Why the original design of Netrunner was superior
Some of the design decisions in Android: Netrunner (A:NR) seem to be a little arbitrary and detrimentally remove some of the facets of the original Netrunner (O:NR) game. I've already written in a previous article about some of the distinctions between the old and new versions of the game. Where that was a dispassionate consideration of the version's differences, this is a more hyperbolic and rhetorical diatribe (i.e. a rant) against some of FFG's individual card selections and redesigns. In short, Lukas Litzinger, et al. have reduced the originality that was available to the Netrunner player.Take a look at the "old school" decks, and excuse my hyperbole: Card limits? What are they? One of the most elegant, if perhaps overly potent designs for a Viral Pipeline deck was developed by Dennis Duncan for the NW Netrunner Championships in 1997(?). Thirty Programs, and twenty Preps (Events in newspeak): eight Zetatech Software Installers, five Afreets, five Clowns, twelve Jack'n'Joes and seven ValuPak Software Bundles. The three card limit might be naturally imposed by the nature of the LCG distribution model (of which I am quite in favour, BTW), but it hinders one form of deck-building creativity in favour of player budget and ease of design. I'll acknowledge that the limit imposed encourages a different form of deck-building creativity, but it is an odd one, in which the player is squirming within the bonds of card limits to overcome an artificial constraint.
Compare a Runner stack from O:NR to A:NR. Two variant breakers for each class of Ice, with possibilities of specialised breakers that handled trace subroutines, or "hound" ice (pit bull, hellhound, bloodhound, or watchdog ice) or other subtype ice, subroutines. The use of two distinct breakers was intended to allow for dealing efficiently with "small" sentries / walls / code gates early on and then a later installed one of the same class was for "larger" equivalents. As the game developed the Runner would have to strategically choose the point in time to overwrite their class-specific breaker as the Corp developed the ice in his forts. There's nothing like that in the current environment, and we're unlikely to see it until several expansions have passed under the bridge, inflating the breaker options for each faction. There are times when the Influence cap seems to be far, far too small.
Let’s consider two comparatively equivalent cards for a moment. O:NR's Edgerunner, Inc., Temps vs A:NR's Shipment from Mirrormorph. Both are operations, and cost 1 (bit/credit) to play each. Let’s also set aside that the identity-less O:NR Corp player could include three (or more) Edgerunners at the sole cost of taking up three valuable slots, whereas a non Haas-Bioroid Corporation player just pumped six valuable Influence down the tubes. Examine the wording for a second. Shipment says: "Immediately install up to 3 cards (spending no clicks but paying all install costs)." Edgerunners, conversely, says: "Gain three consecutive actions, which you may use only to install cards. You are not required to take all three of these actions."
Notice the difference? One gives you actions and the other doesn't. Why does this matter? For one thing, the A:NR Corporation's Purge Virus action doesn't permit a forward spend of clicks from next turn (unlike the equivalent in O:NR). As such the three clicks can only be expended as the first thing that the Corporation player does in his Action Phase and that effectively ends the phase (pace Mandatory Upgrades, an option only for Haas-Bioroid players). Had Shipment sensibly retained the wording from its precursor, then it could have played the double-duty that Edgerunners did subsequent to the Proteus expansion's escalated virus program power levels – allowing multiple installations, or allowing the Corporation to forgo the three actions to purge. This leaves the Corporation looking to purge and still act in the same turn having to resort to Biotic Labor. Any non Haas-Bioroid player wanting three of these in the face of today's Imp hell can kiss twelve Influence goodbye; why would I choose to play any other Corporation than Engineering the Future or Stronger Together? The quandary increases the more potent the viruses get, as the Genesis Cycle rolls on.
Another question is why would Biotic Labor be costed so heavily, that you might consider putting only one or at most two into a deck that is using it OOF? Is Precognition so strong that its effect should be effectively constrained to Jinteki only? Or are these cards Influence-costed so highly as a mechanism for artificially keeping the various Identity’s flavour “pure”?
Looking at the aforementioned Mandatory Upgrades again highlights another design flaw, in my mind. This Agenda might have been better made Neutral and thus been available to all Corporations despite the hefty risk:reward ratio on it. Granted the other Corporations also got excellent cards with which to craft their schemes, but the faction-specific nature of certain Agenda is a limiting factor on the ability to combine such cards into a Corporation scheme, as well as constraining the design process somewhat. There might be an argument made that it frees up the design process somewhat, in that should an Agenda that provides an additional action be too strong in an NBN deck (possibly the case given their “fast advance” options) then by making it HB-specific then the balance issue goes away. Or one might wonder if this is not a lazy solution to the game balance problem?
