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Netrunner: Your Guide to Running the Stalk

4 Minute Read
Jun 17 2014

Fantasy Flight’s Netunner is the closest thing you’ll get to actually being Harrison Ford. Check our first in a series of guides to mastering the game! 

So I just spent the last four days in at a leadership conference in Eau Claire, WI. After being bathed in ice-breakers and general happiness, I wanted nothing more than to come home and dive into the war-torn world of Warhammer 40k. Six blood soaked pages later, I realized my Prozac prescription wasn’t ready for all that. After two pints of Chunky Monkey and seeing Bladerunner on AMC, I settled on writing a “hacker’s toolkit” for new players to Android: Netrunner.

That story was a lie. I never eat Chunky Monkey. 

How Does One Run the Net? 

As Sean Bean aptly puts it, you don’t simply jump into Netrunner unprepared. There are decisions to be made! History to be heard! And what  kind of writer would I be if I didn’t include a nicely packaged exposition paragraph?

You’re welcome interwebs.

Android: Netrunner is a LCG (Living Card Game) spin-off of Fantasy Flight’s 2008 board game Android, which tips a large portion of it’s hat to fan-favorite RPG Cyberpunk 2020. In Android players take control of various investigators as they race around a fantastically drawn cyberpunk city to try and connect the yarn to point out the correct villain. It’s like a two hour version of Clue, where Col. Mustard is a homicidal robot and Mrs Peacock has augmented laser eyes. 

I wish I could read…

Android was a solid game, but a tough sell for casual players. With a theme that was begging to get reused, and a devilishly talented team of developers, Fantasy Flight picked up the glowing remains of the Netrunner card game that Richard Garfield had created back in 1999. Yeah, that Richard Garfield made the original Netrunner the same year you thought the world was going to end. History! They stripped the original’s CCG model, tweaked the original system( Nothing major but tweaks were needed  to allow more factions and the new distribution model), and brought the theme in-line with the Android universe.

 Perfect! Boring’s stuff out of the way, and all we can focus on now, is how to be super-cool robot spy people. 

So I Lose Billions of Dollars or Get Brain Damage?  

 Netrunner paints a future where the thick haze of cigarette smoke and techno music is cut through  by humanities’ vertical urban sprawl. With advancements in computer technology and neurobiology, the line between man and machine is quickly becoming thinner. Giant corporations control every facet of life: what you think, the clothes you wear and what you eat. These corporations rely on an ever-present network that connects every computer into a sprawling database and is the backbone–and only weakness-of these mega-conglomerates. As the network evolves and expands on a daily basis, certain people resist the influence of the corporations by using  the shroud and back-doors of the network. The runners seek to bring the populous out of ignorance and potentially help the corporations part with a tad bit of cash in the process.

That’s the basic premise. Players will either play as the Runners or the Corporations, each with their own win conditions. The Corporation players will play cards face down creating servers. Some cards will be agendas–cards that when rezzed( Netrunner speak for “flipped up”) score points for the corporation player–or they will be cards harmful to the Runner player.  Since the servers are placed de-rezzed, the Corporation can try and bait Runners into running harmful servers. Multibillion dollar corporations don’t leave their servers unprotected mind you. The Corporation player can play ICE cards  in front of their servers. These ICE cards allow Corporation players the opportunity to pay cash to rez powerful defensive protocols.and in attempt to shut down the Runners. ICE can simply end a run, trash a Runner’s rig, or sometimes cause the Runner brain damage.

Players using a Runner deck will make runs at the Corporation servers in an attempt to uncover agendas place the Corporations, and steal them for themselves! The Runner uses  the cards in their hand to acquire pieces of their “rig”, cards that will allow the Runner to bypass certain security protocols for a price. The Runner needs to carefully piece their rig together, for it’s the only thing standing between them and the aforementioned brain damage. Now I’ve mentioned that the Runner can run at the face down servers of the Corporation. The Runner can also make runs at the Corporation player’s deck or hand–causing the Corporation player to prioritize the defense of high risk targets.


The game ends when a player has successfully captured seven agenda points. The game also can end if the Runner dies, or the Corporation player runs out of cards in their deck.

That’s that game! If that sounded confusing–which admittedly the game can be daunting to get into– Fantasy Flight has made these handy tutorial videos.  The videos should also give you a better sense of the nuances of the game, and makes the confusing rule-book obsolete.

Well that’s it folks! A quick overview of Netrunner and it’s history. In the next article we’ll check out the various factions and some of the strategies behind them! Let me know what you think of Netrunner in the comments below! And if you liked this, check out more of my stuff here. Cheers! 

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