Tag: games

The End of Candy Crush: A View From the Top

by: Jason Waddell

Last night, after returning home from a screening of the terrible-but-not-sufficiently-atrocious-enough-to-be-a-classic Syfy (really?) film Sharknado, I booted up my phone for my new bedtime ritual: swiping candies while listening to Arcade Fire’s latest album.

I polished off a few levels and was met with an unusual message.

end of candy crush

The end.

When I first wrote my Candy Crush review two months ago, I had only tackled one-third of the game’s levels. Several hundred levels later, what’s the verdict?

Cost

To my surprise, the entirety of Candy Crush is well and truly beatable without spending a dime. Although the difficulty continually increased, I never truly hit a brick wall that I had to pay my way though. Which isn’t to say the game didn’t present more than its fair share of frustration. A handful of predominantly luck-based levels required dozens of attempts to complete. Although the levels generally give players between 30 and 50 moves to spend, for the game’s worst offenders, defeat can be all but ensured after only a few moves. Playing these levels felt like taking pulls from a slot machine. Success simply wasn’t possible from most starting configurations. And should you be dealt a promising hand, you still need to play with near-perfect efficiency to seize the opportunity.

All told, I completed the game without once spending money to finish a level. I did, however, pay my way through the content gates (the alternative is to pester friends with Facebook requests) that appeared every 15 levels. Discounting the free credits that were given to my account by King Games, I spent a total of $6.60 while playing Candy Crush Saga from start to finish.

Catharsis

Frustration aside, playing Candy Crush is extremely cathartic. Its turn-based gameplay is perfectly suited for deliberate and calculated play. Personally, I play at a very slow pace, mulling over each move and visualizing future board states in my mind, only proceeding after narrowing down on the most promising option. The game’s limited supply of moves creates some real “back against the wall” scenarios, and weaseling an unlikely victory out of the apparent jaws of defeat can feel truly euphoric. Many games left me wishing I had recorded my gameplay.

Level Design

awfulCrush

At its best, Candy Crush’s level design is truly top notch. Like any good puzzle game (is this where I namedrop Jonathan Blow?), Candy Crush subtly changes the formula to force the player to engage their brain in new and unique ways. There were long stretches of levels that hit the perfect balance of creativity and challenging. One particular level had me stuck for days, but the design was so engaging and skill-testing that I was almost disappointed when I finally cleared it.

But at its worst, Candy Crush is just a shitstain. Some levels give the player no freedom of movement, laying them at the mercy of forced-moves and a cruel RNG mistress. Others provide challenging objectives that can be entirely circumvented with the purchase of a given bonus.

Conclusion

There’s a good game built into Candy Crush, but it’s wrapped in the outrageous trappings of a cash-extraction gauntlet that intersperses compelling gameplay with barriers that demand tribute be paid either in dollars or in frustration. As much as I begrudge the formula, Candy Crush Saga is clearly a success by any conceivable metrics. For better or worse, the free-to-pay model doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

pennyArcadeLeagueOfLegends

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Rogue Legacy Review: A Skill Grind

By: Jason Waddell

I don’t have time for bullshit.

Games with superfluous filler to be disrespectful to me, the player. It didn’t used to be this way. Back in the day you found yourself in World 1 – 1 and ran to the right, and didn’t stop running. The industry has changed. 22 years after the release of Super Mario Bros. came Super Paper Mario, a game that effectively served as a bad marriage simulator: packed to the brim with vacuous dialogue and errands, and mostly devoid of action.

