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Subject: Android: Netrunner Draft; What it Means to Me (and maybe you...) rss

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Matt
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--== WALL OF TEXT AHEAD ==--

So, after some initial excitement after waking up this morning and discovering that FFG are releasing draft decks and supporting drafts in Android Netrunner, I've read a lot of virtual ink on the idea. I'm in a few minds as to what this means for the game and where this takes it, so I thought I'd spill some more virtual ink (hey, it's free) on the subject.

A Little Background:
I'm about 2-3 hours from my state capital, depending on traffic/transport choice. Our state capital has a reasonably healthy Netrunner scene (from what I saw during Regionals), I just can't conveniently participate. I am lucky enough to be within 20 minutes drive from my FLGS in a regional capital. Our FLGS has a small Netrunner scene (5 players is the single largest play night to date) of around 3-4 "regulars", including myself. Of these regulars I am the only one that has attended any kind of competitive play (this year's Regionals), and I am the only one that keeps regular tabs on the online communities (including playing on OCTGN).

On the night we play there's often a couple Magic, Yugioh, Vanguard, Munchkin and other card (and board) games going on. Of course there's the obligatory FNM, Saturday Yugioh, midnight launches, etc, so there's a lot of interest in card games in general, just not as much as I'd like to see in Netrunner. While I've never played any other C/TCG aside from the original Netrunner (and never played it competitively), I understand the draw to draft play within the C/TCG community. It's ("relatively") cheap, easy to set up, and players receive a tangible reward for participating, even without taking home prizes for top spots.

That's great, but what does this have to do with the Netrunner Draft announcement?
My Netrunner group have been talking a bit lately about attempting to expand our numbers, and I think this could be a really great way to do it, provided we go into the process with our eyes open. Seeing as how some others around the web are in a similar situation as me (trying to get/keep a local F2F scene going), I thought I'd share some "metagame thoughts" that I've been mulling over the last few hours.

Pro's of Netrunner Draft (if you've got more, post them below):

* Low(er) cost of entry: for somewhere around 1/2 the retail cost of a Core Set, draft players will have a complete Corp and Runner deck. I've seen (and heard) some concerns about the entry price for Netrunner, particularly for the curious, and believe FFG migt have just hit this nail on the head with draft decks. With the rules available online, and the ability to sub dice/beads/whatever in for counters (not to mention the after-market counter production out there), the only thing you really need from a Core Set these days are the cards themselves.

* Lower power level for introducing new players: I have seen (and agree with) the sentiment in other threads about experienced Netrunner players knowing card capabilities and therefore probably drafting "better" decks than new/inexperienced players. However, with the limited card pool and the random nature of the draft itself, the chance of new players being roundly defeated by "degenerate combos/cards" (not actually degenerate, but when teaching a completely new person I probably wouldn't take a Katman deck, for example) has been greatly reduced. For many, a first experience where they feel thay had a chance (as opposed to a curbstomping) generally has them walking away with a good impression and a willingness to give something another go.

* Better opportunities to introduce/incorporate "new" players: Got a problem with your FLGS league, where some players have more Data Packs than the others? Not if you run a Draft tourney!! In fatc, if the players are willing, you could probably return the cards to the pool at the end of the tourney and re-draft them again next time. This "stop-gap" would give you a Netrunner fix while those who are looknig to complete Data Pack purchases can catch up.

* Additional competitive avenues: whether we'll see support from FFG beyond the Draft decks, or whether we use extra Game Night kit swag to support it, I think it's great for the game to have the opportunity to have a second level of competitive play.


Cons of Netrunner Draft (if you've got more, post them below):

* Stores/groups moving towards the Draft format: this is my biggest concern, personally. As others have said, I'd rather not have to lay down $12-$25 each time I want to play Netrunner at the FLGS, because they like the income that's generated from Draft tourneys. I have a Core Set, as well as "locking" myself in to buying every Data Pack you get into the store, thankyou. I'm sure I'll participate in some Draft tourneys, but if that's the only way I'll get to play at the store, and you're insisting on running it weekly, you might have just lost my patronage...

* The singles market: while this is already in play (via ebay), the "rare-chasing" could go to new (for ANR) heights of insanity. Or, it could lower the costs.

* Killing constructed (LCG) play: I seriously doubt this would ever happen, but it is possible...


