Fantasy Flight Games recently announced the upcoming release of Android: Netrunner, an asymmetrical Living Card Game™ (LCG) for two players that has its foundations in the high-stakes cyberstruggles of Richard Garfield’s classic card game, Netrunner. In the 1990s, Netrunner’s dynamic, asymmetrical game play earned it a unique position among the early wave of customizable card games. Even so, despite the game’s strengths, it didn’t survive the turbulent environment of the late 1990s and went out of print after just two expansions.
Why, then, did Fantasy Flight Games recently announce its plans to remake this classic, giving it new life as Android: Netrunner? There are three main reasons:
- The original iteration of Netrunner, along with our decade of experience publishing card games such as A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, has provided us with valuable lessons that we are able to apply to Android: Netrunner.
- Finally, we believe the LCG model offers more promise for the future of Netrunner than the collectible model did. For more on that point, read on.
The Living Card Game™ Model
Redesigning Netrunner in the LCG format does more for it than simply remove the blind buy purchases and rare chasing that burn out some players and turn others away even before they start. The LCG model opens new design concepts.
When you remove the concept of card rarity, you aren’t compelled to design rarer copies of other, more common cards that do effectively the same thing. You can remove the clutter of multiple cards all fulfilling roughly the same goal. The focus can shift, instead, toward the variety of cards available, making sure players will have plenty of options to explore for deck design. Throughout the years, we’ve seen again and again that “constraint breeds creativity.” With that in mind, we’ve introduced distinct factions to the game, each with unique strengths and weaknesses; this will bolster the meta and benefit the game’s long-term viability. We’ve also created some deck-building limitations (such as a maximum of three copies of any one card per deck) that leave the heart of the game intact but promote creative exploration and deck diversity.
The LCG model also presents other design advantages. A designer can more clearly design toward the overall gaming experience, including how cards lend themselves to different styles of play or an average game duration. He can redirect some of the energy from a focus on the variable power levels of a player’s cards toward the unique feel they bring to the table as they enter play. Is each distinct? Is each worth playing?
Notes from the Developer
Lead developer Lukas Litzsinger shares some insights into the work he did in remaking Android: Netrunner as an LCG:
When I first found out I would be working on the reimagining of Netrunner, I was ecstatic. Not only was it designed by Richard Garfield himself, but it was wrapped up in cyberpunk. Put simply, it was one of the holy grails of collectible gaming.
There is always a danger when approaching a project of this sort. You can change nothing, and find that what worked fifteen years ago might not work for new players. Conversely, you can change too much, and find that at a certain point along the way the game has lost its special spark. We wanted to make sure that Android: Netrunner would respect the core of the old game while giving it a strong LCG identity.
The first thing that players of the old game will notice about the updates inAndroid: Netrunner is that the distinction between Corp and Runner has gotten a little more colorful. To provide the game a more sustainable system for expansion, we made the choice to add identities. Beginning with the Core Set, players can choose between four well-defined corporations and three different types of runners. While the introduction of identities impacted many of our decisions on a card-by-card basis, we worked carefully to make certain they wouldn’t obscure the brilliant gameplay that lies at the heart of Android: Netrunner. Once you are playing the game, the identities add flavor and not complication.
When it comes down to it, Android: Netrunner is a game built on risk-taking and bluffing. The heart of both the original game and Android: Netrunner is the idea of the “run.” We wanted to make sure that when updating the game we always kept the focus on the run. Everything else is secondary.
Check back later this week, when we’ll post an interview with Richard Garfield himself in which he shares his insights into the development of Android: Netrunner. Then, visit often for in-depth previews of the game’s mechanics. The runs begin at Gen Con Indy 2012!