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Android Netrunner Review

April 1st, 2013 by Irwin Fletcher Comments

  • Published by: Fantasy Flight Games
  • UK Distributor: Esdevium Games
  • RRP: £31.99
  • Players: 2

Android Netrunner is a living card game based on a collectable card game released in 1996 which was based on the Cyberpunk 2020 roleplaying system.  Fantasy Flight games have brought Netrunner back and placed in within their living card game bracket, under their Android setting.

A living card game is different to a collectable card game in that they have set cards that are available to everyone.  If you buy the base set or an expansion, you have the same options as everyone else.  Collectable card games use randomised boosters and starter decks, meaning to get the cards or deck you want, you have to buy a lot of card packs or trade.

This latest incarnation of the Netrunner card game has a wealth of history behind its background.  The Android board game was published in 2008, the setting in which Netrunner now sits, but Cyberpunk 2020 was published in 1990.  Having background knowledge in any of all of this won’t affect your playing, or enjoyment of the game.

Android Netrunner is a two player game that sees one player take the role of the Corporation using one of the four Corporation decks and the other player take of the role of the Runner (hacker) using one of the three Runner decks. Each deck offers its own unique play style so even straight out of the box, with the fixed cards, there’s loads of scope for a variety of games.

The four Corporations’ are:

  • Haas-Bioroid leads the work replacement revolution with its bioroids, humanoid machines possessing artificially-intelligent minds developed from careful braintaping.
  • Jinteki are their main rival in the labor solutions market. Jinteki excel at producing genetically-engineered clones, some of which are even capable of working in the vacuum at the top of the Beanstalk.
  • NBN owns what you think and dream, with the largest and most pervasive media network ever conceived by man streaming everything from music to threedee, news to sitcoms, and classic movies to sensies.
  • The Weyland Consortium has expanded since its construction of the space elevator; the Consortium now leads the way in construction of cutting edge facilities on Earth, the Moon, and Mars.

The three Runners’ are:

  • Anarchs like Noise Reilly work from their hatred for corporate corruption. Some might say they champion the oppressed and the downtrodden, but it’s more likely that they’re interested purely in the act of ripping apart corporate lies and spreading their viruses to hinder the corporate machine.
  • Criminals like Gabriel Santiago are in it for the credits. They get paid for the secrets they uncover. Consummate professionals, these runners believe in taking as few risks as possible, and never the ones they consider unnecessary.
  • Shapers like Kate McCaffrey are considered idealistic naifs by many. They’re not in the business to tear down corporations nor for personal gain. They run because they can. They take joy runs to see what they can make out of new combinations of hardware and software. Accordingly, their tech is usually among the most modded and sophisticated of any runner’s.

The game is played across a number of turns, with the Corporation trying to advance their agendas and the Runner trying to disrupt their operations.  The interesting part about the game is that during the runners turn, he can make a run against a server (a line of cards containing ICE, described later and possibly an agenda, or a trap), the Corporations hand, deck or discard pile.  Without adequate protection against all of your assets, the Runner can really spoil the Corporations day.  It gives it a real feel of attack and protection and a constant sense of unease for the Runner as he doesn’t know what surprises the Corporation has waiting for him.

The Corporation player installs ICE cards to the table, ICE is the protective software used by the Corporation player to protect their assets.  The Runner builds up his Rig by installing hardware, software and resources.


The artwork on the cards is fantastic and really adds to the dystopian futuristic setting of the game.  The cards are bright and crisp, which leans away from the darker setting of the original Cyberpunk but fits in well with the Android setting.  The card components of the game are solid and durable, as are always produced by Fantasy Flight Games.

For experienced card game players, after reading the rules, will be straight in to this pretty intense game of intrigue that operates slightly differently to the more mainstream card games.  Those less experienced with card games, but have experience of board games might have to read the rules a couple of times before setting off, and those completely new to card games will certainly have to spend some time with the rules.  Everyone will find a detailed and enjoyable experience with Android Netrunner and the nature of the game, operating more through bluff and card knowledge, with a little luck of the draw, rather than the amount you have spent on the cards means that every game will be interesting, challenging and unique.  If you’re falling for the same ploys across several games, then you’ll need to review your tactics.

A game should take around an hour to play and with the seven different decks to play through, offers a huge amount of playability straight out of the base set.


Android Netrunner is a technical game that operates differently to many popular card games.  The gameplay is intense and builds up to a fast pace.  The whole package gives a great feel to the setting and what the gameplay represents.  The seven decks out of the base set offer a huge amount of replayability until you find your preferred Corporation or Runner and then even longer as you work to perfect your style of play with them.  Fantasy Flight Games have taken what was originally a great collectable card game and have improved on it, delivering a sterling effort to their living card game line up.

4.5 out of 5 Nerds

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I'm an LA journalist who really lives for his profession. I have also published work as Jane Doe in various mags and newspapers across the globe. I normally write articles that can cause trouble but now I write for FTN because Nerds are never angry, so I feel safe.