last update 03.09.2006 12:01
Introduction Online Articles Download Section Special Links About
Top Runners' Quarterly
Frisky's Corner
Neal's Last Words

Frisky's Corner

by Frisco Del Rosario

Reverse Spin: An Overview of Bad Publicity

Did the bad publicity aspect of the Proteus expansion unbalance NetRunner or add a new level of excitement? Nine runner cards introduced in that expansion added an element to NetRunner similar to poison in Magic -- if the corporation receives seven or more bad publicity points, he loses the game.

NetRunner constantly delights players by providing a game atmosphere that is so well balanced that contests are often decided by the lack of one action or even a single bit. Bad publicity gives the runner basis for a new and treacherous game plan, but does it shift the balance in the runner's favor?

Following is an overview of the nine bad publicity cards. Seven of those cards are preps -- we'll look at the others first.

This 3-installation-cost virus program is arguably the most dangerous bad publicity card, forcing the corporation to roll a die for each Scaldan counter to start his turns, and gaining one BP point for each 5 or 6 rolled. A counter is given with each succesful headquarters run.

It's possible to construct a bad publicity deck with Scaldan as the only BP source, and some think that a bad publicity deck can't deal enough BP without Scaldan. It's true that two of the Proteus viruses -- Scaldan and Viral Pipeline -- are more likely to win a game outright for the runner than any other viruses.

Code Viral Cache (with or without Time to Collect) and Shredder Uplink Protocol are helpful to Scaldan, as they are to any HQ virus.

Corporate Defense: Extra attention to HQ ice (and the archives, considering Shredder). Timely forgoing of actions. The Disinfectant node (which rose greatly from its joke status before Proteus).

Back Door to Netwatch
Another new wrinkle in Proteus was the addition of hidden, face-down resources. The trashing of Back Door to Netwatch and the cost of three bits permits the runner to cancel the effect of a successful trace (if the effect of the trace had an effect other than or in addition to giving a tag), and hit the corp with one BP point.

Back Door to Netwatch is a terrific card because it serves the runner well during the normal course of the game. For instance, if the runner feels compelled to run a fort protected by strong tracing ice, Back Door to Netwatch will serve to move the runner past the ice -- without an icebreaker -- and deal a BP point.

Corporate Defense: None, except for the impractical measure of playing without the affected trace cards.

The remainder of the bad publicity cards are preps. Two of them have requirements which the runner can satisfy entirely on his own. They are:

Faked Hit
The simplest BP card -- pay five, deal one BP, take two brain damage. Long discussions have been conducted on the viability of a Faked Hit deck architecture, and the consensus is that "all Faked Hit, all the time" constructions work. My thought on the matter is, "why bother?" I think we play NetRunner in order to dance across netspace, and Faked Hit requires no runs. Still, if the corporation has six bad publicity points, Faked Hit finishes the job.

Corporate Defense: Almost none, except for the boredom a formulaic Faked Hitter might feel eventually. Also, a dedicated Faked Hitter might have no contingency plan to run in case the corporation gets wise and simply installs and advances agenda brazenly. It is further possible that the corporation will play Underworld Mole after the Faked Hitter installs a Top Runners Conference (Faked Hit decks rely exclusively on the Top Runners resource for income) to tag him in preparation to kill him.

Poisoned Water Supply
The second-simplest BP card -- pay four, trash two connections (Broker, Databroker, Preying Mantis), give one BP point. Poisoned Water Supply is a useful card because it requires that the runner have two other useful cards preinstalled. Poisoned Water Supply works very well in conjunction with Databroker in a bad publicity plan -- if the runner aims to win with bad publicity, he will intend to invest any stolen agenda in Databroker bits, which will then be parlayed into Scaldan runs, for instance.

Corporate Defense: Again, none, except for perhaps Underworld Mole after a connection is installed.

Four of the remaining five bad publicity preps are played before or after a run. These, I think, are the BP cards most characteristic of NetRunner:

Frame Up
Played on the same turn that successful runs on both HQ and RD are made. Gives 1 BP point, plus an additional BP point for black ops cards liberated or trashed during those runs.

