Saturday, November 28, 2015


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Taking The Black

Fantasy Flight Games has a preview up for the first chapter pack of the Game of Thrones LCG.

Taking The Black

You can take your place at the very beginning of the story with Taking the Black, the first Chapter Pack in the Westeroscycle for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game. As part of the Westeros cycle, Taking the Black explores the first chapters of A Game of Thrones with iconic characters like Renly Baratheon, the Hound, and Maester Luwin entering the game for the first time. In Taking the Black, each faction begins its journey through A Game of Thrones towards the Iron Throne!

FFG is saying look for the pack fourth quarter 2015. Amazon has no idea and is saying Dec 31st 2015.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Learning To Play: Android Netrunner [Part 2]

[Part 1 of this Learning To Play is HERE]

The First Five Games

Hanna: (suddenly speaking in Arabic) I like Arabic very much. It’s like Japanese, it’s big.*

In Netrunner both the Corporation and the Runner’s turns are broken down into actions called ‘clicks’. Use a click to draw a card. Use a click to install a server. The Corporation has three clicks to spend. The Runner has four.

Sula: (Game 1/Turn 1) “I want more clicks!”

By this point I’d been reading articles and forum posts for more than a week. I'd also been staring blankly at conversations like this:
“I get Gordian Blade + Personal Touch, Battering Ram, and Crypsis up, and started running all over the place. I nabbed two early agendas for four points, then my friend's side of the table started looking like an ICE fortress. I ran into Heimdall many times, but I was too poor and could not boost Battering Ram enough in the first half of the game, so I skipped his subroutines with clicks and passed.” 
The core set arrived. The base game containing 252 cards. Half for the Corp, half for the Runner, plus some neutral cards. I rifled through them, pushed them around on my desk for a bit. I assembled a Corp deck and a Runner deck to these specifications. I read and re-read the rule book. I watched videos of games on YouTube.

Gradually, a picture formed in my head of how the game might flow and, after a week I felt ready to shepherd Sula and I through a game.

-Note: Sula and I are what I would describe as ‘fervid’ players of the Game of Thrones LCG, a card game which has enough similarities to the rhythms of a Netrunner game that we felt confident we could fairly easily grasp the gameplay.

We began with Sula taking the Corporation deck (Haas-Bioroid was the faction and Megacorp the identity), and I took the Runner deck (Noise the faction and G-mod the identity).

Netrunner comes with handy cards for each player which has printed on them the variety of actions they may execute on their turn: draw a card from R&D, play an operation, make a run, etc. Which meant playing the game felt very easy and clear. We both knew what actions we could take and gradually, as we passed turns back and forth, we became more confident of the tactical soundness of the actions we chose.

Game 1 was mostly a process of one of us doing something, then the two of us jointly checking our understanding of both the legality of the action and the consequences of it for the other player. Sula was very unhappy that I could look at her draw deck before she could, and if I found an Agenda in there I could steal it and score points.

Here’s an interesting thing about Netrunner: the Corporation player has in their hand the Agendas: the things that both players need to win the game. That’s weird isn’t it?  It’s like playing chess but only one of you has a King.

The Corp player must install the Agendas, by laying them face down on the table. Protect them with ICE by laying ICE cards face down in front of them. And then Advance them by using clicks to add tokens to them. When the Corp has added the required amount of Advancement tokens (different for each Agenda) they score points. The Runner is trying to steal the Agendas and, even more weirdly, they don’t know if that facedown card, protected by loads of ICE even is an Agenda. It could be a trap. And when the runner spends clicks and credits to break into that server they might, instead of stealing an Agenda which gives them points, they might get brain damage, or their house might blow up. It makes for an incredibly tense game.

Game 1 went to me. Mostly I think due to me having a better idea of just what the fuck was going on.  Game 2 went to Sula because she’s as smart as a sack full of weasels and it doesn’t take her long to figure out just what the fuck is going on.

Then I switched my deck from Anarch to Shaper. Anarch have a lot of viruses to hand out and it all felt too fiddly when I was also trying to learn the larger arcs of the game. I switched to the Shaper faction, which appears to be about building a kickass Rig (the Runner’s Rig is the programs, hardware and resources they install on the table and is used to generate income and break ICE and do all kinds of things).

Game 3 went to me, which I won by giving myself brain damage. I played a card which gave me 9 credits, all to be used on a run, but when the run was over I had to take a point of brain damage which reduced my max grip size, which is the maximum number of cards I can have in my hand at the end of a turn.

Game 4 went to Sula due to some judicious misdirection on her part. Something I thought was an Agenda turned our to the something much uglier. And game 5 went to me. So, I’m up 3-2.

Sula picked up the Creation & Control expansion pack which, coincidentally contained a large number of new cards for both the Corporation she was playing and the Runner I was playing. So we built a new Corp deck which contains lots of offensive potential and generally looks very nasty. I haven’t done anything to my Runner deck yet so we’ll see how things turn out this weekend. I'm looking forward to playing as the Corporation, which looks like playing another game entirely.

