by Frisco Del Rosario
1. Dig hole. 2. Cover with blanket. 3. Place bird seed here. 4.
Wait for roadrunner. 5. Eat.
I realized during one of my "what the hell am I supposed to do
to keep Netrunner interesting?" conversations with myself that I
don't do a good job selling an advanceable ambush node.
I contemplated my assortment of constructed corporate decks, and
find that I prefer to include static ambush nodes -- lots of Doppelganger
Antibodies, Traps! here, Setups! there. I suspect that much earlier
in my Netrunner experience, I decided that an advanceable ambush
that was either detected or unsold to the runner was a waste of
actions and advancement counters.
While that's true, it's also true that talking the runner into
a giant death trap is a major rush. The question is, how?
Timing is everything. If the corporation installs and advances
an ambush before the runner can successfully access the fort, the
jig is up when the corporation doesn't "score the agenda". For the
purposes of this discussion, we'll forget the "poison pill" decks
which include many ambushes plus Falsified Transactions Expert to
move advancement counters around. Those decks don't employ psychology
-- they really don't care if the runner runs ambushes or not.
On the other hand, an ambush installed when the runner is fully
prepared to pounce on anything can't be advanced to serious smack
levels. Basic Netrunner strategy in those cases calls for the corporation
to install a small agenda (or "run me" card -- Roving Submarine
is the classic "run me" card) as bait, and let the runner steal
that. Hopefully, it will drain the runner of his bits, and then
while he is refueling for another go, the trap is installed and
Similarly, it's a good play for the corporation to wait for the
runner to play Hunt Club BBS before laying a trap, again letting
the runner burn his powder before countering. Of course, many play
with Hunt Clubs, or Mouse. (I consider it beyond the scope of this
discussion to mention the old Namatoki/ambush chestnut, but perhaps
you don't, and it is, I guess, the only way to make an ambush a
good card when the runner has Mouse or SeeYa in play.)
The corporation has to watch the runner's actions, especially
his discards. If the runner discards a code gate breaker, he's holding
one. That will make it easier to judge whether the runner will be
able to take the bait.
Good runners conceal their programs. Bad runners install their
programs as they get them, and gather cash until they run. These
are easier opponents to kill with ambushes. Along that line of thought,
you'll find that better runners make use of Valu-Pak Software Bundle,
sometimes installing all of their icebreakers in an instant, and
then embarking on a fort, not to mention that Valu-Pak saves actions,
the game's most limited commodity.
The best advertising a corporation can do for an ambush node is
to lose an agenda which can be advanced many times, like the Project
agenda, Subsidiary Branch, or World Domination. If the runner steals
a Project Zurich early on, it won't surprise him to see an card
advanced seven or eight times later. Conversely, if the corporate
agenda looks like it's made up of Corporate Downsizing and Hostile
Takeover, a Soulkiller advanced to death levels will smell like
One of the peculiar aspects of my World Domination deck is that
it deals more damage than my Schlaghund deck. The runner knows that
the agenda must be advanced 12 times, but it's always the
winning agenda, so he is more tempted to rush into a "World Domination"
fort than any other. The thought of a big Silver Lining Recovery
will also move runners into running the Virus Test Site before digging
for detection. Once the runner steals a Project Babylon from the
corporation, the corporation is ready to play similar mind games.
I began this piece by saying that I don't sell ambushes
well, but I just said that my World Domination deck kills runners
regularly. The fact is that the Virus Test Site sells itself --
if I draw an agenda or an ambush, I install it, advance it, ice
it. From the runner's perspective, it looks exactly the same. (For
just that reason, I have scored World Domination behind nothing
but Shock.R because the runner didn't trust the look on my face.)
Another important sales tactic for the corporation is to ice the
ambush with big ice. If the runner has seen a Sleeper and a Crystal
Wall on the subsidiary fort already, and then approaches an unrevealed
piece of ice which protects an advanced card which turns out to
be Chihuahua, the runner will jack out certainly. A Mastiff, though,
will encourage the runner to proceed -- furthermore, the Mastiff
will serve the corporation better later, when he needs the fort
to stand up.
Of course, the previous paragraph can be played entirely backwards
in the bluffing game which makes Netrunner great. Wouldn't it be
cool if the runner jacked out after breaking the Chihuahua, and
then the corporation scored his agenda with a laugh? Then again,
there are a lot of poor runner players who don't think about the
ice they encounter -- they break it, they continue. These poor runners
are to a good corporation as poor poker players are to a good poker
player -- they're sometimes a pain in the ass because they can't