Progrunning: Getting to Grips with Netrunner

In Cards, Netrunner by PaulLeave a Comment

Netrunner is a fascinating, rich, thematic card game. The cyberpunk theme puts me in mind of Bladerunner or William Gibson’s Neuromancer and out of all the LCGs it is the one that I find most connects with the theme whilst I’m playing (unlike Joe who finds this the least thematic of FFG’s games).

Decker, soooo wanted one of these.

Decker, soooo wanted one of these.

But… It’s a big game. A big, complex game with a number of card interactions and a rock-paper-scissors-shotgun style of gameplay where the ability to assess risk based upon imperfect information is a key skill. Building your deck is as much an important aspect as piloting your deck, and making the right meta call in both situations often leads to success…

…Well it is for those that want to play at a competitive level (win a Store Championship, compete at a Regionals and above). To the rest of us mere mortals it is an intimidating game. I always feel we’re just missing the perfect play and haven’t quite understood how the game should really be played. Joe talks about his love and hate experience here.

I always think it’s a game that I should play better than I do. I feel like I get the shape of it, but nothing more. When I read about the game it’s like reading about something like string theory. I can kinda grasp the thread of the conversation, but I feel like I’m somehow trapped in a cave watching a puppet show on the wall rather than enjoying the full experience of the real world (cheers Plato!).

I'm third from the left...

I’m third from the left…

And I want to right that. I’m making Netrunner my primary versus game (Lord of the Rings is, and always will be, my favourite LCG… Or perhaps Arkham will knock it off it’s perch?).

But, how do you sensibly learn the card pool, understand the interactions, grasp the underlying maths of the game and be able to apply that learning from the specific case to the general case like experts do? Whilst also playing everything else I want to play and keeping a job to pay the ol’ mortgage?

I could focus on piloting decks – netdeck some winning decks, build them and just play them against opponents at Patriot or on Jinteki. I’d quickly learn what works, what doesn’t and the relative strengths and weakness against other top-tier decks. 

My concern here is that I would be blind to why things worked as they did. I’d have such a narrow range of experience that, whilst I wouldn’t be playing ‘bad’ cards, I wouldn’t actually know why those cards are ‘bad’.

By trying to shortcut the learning curve, I’d, well, shortcut the learning curve and miss out key parts of my education that would give me the holistic view of the game that I want to achieve. 

Basically, I haven’t ever really invested enough into a card game – playing it, thinking about it, writing about it – to have a baseline competence that allows me to just pick up a new game and translate that baseline understanding into a reasonable degree of competence.

FFG's competitive structure - I just want to be clinging onto that bottom rung!

FFG’s competitive structure – I just want to be clinging onto that bottom rung!

The only solution is to contract two words together to come up with a snappy phrase, and execute on that phrase. Which is where ‘progrunning’ came from: progression running.

The plan is to start at the beginning, build decks, play games, get crushed, cry like a bad loser, add another pack in and repeat. All the while making notes about what worked, what didn’t, why it’s like that etc. Researching the cards and trying to discover as much as possible through this organic method as I can.

And then pause it whilst I build the tier 1 decks of the day and see if I’m any wiser about them.

It will also fuel Netrunner articles here, as I document my experience and talk to the wider world about what I’ve (not) achieved.

So, the rules of progrunning are relatively simple.

1. Build base decks for each of the factions out of the core,
2. Add packs in every so often as I experience playing the core decks; swop in new cards etc
3. Play each ID as it gets printed; start with cards as they were printed but then give myself the luxury of playing with any cards from the cycle that they were released in
4. Deluxe boxes get added in release order as well
5. Comment on what I’ve learned in a relevant article; about the cards, the decks and the game more generally

I want to play each and every card printed to see how it affects the game, at least once. I suspect that I’ll start to skip cards in pack as I can’t find a place in the deck so I’m not going to be slavish about this. However, I will keep a record of cards that aren’t played and every so often come back to review why that card’s not seen the table.

I hope that you follow me on the journey (I’ll tag all such articles with the ‘progrunning’ tag so you can easily follow them), and feel free to comment below on any observations or reminisces of your experiences from when you were there in that meta!

Incidentally, if you want to take part look for on Jinteki in the Casual forum, post in the Mostly Off-topic Facebook group, or come down to Patriot Games in Sheffield (mostly on a Friday) and ask any of the staff for me. Hope to see you around!

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