TL;DR - this is a good opportunity to introduce new players that many can take advantage of. There are some concerns, but I think we as a community can handle them as long as we keep ourselves aware.
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David Harding
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I was excited by draft matches at first too. But, one of the main reasons I was originally excited by AN:R was its LCG model. If they only produce certain cards for draft, etc... cry
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Brian H
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The way I see it, I can ignore it and go on with my LCG ways. However, if a local store did it I would still pay to participate if it meant getting more people into Netrunner without as high a cost as the LCG itself.

If they start printing draft-only (as in, you can only find them in the draft but use them anywhere) cards, though, I'll start getting upset.
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Justin
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I share your enthusiasm, but I came to some different conclusions.

The new players only end up with a draft compatible "complete" pair of decks. They don't have enough cards or the identities to play normal Netrunner.

New players will likely do just as poorly in a draft format as they would in regular Netrunner. If you hand a new player a good deck then they might be bad, but at least they'll be bad with a good deck. In draft, they'll be bad with a bad deck. I'm not sure that's better. You're right though that they're much less likely to experience feel bad moments like SEA Source -> Scorch.

I don't think stores will, or really even could move towards having draft as a main format. If the draft card pool is a subset of cards already available in data packs, then what is the incentive to me, as a player, to repeatedly spend money on drafts? The cost is mostly for the fun and experience, since I don't need or even really want any of the cards I'll be taking home (though I'd be happy to grab some of the core set 1xs). I'm actually kind of concerned that draft might not be financially compelling over the long run. People might just buy a few each for their group and just keep redrafting from that.

I don't think the singles market will be very big. There's sort of a hard cap on the cost of any single card - the cost of the pack it comes from. So SanSan, Desparado, etc. should never be able to be sold for more than $25. None of the data pack cards should ever go for more than $10. There may well be a more active gray market for super cheap cards and slightly more expensive core set cards.

I think the interesting part of this soon-to-be gray market is that it will represent a point of entry for brand new players to pick up exactly what they want without having to be completionists. They'll still need to track down the identities though.

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Jon Kern
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I think the draft format will confuse potential consumers by making the game look like a ccg.
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Edwin Twentier
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The reusability of draft cards seems to me to be quite low, despite what some folks are saying. There will be groups that buy a single draft pack then reshuffle the 40 cards back in and go again, but without the FFG "random algorythm" it seems like it could be a difficult format to sell as being reusable.

As for the other side of the coin, the idea of stores going over to all draft, I think this is more of a fear about your local player base. I know a number of people in the area who would rather draft Magic over playing constructed (anything). I think that if you bring up the idea of drafting as a monthly thing, as opposed to replacing a weekly constructed tourney, you're probably at the best point.
 
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Tommy Roman
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+TEXT-HEAVY ZONE AHEAD+

I think Icedman's commentary was well-thought and focused. Kudos to you, sir.

I have played both CCGs and LCGs, and prefer the LCG formats for the many reasons elucidated in other forums. However, I also have to admire the manner in which FFG has identified a market for growth (players like the LCG format but would also like to have draft play) and the manner in which they have responded (limited-format draft play for an LCG). What few have mentioned is the potential unpleasantness from the Law of Unintended Consequences.

FFG has responded to the gaming community in many positive ways (tournaments, prizes, the Plugged-In tour and associated voting). But the gaming community is NOT a homogenous population of one mind like the Collective. Despite the broadly lower cost ramifications of the fixed-distribution card model, a large number of people have invested a significant amount of money into multiple core sets and data-pack subscriptions. Granted, they have done so willingly but to date it was under the expected rules of the LCG model.

The model now sits on the verge of being transformed into a hybrid, the specific behaviors of which remain unknown. It is not yet clear whether the basic tenants of the LCG model and the randomization/cost structure of a parallel draft model are compatible. I am concerned that FFG has stated that any cards not listed as "draft only" can be used in legal tournament play- because it leaves the door open to the inclusion of unique cards that will not be released in data-packs or the deluxe expansions. Can you imagine the mad rush to buy booster-packs-by-a-different-name? Classic bait & switch.

If the draft model achieves a critical threshold of popularity, and first impressions from Worlds right now are good, then FFG risks creating a schism in the gaming community (this is where Icedman did a great job of discussing some very pertinent CONS to this marketing decision). I agree that it is unlikely we will see the extinction of constructed LCG play, but players will ultimately be divided into one of two cultures for ANR. I say this because based upon the initial quotes of $5 per draft starter and $12 per corp or runner draft pack, a lot of players will be forced to choose which play-style they are willing to support financially.

