drawing an Exploding Kitten.

The game plays with a real air of suspense as turns are quick and frantic and the further down the deck you go the higher the level of tension as the games turns into a game of Russian Roulette with Kittens but in a good way, not in the pet the belly and have your eyes scratched out way that Russian Roulette with Kittens ends with.

I buy and play a great many mini games as I like simple mechanics that allow for endless play. Sure I like deeper and more involved games like Arkham Horror, Battlestar Galactica or Pandemic Legacy but it’s hard to ignore how much fun a simple mechanic can be, especially one that lets you attack a friend by growing a magnificent squid tentacle and slapping them like a fat baby.

Exploding Kittens NSFW Edition, Attack Card

As fun as the game is, it’s the art style and comedy that really makes the game and this comes from Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal webcomic. Aside from the aforementioned squid tentacle cards such as Cat’s Schrödinger-

Exploding Kittens NSFW Edition, Cat's Schrodinger

A rather upset kraken-

Exploding Kittens NSFW Edition, Upset Kraken

The Pope of Nope-

Exploding Kittens NSFW Edition, Pope of Nope

Boob wizards-

Exploding Kittens NSFW Edition, Boob Wizards

And, of course, the eponymous Exploding Kitten-

Exploding Kittens NSFW Edition, Exploding Kitten

Exploding Kittens is a very fun game, in the same way Cards Against Humanity is fun, however, unlike Cards Against Humanity, you actually care about winning in Exploding Kittens and the game has a tense feeling to it, not just an air of hilarity (although it certainly has that too). I found that Exploding Kittens works best with a bigger group, 4 or 5 players so as to maintain the tension and feeling that everyone is out to get you. As a 2 player game it’s not that good, you don’t feel that constant threat of drawing an Exploding Kitten as there is only one in the deck.

In addition to the NSFW edition, which was originally just an expansion for the basic deck and it was only the massive overfunding that it received on Kickstarter that meant it was produced as it’s own game, there is a child friendly edition (which you can read more about here) and both sets can be combined to allow the game to support up to 9 players, which I imagine would be extremely frantic and nerve wracking.

If you are after a quick, fun game to play with none gamers or during drunken evenings you could do a lot worse than to pick up Exploding Kittens NSFW Edition. It’s not going to satisfy the hardcore gamer’s urge for complex and time consuming games, but thats not a bad thing, you can’t play Pandemic Legacy or Twilight Imperium while waiting for other gamers to arrive on a games night or as a bit of fun to round out an evening.

Exploding Kittens is silly, it’s funny and it’s dumb and all of that works in it’s favour. If a game can force players to collapse in fits of hysteria when playing a card (and I wholeheartedly recommend that all players read out the text on their card when playing them to make sure that happens) then it’s a winner in my book and one i’d suggest to anyone.

 

Jacking into Android Netrunner

Netrunner Logo

 

Before I get into my experience I should probably explain what Netrunner is. Netrunner is a Living Card Game from Fantasy Flight Games that is based in their Android Universe. Android is a dystopian cyberpunk setting and Netrunner pits runners against megacorporations in a hacking battle in the digital world. It is based upon the WoTC Collectable Card Game of the same name (from the 90’s) but as opposed to being set in R Talisorian’s Cyberpunk 2020 universe it is set in FFG own Android setting. Those familiar with Cyberpunk 2020s Netrunners or Shadowrun’s Decker/Hacker/Technomancer concept will be immediately familiar with the idea of the setting.

I recently decided that Fantasy Flight Games don’t get enough of my money, what with my ever growing X-Wing collection, Arkham Horror, Mistkatonic Horror, Elder Sign and the other, innumerable board games they produce that I seem compelled to buy. So I decided to get into Netrunner, I’m not sure how that happened as I’ve vowed for a while not to, as it’s not exactly cheap to buy into for a completionist, I’m guessing I’m feeling a lack of Cyberpunk in my life since the conclusion of my Shadowrun campaign last year.

Now, under normal circumstances I won’t just buy into a game, especially one with so much content, so with that in mind I figured I should play a couple of games first, having only really played it once or twice before and not really understanding it then. I got in touch with a friend of mine who has been playing and collecting since release and arranged a couple of intro games, just using the base decks from the core box.

Netrunner, Core Set, Front of Box

It goes without saying (because I’m writing this) that I was hooked pretty hard, pretty fast. I loved Collectible Card Games when I was a kid (one day I might do an exploration of my Blood Wars, X-Files and Mythos collections) but as I’ve grown I just can’t buy into something with a blind booster element and FFG have gotten around this with the Living Card Game mechanic. Living Card Games work almost exactly like a collectable Card Games (like, say Magic or Pokémon), but they don’t have the blind element, every core box, every datapack, every expansion comes with the same cards as the others of the same name. This means that if you buy a copy of the Datapack Opening Moves you will get exactly the same cards as everyone else who bought it and this means that there are no rare or chase cards and there is little to know secondary market for cards.

