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The Dark Future Is Now! Well, Almost!! I Mean, Soon!!!

They also predicted the cancellation of Firefly.

“The good old man buried quite alive,
Near the great river through false suspicion:
The new old man ennobled by riches,
Captured on the road all his gold for ransom.”
– Nostradamus, Century 3 – Quatrain 72

(Back to the nerd action with another piece by PSS contributor and nerd extraordinaire Bill Thomas. Enjoy! – jb)

Not all predictions of future events come to pass. (Let’s hope the Mayans were off a century or two, or else we only have about 150 more good days left till the end of the world). But there is no other way to read the first two lines of those prophetic words from Nostradamus, written over six centuries ago, than as follows: “Netrunner, once thought dead, is coming back!”

Yes, you heard me, Netrunner, one of the first, and possibly best ever CCGs, is coming soon to your FLGS and on-line retailer! The latter half of this precognostication clearly foretells of the economic distress I will soon be in from the expense of another card game…

Even white boys got to shout.

An addition to its other healthy licenses, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) recently announced its plans to re-skin, re-purpose and reincarnate (or to use their lingo: “reimagine”) Netrunner, a great game from the past, under its expanding line of “Android” products (Board gamecard gamebooks). Originally imagined by Richard Garfield (the creator of Magic: the Gathering) in 1996, Netrunner was elegant, smart and exciting. Looking for something richer than Magic, Garfield relished a game where “you played the cards instead of the cards playing you.” (you know, like they do in Soviet Russia – jb) His solution: Netrunner, with its sexy setting, interesting asymmetric game play and innovative rules, which not only allowed, but encouraged bluffing. Many in its day regarded it as one of the best CCGs on the market; some would look back and still agree. Beset with competitors, and unable to thrive in the shadow of its big brother, it folded after only one expansion in 1996. 

Perhaps a game way ahead of its time, FFG’s announcement of Netrunner’s re-run has created quite a buzz. (Shoot, MTV even scooped us on this one – sorry faithful readers, we will endeavor to try harder next time). They even scored the “blessing” of Garfield, who gave nothing short of a glowing endorsement. 

Hooray for oxymorons!

If you are not familiar with the property, it was set in the “Dark Future!” of the “third decade of the 21st century,” (lets see, if my math is right, that would be…ummm…carry the one…eight years from now!!), drawing heavily on R. Talsorian Games Cyberpunk ® roleplaying system. The game accommodated two players, (thus the “asymmetrical” mechanic). Player one, a “Runner,” (like the characters Neo, Trinity or Morpheus from the Matrix films, or the programs and users in the Tron universe), try to hack well defended, world dominating corporate computer systems to liberate classified information known as “agendas” from his opponent, player two, a faceless, merciless mega-corporation who will stop at nothing to protect itself. (“End of line!”)

The Runner utilizes Hardware, Programs and other resources to break through ICE (Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics), traces and viruses, thrown in the way to slow the Runner’s progress, or outright destroy them. Runners make street contacts, tap legal and illegal hardware and software, and gain assistance from other Runners. Using a computer that jacks directly into the Runner’s brain, they navigate a virtual-reality global computer network known as the Net, purportedly established to facilitate commerce. By directly connecting to the Net, the Runner is vulnerable to attack, which could cost them their lives. However, perhaps the Net carries a more nefarious purpose, and so, the Runner fights to undermine its objectives, whatever they are.

The Corporation has access to research and development facilities, an executive headquarters, and Netspace data forts. The goal of the Corporation is to complete secret “agendas” despite the Runner’s attempts at theft and vandalism.

Wipe that smug future-knowing look off of your face, you asshole.

In addition to characterizing it as his best card game, Garfield considered it his “best board game design,” because it played more like the latter. That acclimation was one of the game’s main problems, according to him. The original game’s rules set imposed few limits on deck construction, allowing players to run any number of any card they chose, and then later imposing a limit of four. As a result, its model as a CCG was unsupportable. As a sealed deck game, Garfield believed it was unbeatable. But Wizards of the Coast, Magic’s owner, did not have time for two games, and neither did most CCG players.

