by Frisco Del Rosario
"Go ahead and run, Wilson. I'll get ice cream."
The question arose on the Wizards listserv this week: On its first
turn, the corporation installs a card inside a subsidiary fort, and
advances it twice. In the absence of detection, force shields, Weefle
Initiation, Speed Trap, or Death from Above, do you run the fort?
The prevailing attitude on the listserv is the macho posturing,
"the name of the game isn't NetSitOnYourButt, let's run the fort".
The first question the runner should ask is "what do I know about
your opponent?". Only if there is a precedent for your corporate
opponent installing an unprotected agenda and advancing it
should you run the fort. We have all, I guess, installed an unprotected
three-difficulty agenda and hoped to score it next turn, but advancing
a more difficult agenda, and possibly losing the advancement counters,
too? That's too great a risk.
The next question the runner should ask is "what is my deck's
plan?". Can a run on a subsidiary fort on turn one possibly further
that plan? Probably not, while a viral attack can proceed unhindered
for the first turn.
Why be seduced by that subsidiary fort, anyway? Our first action
is almost always a run on a central fort, and if seven agenda points
are plucked off RD, the subsidiary fort is moot. A successful run
or two on RD might possibly give us a clue as to what sits in that
mysterious subsidiary fort. Would you be surprised to find Namatoki
Plaza or Falsified Transactions Expert? Of course not -- both of
those cards combine so well with advanceable ambush nodes.
Maybe there's a Vapor Ops in that corporate deck. Suppose your
opening draw as the corporation includes Efficiency Experts, Chance
Observation, Urban Renewal, and Vapor Ops. In our hypothetical situation,
you could score a turn two flatline after installing Vapor and advancing
it twice on turn one. The runner runs it, and it turns to Vapor.
Then if the runner doesn't keep five cards in hand, you can Efficiency,
What has the runner to gain by flying into that subsidiary fort?
Some number of agenda points. Consider that under the "three phases"
umbrella. In the earlygoing, the runner can often steal agenda from
central forts before HQ and RD are iced. What's the difference if
he steals them from central forts, or gambles on our mysterious
Allow me a bit of absurdity. Suppose the card in that fort is
a Political Overthrow. Right, the corporation's first three actions
were install Political Overthrow, and advance it twice. Suppose
you -- brave runner, you -- steal it. You lead 6-0. Nothing else
good happens this turn. On the corporation's second turn, he gains
some bits, and installs some Filters or Data Walls. You're nearing
the middlegame, just as if you'd stolen those six points from a
What has the runner to lose? What's in his hand? An Arasaka Portable
Prototype and a Rabbit? Sure, go ahead, take the damage.
What if the runner is dealt better cards? Do you take the damage?
No, you run the central forts, pressing your opening advantage.
Then you start moving to get through the middlegame, when the corporation's
defense is solid, to the endgame, when you can't be stopped.
When you get right down to it, what if the runner is dealt the
cards we discuss in the first paragraph, force shields, Weefle Initiation,
Speed Trap, Death from Above? Corporate players know those cards
are out there; they know runners may often run with impunity. Furthermore,
there are other cards which could ensure a safe run on that shadowy
subsidiary fort -- Weather-to-Finance Pipe and Credit Subversion
both guarantee that the corporation won't rez that supposed Soulkiller,
and also prevent the corporation from scoring an agenda. Then the
runner has another turn to draw any of the other preventive measures.
What does the corporation have to gain by so brazenly installing
and scoring an agenda in this fashion? Again, consider the "three
phases" theory. If the corporation's rapidly-scored agenda does
not provide an income, the corporation may be injuring itself by
paying bits for advancement counters -- that is, the runner's opening
advantage will be lengthened as long the corporation has no bits
to rez ice on the central forts.
I am swimming against the tide here, recommending that the runner
ignore this hypothetical subsidiary fort. You may attempt to show
me up as a blowhard contrarian by installing an agenda on turn one,
and advancing it. You may prove me wrong with some well-chosen words.