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Initial Thoughts on Strategy, Deck Building


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#1 Runix

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 10:51 AM

I picked this up the other day, as I take an interest in novel game designs and the previews were intriguing.  My initial thoughts on it follow; bear in mind that I've only played solo games to this point and (obviously) only cards from the Core Set, and with only a little bit of customization, so take it for what it's worth.

Asymmetric Play:  I think the asymmetric play is really interesting, even game-defining.  While a part of me wonders if that could have been done in a way that allowed players more flexibility rather than simply picking one of two roles and going with it, it's still a welcome development, in that it strongly encourages very different styles of play and very different strategies.

Bluffing:  The bluffing inherent in the running mechanic is really great - even in solo play I could certainly see its potential.  This is one of the first CCGs/LCGs where bluffing plays such a central role.  As with traditional card games that feature bluffing, it adds a very human element to the game, while at the same time still giving big benefits to players with a deep understanding of the card pool and the game mechanics.

Bidding:  I'm a bit surprised this hasn't been discussed in more depth yet, but this game definitely has a very strong bidding aspect to it, also as part of the running mechanic.  The question of how much the Corp player is willing to pay in protecting his servers, and in how much the Runner is willing to pay in taking a run at them, is effectively a bidding process; but there is also direct bidding in the Trace mechanic, as well as built into some of the individual Ice and Icebreaker cards.  As with bluffing, I see this as a strong feature of the game, bringing over a solid and interesting mechanic from the traditional board game realm.

Income/Economics:  All CCGs/LCGs have some sort of economic model - at a minimum, cards are a resource, but most also have one or more additional resource types (mana, money, etc.), and that certainly is the case here with both Clicks and Credits.  One critical issue with the game, however, is that the supply of Credits is highly variable.  While both sides get a steady supply of Clicks, and can generally trade one Click for one Credit, a few cards can very rapidly accelerate income - most notably, Hedge Fund and Sure Gamble.  Even if the draw cost of the card (one Click) is taken into account, they're basically three free Credits for one Click, which is much faster income than the default.  Given the very high importance of cash on hand - see below - the income acceleration cards seem to be very powerful to me; drawing a lot of them will be hugely beneficial, and drawing very few of them will create a very difficult situation for the player.

Ice/Icebreaker:  Like the Ice/Icebreaker concept overall - it is, again, something of a bidding war, but where deploying the right types of cards can shift the economics of the bidding in a player's favor.  The problem with the Ice, as it currently stands, is that too much of it is really expensive.  Given that the Corp player is looking at protecting - at a minimum - three servers (HQ, R&D, and a Remote for Agendas), it's hard to see when a cost "8" can be deployed to good effect - particularly when the Runner has Inside Job handy.

Overall, Ice seems very expensive, so much so that I think that only the most affordable Ice - generally, anything with a cost of "4" or less - will see regular play.  (This should hardly be surprising, as competitive CCG/LCG play has, over the long term, migrated away from resource intensive cards and toward relatively low resource cards.)  And as mentioned above, if the Corp player does not get good income acceleration, well, he can get the Ice out but it won't do him any good.  The situation is not as critical with the Runner, as the Runner has a variety of Icebreakers available - some very cost-efficient - and only needs one good Icebreaker for a run, as he or she is always on the offensive.

Luck:  Luck is always a factor in any card game, that is a given.  But in this game, luck plays a very strong role in the first few turns of the game for the Corp player in particular.  Drawing a hand full of Events and Agendas is a disaster, while drawing a hand full of income cards and cheap Ice is the basis for a very early Corp lead.  The first turn is particularly important - more so than any CCG/LCG I have played so far.  It's just extremely important for the Corp player to get two Ice down, on HQ and R&D, or Bad Things Happen.  Like, for instance, the Runner having Account Siphon in hand, which against an unprotected HQ on the first turn would be a total disaster for the Corp player.

Deck Building:  This is admittedly a topic for much more discussion.  But the nature of the situation for the two players is, not surprisingly, very different.  The Runner can use typical deck building principles:  an appropriate mix of Icebreakers, Hardware, Resources, and Events, looking for strong synergies between cards, and effective counters for what the Corp might try to do.  Interestingly, there are stronger incentives for the Runner to diversify his deck than for most deckbuilding games, as a wide diversity of Icebreakers puts a lot of tools in the Runner's toolbox (hence the limit on out-of-faction cards, of course).

The situation is radically different for the Corp, as I see it.  Given the critical nature of having Ice readily available - and not just any Ice, but something that can be rez'ed on the first turn - there will be very strong incentives to stack the deck with cheap but effective (anything with "End the Run") Ice to avoid the dangerous situation of having a hand full of useless cards on the first turn.  At the same time, income generators will be critically important as well.  At this point, I think the clearly dominant strategy for Corp players will be lots of cheap Ice, lots of income generation, the bare minimum of Agendas, and very few other cards (e.g., maybe one copy of Scorched Earth, just to put the fear into the Runner).  Given the critical situation of the Corp in the first few turns, I think any other strategy that tries to get clever, with Events or expensive Ice or a Trace-heavy approach, is going to be extremely vulnerable to aggressive Runners with efficient Icebreakers that start running on the first turn.