This last item is by no means a deal-breaker, but FFG has to find the right price point for draft packs- and $12 per pack seems way too high. Especially in light of the fact that FFG has constructed a facility to digitally produce cards with a slightly different finish, quality, color and card thickness (and at an economic savings because it remains in-house versus taking the long boat trip from China). I respect the recent reporting and insights of Team Covenant and others like them, but they're dazzled by the packaging and the randomization algorithms and not considering the real financial choices that lie ahead- unless these guys from Tulsa won the lottery and have become independently wealthy.

Creating two parallel communities is NOT impossible, just very difficult. And future decisions about card inclusions will be very important. Like Icedman, I'm worried that draft play will NOT remain a niche thing for a lot of regular ANR players, and maybe FFG will gradually reduce its support of the LCG model. That's speculation on my part, but the truth is that FFG will be guided by the financials.

What will players continue to pay money for?

I suppose we have only ourselves to blame. The Runners weren't completely satisfied with the LCG culture, even though it's pretty damn good. We desired drafts, and the corporation fulfilled our wish.

You reap what you sow. Let's hope the game doesn't get screwed.
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Matt
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Vantage, that's the problem with me trying to get this all down in one go; I miss something I was thinking about and have to rely on others to catch

I agree that the decks the new players have are draft-only and they're missing IDs, but looking around the existing market there's a reasonable chance they could pick some up already. Coupled with your comment on the "grey market", it might be a good way for a player to stagger their buy-in further than the Data Pack model (I know I've already recommended Team Covenant's Faction Packs to people, for example).

I can't really see stores pushing an exclusively draft-only league set-up, I mostly noted it because of all the possible cons, I see this one as the most likely (note: that doesn't mean it's probable ).

I really can't see FFG printing LCG-legal cards exclusively for the Draft sets; that's nose/face/spite territory, there... What I can see them doing (but hope they don't) is using the Draft packs as a new vector for spoilers for upcoming cards, especially if they make them Draft-only prior to their LCG release.
 
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Catherine Chung
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Fantasy Flight stated the following on their announcement:

Quote:
Except for the “draft only” cards, all cards found in draft packs are also found in normal existing (or future) LCG® products.


This would seem to me to be a pretty clear statement that FFG won't be printing LCG-legal cards exclusively for the draft sets. The future spoiler angle does strike me as pretty interesting, though. It'll be interesting to see what tournament rules state about future cards that show up early in draft.
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Tommy Roman
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Quashie added an important caveat to my warnings about the potential transformation of the current LCG model.

Unfortunately, it doesn't change my argument or provide me long-term reassurance. The fact remains the same- at the currently quoted pricing, FFG will be charging too much for a one-shot draft pack. Forty cards for $12 versus 3 copies of twenty cards for ~$12 (depending on which vendor you favor). The card quality is NOT identical. The math is self-explanatory. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm sure that I'll buy at least one copy of each because FFG has quickly learned to take advantage of the completionist/OCD streak that seems to run throughout the community like white on rice.

How the community responds with their wallets will decide the next steps. The limited-draft format may develop a proportionately limited following, and the status quo is preserved. End of story. Or perhaps the draft paradigm becomes quite popular, and the players will ask/gripe about the price. FFG will need to justify the price point for its product, because it's highly unlikely that they will want to reduce their margin.

Maybe it take the form of foil fronts, alternate artwork or perhaps they'll forego any previous assurances and include a couple of "exclusives". Hey, how about a subscription for X number of drafts packs? Order X and get a limited-edition Y. Right from the FFG on-line store to your door! It's a slippery slope and I'm afraid some customers will lose out. Corporate conscience tends to be a fickle thing.

Which returns us to my point about "reaping what you sow". Our fellow gamers spoke of a draft system before they really thought about all of its ramifications for the gaming community as a whole. FFG will always be beholden to the financial bottom-line, and will adjust its marketing strategy like any other competitive business venture seeking maximized profit. The inference of your clarification is that FFG won't risk alienating it's current customer base.

I sincerely hope you are right, Quashie.

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Seth M
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huffa2 wrote:
I was excited by draft matches at first too. But, one of the main reasons I was originally excited by AN:R was its LCG model. If they only produce certain cards for draft, etc... cry


They broadcast a draft in their Worlds coverage on twitch.tv and the only cards that were DRAFT ONLY were the 30 card minimum infinite influence identities.

