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One of my favorite pieces I’ve read on BGG is a review of Claustrophobia by Sphere (link). His goal was to highlight how the game plays by presenting the the game’s decision points in the front and center. Ideally, readers experience the game’s key decisions alongside Sphere and get the most “true” sense of what Claustrophobia is all about. It is an excellent read. I highly recommend it.
I love the idea behind his review and have always thought I would like to try something similar. Here is my riff on Shere’s method:
Shadowrun: Crossfire - Decision Points Session Report
(Note: I am far from an expert at Crossfire. This is not intended to be an example of high-level play. It is an attempt to showcase some of the decision points that make this game so compelling to me! I’d love any strategy advice you have to offer
Briefly, What is Crossfire?
In Crossfire, you take cyberpunk characters with varying stats, assign them each a role (a preconstructed deck of seven basic cards), and face off against obstacles of ever increasing difficulty. Additionally, terrible events (crossfires) constantly crop up to further complicate your mission. The only help you’ll get is from each other and from a black market of powerful cards that are available for you and your teammates to draft into your decks.
Additionally, there is a meta-game of leveling up your characters and assigning them abilities selected from a diverse pool of ability stickers. (There are printable versions you can find online if you don’t like the idea of permanently altering your components).
The game is playable for 2 - 4 players, though I always play with 2, either with my wife, a friend, or solitaire. For this run-through, I’ll be sporting two characters.
Also, the game can be brutal. Just... brutal.
Before your first game of Crossfire, you’ve already got a decision to make. Character selection. Let’s take a look at our options:
There’s a lot to choose from. But what does it all mean? Let’s take a look at the only things that truly differentiate characters: Stats. The top number is health, then starting hand size, then starting Nuyen (money).
Sooooo…… What do we choose? Drawing on my experience with online games, I figure drafting a tank is a good place to start. So that’s going to be the character with the most health, the troll. Another good reason to pick the troll is his starting hand size. A starting hand of 3 cards is extremely flexible, which is important when playing Crossfire with only two characters. (Why is it more flexible than other hand sizes? I’ll get into that in a bit).
And who could say no to that face?!
For my second runner, I go with the moneybags: The Dwarf. The black market is where all your powerful cards are going to come from, and getting an initial huge purchase can give your team a much needed head-start.
Now... What is this?!?!? Another decision point?!
A blank name slot will never do. I place down clear tape on the character cards then write on the tape with permanent marker. All the fun of writing on components without any lasting damage done. Now a name should be chosen with care and respect towards the lore. You don’t want to be ripping yourself out of the theme with ridiculous or stupid sounding characters.
Now to decide which scenario to run. There are many to choose from.
Here are the three I recommend you choose from when you’re starting fresh.
Crossfire: Listed as “Normal” difficulty, this is the basic scenario. Vanilla, if you will. It has the least upkeep, is the most streamlined, and is ultimately the most satisfying. The clear choice. But looks at the others anyway.
Against the Ancients: This is an introductory level scenario, available in the High Caliber Ops expansion. It uses a pre-constructed set of obstacles themed around an elf gang.
Extraction: Listed as having Intermediate difficulty, many Crossfire players [i[(including myself)[/i] actually find this scenario easier than the basic Crossfire scenario. In it, you will be escorting “The Client” through a series of obstacles, trying to keep him safe and your team alive. There’s a bit of rules overhead to sort through, but it’s a fun diversion when you want to get away from the Crossfire scenario (Which you won’t. Crossfire is all you need.)
So what to choose?
You may return the other scenarios to the box, the trash, or the garbage disposal. They’re too glossy to make decent toilet paper.
(Why the weird animosity towards non-Crossfire scenarios? Just playing They’re all fun!)
Final choice before we begin. Promise. We need to chose our role. Your role determines your starting deck and will make you the target of some enemy abilities during the game.
For two player, I choose the Rigger and the Adept. They seem to cover all the bases pretty well. I know that other players swear by using the base roles, even in two player. So maybe there is no wrong choice here! But maybe there is…!
And now we’re all set up. Grand!
1. We’ve got our player mats at the bottom, with their decks face down to the left of each mat.
2. The normal (one bullet hole) and hard (two bullet hole) obstacle decks are on the left. Enemy damage counters are below them.