So, within 24 hours of those first games I bought into the system. I was pretty fortunate to find someone on Facebook who was selling a core set, 4 datapacks and the first deluxe expansion for £50, which is about 50% off retail. This seemed like a solid entry point and so I went for that. I also, almost immediately started playing games on Jinkeki.net as this meant I could play at a moments notice, without leaving the house or even the sofa.

My first thought was to try to find the factions that most suited me. Netrunner has 2 different sides, Runners and Corporations and both players will play both sides as part of a normal game. There are 3 Runner factions, Shapers, Criminals and Anarchs and each seeks to win the game in a different way. For me, I was immediately drawn to Anarchs since they seemed to be very close to the traditional Shadowrun Neo-Anarchist although I’m advised that Shapers are probably the easiest to use to learn the game.

Netrunner Core Set Runners

Corporations are split into 4 factions, each representing a different megacorporation in the Android Universe, Wayland, Jinteki, NBN and Haas Bioroid. Like the runners, each of these play differently but Haas Bioroid is certainly the easiest to learn Corporation play. I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to Shadowrun megacorps here with Wayland being Mitsuhama, NBN being Horizon, Jinteki being Renraku and Haas Bioroid being Saeder Krupp. Despite being strongly drawn to NBN and Jinteki I started playing with Haas as I wanted to learn the game quickly.

Netrunner Core Set Corps

I’m not going to go into the mechanics, there are dozens of video’s on YouTube demonstrating play and the rules can be found here . Needless to say both sides work differently and utilise different rules for how they play. Victory is determined by the first person to score 7 Agenda points or when the Corporation has to draw a card and can’t, as they have run out or the runner has to discard more cards than are in their hand. Both sides, as well as each separate factions, have different ways and means to achieve any or all of those conditions.

My introduction to the game was pretty straightforward after those first games. A friend, who ‘d also convinced to buy in, and I agreed to first use basic core decks, then with decks constructed from the core set and finally decks constructed from the core set, plus a single deluxe expansion. This latter condition is because I’ve signed up for a tournament, 2 weeks into playing, and it’s designated as a beginner tournament and so players can only build decks from the core set and a single deluxe expansion. As we’ve been playing I’ve gradually learned what different cards and builds do, how to refine a deck, and how to try to win via specific means. A runner deck that mills the corporations draw pile to win via them not being able to draw is very different to one that wins via stealing agenda.

Netrunner is quite an easy game to get into. The rules are complex by necessity, since both sides work differently, but there are very few situations that reading the rule book won’t quickly and easily resolve. When buying in just a single core set is enough to get you started and give you a feel for what you like. After that I’d suggest this Reddit Thread for what to buy to expand upon your chosen factions, it’s a little out of date now but it’s a fantastic resource for new players.

Buying in to play competitively is a completely different matter. To compete at a fairly high level you basically need to buy everything, including multiple copies of the core set (2 or 3 depending on your build). Fortunately you only ever need 1 of any expansion, since each gives you 3 copies of each card, the most you can include in a deck, but the core is a different matter, with only 1 or 2 copies of some key cards being included.

The longer you wait to buy in for competitive play, the more it will cost, to a point as FFG have confirmed that a cycle rotation system will take place once a sufficient number of cycles (sets of 6 datapacks) have been released. When cycle 8 is released, cycles 1 and 2 will be rotated out from legal combative play and then every 2 new cycles thereafter will result in the two oldest being removed.

I do have a couple of criticisms of the game. Firstly, the core set, it needs to have 3 copies of every card or 1 copy, so you either get everything you need or you aren’t wasting money on duplicates by buying multiple copies. My understanding is that the Game of Thrones LCG 2nd Edition has actually gone this route, with 1 copy of each card in the core set. Second is the complexity that the game has reached now, which makes it very hard for new players to break into the competitive scene. All games have this to a degree, my other FFG obsession, X-Wing, certainly has that same issue and it’s not one that’s easy to combat, since existing players will always want more depth and it’s needed to keep the game fresh but that doesn’t make it easier for new players.

My last couple of criticisms are personal. Firstly, I’d love the game more if it was set in the Shadowrun Universe, not Android, I cannot express how awesome I’d think that would be and, honestly, I have a hard time not thinking it in those terms already. Secondly, the cards should be printed on acetate, like Gloom, with circuitry around the edges as this would make them look 1,000 times more awesome.

With those small niggles aside and the only one that’s actually a real problem is the core set one as it does actually lead to a very minor secondary market on the cards you only get 1 or 2 of in the core set, Netrunner is a fantastic game. It plays quickly, it has amazing tactical depth and it takes real skill to properly craft a rounded deck and make it work well, there is an art form in making a deck that guarantees you can do something with any given combination of cards.

I’ll keep with the game. The Mumbad cycle of cards is due out shortly and so I’ll start buying them as they release while rounding out my older collection. I’m looking forward to my first tournament on 06/12 at A Fistful of Dice in Portsmouth and I’m going in with low expectations fully assuming that I’ll come dead last. I have my decks ready, an Anarch Deck and a Haas Bioroid Corp deck and they’ve been tweaked enough that I’m happy with how they should play (even if I can’t quite get it to work yet). I’ll post them up over the next few days, as reference, and I’ll write something on how the day went next week, so check back then