At least for now there's nothing to worry about.
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Michael B
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Current and "FUTURE" packs is a worrying statement to me as a tournament player.

While only halfway reassuring that the draft only won't go back and forth with the LCG. It really worries me that I'll be paying secondary market prices a week before a tournament to be competitive because the pack that contains a meta shifting card doesn't come out till a week after the tournament.

Really a game-killer for me, it's pretty much the same reason I left MTG. Chase rares and secondary driven markets.
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Matt
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MrChurch13 wrote:
Current and "FUTURE" packs is a worrying statement to me as a tournament player.

While only halfway reassuring that the draft only won't go back and forth with the LCG. It really worries me that I'll be paying secondary market prices a week before a tournament to be competitive because the pack that contains a meta shifting card doesn't come out till a week after the tournament.

Really a game-killer for me, it's pretty much the same reason I left MTG. Chase rares and secondary driven markets.


I would certainly hope that if FFG went this way that they would be smart enough to include something like "only cards released in Data Packs/Deluxe Expansions are legal for tournament play" in the Tourney Rules doc.
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Jon Day
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There were some 'unreleased' cards in the agot draft packs, but this seems to be a factor of these being a preview.
 
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Ony Moose
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Yeah, the Tournament rules state that only packs that are officially released are legal for LCG. EG At GenCon you couldn't put Opening Moves in your deck, although they were selling it.
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Allan Clements
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Regardless of what FFG has said (which can be interpreted in many ways) the draft packs will have zero effect on constructed play. Anyone who believes otherwise is just overreacting.

FFG just stated some general rules for using the cards you get in the draft packs (if you don't have them already). Of course there are going to be lots of exceptions, such as if the cards really are from packs not yet released.

People who don't want to get more core sets can pick up copies of singles from draft packs, I don't expect them to be very expensive, and probably cheaper than they are now.

I am looking forward to drafting as an option now and again.
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Chris Nutt
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I'm thankful that FFG established the only cards up to the most recently released Data pack at retail so long ago.

Draft will be a fun option now and again and will be a nice way for collectors to get 3x Core Set cards without buying a third Core set. I still believe the added tokens and cards from a second core set are worth the price, but I now have no need to pick up a third core set.
 
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Marius Ødegård
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I personally would like to get my hands on the way they do randomisation. Would help my own cube immensely.
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James Ryan
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Edwin20er wrote:
There will be groups that buy a single draft pack then reshuffle the 40 cards back in and go again, but without the FFG "random algorythm" it seems like it could be a difficult format to sell as being reusable.


Anybody know what the algorithm is?

I imagine it balances the number of econ cards and ice and other cards for corp. And then balances breakers/econ/etc for runner.

Is that not something players could do with their "used" draft packs?
 
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Anthony Martins
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While the re-use value is a bit low, in that I won't be able to use most of these puppies for constructed play, the experience would be worth $30 for me. At least, the first time it would be worth it. It's more like paying for a movie than buying something I can use afterward.

So, even if each subsequent draft was only $25, it's still a bit of a price to pay to get into an event. I wouldn't want to do it more than once every three months or so.

On the other hand, I only have one core. These extra cards might help fill in some stuff I'd like three of. Also, I thought it would be a good idea to have some basic decks lying around for teaching, and this could help build towards that goal.
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Pixxel Wizzard
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williamj35 wrote:

Anybody know what the algorithm is?

I imagine it balances the number of econ cards and ice and other cards for corp. And then balances breakers/econ/etc for runner.

Is that not something players could do with their "used" draft packs?


I doubt that information will be made available. But I imagine someone will reverse engineer it for us.
 
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Angel Baker
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I'd totally love spoilers in draft packs. With the bomb icon and everything. It wouldn't be legal until the data pack is legal, that's easy to manage. Casual players will ignore those rules anyway (and casuals rule the roost), while hardcore players will use them as proxies to test. No big deal.
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Gregory Pettigrew
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Icedman wrote:
Better opportunities to introduce/incorporate "new" players: Got a problem with your FLGS league, where some players have more Data Packs than the others? Not if you run a Draft tourney!! In fatc, if the players are willing, you could probably return the cards to the pool at the end of the tourney and re-draft them again next time. This "stop-gap" would give you a Netrunner fix while those who are looknig to complete Data Pack purchases can catch up.


IME, newer players get murdered in draft.
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