Similar comparisons might be made between Trick of Light (moving up to two advancement counters for 1 credit) and Falsified-Transactions Expert (moving up to three). Why only two? Of course, there are flip sides: O:NR Snowball cost 10 for a 0 strength breaker, instead of A:NRs 4 for 1 strength, although the latter breaks barriers, not sentries! At least the Anarchs only have to pay 3 credits for their Codeslinger-equivalent in Mimic, and Tinweasel-equivalent Yog.0 costs no more (nor less, which might have made it less execrable).
OK, I have changed my mind. Instead of this being mere hyperbolic rhetoric, I am going to try and include some information of substantive content in the post as well. Here's a card-by-card comparison of the A:NR cards that have given new life to the old Netrunner cards, broken down by expansions released thus far, starting with Core.
Accelerated Beta Test
ABT is Agenda: Research, vs SP being Agenda: Gray Ops. SP required you show the cards to the Runner, immediately flagging an Archives run if you revealed an Agenda, whereas ABT at least leaves you some minimal sense of secrecy.
this is a kludge of a comparison, I could equally have chosen O:NRs Holovid Campaign, but see later. Adonis is 4 credits to rez, vs Braindance at 6 bits. Adonis trashes for 3; Braindance for 7. Adonis feeds 3 credits at the start of a turn, netting a profit of 2 credits in two turns after rezzing. Braindance feeds 2 bits at the start of each turn, taking four(!) turns to turn a measly 2 bits profit. Adonis results in a total profit (if untrashed) of eight credits in four turns; Braindance took six turns to give you six bits.
Functionally equivalent; AS has a 0 rez cost, but its text requires the payment of 2 credits to trigger the ambush, while EAI has a rez cost of 2 but no innate cost in the ability, NB: Unlike O:NR, Ambush nodes in A:NR do not need to be rezzed to take effect. This minor variation in the rules helps get around the questionable elements of TRAP! in O:NR versus Snare! in A:NR - how could one rez the TRAP! ambush node in O:NR when it was not installed?
only vaguely analogous for the similarity in strength (4) and correspondence in subroutines; Ichi costs 5 to rez (not 8), has an additional "Trash a program" subroutine, and can have its subroutines broken by the Runner spending [Click] each.
a much loved sentry in O:NR, Banpei returns effectively unchanged
only vaguely analogous for the similarity in strength (3) and correspondence in subroutines; Viktor is a code gate, not a sentry, costs 4 to rez (not 7), and can have its subroutines broken by the Runner spending [Click] each.
Shipment from Mirrormorph
Edgerunner, Inc., Temps
As extensively discussed above, but Edgerunner grants install actions that could be spent on a virus purge, where Shipment does not.
NB: this surprised me greatly that no such equivalent asset existed in O:NR!
Antiquated Interface Routines
functionally the same, but ED costs 1 more to trash at 2 credits.
Nisei Mk II
Data Fort Remapping (Classic)
Virus Test Site
PJ is analogous to VTS, although see the comments for Aggressive Secretary above regarding rezzing ambush nodes. VTS was more powerful, however, in that it worked like a mini Snare! (TRAP!), with the text: [do 2 Net damage/advancement counter] "or 1 Net damage if it has no counters, even if it is not installed or rezzed. Ignore this effect if Runner accesses it from the Archives..."
Department of Misinformation
CP is 5 to rez, 7 strength, vs. Entrapment being rez cost: 2 for strength 4. The single CP subroutine can only bounce the Runner back to the front of the server it is installed upon, where Entrapment's subroutine allows the selection of any data fort, but costs 2 bits to activate.. CP automatically derezzes at the end of the encounter, where Entrapment remains rezzed.
Inexplicably, but gratifyingly, Fatal Attractor morphed from a sentry into a code gate in the new game version. Otherwise it remains functionally equivalent in rez cost, strength and its single subroutine. This may be the single most redeeming design choice in the entire game, as I almost never played FA, but almost always play Chum!
perhaps only loosely analogous, Data Mine does not give two bits/credits to the Corp for rezzing it, Chihuahua needed to successfully trace1 to do 1 net damage, but does not trash itself.
