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Netrunner on IRC

by Jens Kreutzer

With a large proportion of the ongoing World Domination championship taking place on the Internet, this article attempts to give a basic introduction to using IRC (Internet Relay Chat), so that readers unacquainted with IRC will be able to play Netrunner on IRC, or to watch the championship matches "live". It's actually rather easy to learn, and great fun to boot. So not to worry!

What is IRC?

While email is a fast way of communication, it's still more like writing letters than like having a telephone conversation. IRC is an attempt at making realtime conversation with multiple participants possible via the Internet. Everybody who is logged in shares the same screen, and what is typed is immediately displayed on the screens of each participant. If text is used to describe the processes involved in playing Netrunner, that, too, can be done via IRC. The one problem is verifying that nobody is cheating. This can be solved by appointing an impartial judge who determines all random processes (like card-drawing, accessing HQ etc.). More on that below.

What do I need to get a connection to IRC?

Only two things:

  • A computer that has access to the Internet, and

  • software to interface with an IRC server.

While there are several choices as to which software (called a "client") you could use, I'll stick to a client called mIRC, which is the one I use myself. It's free, by the way (but needs Windows, and you might consider registering it after 30 days).

How do I connect?

First of all, you need to get the software, which you can download for free at (follow the instructions there). Save it to your harddisk and then install it on your computer. Once you have done that, use your modem to connect to the Internet. Then click on the mIRC icon to start the program. An options dialogue box will appear, and you'll need to enter some information, like your name, email, and nickname. The nickname is the name that will be visible to your chat partners (it might be your real name; I tend to use "Tinweasel", so please choose something else). Sometimes, if your nick is already taken by somebody else, the one you've entered in the "Alternative" box will be used instead. If that's taken too, a prompt will appear later to make you select another.

You will also have to select an IRC server you want to connect to - in the past, Netrunner has been played mostly on EFNet or Undernet, but when a Netrunner IRC meeting is scheduled, you will be told which one to use in order to find the other players. It doesn't really matter that much if you're just trying out things. When choosing an individual server within EFNet or Undernet, try one that's close to your meatspace location. When everything is ready, click the OK button. mIRC is now ready to use.

[The following is filched from the mIRC website in part.]
To actually set up a connection, click on the File menu and select Connect. Or select the lightning button in the Toolbar for the same effect. After a short wait (up to 20 seconds) you will see some meaningless blurb appear in the status window. The last line will say something like "End of MOTD command". You are on IRC now! Congratulations. If the connection fails or is refused, just retry or try another server.

How do I find the other Netrunners?

When you first connect to IRC, the mIRC Channels Folder will pop up. It shows a selection of the most popular IRC Channels available all over the world. You might want to try some of them? You can double-click on any channel suggested in the list. Or you can select more channels and hit the Join button.

While this might be fun and a good way to try out using IRC, chances are that you won't find any Netrunner players there. If there is a match scheduled on IRC, an individual channel will be set up just for this purpose, usually called #netrunner (note the # sign in front of a channel's name). Which channel to choose, and whether on Undernet, EFNet or somewhere else, will all be communicated in the match announcement - as will be the time of the meeting, most importantly (do remember that different players will probably live in different time zones).

If you can find the channel in which the match is going to take place on the list, just join; but if you're the first to arrive, you can type the /join #[channel] command in the single line box at the bottom of the Status window. If you type "/join #netrunner", and there is no channel #netrunner yet, a channel #netrunner will be created. You can then wait there for the other players to show up.

What do I do once I've joined the right channel?

When you join a channel, a new window will appear on your screen. The names on the right-side column are those people who are currently joined in the channel (If you've just created the channel, this will be just you). The left-hand window is where everyone's conversation takes place. To say things to the people joined to the channel, just type your comments in the single row box at the bottom of the channel's window and hit Return/Enter. To leave a channel, just close the channel window.

Tell me about some cool mIRC commands

While anything you type in the dialogue box will appear in the channel so that everybody can read it (and with your nickname in front of it, so people will know who said it), there are quite a few nifty commands you also can use. They all start with "/" to mark them as commands. Some of them are:

    /join #[channel] - This one you know already.

    /me does xyz - Displays anything typed after /me as a sentence with your nick as the subject, i. e. "Tinweasel does xyz".

    /nick xyz - Changes your nickname to xyz.

    /whois [nickname] - Shows information about someone in the status window.

Alternatively, you can click on the Commands menu to get a list of the most important commands.

How does playing Netrunner work on IRC?

So the two players, the judge (in a friendly, i. e. non-tournament game, you can do without one) and any number of spectators have gathered on the correct channel. Excellent. How do we proceed now?

First of all, IRC does not provide you with an actual representation of the game table or the cards. You just tell the other people what you do during the game, but it helps tremendously if everybody has some means of visualizing the actual situation.

You will probably have a copy of the deck you're playing with, but in order to represent the opponent's side, having a set of Netrunner cards (or at least a spoiler list), some counters or dice for representing the bits of either side, as well as some pencils and paper for jotting down notes, will come in handy. Note that you are yourself responsible for getting an accurate picture of the current game situation. An interesting side effect is that nobody will complain - or even notice, for that matter - if you're using proxies in your deck. IRC effectively negates the advantage of "card lords"!

In a competitive game, both players will email the judge privately to tell him or her what kind of deck they will be playing. The judge will then build these two decks at home, and all accessing and card-drawing and shuffling will be done by the judge. For starters, he or she will tell each player what their starting hands are. Then, the Corp player can begin the first turn.