Thankfully, there’s one genre I can always count on to treat my time with the respect it deserves: roguelikes. For the unaware, the defining feature of a roguelike game is that the player is given only a single life. Lose it, and all progress is lost. Back to square one. Life after life, you gain literal experience: you learn more about the game’s systems, its tricks, and gradually you gain the skill to make deeper and deeper inroads into a game’s (typically) fiendishly-difficult dungeons.

rogueLegacy1

Roguelike’s come in all shapes and sizes, and Rogue Legacy combines the typical roguelike construct (one life to live) with Metroidvania-style gameplay: platform based castle exploration. However, Rogue Legacy shakes up the formula with one very pivotal alteration: when you die, you don’t actually lose everything. After each life, you can spend whatever hard-earned coins you collected to purchase upgrades that will permanently affect all future heroes you send into the dungeon.

rogueLegacyUpgrades

To reenter the castle, you must sacrifice all (or, after some upgrades, nearly all) of your gold to the castle’s Gatekeeper.

rogueLegacyCharon

The result is that you must acquire a minimum threshold of gold during a run for that run to be of any use. If I need a 1200 coin upgrade, a run that yields 800 coins will be all for naught, as I have to surrender those coins to the gatekeeper before reentering the castle. Naturally, the upgrades become increasingly expensive, requiring increasingly successful runs to continue your purchasing progression.

Eventually you’ll encounter one of the castle’s five bosses…

rogueLegacyBoss

…and you’ll get shitwrecked.

Your stats aren’t there. Bob and weave all you like, the bosses’ damage output will simply outclass yours. True, you may need more skill (and you will quite noticeably improve), but mostly you need more time. You need to grind. After the game’s honeymoon phase wears off (for me, somewhere around the 7 or 8 hour mark), you’ll start to see the grind for what it is. Each life becomes less about exploration and discovery, and more about putting in the time required to earn sufficient upgrades.

At their best, roguelikes offer an unparalleled emotional thrill. Runs of Binding of Isaac have me tensely teetering on the edge of my seat while holding on to that last life point. They capture my emotions, leave lasting impressions.

Runs of Rogue Legacy bleed into one another, and have me looking at my watch. Ultimately no single run is all that meaningful or emotionally satisfying. Just another stamp on the time sheet. Although skill affects the efficiency of your grind, the fundamental nature of the activity doesn’t change. It’s still a grind.

It’s a shame, because the game does a lot of things well. The gameplay is tight and skill-testing, and maneuvering your character is truly a joy once air dashes and double-jumps enter the mix.

Rogue Legacy does many things well, but leaves me yearning for a game where skill, not time, is the primary currency.

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We need to talk about the Crush

We need to talk about the Crush: A Candy Crush Saga Review

by: Jason Waddell

My untested mental image of obscenely popular freemium Facebook games is intrinsically linked with the consumer exploitation: addictive systems with restrictive content access mechanics and a pay-to-progress business model. Creating an addicting progressed-based experience is relatively trivial in the gaming world. Even the game Cookie Clicker, whose sole mechanics include clicking on a digital cookie and purchasing items, has managed to get its addictive hooks into even the savviest of gamers, but is thankfully truly free to play.

Not so with Candy Crush Saga. Countless ink has already been spilled on the supposed evils of Candy Crush and its infamous Facebook predecessor, Farmville. Like its predecessor, I had been content to ignore Candy Crush Saga entirely. That is, until a coworker with respectable taste in games recommended it to me. We’ve played games like Set, Hive and Starcraft II together, and he’s far too busy to make time in his life for shallow time-wasting fluff.

With my curiosity piqued, I decided to discover first-hand what all the hype was about.

Gameplay

Match-three style games have never been my forte. I first discovered Bejeweled as a way to pass the time in a high-school computer science course, but found the gameplay rather shallow and unsatisfying. I’ll stick to Tetris on the TI-83, thank you very much. Years later I gave the genre another look based on Penny-Arcade’s Puzzle Quest recommendation, but even with a layer of RPG mechanics slapped on top, the gameplay soon became repetitive and tedious.

Candy Crush’s gameplay surpasses both of these.