NK is comparable to a number of O:NR ice with the Ice-Sentry-AP-Hellbolt keywords, but lacks the "stun" subroutine of those O:NR classics. Most comparable to Data Darts over Bolter Cluster (on the basis of doing the same amount of net damage with the first subroutine of DD), as NK has one less subroutine it is costed exactly the same, DD rezzed for 5 at strength 3 with two subroutines, NK is 4/3 with one subroutine. For reference, the stun subroutine read: "Runner cannot break any subroutines of the next piece of ice encountered during the run.", and I look forward to its return in the new game.
Wall of Thorns
Consultants was a Gray Op, otherwise unchanged
Jerusalem City Grid
drastically reconfigured for the new game, to be almost a completely new card. AW is an Upgrade-Sysop and Unique, so functionally akin to a Region in that only one can be installed per server (regions no longer require an immediate rez on install). AW costs 1 to rez (vs 2 for JCG), trashes for 3 (vs 5), reduces the rez cost of all ice in the fort (instead of only walls) and does not grant a strength bonus.
Astroscript Pilot Program
Artificial Security Directors (et al.)
again only loosely analogous; the comparison to ASD, as well as Genetics-Visionary Acquisition, and Executive Extraction is a bit of a stretch. ASD (Agenda-Research) reduced by one the difficulty of future Black Ops Agenda, ExEx (Agenda-Black Ops) similarly reduced Agenda-Gray Ops difficulty and GVA (Agenda-Gray Ops) lowered Agenda-Research, thus all three made the "Golden Triangle" of accelerating the scoring of each other. All were 3 advancement for 1 agenda point. APP is 3/2, and gains an agenda counter that can be converted to an advancement token as a paid ability, thus being able to speed up any Agenda scoring.
NB: there was no Node:-Ambush in O:NR that gave tags when the runner accessed it. This is a better option for NBN than the alternative (missing as yet) Vacant Soulkiller that delivered brain damage.
significantly different from its "predecessor", the A:NR Data Raven is a 4 rez/4 strength sentry (down by 1 in each category). It has the novel NBN pre-loaded ice function of forcing the Runner to choose between being tagged or ending the run. The single trace subroutine is trace2 not trace5, and instead of giving the Runner a counter that generated a tag at the start of each turn, the power counters on the new DR must be expended to grant a tag.
really such different pieces of ice that this is almost a NULL comparison; they are equivalent rez/strength, but MA has a preloaded ice routine that allows an additional advancement in the course of the encounter, and has a trace2/tag subroutine, instead of the "stun" subroutine (cf. Neural Katana above) of Shock.r
adding three to the rez cost of its "predecessor" the A:NR variant costs 8 to rez, but has the novel NBN pre-loaded ice function of forcing the Runner to spend 3 credits to encounter the ice each time, moving Mazer from strong to being one of the most potent pieces of ice in the new game.
somewhat akin to the three fast advance operations from the old game, cheaper in the 1:1 credit to advance ratio, but requiring the runner to be tagged X times to get X advancement counters.
unchanged except to accommodate the altered tracing mechanic; now trace3, not trace5.
San San City Grid
Washington, D.C. City Grid
SSCG is a cheaper rez (by 2, down from 7) and trash (by 1, down from 6) than WDCCG. Otherwise equivalent, except that regions in A:NR need not be rezzed upon installation, but can operate like any other upgrade, installed and rezzed later for the effect.
there was a Hostile Takeover in O:NR, also 3 advancement for 1 agenda point, netting 5 bits when scored; Charity Takeover extended this idea, requiring 4 advancement for 1 agenda point, 9 bits and a Bad Publicity token. A:NR's HT combines both of these - retaining the eponymous card's 3/1 scheme, but netting 7 credits and 1 BP counter instead.
Syd Meyer Superstores
a stretch of a comparison; Archer is a Sentry, Glacier was a Wall. Archer costs 4 to rez, plus an agenda (card), Glacier cost 0, plus 1 agenda point. Archer is +1 strength (at 6) over it's "predecessor", has four subroutines (gain 2 credits/trash a program/trash a program/ETR)
Reinforced Wall was 8 rez (vs 10 rez) and 4 strength (vs 7), but RW was the only wall in the old game with two ETR subroutines. Another comparison might be Toughonium Wall, which cost 13 to rez for the same strength as HW, but had four ETR subroutines. Hadrian's is also advancable ice: gaining +1 strength / advancement counter.
