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Android: Netrunner» Forums » General

Subject: The ANR Honeymoon: Is It Over for You? rss

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Tommy Roman
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So this past weekend I was watching Tom Vasel and the crew of the Dice Tower wax philosophical about "great games that we'll never play again". It was an interesting episode, especially when it came to the reasons why an otherwise popular/well-designed/good production value game would likely be abandoned. At the Dice Tower, the honeymoon was over for some reputable games.

Guess which game appeared on all 3 lists? Netrunner. At first, I was like, how could that be? Netrunner is a great game and currently one of my favorites (although I don't have the chance to play it as often as I like). Well, the DT crew agrees that it is a great game. But some of what makes ANR great is also a problem for new players.

http://www.dicetower.com/game-video/top-10-great-games-we-wo... Relevant parts: Tom's thoughts @ 36:20, Sam's opinion @ 39:40 and Zee's summary @ 48:20.

I watched this episode twice, because there was a lot of truth in the opinions expressed about ANR. Netrunner has become an increasingly complex game with new card mechanisms and timing nuances, and so the barrier of entry for new players tends to be high. This is also a game that requires a certain degree of financial commitment (lots of data packs out there) as well as an intellectual one to keep current with the latest deck archetypes and card combos.

This got me to thinking about a recent review by Willingdone regarding the 2015 Championship decks from FFG. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvyw0kdJHqs He opines that these products are a good entry point for new players, whereas I view them as geared towards veterans who need additional cards to fill out multiple competitive decks or who just like the alt art. Although there's good value in these decks, I think it's unrealistic for a new player to pick up Dan D's Valencia DLR masterpiece and play it like Dan. Deck and player quality are two distinct elements, and I think it's simpler to improve the deck than the player. Although FFG never promised that you could play like a pro with this deck, I wonder if some neophyte bought this thinking it would be a great way to get into ANR- only to have his butt handed to him because he couldn't pilot the deck against an experienced player. I don't want that person to be frustrated and then tell all of his friends to avoid Netrunner like herpes.

I like Tom Vasel a lot and I think he's a very reasonable and sensible critic. I can't help but wonder that if he had followed ANR with a little more determination or gotten some support to remain current with "the meta", if it would have made his list. I didn't really know what I was getting into when I first bought the core set in 2012, but I knew that the theme, art and gameplay had me hooked. I will say that the level of commitment to play ANR well is significant: enough so that I more or less have given up on Conquest and GoT 2nd edition. These are also great games, but I only have so much gray matter to spare.

In retrospect I can see the tremendous growth in ANR. As a living card game, ANR has truly evolved from where it began and continues to do so. At times, this growth has been frustrating or the rules/timing nuances less-than-obvious. But I've managed to stay (mostly) current and snuck in games here and there. If I didn't work so much, I'd play more.

I think Lukas and Damon have been good stewards of ANR, but there are challenges to overcome. I think the biggest one is to attract new players without intimidating them with the game's complexity or the growing card pool (well, rotation is coming). I'm not suggesting FFG "dumb-down" the game, but there's a steep learning curve for new players to navigate before they even consider the tournament circuit. Maybe FFG could release a broader variety of "pre-packaged" archetypes like the championship decks supported by videos that cover some of the finer details of advanced play on their website. Perhaps there could be an alternate competitive format that limited deck composition to the core set and the big box expansions. Or maybe it's time for FFG to monetize a digital format.

These are only my half-baked proposals, and there's issues with all of these "solutions". I just think it's important to continue to grow a meaningful player base. There are more tournament players at Worlds each year, but are the newer players sticking with the game? Retaining competitive players is a different challenge than attracting new ones.

For the TLDR crowd, the honeymoon isn't over for me. I still love this game, as I'm sure many of you do. I've also noticed that I've rambled a little bit. Sorry. I'd be curious to hear from the community- is ANR drawing a healthy number of new players that will help support the game's future developments, or has it plateaued and is currently being carried by the much smaller pool of talented masters like Dan D and others?

Well, I'm off to tweak my latest version of HB Stronger Together- got to make room for Mr. Sandburg. Muhaha!

(Until Damon adds it to the MWL 3.0)
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Alan Castree
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I really don't see them as being followers of an LCG. I think they'll like the core and play that, but probably won't go much farther than that. Honestly, I haven't watched the video yet (I will) so there might be more reasons than that.
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Matt Hindmarch
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Here's what I can add: played this game with my son multiple times before joining BGG. LOVED IT! Son went away to college. I kept collecting. He kept playing. He came home. We played. I can't keep up. He's too fast, understands the meta, wipes the floor with me before I even know I'm a towel.

People need to find other players at the same level. Is that possible in your world?

