Great Mechanics – Netrunner

In my Great Mechanics posts I will be discussing some of the most creative and interesting rules that I have discovered while playing games, it’s really an attempt to review games in a way that isn’t done by traditional review sites. This week the mechanic of revealing of cards in Netrunner, Fantasy Flights LCG.


Why do people buy packs for a collectable card game like Magic the Gathering? Discounting the people who buy them not knowing what they are going to get or are buying then for nostalgia reasons (which a 20-year-old game is going to get) people pick them up because they like the little hit of endorphins when they look through a freshly opened pack of cards and see a powerful rare card staring back at them. Wizards of the Coast knows this and have made sure that even players who don’t know what the cards are extremely rare can see the foil holographic finish and / or the orange mythic rare symbol on the strongest cards in the set.


If you’ve ever played a collectable card game or know how addictions develop, you can see how the problem with this occurs. More product is brought and the rewards happen less and less often, the buyer’s excitement level lowers as they have experienced it all before but they continue to buy in to this minigame of random chance because they are still looking for the hit they get when they discover one.


Netrunner is a living card game which means all the cards you will ever need are in the packs and ready to be used in your games, there aren’t rare cards or mythic rare cards, there aren’t even random foil cards, every card in a certain pack is exactly the same. However, that addictive hit of discovering a rare card still exists except it’s been transferred to be part of the fabric of the game instead. This is because during a game every time a Runner makes a successful attack (called a run) they see a random card either from the top of their opponents (the Corporation) deck or from their hand. This gives out certain information on what the Corporation has ready to use, sometimes it lets the Runner force the Corporation to discard it but the main use of this is to discover the Agenda cards hidden in the Corporations deck, these cards have a number on and when the runner has a set of them that add up to 7 or more they win the game.


So the Runner makes runs steals the agendas and goes home happy with that endorphin rush, except, wait, that’s only one side of the game. The Corporation can seed their deck with ambushes that come into play when the Runner accesses them on their hunt for agendas, these things can damage the Runner directly, destroy programs or place nasty tokens on the Runner called tags that can be used to trigger even nastier effects like the removal of all the Runners money or the demolition of their house and surrounding houses in their neighbourhood.


So you have risk and reward working together in glorious concert, though be warned the total cost of all the Netrunner expansions released so far is over £400 so its hard for me to recommend anything over than sharing a copy of the basic game.


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