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Subject: CCG Journey Week 30 - Cyberpunk rss

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Mike Haverty
United States
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This week's stop on the CCG Journey is another game Johnny B. brought to the table and that I don't actually own any of. Do I need to get some now?

The Game
The CCG is based on the RPG setting of the same name from R. Talsorian games, and on which the equally short-lived but much more highly regarded Netrunner from Richard Garfield is also based (I didn't know that until recently). If I understand this right, it came out in two versions: Cyberpunk 2013 (the first release, basically) and Cyberpunk 2020 (a revised edition). The overall style of game is actually rather similar to Shadowrun: you recruit runners, equip them, and send them on runs to earn victory points (Ops points in Cyberpunk). Obviously, Cyberpunk is all sci-fi so you aren't dealing with any Awakened and magic, but many other aspects are similar. I've never played (or even flipped through) the RPG so I can't say how well the theme comes through in the card game, but it does seem well-integrated.

The Decks
John had two starter decks, one from each set (original and 2020). We had actually given this a shot at lunch a few weeks ago but were unable to complete a game before we ran out of time. In that first go-round I had played the Arasaka deck (think military/defense corporation) and he had played the Nomads (a street faction/vehicle deck). It seemed like the Arasaka deck was much stronger in our partial play, so we swapped decks for our second effort to even out the experience.

In addition to the normal Ops and Style victories (get to 100 in either), each deck/faction in this game has its own specific victory condition. Arasaka wins if they end the turn with 120 Defense worth of runners, gear, etc. and the Nomads win if they end the turn with the "Open Road" location card and one of each vehicle type in play (there are 7 different types, such as Hover, Truck, RV, AV, Helicopter, etc.).

The Play
The game seemed to start very quickly this time. In our first play, it seemed like it took a long time to get anything going, but now I wonder if we played the Shopping phase wrong. John went first this time and he tapped his faction card to play a location, then tapped that location to play another, then again and again. He got something like 4 locations and 1 character out in his first turn, by chaining costs/resources like that. We double and triple checked the rules and couldn't find anything that said you couldn't do that; in fact, the only remark in the Shopping rules was a reminder that cards enter play unused (untapped), with no prohibition against immediate use. I had a similar, slightly slower first turn, and it seemed like we'd start to see more action sooner than in our previous game.

Things did slow down a bit after that. We each got more locs and chars out, but our guys were fixers and netrunners with low offense scores, meaning they were too weak to attempt any hits/runs. We entered a longish period of not getting much done other than playing locations and operations cards, which actually put us behind the pace of our first game; in that playing, I got several Race Chapel (a pretty stout military character in the Arasaka deck) out and was able to go on hits/runs sooner than in this game. John kept drawing from that deck trying to get them, while I kept drawing from my gear deck trying to get vehicles because I knew there were a lot in there, and many of them provide substantial combat bonuses.

There were no runs for the first half of the game, and only one hit (a hit is against an opponent's location or operation, while a run is against your own operation). I actually made a frivolous play here that cost me badly. John sent a team over to burn down one of my locations. I only had three guys out with mediocre combat skills, but one guy had equipment (in Cyberpunk, if you lose a fight, everyone loses their equipment, and everyone who didn't have any equipment is trashed) and I had "Vow of Vengeance" in my hand. This event is played on a runner who lost a fight and gives him the Solo class as well as several stat bonuses (Solo lets you add your character's Power (skill rating) to your offense). So I decided to block knowing that I'd lose two of my guys plus the equipment, but emerge with one guy all buffed up. Unfortunately, for shits and grins, I played "Poser" on one of his guys during the fight -- this card permanently reduces someone's style to 0. This has no functional impact, and since neither of us thought a Style victory was remotely viable with these decks, it also had no effect on his chances of success. I just thought it was funny to call him a poser and make him styleless before my other two guys died. Yes, I giggled, just a bit.

Then after the hit was over and we got to the Damage Control phase where my event was playable, I realized that the money I spent on "Poser" left me 1 Eurobuck short of paying for "Vow of Vengeance." Sigh. I guess there's no room for frivolity in Night City (though many cards have humorous flavor text).

John finally started getting his beefy Race Chapel guys out and he started banging away on his operations, with a short detour to put down one of my guys with some kind of duel action card. We were discussing how the Nomad deck was supposed to win when it seemed so underpowered. Then it occurred to us that maybe I should be focusing on the Nomad victory -- get out the "Open Road" and 7 different vehicles. Thinking about it now, though, I'm not sure how reliable that is. I didn't have much card draw beyond the default 3 per turn, and depending on the shuffle it could be a rather long time to even pull the "Open Road" and/or get all the vehicle types.

As it happens, though, I finally got a nice aircraft and some weapons on my runners, sufficient to start working on my own operations, which I'd been piling up when I had nothing else to do with my money. John had a 35-0 lead at that point, but I knocked out several ops over the next few turns, bringing us up to 75-60. John ran out of operations and turned his eye toward all mine sitting on the table. You can only do one hit per turn, but his team was so overwhelming I didn't have much of a shot at stopping them. I finally drew a "Nothing Left to Lose" that lets you burn one of your runners to make your opponent burn one of his. How apropos, thought I, so I made a last ditch effort to stop him, burning a guy as planned, but he still had enough offense left to beat the operation and win the game.

The Verdict
I think this is another game that's not bad, but didn't quite turn our crank. Granted, we were playing with untuned starters and I have no idea how playable/balanced these are supposed to be, but it seemed to be a lot more build-up and effort to get to the point where you're knocking out hits and runs. I think it was a good 75-90 minutes for this game, and I think we were at about that when we ran out of time on our first try.

Comparisons with Shadowrun seem inevitable. Cyberpunk generally has more detail/chrome. Characters have separate ratings for Short Range and Long Range Offense; SR always adds to your offense total, but you have to pay to add LR each time, and characters not in the fight can also pay to add their LR, so you have more built-in tactical options than in Shadowrun. The character classes are a little more detailed as well. Where Shadowrun uses skill icons as a sort of pass/fail system, Cyberpunk gives anywhere from one to four special abilities to each class, and the Power rating is a sort of universal "level" rating that lets characters of similar level affect each other (for example, a Med-Tech can save someone who has an equal or lower Power).

On the other hand, netrunning is abstracted to a simple +/- to a target's E-Sec (electronic security rating), while Shadowrun's deckers actually get programs that do different things (analagous to a mage having spells), so that's a little more of a thematic touch. Overall, though, Shadowrun is a bit simpler and leaner, while Cyberpunk seems a bit more complex with a correspondingly greater play time.

We both thought Cyberpunk was "okay" -- which is simply not enough for either of us to desire more cards or work on decks. I give it a 5.5 rating, but if you like the theme, it might be worth checking this out.

Notes on the Journey
Total plays (plays since last report).

World of Warcraft = 33
Magic = 20 (+4)
Game of Thrones = 13
VS = 11
Harry Potter = 7
Doomtown = 6
Conan = 4
Jyhad = 4
City of Heroes = 4
Epic = 4
Lord of the Rings = 3
Warhammer = 3
BattleTech = 3
TMNT = 2
Legend of the Five Rings = 2
Shadowrun = 2
Star Wars = 2
Cyberpunk = 1 (+1)
Mystick = 1
Gridiron = 1
Wyvern = 1
Spycraft = 1
Kingdom Hearts = 1
Echelons = 1
OverPower = 1
Hyborian Gates = 1
Arcadia = 1
Fantasy Adventures = 1
On the Edge = 1
Shadowfist = 1
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