Had a chance to try out the aforementioned LCG starter from fantasy flight last night.
Read on for my thoughts!
In case you haven't heard anything about it as of yet, Netrunner was originally created as a CCG by the creator of Magic: The Gathering (Mr Richard D Garfiled Phd) during the 90's. I do recall having heard about it in the past, and it was always spoke about with fondness, so a re-release certainly had me intrigued.
Fantasy flight have ported it over to their android universe and switched it to their living card game model, the starter set comes with several decks and future expansion packs will add whole sets of new cards, removing the randomness of cracking boosters.
The basic premise is thus, the two players assume one of two different roles, one of you takes the role of the 'Corp' (with an appropriate corp deck) and your goal is to amass a kind of portfolio of works to ensure you're mega rich and powerful. The other player is the 'Runner' kind of like a decker from shadowrun (or various other works of cyberpunk fiction) and its your job to stop the corp and steal their assets for yourself. Each agenda is worth a certain amount of points, and if either player gains 7 or more poitns worth of completed (or stolen) agendas, they win.
If the runner takes any damage while he has no cards left in hand, he dies.
If the corp runs out of cards in their R&D (library) they lose.
During the corps turn they will generally be trying to accrue gold, advance their 'agendas' (these are the assets they need to complete to score to win, and that the runner needs to steal to take victory), or protect their numerous assets with ICE (kinda like dangerous firewalls).
The runner will basically be attempting to build up enough meager resources to make 'runs' on the corps various assets, the runner can attempt to attack the Corps (using the magic equivalent terms) library, hand, graveyard or any uncompleted assets (which could be an unfinished agenda, or could be a bluff and actually be a trap). If the zone the runner attacks is completely free from ice, he gets to look at the top card (if its a library) pick a card at random from the hand or so on. If its an agenda card he steals it, as each agenda card is worth a certain amount of points,a s soon as the runner hits 7, they win. Other cards will do nothing and go straight back. Some cards have a 'trash value' which the runner can pay in gold to chuck that card in the corps bin. Reading that back, it all sounds quite complicated. But in practice it flowed very nicely. I found the theme very engaging and although there were clearly some parallels to magic, the cat and mouse nature of the different roles and different goals made it feel very different.
There were a lot more things going on too, but not owning a copy (yet) and only having played 2 (actually 3, but i'll get to that in a minute) games i wouldn't feel comfortable commenting on the more advanced bits too much.
Theres a lot of tokens.
Taking it back to magic yet again, one of the things i love most about magic is being able to rock up with 60 cards, a dice and a pen and pencil and be able to play all day. Thats certainly not the case with netrunner, theres gold counters, virus counters, tags, bad publicity etc etc. I think if you knew you were only playing 1 particular runner deck vs 1 particular corp (there's multiples of each in the box set) you might be able to get away with trimming some of the counters out and leaving them at home(as far as i could tell, only one of the runners uses viruses for example) but if i can disconnect it from magic and view it as more of a board game than a card game, it has much less need for box control than most other board games we dabble in, so this point is probably a little harsh.
'Are you tagged? Boom, you're dead. turn 2.'
This was mainly due to inexperience, but i got my brains blown out by the corp turn 2 in our second game. I was trying out the runner that mills the corps R&D whenever he loads a virus program, my corp opponent had protected his R&D with ICE turn 1, so i decided to make a naked run on it to get him to REZ it (the corp have to pay gold to activate their defences for the first time) so i could see what it was and load a virus program i had onto it once it was revealed He rezzed it and it put a trace tag on me. I put a virus on it. My go was over with 3 cards left in hand. Turns out his corp deck has a 'do 4 damage to a runner if they're tagged' card. Oh. im dead.
Needless to say, i made sure i removed any trace tags before passing my turn in the following game.
Overall though i thought the game was excellent.
Without a shadow of a doubt i will be purchasing this game soon and bringing it along to an FNG for the rest of you to try out.