Ice Wall is re-costed to be 1 credit to rez for 1 strength (DW is 0 strength); IW is one of Weyland's advancable ice. NB: ironically, Ice Wall is one of the smallest pieces of ice in the A:NR game, where Wall of Ice at 13 rez/6 strength with four subroutines was one of the strongest walls in the old game.
Shipment from Kaguya
functionally the same, but SfK costs 0, instead of TR's 1
Rustbelt HQ Branch
RS is an Upgrade, vs Rustbelt being a Node-Asset; RS can only install on HQ, otherwise they are equivalent in function; Rustbelt was a 0 rez cost/2 trash node, RS is 2 rez/3 to trash.
Private Security Force
On-Call Solo Team
PSF is worth one less agenda point for the same advancement cost.
Melange Mining Corp
South African Mining Corp
Melange costs 1 more to rez (at 1) than SAMC, and gains 7 credits instead of only 6 for the cost of 3 actions.
Quandary is the closest analogue to Enigma, the latter costs an extra 1 to rez (3) but has an additional subroutine: "The Runner loses [Click], is able." in addition to the 2 strength & ETR subroutine; Enigma is much more potent on this basis, being able to influence the shape of the Runner's turn.
rezzes for 1 less (1) and has 1 less strength (4) than "predecessor".
Wall of Static
Wall of Static
oddly breaks the O:NR pattern of a wall with a single end the run (ETR) subroutine costing 1 more to rez than its strength; A:NR's WoS is 3/3
I chose to compare PAD with Holovid on the basis of the feed-in quantity of money, mainly. PAD costs 2 to rez, which is two less than Holovid (4); conversely it trashes for 4, three less than Holovid (7). Holovid, however, expires after only twelve credits, and takes five turns to make back the rez cost. PAD Campaign breaks even in two turns, profits in three and can feed in credits for the rest of the game if ignored by the Runner. Awesome!
Deja Vu retrieves any type of card or two viruses, instead of just a card, otherwise these are equivalent. Cf. also Forgotten Backup Chip for only 0 bit which could only retrieve a program.
Romp through HQ/Kilroy was Here
Romp cost 2 for a run at HQ with free trashing of accessed cards; Kilroy cost 0 for an R&D run with the same effect; Demolition Run combines the effect (i.e. does not specify only HQ or R&D) for the same cost as Romp.
Lucidrine(TM) Booster Drug
more akin to a Zetatech Mem Chip than a deck; with the same install cost/MU benefit, but the Grimoire has a special ability to pre-load virus counters on virus cards when installed.
Corolla Speed Chip
Cyberfeeder(2) costs one more than the Speed Chip (1) but it's 1 recurring credit can power any icebreakers instead of just killers (sentry breakers), or pay for installing virus cards instead (which the Speed Chip could not).
Corroder is a Fracter and has neither the (irrelevant?) noisy keyword, nor text that forced the loss of 2 total bits from stealth cards
perhaps not the best comparison, Datasucker is a virus costing 1 to install (vs Clown's 4 cost), though each cost an MU, and only building virus counters which can be spent to reduce ice strength on a successful run on a central server, vs Clown's blanket strength reduction.
equivalent in the MU storage, the only Daemon in the A:NR game thus far precludes installing breakers in it instead of simply reducing their strength (though Succubus did not). I compare Djinn to Afreet not only for the likeness in name but also cost (2 ea.). Afreet, unlike its analogue, does not have the "virus tutor" ability to fetch out the programs that the Runner generally will be storing in it.
For the same cost and MU, Medium is far superior; it gains the virus counter "whenever you make a successful run on R&D", instead of Highlilghter's "after". Otherwise functionally equivalent, Medium starts to pay dividends one run earlier than the already potent Highlighter.
Mimic saves four credits over Codeslinger costing seven to install, but otherwise they are alike.
Pattel's required that you made a successful run and break all subroutines on the targeted piece of ice; Parasite just installs on a rezzed piece of ice, and gains a virus counter at the start of each turn. Parasite will cause the ice to be trashed when it reaches strength 0, by any means (Parasite virus counters, Ice Carver, Wyrm or Datasucker or combination of the above). Pattel's could affect multiple pieces of ice without leaving play.
no icebreaker in O:NR was able to reduce the strength of the ice it was engaged with. It's like the bastard offspring of Wild Card and Evil Twin, while being not as good as either and without the presence of Parasite in the game it would be execrable.
