by Frisco Del Rosario
You pays your money, and you takes your chances: A look at random
Did you hear about the runner who calculated that he need 43 bits
to steal the winning agenda before the corporation could score it,
so he cashed in an 18-bit Broker, and played Playful AI with the
plan of earning 25 bits before starting his run.
Before you know it, the runner rolls a string of twos and threes
and soon he has 25 dice in front of him, which he starts tossing
with the idea of keeping bits now. He starts rolling fives and sixes,
and then he's down to five dice, and he starts rolling frantically
for dice, but he's out of luck, and the end result of Playful AI
-- once again -- is "pay one bit."
Don't let it happen to you, reader, put those random cards away.
Granted, the runner in our example needed 25 bits, and only Playful
AI and misc.for-sale can provide that desperate bit burst, but I'm
suggesting that you let that one game go, and earmark that Playful
card slot for a Score!. In the long run, you'll be glad you gave
Let's look at all of the random cards, starting with the purple-backed.
Perhaps you'll find that you no longer have to pack a six-sided
die with your counters.
Roadblock -- I loved this card at first sight. "Wow, half the
time this 2-cost code gate will be as strong as a Scramble, Keeper,
or Mazer!" I put three of them in my favorite corporate deck, and
then something weird happened. A runner Tech Lovered an agenda,
and simply ran into the Roadblock until I rolled a six, and the
darn thing derezzed!
Do the math. In 100 encounters with the standard, 2-cost Quandary,
Codecracker will pay 200 bits to break it. In 100 encounters with
Roadblock, 84 times the Codecracking runner will have to pay an
average of 2.5 bits, but the other 16 times, he'll pay zero, *and*
the corporation will have to re-rez Roadblock. After 100 encounters,
the Roadblocking corp will have paid about 34 bits in rez cost,
far outweighing the gain from the occasional added strength.
Rio de Janeiro City Grid -- Perhaps the most popular region, and
why not? One rez cost, six to trash, freaky card art, and a 16 percent
shot to end a run every time the runner passes rezzed ice on the
fort. Throw six pieces of ice over Rio de Janeiro, and you're set,
Wrong. Let me tell you about the Law of Independent Trials, which
says in layman's terms, "the dice have no memory." Even if the corporation
rolls "non-ones" on the first 37 pieces of ice on a Rio fort, it
doesn't matter a lick on the thirty-eighth and last piece of ice.
It's still just one more 16 percent chance to roll a one.
Without the aid of Chester Mix or Fortress Architects, it costs
15 bits to install six pieces of ice on a Rio region, preferably
the silly Proteus ice which awards bits when it's rezzed (only Misleading
Access Menus plus Encoder, Inc. is worth a play). I say, lemme use
that 15 bits for Neural Blade, Rock is Strong and Mazer. You can
take your 16 percent dice rolls; I prefer a sure thing.
Schlaghund -- Schlaghund is the best of the corporate randoms
because the corporation is in control of Schlaghund's destiny --
that is, the corporation can wait until the runner has six or more
tags before walking the dog.
Compare Schlaghund to Rio de Janeiro in this fashion: If Schlaghund's
card text said, "Roll one die for each of the runner's tags. If
you roll a one, do 10 meat damage, and trash Schlaghund," it would
be a much weaker card.
The only problem with Schlaghund these days is that so many runners
are immune to meat damage.
The green-backed cards offer many more chances to roll dice.
Quest for Cattekin -- My e-mail address isn't firstname.lastname@example.org
for nothing -- Quest for Cattekin was my first runner rare, and
it has the letters C-A-T in its name. Since acquiring my first runner
are, though, I've learned something about the game.
First, Quest for Cattekin costs the runner four bits, and then
it kills him. One-third of the time, a Quest for Cattekin roll will
serve unpreventable damage -- that's terrible! A Cattekin runner
is forced to include in his deck at least one Junkyard BBS and a
few Gideon's Pawnshops, plus a number of hand size hardware. Including
all those cards in anticipation of Cattekin damage does not leave
enough room in a deck for really useful cards.