Setting up private direct chat channels (DCC)

Obviously, it wouldn't be a good idea if the judge announced sensitive information like the starting hands on the "public" channel (i. e., usually #netrunner). For this purpose, the judge will create two private channels, one for each player. What is written on these channels can only be seen by the judge and the appropriate player. Creating such a private channel is usually the judge's task, and a player will just see a box saying something like "[judge's nickname] wants to chat with you. Do you accept?", in which case, you just click on "Accept". An additional dialogue box will appear, for your private conversation.

You can create such a private channel by right-clicking on a nickname in a channel's right-hand box and looking for the DCC command, or you can type "/dcc chat [nickname]" in the dialogue box. There is also a DCC menu on the top, between Tools and Command. Wait a couple of seconds for your chat partner to acknowledge your DCC request. And by the way: Try to not get confused by the multitude of windows on your screen by now. Always verify that it's indeed the judge you're sending the name of that Hidden Resource to!

Netrunner lingo on IRC

By now, you should have a DCC connection to your judge, and also received your starting hand. In order to actually start playing, it is helpful to know some abbreviations that are usually used in online Netrunner.

    d: draw (similarly, dd: draw two cards, as with Employee Empowerment etc.)

    a1, a2, a3, a4: first action, second action, and so on.

    *, **, X*: an asterisk means "bit" or "bits".

    sot: start of turn

    eot: end of turn

    ins: install

    ice1 HQ, ice2 HQ, ...: the innermost (first) ice on HQ, the second ice on HQ, and so on.

    sdf1: subsidiary data fort #1

    anu: agenda, node, or upgrade. This is used when a concealed card is being installed in a data fort.

    adv: advance

    AP: agenda points

    TC: trash cost

    A/B/C: At the end of each turn, such a status report on a player's current agenda points, bit pool, and cards in hand is given. This facilitates verification and is a sign that the opponent may begin his or her turn. Example: 2/5/3 means 2 agenda points scored, 5 bits in pool, and 3 cards in hand.

Sample IRC Netrunner game

What you might actually see on the "public" channel might look like this, with [Arasaka] facing off against [Tinweasel] in our example:

[Judge] Ok Corp player, begin first turn.
[Arasaka] Ok.
[Arasaka] sot: d
[Arasaka] a1: ice1 HQ
[Arasaka] a2: ice1 R&D
[Arasaka] a3: Accounts Receivable (+4*)
[Arasaka] 0/9/3

What card was drawn at the start of the turn would be announced by the judge on the private DCC channel, just as the Corp player would have to tell the judge in private which piece of ice went on HQ and which on R&D.

[Tinweasel] a1: install Jackhammer *
[Tinweasel] a2: run R&D
[Tinweasel] approach ice1 R&D
[Tinweasel] rez?
[Arasaka] no rez
[Tinweasel] access R&D
[Arasaka] ok
[Tinweasel] no luck! :-)
[Tinweasel] a3: run HQ
[Tinweasel] approach ice1 HQ
[Arasaka] rez Marionette 3*
[Arasaka] trash Jackhammer, end the run
[Tinweasel] oops
[Tinweasel] a4: Livewire's Contacts +3*
[Tinweasel] 0/7/3

Accessing the top card of R&D would also be done on the private channel between the judge and the Runner. On to the next turn:

[Arasaka] sot: d
[Arasaka] a1: ins anu sdf1
[Arasaka] a2: adv anu sdf1 (-*)
[Arasaka] a3: Systematic Layoffs (-5*)
[Arasaka] adv anu sdf1 x2
[Arasaka] score Unlisted Research Lab
[Arasaka] 2/0/2

When installing or advancing something, it is very important to always make it clear what is affected where (like, an agenda in subfort 1). Another Runner turn:

[Tinweasel] a1: ins Newsgroup Filter (-5*)
Tinweasel] a2-3: ** **
[Tinweasel] a4: Custodial Position (-2*)
[Tinweasel] approach ice1 R&D
[Tinweasel] rez?
[Arasaka] no rez
[Tinweasel] access 3 cards
[Tinweasel] trash BBS Whispering Campaign (-4*)
[Tinweasel] trash Siren (TC=0)
[Arasaka] Are you done yet? :-)
[Tinweasel] no
[Tinweasel] score Corporate War (+3 AP)
[Tinweasel] 3/0/1

Note how one or more actions can be "compressed" into one line, and how "**" can easily be understood as using Newsgroup Filter's ability. Once more, the three cards accessed from R&D would be named by the judge via private channel (this is always a moment of high tension for the Corp, since it can take a while). The Corp's turn:

[Arasaka] sot: dd
[Arasaka] a1: *
[Arasaka] a2: ins ice2 R&D (-*)
[Arasaka] a3: ins ice2 sdf1
[Arasaka] sorry
[Arasaka] got it wrong:
[Arasaka] a3: ins ice1 sdf1
[Arasaka] 2/0/2

It is easy to make mistakes when typing away; in this case, don't worry and just type it again in the correct way. Thankfully, other people will sometimes point out your mistakes. One last turn:

[Tinweasel] a1-3:** ** **
[Tinweasel] a4: Bodyweight Synthetic Blood -**
[Tinweasel] eot: trash Rabbit
[Tinweasel] 3/4/5

By the way, it is no crime at all to write in a little more verbose style, and if you have difficulties understanding something, just ask - people will be happy to explain. Usually, a little common sense will make interpreting the IRC lingo easy.

And now, have fun with Netrunner on IRC - see you in Netspace! For further material on IRC and mIRC, the mIRC website is an excellent starting point (also for non-Windows clients).

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