by Frisco Del Rosario
E-mail and Blackmail
Last week's Viral Pipeline column inspired a little bit of discussion.
Reader Holger Janssen wrote that an advanceable ambush -- or any multiply
installed ambushes -- is an effective defense against Pirate Broadcast
runs out of David Liu's deck.
Jim McCoy, who deals one of the nastiest Encoder/code gate decks,
believes his favorite corporate deck would also stand up to the
Liu deck Bartmoss attack, for it rezzes so many 5-strength Ball
and Chains with multiple "end the run" subroutines for free.
I assembled Dennis Duncan's Pipeline/Clown deck, and played it
twice. Perhaps the deck takes more practice in its handling, or
maybe I suffered two very bad shuffles. I found myself making many
painful discards in both games -- in the second game, I recall that
two Zetatech Software Installers and two Jack 'n' Joes were on the
bottom of the stack, and that I had to play MIT West Tier and draw
cards a second time in order to retrieve two Clowns and a Viral
This week I would like to talk about the runner prep Blackmail.
Pay 12 bits and make a run on headquarters. If the run is successful,
gain one agenda point.
Twelve has become one of my favorite numbers in NetRunner. Twelve
advancement counters for World Domination, twelve bits to play Blackmail.
The first reaction of most players to those tasks is that it's too
much, but -- trust me -- it's not. Twelve advancement counters or
12 bits in order to win the game is cheap. In constrast,
consider Arasaka Portable Prototype, which costs 11 bits plus an
agenda point -- it doesn't provide a win; it provides 3 MU and icebreaking
bits. Now that's expensive!
Naturally, you should only play Blackmail when it wins. You certainly
wouldn't want to invest 12 bits plus icebreaking costs just to reach
six or fewer agenda points; you're better off investing those bits
When the runner reaches six agenda points, it's a whole new netspace.
The runner starts to concentrate solely on headquarters -- how many
bits are needed to make a successful run? Where's my detection card
to reveal the middle piece of ice on HQ? Oh, no! The damn corporate
bastard installed another ice! It seems the most deflating operation
the corp can play when the runner is planning a Blackmail run is
Corporations know the dread of watching a runner feed a Broker
and gain three bits for consecutive turns, and wondering what the
runner has in store. The tension -- a hallmark of NetRunner -- builds
as the corp strives to score his agenda. Blackmail leads to dramatic
Blackmail's greatest strength is that, in most cases, it gives
the runner a one handicap. A failed Blackmail run, on the other
hand, is spectacular and very expensive. Blackmail offers greater
empowerment than other preps which award one agenda point. For instance,
Desperate Competitor and Hot Tip for WNS depend on certain styles
of corporate agenda. Promises, Promises takes detection on the runner's
part, unless he's willing to take a wild shot. Blackmail is a sure
thing which doesn't need the aid of Technician Lover or Mouse.
Blackmail is also an interesting card because it somewhat requires
that the runner be a skillful player to use it. First, it would
be a novice mistake to use Blackmail before six agenda points have
been stolen. Second, the runner has to have the basic ability to
be able to calculate the number of bits needed to complete the run,
sometimes based on incomplete knowledge, and that is a runner's
high art. Finally, the runner needs to have gained six agenda points
-- in the long haul, it takes greater skill to steal six agenda
points than to steal five.
One aspect of Blackmail that isn't true of most other runner cards
is that it makes excellent discard fodder, at any time before the
runner has stolen six agenda.
Why isn't there a bad publicity equivalent to Blackmail? Just
wondering. See you next week.