It's NOT a welcoming game with varying levels of experience.
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ACGalaga wrote:
I really don't see them as being followers of an LCG. I think they'll like the core and play that, but probably won't go much farther than that. Honestly, I haven't watched the video yet (I will) so there might be more reasons than that.


I agree. Seeing the video it is not a great game that they will not play again. It is a game that they never got into (because of totally understandable reasons).
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Carl
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ACGalaga wrote:
I really don't see them as being followers of an LCG. I think they'll like the core and play that, but probably won't go much farther than that.


I'm inclined to agree. Despite the publishers' efforts to differentiate LCGs from CCGs, I think most competitive players treat Netrunner as a hobby in itself -- not unlike avid MTG players do. In contrast, boardgamers like Vasel are still treating Netrunner as just another prospect to pull off the shelf on a casual Saturday night. But Netrunner is not the same, relatively simple, self-contained experience as Catan, for example.

Avid Netrunner players may complain about the direction of the meta and the role of individual cards, but they're generally not complaining about the overall size of the card pool or the relative barriers to play. They've already made that commitment, and I think they realize that anyone they're likely to play with will also be making that commitment.

I consider myself still pretty new to the game, so I'm still in the Honeymoon for sure. It helps that I've started a weekly Netrunner night at my local store to pull in new players. Some go out and buy the whole card pool the next day, but there are also those who continue to show up wanting to just play the basic starter decks I provide. It may be a matter of finances or a lower level of interest, but I'll admit that my focus tends to shift away from them after a couple weeks and toward the people making the commitment.
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Brendan Riley
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MHindmarch wrote:
Here's what I can add: played this game with my son multiple times before joining BGG. LOVED IT! Son went away to college. I kept collecting. He kept playing. He came home. We played. I can't keep up. He's too fast, understands the meta, wipes the floor with me before I even know I'm a towel.

People need to find other players at the same level. Is that possible in your world?

It's NOT a welcoming game with varying levels of experience.


Try Jinteki.net -- you can experiment with all the cards, play people of all skill levels, and so on. It's a great way to get in extra games and get a bit caught up.

Being "with" the meta isn't always what it's cracked up to be. I have had lots of fun with an HB deck that has good ol' Snare in it because it's just not very common to see there. Whenever someone hits it, they comment in the text box and, usually, re-think what they're doing a bit because suddenly this thing that isn't supposed to be there is back.

Keep with it!
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Zach Mckinney
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I came to netrunner two cycles in, and I even though I am still behind in packs (one deluxe and several data packs), I am still in love with the game, for me no other game does what it does, and current cycle, flash point excites me every card does, just like the last deluxe pack. I mean come on three new runner factions and some of the cards in design terms are next level like 15 mins. A game I do not mind losing or winning, in fact I'm going to go play it right now.
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Jeb
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I have a suggestion for FFG to make games like Netrunner much more approachable.

I got into card games playing Magic ... from a iPad. It was a perfect lifestyle fit for me f or the following reasons:

1) It taught the game in a very private yet effective manner. The had head to head games as well as some campaign games that where fun. The AI isn't bad but to be blunt it does not need to be that good because:
2) It had a head to head mode which is what I lived in once I learned the game. The head to head mode was tiered so you would play eventually to your level and find those folks wh are your level of expertise.
3) The play matching aspect was great because I could fit in games that worked for my schedule like before my daughter came home from school or at night right before going to bed.

To me very successful,games like Netrunner are perfect for creating a mobile app version as the game has the economy of scales to make it work and the mobile game helps to recruit and keep players involved. Also, FFG would be able to track their customer and their usage patters to find out all kinds of interesting things about how the Meta is evolving or breaking.

To be blunt, the mobile LCG version of a game should be easier than what Magic has to do. I'm really hoping FFG starts to link their LCGs this way.
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Larry Haskell
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So all three included it in their list and gave essentially the same reason. Let me see if I've got their complaint right:

It's too hard to find someone to play with because either:
1) they are new to the game and it's hard to teach or,
2) they know the game too well and it's no fun (for either side) to play.

I'd submit there is a third option:

3) they could find some players who, like them, would like to play casually and with a limited card pool. It's a shame none of them know anyone who meets those criteria shake

With any of the LCG's it is possible to play a casual format with a limited card pool. I bought into the first cycle of Star Wars LCG, built four decks and I play with some friends who are likewise not interested in delving further into the game. No big deal.

And as far as Sam's complaint about "experts" ruining a game -- I've run into the same thing with regular board games. The first couple times I played Puerto Rico, it was with a group of very experienced players who were vocally put-off by my sub-optimal play. I didn't play PR for ages after that, but when I got a chance to play with folks who were, like me, not very experienced at the game, I really enjoyed it.

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Takeshi
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The issue with "experts" happens with many strategy games and war games. If you know what you're doing in Race for the Galaxy or Seasons, you will beat a player that is learning. It's more fun when both players are at the same level.
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Andrew Brown
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I started playing with 3 friends shortly after release. We all kept up with data packs for the first two years. I played 100+ games in half a year.