Firstly, Candy Crush is surprisingly tactical. Rather than simply reward the player with extra points for combining four or more candies together, the combined candies leave behind one of four different special candies based on how the original candies were combined (a horizontally striped candy, a vertically striped candy, a wrapped candy or a color bomb).

candyCrushCombinations

When removed from the board, each of these special candies unleashes a unique but precise pattern of destruction on the board. Further, combining two special candies causes a devastating display. Progressing in Candy Crush requires skillfully and tactically setting up special candy effects to achieve each stage’s objective.

Secondly, with few exceptions, Candy Crush levels are restricted in the number of moves that they allot to the player, as opposed to a time-based restriction like the ones used in Bejeweled. This change fundamentally overhauls the experience. Bejeweled was a test of how well I could maintain my peripheral vision over the board while frantically executing matches. Candy Crush allows me to lay in bed and mentally mull over each move and its consequences at a relaxed pace.

Combined with the tactical play and we have the formula for an extremely satisfying experience. Although the game is wrapped from head-to-toe with colorful child-friendly graphics, the underlying gameplay engine is exceptionally skill-testing. Going deep into the tank to find a sequence of plays that completes the stage before your supply of moves runs dry can be a genuine rush, and taps into the same emotional feedback that hallmarks the best board games and card games.

candyBombs

Lastly, in addition to the core special candy mechanics, the game designers at King have packed the levels with interesting mechanics and obstacles: bombs that will end the level if not cleared within a certain number of moves, squares that must be unlocked by making matches in adjacent spaces, restrictive chocolate that slowly spreads over the level like Zerg creep, and so on. Beyond adding difficulty, these mechanics serve to keep the gameplay fresh and force the player to prioritize their actions differently from stage to stage.

As far as pure gameplay goes, Candy Crush passes with flying colors. I’ve never considered myself a fan of the genre, but the game’s designers have packed Candy Crush with innovative and intelligently designed systems that can keep even the most hardcore gamer satisfied. Of course, the age of evaluating games purely by their gameplay is rapidly disappearing. Free-to-pay games, however fun, are intrinsically linked to their monetization models.

Monetization

On the surface, Candy Crush is well and truly free to play. There is no download cost, and so thus far it has been fully possible to progress through the game without ever paying a cent. In two-weeks I have beaten 160 levels without once paying money to beat a stage. But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t paying. According to a ThinkGaming analysis, at the time of writing, Candy Crush is hauling in an estimated $850,000 in revenue per day. Regardless of the precision of that estimate, it seems apparent that consumers are paying in droves to get their fix.

The game itself is constantly poking and prodding the player to spend money. Let’s count the ways.

0) Difficulty Spikes (and luck-based levels)

Although not strictly a monetization scheme, Candy Crush’s inconsistent difficulty curve is the bedrock that enables all of the other methods. Every handful of levels the player will face a stage that is considerably harder than the ones that precede or follow it. This is obviously devious but also a little clever from the psychological perspective. Candy Crush is generally fun, and after a really hard level the player is rewarded with a series of entertaining and satisfying levels. Several times I have been stuck on a level for a dozen attempts, finally beaten it, then proceeded to clear the following five levels without losing a single life.

If the game only got harder, players would give once the game’s difficulty surpassed their skill level. But with these difficulty spikes, the promise of fun is always just one level away. Perhaps, in a bout of frustration, you’ll plop down some cash to increase your odds of progressing past this level. And if you do, you may even feel good about it. Look at all these fun levels you get to play now! This pattern is baked into the level progression, and soon enough it becomes readily apparent which ones are the “hard ones” and which are not. That’s fine, but my biggest gripe comes with the fact that progressing past some levels has very little to do with skill and a lot to do with luck.

awfulCrush

Some levels, like the level above, have restricted board space, and offer the player little in the way of meaningful choices. Here we see the starting configuration for a level that only has one possible move, occurring in an irrelevant corner of the board. On this level, often my first dozen or so moves offered no real choices, and winning required getting a fortune opening from the Random Number Generator.