3. The black market has six cards placed in it, with the black market deck above those.
4. The dreaded Crossfire deck is to the right of the black market.
5. And our Nuyen (money) is off to the right.
6. (Not pictured) Each character relieves their starting Nuyen allowance. 4 for the troll (he gets +1 for playing with only two characters and +1 for an ability sticker he purchased many games ago) and 7 for the dwarf (again, +1 for two characters and +1 for an ability sticker)
The Game Proper
Each character has been assigned an obstacle from the normal obstacle deck. I placed the starting hand of each character face up, below their respective obstacle. Obstacles consist of 5 important parts (listed roughly from top to bottom, left to right): Damage Track, Value (amount characters receive when they defeat the obstacle), Ability, Type (human, orc, elf, etc.), and Damage.
Let’s take a closer look at the situation:
On a character’s turn, they can play cards out of their hand to defeat levels on an obstacle’s damage track (from left to right). A card provides the amount and type of damage shown in the upper left hand corner. Looking at our troll’s hand (left), we see he can potentially deal one green, one red, and one black damage.
Allied characters cannot usually participate in each other's turns, though some cards from the black market have an ability labeled “Assist” that provides exceptions to that rule.
Unfortunately, our troll has very little he can do. He does not have enough cards to overcome the initial “5 of any color” damage on the Lone Star Trooper. He does not have any card that can deal the required blue damage on the Ancients Sentry. He needs to pass.
The Lone Star Trooper will deal Burt one damage, putting him down to 6.
In Crossfire, if you have 3 or fewer cards in your hand at the end of your turn, you may draw two cards from your deck, so Burt will do that, winding up with 5 cards.
You may then buy cards from the black market. Let’s remind ourselves what’s there.
Burt has 4 Nuyen and plays predominantly black and green cards, so let’s zero in on those and consider our options:
Icon Grab: Excellent for dealing damage to colors outside Burt’s usual green and black. If Burt had started with this card, he would have been able to handle that blue damage required on the Ancients Sentry.
Drone Army: Holy Cow, this is a beast of a card. We don’t have enough for it yet, but it might be worth saving up for. And looking at the value of the two obstacles on the board, after both are taken out, Burt will have enough to buy it.
So do we go with the jack-of-all-trades Icon Grab? Hold out for the Drone Army? Or is there a third path?
Checking in on Reynolds, we see he’s facing an enemy that can cut his health by 40% with just one attack. We also see he does not have the cards to overcome the Sentry by himself. Maybe Burt should look to the short term and try to help his buddy?
Let’s look one more time at the current black market and see if we can find a card that will allow us to deal with that Ancients Sentry before it can cause any hurt to our short, bearded friend.
Did you find it?
Negotiation is one of those cards with an “Assist” ability that allows you to play it on an allie’s turn. It is out of Burt’s usual color, and will put the Drone Army out of reach for a while, but it will help put the kibosh on that Sentry. Let’s see how Reynold’s turn pans out.
And here’s the state of the game after taking out the Sentry and drawing two new cards (Reynolds hasn’t bought anything yet, as we need to do some planning first)
In the next picture you’ll see Burt’s hand, his obstacle, the black market, Reynolds’ hand, and Reynolds’ Nuyen. I want to take out the Lone Star Trooper on Burt’s turn, before the trooper can deal any more damage. Can you find the card(s) Reynolds needs to buy in order to help accomplish this goal?
And here we go!
We actually made a very interesting decision here. It was fairly obvious which cards we needed to meet the goal of beating the Trooper. BUT did we NEED to defeat the Trooper so quickly?
We could have let the Trooper live one more round. We could have stalled. Built up our hands. (And as you'll see later, that might have actually been the better decision!)
But at the same time, there is a time mechanic that kicks into play in the third round, punishing the players for taking too long when taking down obsticals. Moving as quickly as possible can be crucial to winning Crossfire.
At any rate, we decided to take out the Trooper right away, which triggers the end of Scene One and the beginning of Scene Two! We heal one point for each runner, have the opportunity to purchase cards, and finally re-stock the board with new obstacles (3 new obstacles this time).
Now we observe the potential downfall of moving quickly. We have 3 enemies on the board and tiny, miniscule hands of cards with which to deal with them. If we had given the Trooper one more turn to live, we could have had one more round to draw cards from our decks and would have started this round with larger hands. As it stands, we’re not going to have any quick take-downs and will have to take considerable damage as we re-supply our hands.
And that wraps up the Pre-Game and Scene One of the Crossfire scenario. I documented the rest of the game, but this has gone on long enough for one post. Hope it was useful, or at least mildly diverting. Thanks for reading!
- Last edited Wed Jul 27, 2016 1:53 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:38 pm
Josh, this is really great. I love the format and the tutorial slant this session report has to it (especially the "can you find it" and "did you see it" bits). Can't wait for the rest of the session to get uploaded!
Keep up the good work!