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
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
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.
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
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:
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
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.
Again, none, except for perhaps Underworld Mole after a connection
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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:
Play Identity Donor during the corporation's turn when it would
deal meat damage. Prevent that damage, and give the corp two BP
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.
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