Scorched earth policy

Swift Eddie’s feet scrabble for purchase in the alley puddle. Gabriel’s prosthetic hand holds him by the neck.

“Someone ordered the hit,” Gabriel hisses, “Who was it?”

“All I… urgh,” gasps Eddie, “All I know is someone from Weyland’s space exploration division was throwing his credits around in Wyldside last Tuesday. Everyone knows that’s where you go for…”

“…for a contract,” finishes Gabriel. His eyes follow the smoke still rising from the ruined city-block.

Eddie swallows. “I didn’t know they would go that far,” he pleads, “No-one could have known.”

Gabriel lets him go. Eddie slumps into the muddy water.

“No-one could have known,” he whimpers.

Gabriel looks up and down the alleyway.

“Where’s the nearest terminal?” he asks.

Eddie gestures at some neon flickering in the gloom. Gabriel hefts his go-bag on his shoulder and stalks towards it.

Eddie calls after him, “Make them pay!”

Gabriel pauses and looks back. The neon shines in his eye.

“I always do,” he says.

Gabriel SantiagoThe cafe proprietor carefully pays no attention as Gabriel plugs his console into the wall-jack. Gabriel adjusts the sensors on his temples, checks the room one more time and hits the jack-in key.

The cafe swirls around him as he falls into cyberspace. Mundane reality is replaced by glowing digital pathways and RGB color-fields. It feels like home.

He centres on a familiar landmark, the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority, then spins off in search of the distant data structures of the Weyland Consortium.

The game is on.


“The Weyland Consortium is the world leader in global construction and development. With the opening of our revolutionary skyway to Earth-Orbit, ‘The Beanstalk’, we heralded a new era of transport, commerce and tourism. Now, the Weyland Consortium is forging a new path, a bold path, the path to the future. A future in Space!”

The PR spiel ends and the speakers are silent once more. The sys-op leans forward in his chair and reaches for his Caff-Cola, the glow from the consoles reflected in his glasses.

There is a flicker of red on one of the screens. The energy drink pauses at his lips. The flicker is replaced by a large crimson alert dialog. He slams the drink down and starts frantically tapping at the keyboard.

More and more crimson alerts are popping up on other consoles. His fingers stop typing. The room is lit up a ghostly red. He reaches out and pushes the cyber-emergency alarm. The screens go dark and the room power is shut off.

Someone is making a run against them. The corporate anti-cyberterrorism unit has taken over. It is no longer his problem.



Match: Criminal vs Weyland

Runner Deck: Gabriel Santiago (Consumate Professional).

Corp Deck: Weyland Consortium (Building a Better World)

The match was three games with Gabriel Santiago versus the Weyland corp.

Gabriel is in the Criminal (blue) faction. The criminals don’t have so many different icebreakers as other factions, but have plenty of tricks and ways of getting funds.

WeylandThe Weyland Consortium (green) faction specialises in generating credits and advancing installed cards faster. Their ICE can be strengthened with advancement tokens and they have access to one of the most notorious cards in Netrunner, Scorched Earth. (More on that later).

The Criminals are not in the runner business out of ideology, they are in it purely for the money, and they use whatever tricks and techniques they have in their arsenal to get at that money as quickly as possible.

The Weyland Consortium is a manufacturing and construction giant. They built the Beanstalk, the elevator to Earth orbit, and also own most of Heinlein, the colony on the Moon. Now they are expanding their interests towards developing Mars and outwards into space exploration. They are ruthless in the protection of their monopolies.

It is worth noting that all the identities (runner or corp) come with a subtitle, and this denotes the special effect that the identity has. Currently, all the runners are separate characters so this is a bit redundant, but once you start including the expansion packs the corps have several variations and each has a different special ability which can make an impact in deck design.

For now I am playing with the pre-con decks in the core set, so there is only one of each.

In this match, Gabriel won 2-1. I forgot to make a note of the agenda point scores again. The games weren’t that close, so it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Scorched In game 1 there were almost no agendas appearing for a long time. This made it a slow game, with both sides just building up their resources. Gabriel does get a lot of benefits for running against HQ, so he concentrated on that to begin with.

Weyland had a Scorched Earth in HQ for quite a while, but Gabriel, knowing that card exists in the corp deck, kept at least 4 cards in his grip. Eventually, Weyland drew a second Scorched Earth and killed Gabriel with eight meat damage in one turn.

Game 2 started a lot faster, with Gabriel stealing agendas from HQ or R&D, and Weyland pushing through some of the smaller agendas quickly. Not all of the Weyland ICE has the ‘end the run’ subroutine, so Gabriel often chose to let the other subroutines trigger to save money. This resulted in getting tagged, which is dangerous considering the risk of getting ‘scorched’. Having a Crash Space to help clear out tags helped a lot.

The score got to 4-5, and Weyland had an agenda installed and was ready to score it next turn. The mass of ICE made it impossible for Gabriel to run against the agenda’s server, so he made one last desperate run against R&D. He took two tags from ICE subroutines but luckily accessed a Priority Requisition agenda, winning the game.

Account SyphonGame 3 started in the same way as game 2. Both sides scored/stole a couple of agendas. Eventually, Weyland’s huge funds financed another mass of ICE in front of the remote server, and a game-winning agenda was sitting partially advanced on it. Some of the ICE was still unrezzed, but Weyland had plenty of credits in the bank ready to spend.

Gabriel sneakily played an Account Syphon which steals credits from the corporation and gives him double the amount. So Weyland lost 5 credits and Gabriel gained 10.

Losing those credits meant the corp couldn’t afford to rez the ICE, and the extra funds allowed Gabriel to pay for Crypsis to punch through all the remaining protection, stealing the agenda and winning the game.

Things I noticed:

  • The Criminal faction doesn’t have much variety of icebreakers and mostly seems to depend on Crypsis’ flexibility. Crypsis is expensive to use, so the Criminal’s economy (i.e. credit-generating ability) is very important.
  • It is fiddly to dig the neutral cards out of the decks when I am done. I found a good way is to turn the deck upside down and look at the (now) top left. The neutral cards show their grey colour more clearly, and in the runner deck you can easily see the influence dots.
  • Scorched EarthIt is very tempting to build a deck around Scorched Earth, as it is a neat alternate win condition. (This was indeed a popular deck archetype early on). You just need a method of quickly drawing the two copies and getting the runner tagged, all the while protecting your servers. With a maximum of five cards in hand, no runner can survive eight damage. (That is, until you include the expansion packs and the runner can wear armour!)

Things I kept forgetting:

  • After spending a click to draw a card, it is another click to install or play it.
  • Every icebreaker that you want to interact with a piece of ICE must match the ICE’s strength. So if you are using effects from two or more icebreakers, all of them must be pumped to match the ICE’s strength. This is why the Anarch programs that can reduce ICE strength are so useful.
  • The second and subsequent ICE installed on a server costs 1, 2, 3, etc, credits to install.