I admit that I've probably been going a bit overboard in the last few weeks...
A friend of mine came to visit early last month and we had a great time going through all my CCG collections and playing games... reminiscing of old times. One of the games that we didn't get to play when he was here, but certainly my favorite CCG, is Netrunner. Since he left, I've been frantically searching the Net for trades to complete my collection, and, more importantly, a way to be able to play this great game online. Unfortunately, I live in rural America and there's a paucity of people around me that share my *ahem* predeliction for gaming.
I was very pleased to run across Magic Workstation (MWS) and the great Netrunner mod put together by the Netrunner community (see news posts for more). After downloading the game and the Netrunner package, and having become familiar with the mechanics necessary to make MWS function as a suitable substitute for live gaming, I set about my plans for WORLD DOMINATION ONE WEEFLE AT A TIME! First victim: Cracker, my visiting friend.
Now, Cracker's never played Netrunner before. Sure he saw my binder on his visit, and knows conceptually what the game's all about (a 'runner' trying to hack into a 'corp' as they race to score 'agenda')... but beyond that he's never so much as gained a bit in an actual game. Teaching someone Netrunner is actually fairly simple - as long as they're in front of you and you can help them manipulate their cards, explain the strategies for the cards and situation facing them... in short - it's easy as long as you're not trying to do it over the Internet. How I convinced him to learn Netrunner with me through MWS I won't say (as it is, after all, my secret to WORLD DOMINATION) but I will share how the actual teaching session went so that you can (foolishly!) train weefs of your own in an attempt to stop my nefarious schemings.
The most important thing that you must each realize when teaching/learning a new game through the net is that communication is sub-optimal. You're not in front of each other and that the paradigm shift is pretty significant between 'real-life' and 'internet' for transferrance of knowledge and understanding. Any aids that you can bring to the 'table' to improve the communication between 'teacher' and 'pupil' dramatically improve the chances for success. The worst thing that can happen is for your 'target' to dislike the game not because of the game itself, but because they don't understand how to play it. If you can afford to spend 30 minutes on the phone with each other going over the basic mechanics, DO IT! If you have access to any number of voice-over-ip (VOIP) programs/servers (such as Ventrillo or Teamspeak) use them! Use IM clients. If you're stuck with using the MWS chat client, you're stuck with sending each other messages one line at a time in an area of the screen that's been minimized to make room for the gaming 'table'. It'll work - but you'll both have to have the patience of Job to make it work. Luckily, Cracker and I were able to chat through an IM client while setting MWS up on his computer. You should also both set aside several hours for your first sessions and make all sorts of promises to be patient with each other.
After getting MWS up and going on both of our machines and connecting to each other (simple task - just follow the directions), it was decided that he should play the Corp first as it's generally simpler to learn and teaches a lot about what the Runner needs to be doing. We both kept a Netrunner rulebook open ( http://runners-net.com/rulebook/Index.htm ) in a browser window. We also had open a reference page with notes on how to accomplish Netrunner game mechanics in MWS ( http://www.uni-koblenz.de/~ffko/Netrunner/handling.htm ).
I put on a little light techno and got down to biz.
Our first game wasn't a game at all but rather a teaching session much like any you'd do with any CCG. We both picked pre-constructed decks from the Netrunner pack. He chose the 'Big Ice' deck for the Corp and I picked 'Bits and Breakers.' Both are fairly straight forward decks with no 'trick' to them that would require any real 'strategy.' Both decks are effective just following the rules as explained in the rulebook.
Loaded up, the first task was to reveal each of our hands. In MWS you can use a menu item to reveal your hand, but more effective was just dragging cards from our hands into the play area towards the bottoms of our screens. We also had to draw a few cards so that we each had examples of the different card types (Preps/Operations, Ice/Breakers, Hardware/Nodes, Agenda, etc). Again it was simply dragging cards from our decks in the lower left into the play area. Having gone over the components of each of the cards and explaining what all the numbers mean - and relating them to the relevant rules section - we practiced playing cards in MWS to match the Netrunner mechanics. For instance, to play a card facedown (a hidden resource as runner, or an ICE/node for corp) hold SHIFT while dragging the card from your hand onto the play area. To turn installed ICE sideways on data forts, simply DOUBLE CLICK
the card. Bits can be added to cards as necessary by RIGHT CLICKing the card and choosing SET COUNTERS. Bits to a players' bit pool can be modified by either using F11/F12 to lose/gain bits or by RIGHT CLICKING on the player portrait and choosing an appropriate action. As a last step, the sideboard for the Corp player has pre-made placeholder cards for the Archives, R&D, and HQ forts that can be drug into play in order to install ICE in front of; these cards Cracker simply drug from the sideboard into the play area and arranged them in a functional way. Other more complicated actions are detailed in the link above, but this will generally serve 90% of the game. After about 10 minutes of playing around like this, Cracker felt comfortable enough with the MWS interface to play a game.
We put all our cards back on our decks, shuffled them, and drew 5 cards. The game proceeded in a very...methodical fashion. Cracker's draw was fair, and supplied him with enough nodes and bit generators that he was able to build a nice subsidiary data fort and score a few agenda. His 'Ice Transmutation' on a 'Liche' was quite scary and enabled him to have a very well defended R&D. For my part, I played a very conservative game - not making too many early runs and spending some time building up a bit pool and enough breakers and other
resources enabling me to pick and choose my targets. I probably could have done more to shut down his bit-generating nodes that he left either unprotected or behind a single piece of ice, but I felt like letting him flex out a little. There weren't many tense moments at all and it was a very enjoyable game. There were maybe one or two instances where Cracker had to ask for advice or a card was played "wrong" (ICE being put into play face-up instead of face-down) but in all things went smoothly. First half score - Corp 10 (With 8 agenda), Runner 3.
For the second half it was decided that we'd keep the same decks; I'd be playing 'Big Ice' and he'd be playing the 'Bits and Breakers' deck. We chose to do this as Cracker was already familiar with the cards I'd been playing, and had seen a little of how to put them to use. I planned to play the deck very aggressively and really make Cracker work...actually I planned to crush him thoroughly. I pulled up my 5 cards, drew my sixth and was facing 4 agenda, an 'Accounts Receivable', and a 'Liche'. I played the accounts, drew a bit, and put the 'Liche' in front of HQ. It's a good thing we weren't in front of each other - as he'd have seen me sweat. His draw seemed fine as he played a 'Score!', dropped a 'Short Circuit' and then ran on R&D! Luckily he didn't get any agenda, but he did trash one of my bit generating nodes. He spent his last turn digging for a wall breaker.
Cruelly, the 'Accounts' and the node that Cracker trashed were the last bit generators I'd see for most of the game. I was plagued with huge ICE that I couldn't rez, agenda to put behind it, and could do nothing while Cracker's deck churned along accessing at will as I suffered from poor cashflow. I was able to rez the 'Liche' in front of HQ early on (had to protect all the agenda I was holding!) and that kept him out except when he didn't have many other targets to shoot for. In the end, he was able to ferret out enough of the agendas I was holding or couldn't decoy and won the game. Second half: Corp 4, Runner 10. Total score: Cracker 20(!), Me 7.
Now, I'm either proud that Weefle became a true decker in one night and I'm an excellent teacher, or I'm disappointed because I don't have a real weefle with which to TAKE OVER THE WORLD. Either way I think I have a new Netrunner partner and can look forward to many more games in the future.
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