Long Term:  I'll be interested to see how this game develops out in the longer term.  Right now, I think there is a slight advantage to the Runner, just because the Runner already has a solid variety of cards available that are relatively useful and more or less cost-efficient; while the Corp decks are currently weighed down with lots of useless high-cost Ice (Heimdall 1.0, looking right at you) and unreliable income generation.  Over the long term, I think the balance will shift in the Corp's favor, as more low-cost high-efficiency Ice becomes available, but also as more income generation cards become available.  Unfortunately, I don't yet see a way for more variety to make its way into Corp play just yet; as soon as more cards become available, I think the cheap-Ice-and-lots-of-income approach will be too effective and too safe for sensible Corp players to consider anything else.



#2 Frosty Hardtop

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 07:44 PM

In any game where a resource is being generated and spent to play the game, resource generation has to be one of the player's first and most immediate priorities. Magic decks can't survive without lands to generate Mana, Agricola players need to start producing Food to feed their family, and Netrunner players need to be able to generate Credits to fuel their engine. That said, yes, cards that accelerate resource generation are important and powerful.

With regards to Ice, yes, most Corporation players will field a deck with many reasonably priced Ice and maybe a few expensive ones. However, decks that focus strongly on Credit Generation, such as Haas-Bioroid, tend to have less trouble shouldering the cost of expensive Ice. Protection of your Servers should be the very first thing on the Corporation's mind, and just like I wouldn't keep a starting hand in Magic without 2-3 lands, I wouldn't keep a starting hand in Netrunner without 2-3 Ice.

Deck building, you'd be surprised. The corporation definitely has a harder time of things, they're mostly playing on the defensive, the playstyle is a little more foreign, and they need to rely much more on luck and bluffing than the Runner does, but they also have the benefit of an alternate win condition; murdering the Runner. The Runner does tend to have an edge, granted, but one wrong move and the Corporation can mess you up. One tag is enough to wipe out your resources, or wipe you out entirely. Various strategies have already begun to emerge for Direct Damage Tag n' Bag decks, serious Shell Game decks, beefy Heavy Defense Fortress type decks, and more. The game's asymmetrical gameplay and heavy reliance on bluffing and bidding rewards a risky approach that relies on those factors. As more Data Packs are released, I suspect we're going to see even more diversity, not less.



#3 Syphus

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 10:45 AM

Frosty Hardtop said:

As more Data Packs are released, I suspect we're going to see even more diversity, not less.

 

Much much more diversity. 

One thing that has really been strangling my deck building experiences has been the Agenda point requirements. Not so much that they're there, but because of how many Agendas are in one core set. It actually makes it unable to go over 49 cards if you are so inclined. Granted you could buy another core set, but I just don't believe in that, and either way, you're just getting more of the same cards, which will make it bigger, but not really change strategy in a significant way.



#4 Devlan

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 01:30 AM

 I think that if nothing else, the influence mechanic for adding out-of-faction cards to decks will keep the diversity up, as each faction will gravitate towards a certain playstyle.  It's a solid way to artificially increase diversity, and hopefully there's plenty of options within each faction as well to foster natural diversity between decks.  I'm looking forward to new datapacks and especially new Identity cards to help open up options, but I think even with a single core set there's a lot of different styles you can go for.



#5 profligate

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 12:02 PM

As someone who has played quite a bit of Netrunner CCG, (I still have over 15,000 cards,) factions were initially a bit of a turnoff for me because they genuinely restrict deckbuilding in comparison.  With only a single core set, deck customization is difficult at best, simply because you don't have access to three copies of every card, and added to the faction/influence mechanics restricted to the point of near pointlessness.  With two core sets, you will have 2+ copies of every card, and decks will begin to function a little more reliably, although still not fully optimized.

The issue for me at this point, is that even with two core sets, deckbuilding is still very restricted.  Take Weyland as an example.  Even with two core sets, your only option with Agendas is whether you will use 2 or 3 copies of either Hostile Takeover or Posted Bounty.  That is literally the only choice you have with that block of 11 or 12 cards, which is about 25% of your deck.  Add to that the essentially mandatory Hedge Fund X3, Beanstalk Royalties X3 and PAD Campaign X3, and you have spoken for 20 or 21 cards in your deck -- without adding any ICE yet.  To me, that's restrictive to the point that it's losing enjoyment.

That being said, I love NR and ANR and hope that the forthcoming Data Packs will add enough variety to both the factions and basic strategies to make deckbuilding and gameplay satisfyingly fun. :)



#6 dboeren

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 06:13 AM

profligate said:

The issue for me at this point, is that even with two core sets, deckbuilding is still very restricted.