Make no mistake, there was still skill involved eventually, but whether the level was even viable or not felt like taking pulls from a slot machine. Eventually you will get lucky, but the grind can feel pointless and frustrating.

1) Limited number of lives

The player is given a maximum of five lives. Every time you lose a level you lose a life, and lives are gained naturally every 30 minutes. If you’ve been away for at least two and a half hours, you’ll come back to a full set of lives. Personally, I like this mechanic because it forces me to make the most out of each level attempt and places some weight, however trivial, on the gameplay. Aside from rogue-likes, single-player games often struggle to create meaningful failure states, as you can often just reload from the last checkpoint and have another go. Restricting my number of allowed attempts forces me to take things more seriously, and makes the victories seem somehow more meaningful.

Secondly, it provides a natural limit that tells me to stop playing and go do something else. I will never pay for lives, and certainly don’t want to spend all day crushing candy. Running out of lives provides the gentle push to get off my rear and do something worthwhile with my time.

For those who don’t want to wait, however…

candyCrushLives

2) Limited number of moves

Although each level technically has a fixed move limit, the limit can be negotiated at any time by greasing some palms. As soon as you start to run low on moves, Candy Crush will pop up the following gentle reminder in the corner of the screen:

candyExtraMoves

Perhaps the most impressive part is just how well calibrated Candy Crush’s levels are. I can’t count the number of times I’ve lost a stage when sitting one move away from victory. Even more devious is the fact that, on stages where extra moves can be purchased, the screen will hover for a full second on the board after defeat to let the player see just how close they were. “Two more moves and I can get there!”. For losses where moves can’t be purchased, such as losing to a bomb detonating, the player is immediately whisked away to the defeat screen.

3) Extra Items

Stuck in a jam that extra moves won’t fix? Visit the Yeti Shop at any time to buy your way out of it.

hammerTime

4) Crossing Bridges

After every fifteen levels or so, you will encounter a bridge that restricts further access to the game. To cross it, you can either pay 3 Facebook credits ($0.30 total), or pester friends until three of them give you a ticket to cross.

candyCrushBridge

This is the only monetization scheme I have supported. I don’t mind paying for content, and certainly don’t want to pester friends and relatives and panhandling for dimes. Mobile users have the additional option of completing special challenge stages to cross the bridges in lieu of payment. Thus far I have crossed about ten bridges, racking up a $3.00 tab. This feels like a reasonable rate to me, and the transaction doesn’t compromise the integrity of the skill-based gameplay.

The Geometry Wars Effect

If you play Candy Crush on Facebook, you’ll soon discover that you’re not the only one. Your aunt from New York? The loser who always tried to copy your Chemistry homework in high school? You’re old flames? They’re all on there, and the game constantly checks in to show you how you rank against your friends on each level and in the game as a whole. Chemistry cheater made it to level 120? You can beat that moron. Well, maybe. If you could just get past level 79. Maybe you could use a Lollipop Hammer after all..

Best of all, there’s no way to tell if your Facebook friends shelled out cash to beat the preceding levels. You may have your suspicions about the homework hustler, but Candy Crush doesn’t kiss and tell. So if you decide to Paypal your way through the next stage, your friends will be none-the-wiser.

Conclusion

Candy Crush Saga is a highly polished product with legitimate gameplay merit that is coated and dripping with monetization hooks. The game is as free as you want it to be, so long as you possess the discipline and emotional fortitude to resist its addictive elements and block out the pay-to-win temptations. If you don’t have those qualities, consider Gizmodo writer Ashley Feinberg’s story of spending $236 on Candy Crush in one month to be a cautionary tale.