Fantasy Flight promises much with its re-release, noting the game will retain its “gritty, noir, cyberpunk feel and the tense, strategic action” of the original. They also tout a revised rule-set to address problematic wrinkles with its predecessor which balanced the game and “plenty of exciting enhancements.” (They have confirmed that the familiar deck construction rule of “limit three per card” will be in play.) One of the new appealing elements is the introduction of more well defined “identities” (“colors,” “factions” or “clans” to borrow terminology from other games), which represent the different deck building options players will have to match their play-style. There are seven of these “themes,” four competing corporations, and three runners. Oh, and there will be plenty of bluffing!

Former top players have been chatting about the release, commenting on the aspects of the original game that were most appealing to them. Some describe game play as “a tight, exciting game of cat and mouse with oodles of bluffing and trap laying.” Still others point out that the fundamental problem of the original game was that “power deck of the week” match ups turned things into a rock-scissors-paper kind of environment, with one specific deck type being built, meta-ed against then superseded. As we know now, that is the nature of CCGs, developing then defeating the “environment.” While the rules set has not been released, some card images have, and they are beautiful. 

Android: Netrunner will be a “Living Card Game,” (LCG) a much different model than a CCG, with smaller fixed sets, frequent releases and no random assortments. The base set, suggested for wide release later this year, (likely with some availability at Gen Con), boasts 252 cards. The FFG LCG model typically features themed blocks of 6-8 sets of 25 unique cards each (with full play sets of three of each non-unique card), on a monthly release schedule, with periodic maxi-releases. Oh, and there will be an “Icebreaker Tournament” Saturday night at GenCon at 5:00 in the card hall! Bring your Runner and Corp decks!

What are your thoughts on the reimagining of this classic? What other games would you like to see rezzed? Chime in with your responses, and heck, maybe, just maybe we can make it happen together!


14 thoughts on “The Dark Future Is Now! Well, Almost!! I Mean, Soon!!!

  1. Ah yes, the dark bastard child of the Deckmaster triplets. Having played Magic competitively for several years, and playing Vtes for fun for quite a while, it surprises me I’ve never played a game of this. Most people who talk about it at Magic events are the guys who use dice to keep their life totals, (these are the guys that will bring their homebrew jank deck to a large tournament, and cry incessantly when it is bested by the best decks. They annoy me) and no one mentions it at vtes events. (those guys are hardcore loyalists) I wonder what % of the FF version will be reprints?

    1. Hey, “man,” *I* use dice in M:TG to keep track of life totals. And I never brought anything but jank to any event. Though to be fair, I avoided large tournaments. I like the game, but man, M:TG players represent some of the worst aspects of gamer culture. Not all of them, I’m sure. Just the ones I’ve met and the people I’ve talked to have met. My first foray back into Magic was at a FNM like a week into Zendikar. I won first place with a really bad mono-black Vampire deck (I literally *just* came back, had *zero* idea of the field, and knew nothing about what came before it.) I had no Nocturnus, and I thought Child of Night wasn’t bad. I played 4 Vampire Bite, because well, it seemed like a black Giant Growth, and I was fielding weenies. Simple. The two Jund players I knocked out were both flabbergasted that they could be beaten by a Vampire deck. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming to be this amazing player (I do think I have an above-average grasp of the game), but both of the Jund guys saw I was playing Vamps and started crowing about their free win. I steamroll them both and they proceed to whine about “who uses Vampire Bite?” I won an FNM here and there and lost interest again, mainly due to the people. Sad state of affairs. Kitchen table Magic is where it’s at. Though I do like drafting. I only played VtES once or twice but I remember liking the game a lot.

    2. Quite a few of the cards they have previewed are either word for word reprints or pretty close, which likely reflects the rules changes they have made. Heck, even some of the flavor text is pretty close, but updated with a less ’90s feel.

      And I too use dice to keep track of buy honor totals in L5R games, but mostly because I would otherwise forget…

  2. Theres nothing wrong with casual Magic, but in a field of 200 you shouldnt be surprised when your “super scweet mono blue mill” gets destroyed by the meta. Thats the way it is. If you can take the expected losses and play it, thats great, I’m sure its a blast when it works. But dont get mad at other players because you brought a knife to a gun fight. And yes, many many Magic players are dicks….at the Magic tables. You have to be, its cut throat. You have to go into a PTQ or SCG 10k thinking that every other person there is beneath you; doesnt deserve to sit accross from you. Or you WILL lose.Thats just competitive Magic.Its not for everyone, but I dont think its the WORST aspect of gaming. Just a different one. And for the most part, those gamers are different people at the Magic tables than they are at say, a Catan table.I dont scrutinize my opponents for any mistake while playing a game of talisman because theres nothing on the line, were all just trying to have fun. Honestly, outside of EDH (Commander) games, I havent had fun playing Magic in a long time. Maybe thats why I’ve started to step away from the scene since my daughter was born, I want to have fun in my limited free time.