Frame-Up is one of many BP cards with stringent requirements. Therefore, a BP runner needs a lot of hand size to carry those cards before they can be played. Frame-Up also suggests that some detection (Technician Lover, for example) be used in order to reveal a Black Ops card that can be trashed or liberated during the RD and HQ runs.

Corporate Defense: None, but Frame-Up is an expensive card to use -- two bits to play it, plus the bits used to fuel the HQ and RD runs -- and if the runner succeeds in those runs, I feel he deserves the BP reward.

Subliminal Corruption
The corporation gets one BP point for an advertisement (BBS Whispering Campaign, Rockerboy Promotion, Braindance Campaign, Holovid Campaign) trashed during a Subliminal run.

Considering that many corporations feel safe in installing unprotected BBS Whispering Campaigns, Subliminal Corruption is a very good card. In fact, BBS Whispering Campaign is such a popular node, that a case can be made for installing Record Reconstructor and using it in order to put BBS Whispering back on top of RD to get another Subliminal shot at it.

The best partners for Subliminal Corruption are Poltergeist, which lessens the cost of trashing those advertisements, and On the Fast Track, which pays the runner for trashing them.

Corporate Defense: Icing the subsidiary fort, sometimes a foreign notion to the arrogant BBS Whispering Campaigners.

Senatorial Field Trip
Played if the corporation rezzes black ice on that turn. The corp either derezzes that ice, or receives two BP points.

What could be more fun than playing a Forged Activation Orders to cause the corp to lose a pile of bits to inconveniently rez a Liche, and then go on a Senatorial Field Trip?

Played at the right moment, Field Trip deals a major psychological blow, or permits the runner to coast past the ice guarding a critical corporate card. Choice companions are Forged Activation Orders, Ice and Data's Guide to the Net, Live News Feed, Simulacrum.

Corporate Defense: Only Government Contract and Skalderviken SA Beta Test Site will soften the blow of having to rez an expensive piece of black ice for a second time.

Live News Feed
Another black ice punisher. Live News Feed precedes a run, and if the run is successful, the corp gets one BP for each black ice encountered, one for each Black Ops card rezzed during the run, and one for each Black Ops agenda liberated during the run. The bad news is that the runner gets two tags after the run.

Like Frame-Up, Live News Feed requires hand size, and a great deal of patience before the Black Ops cards make themselves known.

I think Terrorist Reprisal would be an excellent card to have in conjunction with Live News Feed. Live News Feed somewhat hopes that the corporation will be playing with Black Ops agenda, and if a News Feed run to steal a Corporate War isn't possible, perhaps a Terrorist Reprisal will make the dirty corporation sorry.

Corporate Defense: See Frame-Up. Live News Feed's costs (two tags!) are high, and if the runner can deal with them, power to him. Playing without black ice or Black Ops cards sometimes occurs naturally, so can't really be considered a "defense" to bad publicity, but merely a more pleasant way of doing business.

The two tags that make up part of Live News Feed's cost brings us to the final bad publicity card, which *dares* the corporation to tag and bag:

Identity Donor
Play Identity Donor during the corporation's turn when it would deal meat damage. Prevent that damage, and give the corp two BP points.

Identity Donor is unique among bad publicity cards in that some runners use it solely as a defense to meat damage, and play with no BP besides that. Identity Donor has helped spawn a new type of deck which gladly takes tags, and springs a trap when the corporation attempts to do damage.

Identity Donor offers the runner plenty of opportunity to bluff, for he can steal Marked Accounts and make Edited Shipping Manifest runs with impudence, daring the corporation to guess whether Identity Donor is in hand.

Corporate Defense: None. Consider different "if tagged" operations.


Wizards of the Coast said that it kept the bad publicity aspect out of the version 1.0 card set in order to keep the game rules simple.

Even after my "Corporate Defense" suggestions -- mostly "none" -- we can take their word for it, I think. In spite of the fact that bad publicity cards are difficult to counter, seven points is a lot of bad press to deal. Also, even though Wizards gave the corporation no "remove bad publicity" cards, the win-loss ratio did not shift dramatically in the runner's favor.


Frisky's Corner