Computer hacking in a cyberpunk, dystopian future is the theme of Fantasy Flight Games' two-player card game, Android: Netrunner.
In Android: Netrunner, one player takes on the role of one of four different mega-corporations that have allowed humanity to colonize the solar system and wiped out most diseases, but at the cost of freedom. The other player becomes one of three runner factions, a computer hacker determined to expose the corporation's evil plots.
Each player is allowed a set number of actions per turn, or “clicks.” The corporation gets three clicks per turn while the runner gets four. Players also start with five credits each, the game's currency. The game sees the corporation largely playing defense while the runner plays offense. The corporation has “central servers,” essentially his hand, his deck and his discard pile. He or she can also create “remote servers,” placing cards on the table that he or she can later activate for advantage. The corporation can also install “ice,” defensive walls that protect all of the servers.
The runner can draw cards and attempt to equip his or her “rig.” As the runner gains more cards in the rig, he or she can attempt to “run” on any of the corporation's servers. First, however, the runner must encounter the corporation's ice, which is initially hidden from the runner. Once revealed, or “rezzed” by the corporation, the runner must use the rig and spend credits to get past the ice and deal with any nasty surprises that they trigger.
Ice can often inflict damage on the runner, making the runner discard cards. If ever the runner runs out of cards, he or she loses the game. The corporation wins if he or she scores seven agenda points, cards that are placed in remote servers. By making successful runs, the runner can steal agenda cards. If the runner steals seven points worth of agenda cards, the runner wins.
Android: Netrunner is a Living Card Game that has seen many expansions that add cards to the games' runner and corporation factions. These expansions allow players to customize their decks before each game, creating new and unique experiences with each game. While there are several small card pack expansions, Fantasy Flight Games has also released several deluxe expansions, like Android: Netrunner: Honor and Profit. Honor and Profit adds 66 new cards to the Jinteki corporation, 69 new cards to the criminal runner faction, and several more neutral corporation and runner cards that can be used with any corporation or runner faction.
Android: Netrunner is a game of resource management and risk management. Each turn, players must carefully consider each card and how best to use their limited clicks and credits to achieve their goals. Perhaps the most interesting and engaging thing to Android: Netrunner is just how differently each side plays in this game. While the corporation must steadily build up its servers and defenses, awaiting the runner's inevitable attacks, the runner must carefully decide when and how to make a run against the corporation.
The corporation must also use a fair amount of bluff and misdirection if that player hopes to win the game, while the runner must take care not to be drawn into the corporation's traps. Though there is a bit of a learning curve as players must take in the various terms and concepts, play itself is fairly straightforward. Android: Netrunner is a unique, wonderfully entertaining and incredibly fun asymmetrical game.
Android: Netrunner is recommended for ages 14 and up and plays from 30-60 minutes.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at thediscriminatinggamer.com. Email: [email protected]