    1. Honestly that’s why I quit L5R. We used to play for fun. We’d bash up the local tourneys and laugh the whole time. We decided to travel and we had fun in other places. Great memories created. We also learned about competitive play. I don’t know how much you know about L5R, but in our bubble, we honestly thought we *invented* FETA (Finding Enlightenment Through Air, a cheesy deck that was rampant for a while). Anyway, we started sharpening, playing more competitively, and more competitively, traveling more, etc. Started placing well in larger tournaments. And let that be the focus. When we played at home, it was never for fun anymore, we were only ever trying to tighten our tournament decks. We had a game we’d played for 10 years that we turned into work. So we all stopped. The game is way neat now, but I’ll never go back. I would want to play at the upper levels again, and quite frankly, I can’t afford it in time or money. That all said, I’ve made a bunch of great friends playing the game, and created loads of good memories.

      1. And a lot of extra card stock…

        The same thing happened to our playgroup, word for word. After everyone went their separate ways and the dust settled, TO and I have gotten back up on the horse, and it is taking us some time to get back to the level we were at, as you can expect. But, for now, we are taking our lumps and having fun with it, so, that’s what it is all about.

  3. I always assumed competative L5R was about the one the same level as competative Warlord. The player base was so weak compared to that of Magic, it was easy. For example, when our Magic group played in Open Warlord worlds for warlord, our team made up 4 of the top 8 with myself taking it all. In warlord I think I had something like over 10 major top 8 appearances, and AEG just threw product at players who did well. I would play 1 warlord tournament, take the 2-3 boxes of unopened packs to the dealer hall, and make my money on the con back, it was great. I would try to do the same with L5R, but I hate the Asian themed stuff. (which is ironic, because im 100% positive that the Asian theme is what keeps that game alive.)

    1. The difference in player bases is just a matter of the scale, and the scale is different because of the nature of the “rewards” for playing. MtG gives away lots and lots of money to people who win their big events. There is a lot at stake. People have no loyalty to “color’ in the game, from what I can tell, and are most concerned about what decks will win. For the Warlord and L5R players, it is more about theme and “clan loyalty” than anything else. (Ok, sure there are people int he game just to win as well, but, the rewards are much different.)

      When you have hundreds and hundreds showing up to play in a MtG worlds event, all vying for $10,000.00 or more, you will attract a certain kind of competitor. When you have maybe 200 playing for a box or two of product and naming rights on a card, well, there you have it.

      1. I really do think its that the player level is just that low, at least for Warlord. For example, ive used the same Open deck for something like 7 years and can count the number of losses on my hands. Another example, Ive won 2 fairly large (for the current player base anyways) 4e tournaments, without having about a single 4e card. I simply used any reprints from the old AEG days and made due. Meaning my opponents were using newer, better, more synergistic cards and combos, and were simply outplayed. That being said, Warlord was a much funner environment, and a way funner game to boot. I think this year at Gen Con I will probably play more Warlord than Magic just because I want a Gen Con where I feel like i had fun, even if i do crappy.

      2. I understand the “GenCon was a drag” feeling that comes from playing in grinders and tournaments all day long. Seriously, the most fun I have had there is when I just take my time, demo some new games, find a fun one to play and hanging out with friends until way too early in the morning playing…

    1. I agree. Not that there’s anyone else here, (at least not talking) but…

      So to summarize, high level MTG players are a-holes, Netrunner looks pretty cool, don’t play games unless you’re having fun, which is the entire point of playing a game. 🙂

      1. While nothing has been confirmed or denied, I would only assume that the card backs will be updated and changed, not only for likely copyright and IP issues, but also because, lets face it, what we thought was “cool” in 1996, well….that dog don’t hunt in 2012.

        If the question is, “can I play with my old cards?”…well, I would doubt it given the rules changes, but, with some card sleeves, and some “conversion rules,” (maybe the old school players from Netrunner On-Line will prepare some), a few cards will probably be interchangeable.

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