Android: Netrunner Card Game Review

Android Netrunner

After Magic:the Gathering, mid 90’s were the boom time for collectible card games, leading to high competition. For this reason, most of CCGs failed the expectations of publishers. Apparently, the same thing was true for Android: Netrunner, despite the game had good reviews in magazines.

Android: Netrunner is a Wizards of the Coast game, created by Richard Garfield, the famous author of Magic: the Gathering and Vampire the Eternal Struggle. In 2012, Fantasy Flight Games announced enhanced edition of the game and included it in the the Android University of Living Card Game series. On the second try, being released in the right time, the game bore fruit.

android netrunner card game

Gamepley overview

Before we get started, here is a disclaimer:

In this overview, we’re not gonna give a detailed description of the game, because:

FFG has made an incredible video tutorial on how to playl which you can see below;

You can download the rulebook with all the rules written in good, comprehensive English.

There is a really huge list of cyberpunk terms you need to know. We don’t have enough space in this article 🙂

Download Rules in PDF

Download FAQs in PDF

Android: Netrunner is an asymmetric duel card game, which has its unique game rules for each player. Here are two roles: the Corporation and the Runner. A player makes his or her own deck, based on a certain role. The aim of the Runner is to attack servers of the Corporation and try to score seven points by stealing Agendas. And the Corporation must try to catch the Runner and defend Agendas and advance it by putting score counters.

The ‘Server’ means certain game zones of the Corporation to attack: a hand, discarded cards and a deck (yes, the Runner can attack the player’s deck!). Agenda cards, Upgrades and Assets form remote Remote Servers. The Runner chooses a server to attack and if the server is unprotected, he get access to it right away. Apparently, Agenda cads are the most valuable plunder for the Runner. Apart from stealing, he may crash the equipment of the Server attacked. Everything seems to be easy for the Runner, but in fact it’s not.

android netrunner - gameplay

Whereas the Runner plays cards face up, the Corporation plays them face down leaving the Runner to make deductions where Agendas are stored. Moreover, some assets may keep counters and confuse the Runner. His attack might take its toll, because the Runner may get jacked out (his attack fails), take damages and even die. This is how the mentioned above asymmetry works.

The Corporation defends its servers using Ice cards played also facedown. Not only make they the Runner’s attack more complicated, but also tend to be accumulated and form this way a multilayer protection.

During a turn a player has a strict amount of actions named Clicks. The Runner has 4 clicks, while the Corp has only 3 ones. All these clicks must be used by players.

For example: one click allows you to get 1 credit, draw a card, play a card from your hand, attack and more. You are not limited in action types, so you can re-do one action as much as you have remained clicks. The Runner has Programs, Hardware and Resources, which are to be placed in 3 rows. These card types are to be paid when come in play. Meanwhile, the Corp pays only when flips a card faceup (this process is named ‘Rez’). To play a card from a hand, the Corp only uses a Click. By the way, in this game, the credits don’t burn at the end of a turn, but accumulate if not spent. Maximum hand size is five cards by the end of a turn. If the Corporation runs out cards in a deck, it loses the game, when must draw a card.

android netrunner - cards in hand

To resist Ice cards, the Runner has Icebreakers, special designed programs. This is a key feature of the game: attacking iced servers in order to find an Agenda.

The Corp, in turn, decides whether unrez Ice cards or not. If the card is not unrezzed, then the Runner moves on until he reaches the Server. If the Corps flips Ice cards, players compare the power of Ice and Icebreaker cards. Usually, it’s not enough, because there are Subroutine programs which should be taken into account, because they may cause serious harm to the Runner. Damages to the Runner are equal to the cards discarded form his hand. If there is no cards in the hand, the Runner dies.

Originally, there are four Corporations and three factions of Runners, which you can mix together. You may have up to 3 copies of a certain card.

Each Corp/Runner has its own ID card, which gives a player special abilities.

android netrunner - corp cards

Unboxing

android netrunner - inside the box

There are 250 cards, certain amount of tokens and a rulebook. In other words, here is everything you need to get started. Pity, that FFG doesn’t provide playmats or boards for comfortable playing.

Each Corp has 28 cards + 22 neutrals (the ones which fit any Corp), whereas groups of the Runner have 33 cards each +12 neutrals. Just mix cards of any Corp or Runner faction (depending on which role you play) to get a starter deck and let the fun begin! While building Android: Netrunner deck, you might want to try out new combinations of different Runner factions or Corporations. Icing on the cake is that Corporations and Runners don’t mix together, so you and your opponent will not need the same card in your card list.

The only fly in the ointment is the fact that all powerful cards are given just in one copy, so if you want not only to play with friends, but also to participate in tournaments, you should buy one more core set box or even two!

Generally, the core set is better, bigger and more diverse than a wide range of other LCG core set boxes, not to mention fabulous artworks on the cards. Hands down, this core set is definitely worth place on your shelf, if you are about to try out some LCG/CCG games.

android netrunner - anarch deck

Now, let’s talk about LCGs and what’s up next. Basically, LCGs are pretty much the same that CCGs except the fact that in CCG you need to buy new cards all the time. CCG is the type of the boardgame a player is absorbed in. And the more he or she is, the more powerful is the game. On the other hand, this sounds not so good for those who want to get hands on experience without collecting a huge amount of different cards. An ordinary boardgamer just want to take a box from the shelf and enjoy playing. Android: Netrunner meets these simple needs. But when it comes to deck building, the game gets deeper to get involved. In order to form a good, competitive deck, you need to buy expansions. Too much expansions. Each Datapack/Deluxe expansions have 20/55 cards 3 copies each, respectively. In 2017, first two Datapack cycles are to be rotated out, so you better buy Deluxes first as they always will be actual.