Sula: Remember how I won that game by tricking you?

Me: Remember when I had BRAIN DAMAGE and I still beat you?

Coming up: How Netrunner is like James Joyces's Ulysses. 


* Hanna is a 2011 movie about an American spy who raises his daughter (Hanna) to be every bit the spy that he is. Hanna can fight unarmed, she can shoot guns, and she speaks a dozen languages.


Crowsmack Dark Souls Posters

I've been meaning to link to Crowsmack's incredible Dark Souls posters for a long time, so here you are:

Keri also has amazing Bloodborne posters and assorted geekery:

Crowsmack on ETSY


Monday, November 9, 2015

Learning To Play: Android Netrunner [Part 1]

Sula and I are learning to play Android: Netrunner, an LCG (Living Card Game) from Fantasy Flight Games. It's a two player card game set in a dystopian future where corporations run everything from soft drink manufacture to the military. One player takes on the role of the Corporation and the other player is the Runner, a hacker trying to attack the corporation's server infrastructure. It’s all a little Matrix by way of Neuromancer, and the themes are not exactly in our sweet spot (we are loyal fans of the Game of Thrones LCG; being much more drawn to swords and sorcery than jacking in and logging off), however, we both are fascinated by Netrunner’s design and mechanics, which are asymmetrical.

In most CCGs (collectible card games) each player’s deck will be from a different faction - House Martell vs House Stark, in GoT, for example - but they both use the same mechanics. Very simply, ignoring the varied and deep tactical options in those games, they compare the stats on a card with the card from the opposing player’s deck and the results are tabulated: the larger number wins. In Netrunner, the Corporation and the Runner draw from different pools of cards, use different decks and have different actions to take as they play the game. The two decks aren’t just different thematically, as in Martell and Stark, in Netrunner there is no crossover between the card pools. Corporation cards have a blue backing and Runner decks a red. There is no mixing of the two card libraries. And as they play, the Corporation and the Runner are making different gameplay choices and using different mechanics.

There are a few ways to win:

1) The first player to score 7 agenda points, wins
2) If the Corporation ever goes to draw a card from their deck (called ‘R&D’) and they cannot draw a card, the Runner wins
3) If the Runner is ever forced to take more damage than they have cards in their hand, they die and the Corporation wins

They way each play goes about pursuing those goals is very different.

The Corporation is installing servers, by laying cards face down on the table, and protecting those servers with ‘Ice’ (powerful barriers which the Runner must break). The server could contain an Agenda card, scoring points for the Corporation if they can advance it, or for the Runner if they can steal it.  The server could also contain an Asset, a card which generates income for them, or a trap, which does damage to the Runner when they get in and access it.

The Runner is building a ‘Rig’, a suite of cards, played face up on the table, which help them break the Ice protecting the servers, or generate income for them, or install a virus on Corporation servers, syphoning credits off, or making their Ice weaker.

-Note: That’s a very rudimentary description of the game, and my best attempt at succinctly outlining the mechanics after a week of reading rules and watching games on YouTube. At this point I still have not played a single game. I’ve watched recorded games and I’ve watched live games ( is a browser-based platform for connecting players) and I’ve read lots and lots of forum/Reddit posts and conversations. I’m ready to play. I’m poised and primed.

Richard Garfield, the designer of Magic: The Gathering (the 800b gorilla of CCGs) is also the designer of Netrunner, and has said he wanted to make a game that was more about player skill, and to add a bluffing component, much like poker. And this is the second reason Sula and I are drawn to this game: misdirection. The human dimension. The Corporation could have installed a valuable Agenda in that heavily guarded server, or they could be trying to draw the Runner into a trap which will end with the runner suffering brain damage, or their house blowing up. You won’t know for sure until you get into the server.

That sounds bad, doesn’t it? Bad for the Runner, that is. But get this: the Runner can make runs on any of the Corporation cards. The Runner can look at the cards in the Corporation discard pile (Archives), in their draw deck (R&D) and even into the cards they have in their hand (HQ). So, with some judicious running, and some educated guesses, the Runner hopes to have a pretty good idea if that server contains the valuable Agenda they just saw in the Corporation’s hand, or if it’s a trap intended to make heads explode.

In Netrunner both the Corporation and the Runner’s turns are broken down into actions called ‘clicks’. Use a click to draw a card. Use a click to install a server. The Corporation has three clicks to spend. The Runner has four.

Sula(Game 1/Turn 1): “I want more clicks!”


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Rabbit Hole

Sula and I are learning to play Android: Netrunner. There's a multi-part article coming but here's a shot of Game 01 (excuse the Game of Thrones playmats).


A Greyjoy/Baratheon deck just before taking a Stark/Night's Watch deck down to it's knees.