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

For the multi-birds

Two pages in the April 1997 issue of _The Duelist_ are devoted to multi-player variants of NetRunner. What a waste of space.

Wizards of the Coast research and development team member Shawn F. Carnes is right on the mark when he writes in the lead, "NetRunner is the quintessential two-player game, a battle of wits between radically opposed competitors."

Sure, the social aspect of several friends sitting around a table and sharing a game sounds great, but NetRunner is *not* the game for that. Part of the corporate player's art lies in timing the installation and advancement of an ambush. If the runner can successfully run it before it's advanced far enough, the trap isn't painful enough. On the other hand, if the corporation lays the ambush too far before the runner can take the bait, the runner will smell trouble when the corporation refuses to "score the agenda" or "cash the Information Laundering." In a multi-player contest, I believe that skill is moot -- the more cards your opponents hold, the more likely it is that they hold detection, or shields.

Successful runners cultivate a sharp instinct for running blindly -- without damage protection or sentry breakers -- and cheating death. With two runners at the table, why bother? Let the other guy make the discovery runs.

If you *must* indulge in Wizards' suggested multi-player options, they offer one where two runners face one corporation. The corporation plays, followed by runner A, and runner B. The corporation plays again, followed by runner B, and runner A.

Wizards suggests that the runners spending eight actions per turn to the corporation's three is balanced by the runners fighting against each other -- according to Carnes, one runner investing several bits in trashing a node is performing a service for the other.

My first question: If both runners and the corporation score six agenda points, the corporation will lose by being decked. Do the runners draw the game? What if all three players score six agenda points, but one runner is flatlined, does the other runner deserve to win when the corporation is decked?

Suppose runner A has a code gate breaker installed, while runner B is prepared to knock down walls. Is the corporation favoring one side or the other by installing a certain piece of ice when he has a choice?

I think it could be interesting when two very dissimilar runner strategies collide against the same corporation. Suppose one runner employs a Crumble scheme, running headquarters whenever possible, but the other isn't running at all, saving up for a huge RD dig. Pit those two runners against a corporation prepared for a viral attack, one with Disinfectant and lots of Edgerunner, Inc., Temps. The "big digger" wins this round, but I'll bet on the Crumbler against the fast advancement deck. The rock/scissors/paper aspect of NetRunner at its most pronounced.

The other multi-player variant _The Duelist_ suggests teams two corporations against two runners. Each member of a side must score five agenda points for the team to win. The most unconventional rule permits a player to spend an action to take bits from his partner's bit pool. This variant loses me when Wizards explains if one runner is flatlined, the surviving runner can win only by decking both corporations or dealing a bad publicity win to both. Excuse me? Doesn't this insist that runners play a bad publicity plan if they want to maximize their chance to win this game? Why not increase the agenda point requirement to eight or nine for the survivor, instead?

My advice? Forget all this, and play NetRunner the way it was designed to be played. One on one. The daring data thief against a multiversal conglomerate. An odd number of players in attendance? Drag someone in off the street, and give him a starter deck.

If you must have everyone involved in the same game, play bridge.


Frisky's Corner