If you want to employ a card which injures you, and confers an
extra action, play with Preying Mantis, which doesn't even cost
Bargain with Viacox -- It's generally accepted that the Bargaining
runner must have Dropp installed, so he can Dropp following the
occasional roll which forces the runner to encounter a Liche.
I think that's a nearsighted view of Bargain with Viacox -- I
believe Bargain forces the runner to take Bargain with Viacox into
account for *every* card in his deck. Do you want to have Arasaka
Portable Prototype in your hand when you make the Bargain roll which
forces you to play or install a card at random? How about any prep
which tells you to make a run, like Rush Hour or All Hands? Bargain
will force you to play those three-bit preps before you have an
icebreaker installed. Pirate Broadcast? Blackmail?
Finally, the revised card text on Dropp, Bargain's best buddy,
makes it a less effective card -- Dropp will now read "0: Break
all the subroutines on a piece of ice." That means that the Dropping
runner must pay for *every* subroutine on a Crystal Palace-enhanced
piece of ice.
Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker -- Bartmoss escapes my withering
glare because its ridiculous counterpart, Joan of Arc, nearly negates
Bart's weakness. One day, though, when you most need it not to happen,
you'll lose all your Joans of Arc and Umbrella Policies, and Bartmoss,
before you hit the last piece of ice.
Refer to "Love Story" in the "Frisky AI" archives for more on
the Bartmoss/Joan of Arc fun couple.
Forward's Legacy -- Forward's Legacy is similar to Bartmoss in
that it can't be played without assistance. If you play with Forward's,
you must play with Clown, Lockjaw, Personal Touch, etc., if not
a second (pumpable) sentry breaker. I think dependence on another
card is a drawback to any card, for no other reason than it limits
An icebreaking program which depends on a die roll for its strength
occasionally causes the runner to sacrifice an action, too. If the
runner sees that he can only afford a necessary run if Legacy is
a certain strength, he might have to run more than once, in order
to have additional chances to roll the requisite number. (Maybe
All-Nighter should be included in Forward's Legacy decks just for
AI Boon -- The most expensive sentry breaker only has the previous
paragraph to consider. Besides that, I think AI Boon is the most
valuable random runner card (Bartmoss isn't one card; it's two cards.).
Vacuum Link -- Once upon a time I was enamored of the Vacuum Link/Rio
de Janeiro combination, too. Then came the game where I was forced
by an unlucky draw to install ice on a Rio fort in this order, innermost
out -- Shock.R, Sleeper, Vacuum Link. Until another piece of ice,
New Blood, or Herman Revista came along, Vacuum Link provided nothing
more than a Rio roll.
One unlucky game? Maybe, but I decided then that opponents were
better obstructed by non-frivolous intrusion countermeasures. Do
Vacuum Link would be a deadly card if it were a "stun" sentry
-- that is, one which prevented the runner from ever jacking out
of the run. For that reason, I think Jack Attack and the like are
good counterparts to Vacuum Link.
Playful AI -- The granddaddy of all random cards, considering
that it's the card which prompts the longest discussions of how
it should be played, and that it is NetRunner inventor Richard Garfield's
picture on it.
Playful AI is the only card in the game which can provide an incalculable
number of bits, and that's pretty cool. Still, I think a runner
won't need a random burst of bits if he's implemented his income
plan well, and if he does, that's life. If you must consult the
Playful AI, this is how I believe the card should be used: Calculate
the number of bits you will need. Roll dice until you reach that
number in dice, and then roll the remaining dice for bits.
In a dream where I wager my soul on a game of NetRunner with the
devil, yeah, I'll no doubt wish I had Playful AI instead of Streetware
Blink -- Blink deserves its own 1,000-word treatment, coming soon.
In short, however, a deck built around Blink isn't much better in
the endgame -- where the runner should win most of his games --
than it is to start.