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In a Strange Land: Words with Adversaries

By: Jason Waddell

RiptideLab is the first website I’ve ever created, and as with any new venture, there are surprises involved. Sure, you and I may think of ol’ RiptideLab as a hub of cube drafting discussion. Even a cursory glance at our page might confirm this hypothesis. But most of the people who find their way to this site via Google search don’t come for the games. They come for the fur.
anthrocon

Last month I wrote a blog post about my accidental visit to the world’s largest furry convention. Since then, web searchers have been visiting in droves. I can’t imagine these people are finding what they’re looking for. In a satistfying bit of symmetry, the furry enthusiasts are searching for furries but find a gaming site. What do they think of what they find here? Do they immediately high-tail it for greener pastures? Did they leave furrious and feeling ostrichsized?

My experience at Anthrocon was simply Part 1 in a trio of Pittsburgh tales. During my formative years I developed the regrettable habit of stumbling into gaming situations where I didn’t quite belong.

Today’s story started at the grocery store, of all places. Pittsburgh shopping trips were a “cooperative” venture in the loosest sense of the word. My wife came armed with a meticulously prepared list, and I did my best to implement lessons from my civil engineering course by placing myself and the shopping cart as to minimize the reduction of laminar flow of customers through the store. Translation: I stayed out of the way. Which sounds easy (and is, in fact, easy), but if you’ve ever set foot in a supermarket*, you’ve discovered that at least half the populace spreads their carts throughout the aisles as if they’re setting up a goddamn Maginot Line.

While wedged between the lemons and the bananas near the entrance of our local Giant Eagle, I spotted a sign for a weekly Scrabble night in the area. “Wednesday evenings, 7:00, Imperial House, Room 323”

The following Wednesday evening I arrived at Room 323 of the Imperial House at 7:15, along with my wife and our friend Jess. In tow we carried a tray of cookies and a copy of Pandemic in hand, in case anybody wanted to play something other than Scabble. We had grossly mis-assessed the situation.

“You’re late.”

The room smelled of mothballs and denture cream, and was host to a couple-dozen retirees silently laying tiles at two-person card tables. A couple dozen retirees and Stan, our host and director of the Pittsburgh Scrabble Club. The first round had already started, but with 17 players that evening, Stan had been the odd man out.

What happened next is rather foggy in my memory. The three of us (myself, my wife, and Jess. sorry Stan) were not allowed to play in a game together, as sanctioned Scrabble games are between a man and a woman strictly two-player affairs. We were issued official regulation scorecards and “digital Scrabble® clocks”. I was paired against Stan. Across the room players complained that neither Jess nor my wife were using the timers correctly. Shortly thereafter the girls decided it was time to go home.

Our time at Imperial House was abrupt and jarring. We came looking for a social gathering, but had wandered into the Scrabble equivalent of a geriatric PTQ. It’s apparently a common occurrence. A Pittsburgh blogger visited the club and wrote the following:

Every player was focused and serious – there were no smiles or jokes, and certainly not any laughter. One women told us how joining the Scrabble club has completely ruined recreational play for her – she can’t stand the conversation and lighthearted nature of it all. Those of you who know me will agree that this is not for me.

This is a fascinating testimonial. I always assumed that the grumpy grognards who frequented our local PTQs had always been that way. Bristly, unsociable. Were they, too, once filled with smiles and jokes and laughter?

Still curious, I turned to the internet to find out more about this club I had encountered. Would there even be information online? Did these people know how to make or use a website? Maybe Google could find the answers. ‘Pittsburgh scrabble club’.

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Oh. Easy! Let’s dig around.

Their welcome page is an exercise in tautology.

You have found the website of the Pittsburgh Scrabble® Club (North American Scrabble® Players Association Club #352) in Pittsburgh, PA. We are one of 11 clubs in Pennsylvania. Feel free to explore the site by way of the links above and read on to learn about us.

It’s fortunate they have links. My plan had been to randomly peck URLs into my browser until I landed on another one of their site’s pages.

The Pittsburgh Scrabble® Club is fairly old as you can tell by our club number. However, when a previous director moved west the club fell on hard times. Now, we are in a rebuilding mode.