Then I got a job that moved me to Jordan. There, the card pool, along with my experience playing the game, was too great to introduce new players. (I introduced ppl to Summoner Wars instead.)

20 months passed and I returned to the States. By this point, too much had changed in the game for me to want to catch up. Two of the original group of 4 players have sold their cards. I'm looking to sell mine as well. I'm with the Dice Tower guys. Doubt I'll ever play again. Too many cards that significantly change the meta released too quickly. And in a game that is all about bluffing and knowing what to be prepared for, you can't compete if you don't keep up.
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John
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Interesting. I saw that Dice Tower video as well and was a bit surprised that it made all three lists but I kinda agreed with them on their reasoning. For me personally, netrunner is my only 10 rated game. It has been one of my absolute favourite games to play over the last few years and it has given me plenty of good memories and new friends along the way. I'm proud that we managed to build a small meta locally that is still going strong. But I haven't played since February. Now, I've had a kid and what not so playing games haven't really been on my to do list recently. But I started to feel like it was hard work to keep up regardless. I wanted to play other stuff as well, and not just netrunner. Same thing with purchases, I wanted to spend my cash on more than just new cards all the time. There seems to always be a new pack! Right now I'm a whole cycle behind, I always used to be up to date. But I'm not that bothered. The guys in my meta have all the new cards. Some of them keep right up to date with previews and discuss cards and decks before they can even build them! I can't keep up! I want to play more netrunner, and I will when I get around to it, but it is getting to the point that it is a bit intimidating to get back in. And I'm an experienced player. So yeah, still love the game but the honeymoon is definitely over.
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General Norris
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Ultimately, I don't think that Vasel or the other two credits feature in this episode are really the kind of gamers who can get the best out of Android: Netrunner. Ultimately, it's a "lifestyle game" and it's not really a good fit for people who try out new games every week.
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Dan Allen
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gamedog wrote:

I'd submit there is a third option:

3) they could find some players who, like them, would like to play casually and with a limited card pool. It's a shame none of them know anyone who meets those criteria shake


This. I went all in on the game, love every aspect of the cards, the gameplay, and the enthusiasm of the players. Went to weekly league nights and an occasional tournament. Work, kids, and life in general just made it unrealistic to keep up with the release cycle. In order to maintain any competitive edge and participate in organized play, you must subscribe to the data packs and expansions. And frankly the release cycle is just as aggressive as Magic: The Gathering which is what turned me off of MtG initially and later turned me off of Netrunner. So there my cards sat until more recently some friends of mine expressed an interest in playing casually with whatever, and I look forward to getting back in. The game is just too good to pass up, and I think there is probably going to be more fun had in making casual decks that favor fun interactions over pure efficiency. I had floated the idea of maybe playing at a slower pace but also following the release cycles so we could relive the game in the order the cards were released, and introduce "new" data packs as we go. Another cool thought I had would be to make a cube (since I had gone all in up through Data and Destiny. Curious to know how others have managed to keep the game fun in a casual setting with friends!
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Carl
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gamedog wrote:

I'd submit there is a third option:
3) they could find some players who, like them, would like to play casually and with a limited card pool. It's a shame none of them know anyone who meets those criteria shake

With any of the LCG's it is possible to play a casual format with a limited card pool.


This it totally true, so why doesn't this happen more? And what could be done to encourage it?

I personally think part of the reason is that the need to build a deck to play with creates a separate activity that is too much for a lot of casual players.

And publishers don't really support or encourage casual play of LCG/ECGs. The focus always seems to be on on the next card set and the competitive community.

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Yes, customisable card games take too much dedication for the pure boardgamer type. They just want a simple game that works fully out of the box, with an occasional expansion every year or two at most.

LCGs are designed with an expanding and changing card pool in mind, and the pre-game deckbuilding it leads to is simply too much effort. Some people just want to pick up and play a game, not worry about card combinations outside of what's pulled from a commonly available deck on the table.

There have been many discussions about what to do to get new people into the game. The two common ideas people subscribe to (sometimes at the same time) are deck packs with a solid combination of cards both to get started cheaply and learning an archetype, and selling expansion cycles in bigger boxes at some sort of discount.

I like the deck idea best. Maybe a yearly set of 14 decks, two archetypes from the most recent tournaments for each faction. Buy a core to get tokens and filler cards for deck construction, a runner and corp deck of your choice and start being somewhat competitive right away.

Cycle bundles I'm not sure about. Depends on how much they could shave off the price, but they'd make it easier to avoid holes in your collection when catching up. On the other hand, it would be a bit more of a niche product than prepared decks, as they would compete with single data packs.

