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Frisky's Corner

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". Nonsense.

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, Observe, Renew.

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 subsidiary fort?

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 central fort.

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.


Frisky's Corner