I’m going to be honest, I didn’t realize it was possible for a Scrabble Club to ‘fall on hard times’. What does that even mean? Were they playing in back alleys just to keep the game going? ‘Previous director moved west’? The whole thing reads like a Dickens novel.

The age range of our players is from about 13 to about 85.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

It’s not just your club number that’s old. Sure, it’s feasible that a 13-year old wandered into the club on accident once. But I can tell you from experience this place was not hospitable to the concept of youth. What would happen if they stayed? Would their body start rapidly aging like Robin Williams’ character in ‘Jack’?

I took the liberty of visualizing what their player-age data might look like.

plot2

Let this be a lesson: the range is rarely a very informative statistic.

The skill level in our club is very wide. It ranges from pretty good “kitchen table players” to just below expert level.

Expert level? Is there some sort of Scrabble Pro Tour? I mean, the game, like Magic, is owned by Hasbro, and I doubt there are players shelling out thousands a year on Scrabble product. How much money could there be in such a venture?

Sierra Exif JPEG

Oh.

Unrelated fun fact: The winner of this weekend’s 4500 person Grand Prix Vegas Magic tournament wins $3500.

 

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Android: Netrunner Full Review

By: Jason Waddell

Last month I gave my initial impressions of Android: Netrunner, wherein I introduced the basic ideas of Android: Netrunner and gave my thoughts after my inaugural 90 minutes with the game. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to play against a variety of opponents both on- and offline, and can now offer a fuller assessment of the game’s design.

One of Netrunner’s marquee selling points is that it is a non-collectible game. The core set and subsequent expansions come packed with a complete playset of each included card, eliminating the need to reach for your wallet whenever you wish to create a new deck or tinker with an existing one. Although this sounds like a universal positive, it does come with significant design baggage: the same product has to satisfy both beginners and veterans alike.

Android: Netrunner is a deep and complex game, often to the point of being intimidating for a beginner. Several cards were either misplayed or misinterpreted in my early matches, and I found myself ending each playsession to scour Google for clarifications on cards or plays that didn’t quite make sense to me. The problem is apparently widespread, as despite a rather lengthy rulebook and supplemental online FAQ from Fantasy Flight Games, many gameplay elements remained unclear.

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By contrast, a game like Magic: the Gathering is both more complex than Netrunner yet simultaneously more accessible. Wizards of the Coast have spent years lowering Magic’s barrier to entry, from the beginner-friendly “Duels of the Planeswalkers” recruitment program, to a pipeline of products designed to ease players into the more fully-fledged environments. I spend my days playing and writing about one of Magic’s most advanced formats, but I started with low-power decks that practically played themselves.

Netrunner is certainly better suited for learning under the tutelage of an experienced player, but for those without the luxury, I do hope you’ll power through, as Netrunner’s gameplay is both deep and rewarding.

The primary gameplay mechanics used in Android: Netrunner are resource management and bluffing via hidden information. The two mechanics blend to form an experience that is simultaneously tense and playful. Rather than sell you on the concept myself, I turn to the words of Richard Garfield, Netrunner’s original designer:

When one player knows something that another player doesn’t a world of game opportunity opens up. This opens the door to game theory – where there is bluffing and misdirection, and the play of the game can leap from the dry statistics of the rules into things like reading the opponents and smelling fear. At its best it allows a heady mix of intuition and reason that is hard to match. Hidden information is not appropriate for all games, but I never design any game without considering it long and hard.

Like luck in games, hidden information can increase the breadth of players that will play it. Whenever I learn a new game with no hidden (or inconsequential) information I know there are some players in my playgroup that will make that game a misery to play. They are not doing it to be abusive – but they can’t help themselves when the optimum line of play is there to be calculated. Even the luck of dice may not reduce their calculation – because they can always seek the probabilistically best move. But if there is meaningful hidden information they can’t overcalculate because they know that other people might be misleading them. And they also can make more arbitrary moves because they know that this may mislead the opponent.