Edited Shipping Manifests
Both require an HQ run; where ESM forces the Corp to lose a bit and give the Runner a tag, who then gained 10 bits, AS forces the Corp to lose up to 5 credits, gaining twice that up to 10 for the Runner and giving two tags.
Forged Activation Orders
Forged Activation Orders
Temple Microcode Outlet
(as per the Grimoire) more akin to a Zetatech Mem Chip than a deck; with the same install cost, but one less MU benefit, but the Desperado has a (useful) special ability to pay back 1 credit for a successful run.
comparable mainly in the costing and effect of the cards abilities; Lemuria is Hardware, SeeYa is a Program; Lemuria costs only 1 to install where SeeYa cost 3, however for the discount the ability on the codecracker only works if you made a successful run on HQ this turn (effectively costing an additional action and the bits to make the run).
Early Worm (Classic)
slightly recosted, Aurora is 1 cheaper (at 3) for 1 less strength (1), has the same cost/strength increment (2/+3) but costs 2 to break a single barrier subroutine (inexplicably making this a quite bad barrier breaker).
almost exactly the same, the stat lines are identical, however where BW was +5 strength against the specified piece of ice, which necessitated it being a sentry, FF is able to pick any class of ice and bypass it by spending credits equal to its subroutine count; this can obliterate a Tollbooth code gate quite handily.
Shredder Uplink Protocol
"Armadillo" Armored Road Home
where the Dealer is a Seedy connection, he only nets you 9 credits at the cost of a whole Agenda card, instead of the ~broker's 10 credits for a mere agenda point, and the cost of trashing the Resource: Connection.
unchanged, save that Fall Guy was free, vs the costly cost of 1 credit for the decoy!
Modded, sensibly costs 0 to play, vs 1 for Hijack; each installs either a Program or Hardware, but where Hijack gained three bits (which were returned to the bank at the end of the action/Prep) Modded reduces the installation cost. Cards which trigger on the gaining of credits will not be triggered by Modded.
The Maker's Eye
the original deck was highly favoured, for its "speed chip" function,vs many decks only giving bits for increasing link. The Toolbox costs 1 less, and also grants +2 base link in the bargain. W00t!
Akamatsu Mem Chip
WuTech Mem Chip
cf.Access to Globalsec below, but Rabbit Hole has an interesting deck thinning function if you have the bits to spare.
The Personal Touch
The Personal Touch (Proteus)
functionally equivalent (the O:NR put a +1 strength counter on the breaker in question) though the A:NR card costs 2 less for the same effect
allow me this stretch of a comparison, but Grubb was the only card in O:NR that broke walls, and retained its strength for the duration of the run, obviously the inspiration for the core set suite of Shaper breakers. Apart from that the two are worlds apart: Grubb was 0 install, 1 MU and 0 strength, It cost 2 bits for +1 strength (like BR), but broke one wall subroutine for 1 bit. BR is 4 install, 2MU, 2 strength, 2 to raise by +1 for the run, and costs 2 to break 2 barrier subroutines (regardless of if there is only one SR). Honestly, Grubb would be superior, IMnsHO.
Shaka was a sentry breaker, but otherwise the entire stat line of the GB is unchanged from this.
Net Shield is a program. GKSB is hardware and was free to install for anyone.
Psychic Friend (Classic)
PF is a code gate breaker, and cost 1 less than Pipeline's 3 for the same strength. Pipeline's strength boost lasts - like all Core set Shaper breakers - until the end of the run, whereas PF lasted until the end of the turn. The raise cost and cost to break sentry/code gate subroutines are exactly alike.
unchanged, except Aesop's nets 3 credits, where Smith's returned only 2.
Access to Globalsec
Access to Kiribati
a kludge of a comparison; both are base link resources that cost 1 to install; the second "subroutine" on A2K is redundant as this is a Runner player ability employed in all trace attempts in the new game, and the 1 credit cost to initiate a Base link 1 is free (in fact not a cost) on A2G. Also, all Base link cards are cumulative in A:NR, where in O:NR only one could be used per trace attempt.
Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker
a classic example of how to turn one of the best breakers in the game into one of the worst breakers; BMI paired with Joan of Arc for one of the most cost-efficient breaker "pairs" in O:NR, where Crypsis is heavily situation dependent upon whether it is worth even considering including in the deck. Stat-wise equivalent, Crypsis requires an action to be pre-spent (loading it with tokens) per ice in the server, vs. BMI randomly detonating and needing to be saved with Joan.