Mistress Netrunner isn't really the honeymoon type.
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Larry Haskell
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CarlZog wrote:
gamedog wrote:

I'd submit there is a third option:
3) they could find some players who, like them, would like to play casually and with a limited card pool. It's a shame none of them know anyone who meets those criteria shake

With any of the LCG's it is possible to play a casual format with a limited card pool.


This it totally true, so why doesn't this happen more? And what could be done to encourage it?



I suspect it happens more than we think. It's just that people who do it don't have much need to frequent forums to discuss the latest data packs -- they have what amounts to a complete game and they play it. I still play Star Wars LCG but I can't remember the last time I looked at the forums for it. What's being discussed there has little or no bearing on the game I'm playing. Then again, I still play Nexus Ops and I don't frequent that forum either.
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Mad Scientist Philip von Doomula
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ktfod wrote:
I went all in on the game, love every aspect of the cards, the gameplay, and the enthusiasm of the players. Went to weekly league nights and an occasional tournament. Work, kids, and life in general just made it unrealistic to keep up with the release cycle. In order to maintain any competitive edge and participate in organized play, you must subscribe to the data packs and expansions. And frankly the release cycle is just as aggressive as Magic: The Gathering which is what turned me off of MtG initially and later turned me off of Netrunner.


This expresses my same exact sentiments perfectly. Life happened and Netrunner won't slow down for no one.
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Brodie
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The honeymoon is absolutely over for me, but I prefer not to dwell on it publicly in the hopes that newer players can still enjoy Netrunner for what it is to them. I don't want to be the reason someone misses out on such an amazing game, even if it's not the same for me anymore.
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Grant Whitesell

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A massive part of their distaste appeared to not so much be the game, or the cards, or the collecting aspect - it was a person that turned them off.

It is so highly geared towards tournament play that it seems to have created a very highly insular community in some places that is very condescending to new players. The encounter they describe sounds really demeaning, and reminded me of a handful of similar ones that ran me right out of MtG a long time ago when I was just learning.

There's also an attitude that everything short of Tier 1 is a waste of time and you've got no chance at being good ever unless you focus on the top of the meta all of the time.

Those things just suck the enjoyment out of the game completely, as it increasingly just seems to be geared only for the tournament scene. Which is fine, but as I'm approaching the end of my second year I'm actually considering selling off the collection just in time for the competitive rotation.
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This card game takes more commitment than DT can devote as their primary job is to review boardgames and not go deep into a single evolving game so their answers are not surprising.

My barrier to entry is not the card quantity but lack of local interest. FFG supposedly wants to support FLGS then they would have to do more to promote their content than just wait for stores to take initiative to buy their kits.

Passionate players can help grow a community but the publisher is the one that bears the burden of advertisement and marketing.

Personally sticking with Conquest for now.

Sorry don't mean to derail. Personally never went on the honeymoon with ANY so it isn't a question.
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Zach Mckinney
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Yeah I was surprised that my FLGS which has massive magic yoghio Pokémon and other card tournaments has no netrunner presence. Now it could be due to barrier of entry/ pulling people from other games, or support its basically up to me to grow interest.
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I haven't played in awhile, mostly because of getting scheduled at work on all the wrong days, but I also fell behind on datapacks again and I get pissed off every time they announce a new one. Give it a rest for awhile.
 
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Derek J
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So as background, I've never played ANR but frequent these forums from time to time since I'm an avid fan of LCG's and I like seeing how the top dog is doing.

I personally play AGOT 2nd Ed and LOTR. I got into LOTR first and love it for the solo play. I'm pretty far behind, only have cards through the second cycle but since it's not competitive, I can just take it at my own pace which I love and play my own meta.

AGOT 2nd Ed I dove head first in and just immersed myself completely into it since it was easy to get started. Lately though, I already feel behind since I can't and don't want to devote time every week to play after the initial enthusiasm has worn off. I used to frequent a local game night every week but I stopped awhile ago. Also just stopped my Team Covenant subscriptions since I had realized the last 2 packs I had opened and just stored them away (other than attending one tournament and being able to use a grand total of 1 card from one of the packs). With another deluxe box dropping and another pack shortly after that, I already feel the crush of content.

I still like keeping up with the game since the card pool is at a manageable size but I have no idea what my future with it is when I start falling behind on packs. At a certain point, I'm going to be down 2 deluxe boxes and 6-8 packs. To buy in then will be well over $100. I'm not sure I'm ready for that financial investment and also the time investment...

I am super hyped for Arkham Horror LCG though, namely since I'll be able to solo play it and enjoy it at my own pace like LOTR.

I will add that from time to time I feel like I want to give ANR a try but without anyone to play with it makes the purchase hard to justify. Plus, being invested in AGOT already, if I have free time to play a competitive LCG, I'm going to choose AGOT.
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