– Richard Garfield, “Design Lessons from Poker

I’m a statistician by trade, and people are often surprised to discover that I don’t enjoy games with complete information. If a game state can be solved, my brain yearns to solve it. The wheels turn and turn looking for an answer, and I can’t turn them off. This is immensely dissatisfying. I don’t play games to solve problems. I play games to play.

As Richard Garfield notes, one of the secret benefits of hidden information is that it can cut down on analysis paralysis. You can only process things for so long before you shove your chips in one direction or another.

snare netrunner cardaccelerated beta test netrunner deckaggressive secretary netrunner

A key element of the design is that the card types Assets, Agendas and Upgrades are all played the same way: face-down on the table. With exception to depleting the Runner’s hand of cards, the Corporation’s only path to victory is “advancing” 7 points worth of Agendas. To advance an Agenda, the corporation spends one credit and one click (action) to place an advancement token on a face-down agenda. The above “Accelerated Beta Test” is worth 2 points and requires 3 advancement tokens to be scored. In total, scoring this agenda requires 4 actions: one to play the card from your hand onto the table, and three to advance it. By design, the corporation only has three actions per turn. Fully advancing an agenda almost always requires passing the turn back to the Runner with an Agenda on the table.

Such, the “safe” play is to first build up a defense of “ICE” to guard the agenda before playing one to the table. On the runner’s turn, he or she can make a “run” at one of your servers, which may or may not be home to an agenda. If they survive the gauntlet of ICE you have placed in front of them, the runner steals the Agenda and scores it for themselves. Of course, as the corporation, you can’t simply hold your Agendas in hand until there’s a well-guarded server waiting for them. No, Netrunner’s design is far too clever for that.

Two mechanics introduce an interesting tension to this dynamic. Firstly, the runner can make a run at just about anything. They can make a run at the corporation’s hand to access a random card from the corporation player’s hand. The runner can make a run at the corporation’s deck (to access the top card) or discard pile (to access all cards there) too. Secondly, the corporation player is required to include a certain number of agendas in their deck.

The Runner will run at anything that isn’t nailed down. As the corporation, a valuable tool against this constant assault is the power of misinformation. The inclusion of assets like Aggressive Secretary and Snare! in your deck allows you to disguise your intentions and slows the runner down by forcing the runner to prepare for the worst before attempting a run.

breaking news netrunner
An Agenda that can be played and fully advanced in one turn. However, its benefit (giving the runner 2 tags) expires at the end of turn. Well designed tension all on one card. 

This system of mechanics allows the player to imbue their play with an incredible degree of style. Like Poker, Netrunner is less a game of mistakes than it is a game of opportunities. Two players with different temperaments can attack the game with different strategies, even with the same deck.  An aggressive player bears more risk, but can get away with certain gambles that a conservative player cannot. And like poker, sometimes it’s best to randomize your playstyle as to not give your opponent the gift of free information.

Like all card games, Netrunner is host to its fair share of randomness. Netrunner takes a novel approach to variance management. The corporation and runner players get 3 and 4 “clicks” (actions) per turn respectively, and clicks can be used in a number of ways. At any point, you can spend one of your actions to draw a card or a credit from the bank. This is not the most efficient way to draw cards or earn credits, but the availability of these options smooths out the game enough to prevent the “pointless” games that can occur in other card games like Magic while still ensuring that duels play out differently from game to game.

noise identity netrunnerkate mccaffrey identity netrunner

Best of all, Fantasy Flight Games has managed to create a game whose play is both diverse and consistently interactive. The game’s 7 factions (3 runners, 4 corporations) attack the game from very different angles, but the fundamentals of the game’s beautifully designed rules system holds it all together. The corporation must include Agendas in their deck, and the runner must find a way to steal said Agendas.

Android: Netrunner comes together to form an experience that is far more than the sum of its parts, and is hands down the most innovative and engaging new game I’ve played in the last decade. For a heady mixture of hidden information, bluffing and interactive resource management, look no further.

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