Impressions

FFG have chosen a game with awesome mechanics and made a tremendous work at gameplay improvement. Visually, the game looks great, especially with all these oldschool cyberpunk terms like devices, ices, runs, etc.

In simple words, the main benefit of this asymmetric game is two games in one. It feels different. The Corp with pokerface slowly plays its cards, while the Runner rushes along to take action. He has a lot of opportunities, but the Corp, like the Big Brother, is watching him. Running process is simple, variable and great incarnated. Unlike other LCGs/CCGs, Android: Netrunner provides a unique attacking scheme: one Ice against one Icebreaker, so if you have a couple of Icebreakers, then keep calm and attack. In turn, if you play for the Corp, you have special tips: feel free to bluff, outwit or catch your opponent in a trap.

android netrunner - space

The deck of a player concerns a certain faction indicated in the ID-card. The game has no restrictions on including cards of another factions. But every card has its influence value the amount of should not be higher than the limit on the ID-card. For this reason, the number of cards of your faction is always higher than the number of another faction cards. These limitations are not so severe like in, for instance, WOW TCG/Hearthstone, where all character archetypes are predetermined. Such free play stimulates your creative thinking and modifies your deck to face different obstacles during the game.

android netrunner - credit tokens

Couple of words about wordings. As we mentioned above, there is a bunch of special terms for ordinary things. A Runner deck is called ‘stack’, while the Corp has ‘R&D’. The discard zone of the Runner is called ‘heap’, while the Corp has ‘archives’. A hand is called ‘grip’ and ‘HQ’, respectively. All this stuff is great and atmospheric. There is no difficulties if you know what a certain word means. But at the very beginning, if you are unexperienced in this kind of games, things may get really tough, and you may have many questions to answer.

YouTube

To learn how to play, watch the tutorial on Youtube

Banned cards

Android: Netrunner has no banned cards but a list of most wanted cards which reduce the influence on your ID card by 1:

Runner

  • Cerberus “Lady” H1 (Lunar Cycle, #099)
  • Clone Chip (Creation & Control, #038)
  • Desperado (Core Set, #024)
  • Parasite (Core Set, #012)
  • Pre-Paid Voice PAD (Spin Cycle, #029)
  • Yog.0 (Core Set, #014)

Corp

  • Architect (Lunar Cycle, #061)
  • AstroScript Pilot Program (Core Set, #081)
  • Eli 1.0 (Genesis Cycle, #110)
  • NAPD Contract (Spin Cycle, #119)
  • SanSan City Grid (Core Set, #092)

Online playing

If you want to have Android: Netrunner on your smartphone, the only way is download unnoficial applications.

Android: Netrunner App for iPhone

android-netrunner - ios app

Android: Netrunner App for Android

android-netrunner - android app

Expansions

android netrunner with expansions

Data packs

The Genesis Cycle – Data Packs

  • What Lies Ahead
  • Trace Amount
  • Cyber Exodus
  • A Study in Static
  • Humanity’s Shadow
  • Future Proof

The Spin Cycle – Data Packs

  • Opening Moves
  • Second Thoughts
  • Mala Tempora
  • True Colors
  • Fear and Loathing
  • Double Time

The Lunar Cycle – Data Packs

  • Upstalk
  • The Spaces Between
  • First Contact
  • Up and Over
  • All That Remains
  • The Source

The SanSan Cycle – Data Packs

  • The Valley
  • Breaker Bay
  • Chrome City
  • The Underway
  • The Universe of Tomorrow
  • Old Hollywood

The Mumbad Cycle – Data Packs

  • Kala Ghoda
  • Business First
  • Democracy and Dogma

Not yet released data packs

  • Salsette Island
  • The Liberated Mind
  • Fear the Masses

Best data packs

  • Future Proof
  • True Colors
  • What Lies Ahead
  • Cyber Exodus

Deluxe Expansions

  • Data and Destiny
  • Creation and Control
  • Honor and Profit
  • Order and Chaos

Comparing with other games

Android: Netrunner vs Magic: The Gathering

Magic The Gathering

If compare with favourite oldschool games, Android: Netrunner kicks ass. But not in this case. Magic: The Gathering is quick and easy game on the basis of which many games were created. At the same time, the cost of Magic rises every year. If you want to play a serious game with a lot of resources, daily digests and big competitions, then go Magic.

Android: Netrunner vs Race for the Galaxy

Race for the Galaxy

Race for the Galaxy is a serious strategy non-conflict card game, where you build galactic civilizations, produce some goods, collect victory points and compete with many players. This game, actually, has nothing in common with Android: Netrunner, except game scenes in the future.

Android: Netrunner vs Dominion

dominion

Dominion is a deck-building card game. You collect victory points, buy additional cards and get money. You have a wide range of strategies. Unlike Android: Netrunner, Dominion is way easier, but game setup is more complicated. Fits novices and families as well as experienced players.

Android: Netrunner vs Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Card Game

Game of Thrones is a multiplayer game where you go military to win, make strategies, practice diplomacy and spread your influence. It is an epic tactic game, which doesn’t seem like Android: Netrunner. Everything is different in these two games: from universe to strategies. Depends on your preferences.

Bottom line

Android: Netrunner is the most unusual LCG with wonderful gamedesign. It became the most favourite game for many players and it definitely deserves it because of unique game experience and high competitiveness. The game doesn’t seem like a copy of Magic: the Gathering, as Richard Garfield every time makes totally different games. You are unlikely to find something else with all the advantages Android: Netrunner has. Yes, undoubtedly every man to his own taste, but if you hesitate between LCG and CCG, choose Android: Netrunner. Moreover, if you opt for cyberpunk, this is a must-have. Buy it on Amazon.