Burning Chrome

Android: Netrunner game boxBack in May, Fantasy Flight Games announced they are releasing the Netrunner card game as their latest Living Card Game. Since then, I have been on a non-stop binge of anticipation.

The year was 1996, and there was this curious little card game called Magic: The Gathering, which I had been playing since the Revised edition. Back then, CCGs were new and exciting territory, and while you might think there are a lot of them now, companies were releasing crazy ones left and right in the mid-90s. The king of the hill was still Richard Garfield’s now-defunct Deckmaster series, of which Magic: The Gathering was a part. Other games that held the Deckmaster brand were Jyhad (now Vampire: The Eternal Struggle) and Netrunner, the star of our show, originally based on R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk role-playing game.

I was introduced to Netrunner at my local gaming store, where I often went to play Magic, BattleTech, and Warzone. One of the older guys there, Sean, was trying to get others to play. I volunteered.

The 13-year-old me was just discovering the wonders of the Internet, and the idea of hackers and mega-corporations duking it out in some kind of virtual reality cyberspace blew my mind. I learned how to construct ICE around my data forts, how to use resources to avoid tags, and I ran and held off runners for two or three months.

I never bought a single pack. I funneled my allowance into Magic and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Whenever I had a chance to play Netrunner, someone else always had the decks.

It stuck with me, though. Just two years later I would discover Alternity, and then my love of all things cyberpunk would become entrenched. I wouldn’t say I became obsessed; I can’t recall a time where I was all-cyberpunk all the time, but I have always had a real appreciation for it. Of course, on some level, I always missed Netrunner, with its ridiculous purple and green decks.

When Fantasy Flight made their announcement, I was thrilled. They’ve restyled the game as Android: Netrunner, based in their Bladerunner-like world they originally established with the complex detective/adventure board game Android, of which I am also a huge fan. There is a major new addition in the way of Corporation and Runner cards. Now you aren’t just some faceless Corp pursuing its shadowy agenda, you are Haas-Bioroid, Jinteki, NBN, or the Weyland Consortium. On the other end of the link, rather than being some mook in a basement, you get to be Noise Reilly, Kate McCaffrey, or Gabriel Santiago. I have no idea what actual game effects these cards will have, but I look forward to finding out.

Sadly, that will not be until sometime later this year. My nostalgia engine has gone full throttle, and must be appeased. So I did the only thing that made sense: I purchased an original starter deck from Ebay!

Fantasy Flight Games’s Living Card Game line has been absolutely amazing. I enjoy being able to keep up with the game without hunting for particular cards in booster packs, since I already do that enough with Magic. My wallet only has so much ablative armor, and it isn’t nearly enough to withstand that kind of pounding.

So, what do you think? Will you be joining me out there, in the vast, untamed wilds of the Net?