Of course it is, because there aren't very many cards out yet.  In fact, I would go so far to say that there really isn't any such thing as proper deck building in the game yet.  That will come later, after more releases are out.  What we have today is a game where you can trade out a few cards to customize your pre-built deck, and that's about it.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the full game coming out and being able to start designing decks, but it's going to take some time…



#7 Malgamus

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 06:23 AM

I think there is enough deck building in the base set to get a taste for it. Once the data packs come out things will really start taking off there. I'm glad the card pool is small right now since it makes it easier to learn and master the cards and strategies.



#8 Toqtamish

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 06:31 AM

I agree that there is lots of room for deckbuilding in the core set. I still have not yet tried out every faction and I own two core sets.



#9 radioactivemouse

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 04:22 PM

profligate said:

As someone who has played quite a bit of Netrunner CCG, (I still have over 15,000 cards,) factions were initially a bit of a turnoff for me because they genuinely restrict deckbuilding in comparison.  With only a single core set, deck customization is difficult at best, simply because you don't have access to three copies of every card, and added to the faction/influence mechanics restricted to the point of near pointlessness.  With two core sets, you will have 2+ copies of every card, and decks will begin to function a little more reliably, although still not fully optimized.

The issue for me at this point, is that even with two core sets, deckbuilding is still very restricted.  Take Weyland as an example.  Even with two core sets, your only option with Agendas is whether you will use 2 or 3 copies of either Hostile Takeover or Posted Bounty.  That is literally the only choice you have with that block of 11 or 12 cards, which is about 25% of your deck.  Add to that the essentially mandatory Hedge Fund X3, Beanstalk Royalties X3 and PAD Campaign X3, and you have spoken for 20 or 21 cards in your deck -- without adding any ICE yet.  To me, that's restrictive to the point that it's losing enjoyment.

That being said, I love NR and ANR and hope that the forthcoming Data Packs will add enough variety to both the factions and basic strategies to make deckbuilding and gameplay satisfyingly fun. :)

 

I can see your points and it can easily be seen as "restrictive", but from a game designer's perspective, restrictions create an incredible amount of control so that subsequent expansions make it harder to break. It also helps make the game easier to chew for newer players since they can physically see and identify their character. 

 

It's tough to work around what it currently out, but let's be honest, this is just the core set. I'm really excited to see how they expand the game. I believe there will be more options to customize to whatever you want as well as options to play to the "strengths" of each individual faction. 



#10 kmedlinnc

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 03:51 PM

 In the LotR game the deckbuilding options didn't get particularly juicy until Kazad Dun was released in my opinion.  The first cycle typically introduces some great mechanics and essential cards, but the card pool is still limited.  Once you get the first big box expansion in your hands, you can start to really see some differentiation.

The one thing that Netrunner has over AGoT and LotR is the way in which decks are actually constructed.  The whole influence concept makes intermingling of the card pools that much more interesting.  So the ramp up time may not be nearly as long.

I think the thing that's also incredibly challenging for Netrunner players who want to compete at a high level is that they can't be comfortable with a single faction.  They're going to have to be able to construct a corp and runner deck AND know how to play them.  Focus, card awareness, and board situation are key and during a tournament setting where you're looking at a situation from two perspectives to get you full points … yikes!  It's going to mean that what deck building you do is that much more important.

Netrunner could really become a showcase for competitive play.  AGoT is the King right now for sure, but the way in which both Netrunner and Star Wars are set up could provide some really powerful competitive outlets for gamers over the next 2 years or so.  I'd love to see FFG amp up their organized play support systems, structure, and prize support to encourage this growth.



#11 flamejuggler

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 09:33 AM

 if you only run ice that costs 4 or less, you risk being overrun in the mid to late game when runner has their rig online. cheap ice to rez is typically cheap to pass once the runner has the right programs. having a few bigger ice that are more costly for the runner to break turn after turn is typically crucial for the corp. i definitely know what you mean about magic and cheap cards in competitive play, but the math and economy of netrunner is quite different. resources are spent not untapped every turn, and the amount of actions you can take is limited by clicks, not just your available mana/credits/cards.  games also last more turns on average than magic and there are phases to the game where the advantage swings.

deckbuilding is interesting to me, much more so than the old unlimited no faction model, where you could cram in redundant copies of all the best cards.  the flavor of factions and restrictions makes the game play out in more diverse ways and keeps there from being one super deck as easily. i think the factions were a fantastic addition. influence goes fast with only 15 to use and most compelling cards costing atleast 2 influence, and this makes for hard varied decisions.  the deckbuilding options DEFINITELY open up with more cards, especially the corporation ocne they have choices on agendas.  the deckbuilding variety will explode soon enough.






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