last update 03.09.2006 12:01
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Frisky's Corner

by Frisco Del Rosario

Art, science, or sport?

Is NetRunner an art, a science, or a sport?

Look at the minimalism displayed in the Viral Pipeline decks discussed two weeks ago in "Socket to Me". Dennis Duncan's Clown deck, comprised of 30 programs and preps, distills the runner's dangerous, frenzied life into a recipe -- Jack 'n' Joe, ValuPak, complete the Pipeline. It's a science.

On the other hand, Joe Ganis wins with a deck where the corporation must score a Political Overthrow. Ganis and others like him continually push the artistic boundaries.

The bottom line, however, is that the players who score the agenda points win the blue ribbons.

It's the sportsmen who hear about a NetRunner tournament and ask, "will this be a 'fun' tournament or a 'tournament' tournament?", which means, "I'll play with Tycho/ACME/Project Consultants, OK?"

Along with the often-inequitable scoring systems, the worst aspect of tournament play is that it encourages players to construct the worst kind of deck -- quick to set up, and operating in short bursts. Install a Tycho behind a Filter, advance it four times. Annual Reviews until ACME and Project Consultants roll in.

Decks which are crafted for tournament play aren't much fun. Loan from Chiba decks fit that "quick setup, short burst" description, too. Take a loan, install The Deck. Take a loan, pop the Airport Locker for five bits, use five more to install Bartmoss. The forementioned Duncan Clown deck is also a "tournament" deck for all of its remarkability -- sets up in about 10 turns, and shuts down the corporation entirely, without any thought to typical runner concerns like reconnaissance or diversion.

This is very wrong. Where is the palpable tension that exists in sealed deck play? Which runner cares what the corporation is doing when he is playing Synthetic Blood, ValuPaking Imps with the plan of misc.for-selling them, and then paying for RD Protocol/Microtech AI runs? Hey, readers, just because you can't sell the Imp pyramid more than once doesn't mean that this still isn't a tournament-winning (read: boring, stupid) strategy.

Chess tournaments award brilliancy prizes, cash for producing the most aesthetically-pleasing game in an event. NetRunner tournaments have begun granting "cool deck" prizes, after polling each participant about his opponent's decks.

That's a start towards promoting creativity in tournament NetRunner, but it won't go further than that until NetRunner players find a way to follow chessplayers in another regard -- game recording.

Chess allows the recording of its games for posterity. Brilliancy prize-winning games instruct and entertain generations with the simplest of languages -- each piece and each square has a name, and we coordinate them on paper.

How can we possibly make this work for NetRunner? Is it enough just to record whether a player drew a bit, drew a card, played a prep, or installed something? If you were reading such a list, would you want to arrange a collection of cards so you can see the choices as they presented themselves to the player?

We'll have to give them some hard thought. When the NetRunner Pro Tour takes us to Paris and Sydney, newspapers will want to print the gamescores.


Frisky's Corner