Table of Contents
Overview of Netrunner™
Netrunner is a two-player Deckmaster® game set in the world of R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk® roleplaying game. There are two roles in Netrunner: the Runner, who is a high-tech data thief; and the Corporation. Using a computer that feeds output from a telecommunication link directly to his or her brain, the Runner navigates the virtual-reality environment of a global computer network known as the Net. Established to facilitate legal commerce, the Net also presents opportunities for the savvy Runner to raid stores of Corporate data.
The Corporation has access to research and development facilities, an executive headquarters, and netspace data forts. The goal of the Corporation is to score "agendas" despite the Runner's attempts at theft and vandalism.
The Runner, despite a general lack of financial resources and the paranoid tone of his or her existence, has reliable access to street contacts, legal and illegal hardware and software, and assistance from other runners in the Net. The goal of the Runner is to liberate agendas from the Corporation and expose its operations.
Each starter pack contains one Corporation deck and one Runner deck. Players should know the rules for both sides and should experiment with playing both roles.
Overview of Deckmaster
Deckmaster is a line of trading card strategy games: each deck and booster pack you buy will contain a random assortment of game cards. Deckmaster games are unlike conventional card games because each player adjusts the mix of cards in his or her deck to fit any of near- limitless avenues of strategy. You will find certain strategies suit you better than others, and you may choose to buy and trade cards to fill gaps in your ideal deck configuration.
The Corporation's goal is to score agenda cards worth a total of 7 agenda points. The goal for the Runner is to "liberate" cards worth a total of 7 agenda points from the Corporation (or "steal" that much agenda, depending on your point of view).
The Corporation also wins if the Runner is forced to discard more cards than the number of cards he or she has in hand, in which case the Runner is considered flatlined, or brain dead.
If the Corporation has to draw a card from its deck when the deck is exhausted, the game ends in a victory for the Runner.
If you are keeping a running point total, you should play an even number of games, with you and your opponent trading Corporation and Runner roles after each game. The winner of each game gets a flat 10 points; the loser gets 1 point for each agenda point scored.
(Refer to relevant sections of this
It is recommended that for the first few games, each player use unmodified decks straight from the box; however, as you gain experience with Netrunner, you will want to optimize your deck by adding certain cards to it and removing others. The player who plays the Corporation and the player who plays the Runner will each need about forty beads or other small tokens to represent bits and various counters, and perhaps a six-sided die for use with certain special cards.
The Combined Rules section of this book presents both the Runner and Corporation sides together in a kind of dialogue. Throughout the rules, the Corporation rules address the Corporate player as "we," and the Runner rules address the Runner player as "you." The Combined Rules section elaborates upon interdependent functions of the Corporation and the Runner, and you will want to read the rules pertaining to both roles here. The main section of the rules is followed by rules specific to the Corporation and then rules specific to the Runner.
Important!: The rules rely on some familiarity with the terminology and tone of the cyberpunk genre, so you should spend a few minutes understanding the feel of this game by reading the definitions below. While reading the rules, if you want to refer to a card diagram, see the diagrams in the Runner or Corp rules section and the table layout on pages 14 and 15.
Quick Definitions: Netrunner uses a lot of special terminology. Here are some essential terms you should understand before you proceed to learn the rules. A comprehensive glossary is located at the end of the rules.
Start of Game
Each player should set aside a store of counters to serve as his or her bit bank. The Corporation and the Runner each take 5 bits () from the bank and put them in a handy area to serve as his or her bit pool. Each player shuffles his or her deck and then gives the other player the option of shuffling it. Each player draws five cards-the starting maximum hand size for both players. The Corporation takes the first turn. The Runner begins with 4 MU (Memory Units) for installing programs.
The Corporation's turn consists of drawing a card from R&D and then taking three actions. The Corporation can do any one of the following things for each of its three actions:
Cards in play might let the Corporation perform actions not listed here or give it additional actions.
The Runner's turn consists of taking four actions. The Runner can do any one of the following things for each of his or her four actions:
Cards in play might let the Runner perform actions not listed here or give him or her additional actions.
End of Turn
At the end of his or her turn, each player discards down to his or her maximum hand size, which began the game at 5.
Below is an operating manual for Corporation players (addressing the Corporation as "we"), in black type, heavily hacked by a runner (addressing the Runner as "you"), whose notes are in green type. Because of the interdependence of the roles of Runner and Corporation, you will need to read the entire document to effectively play either side.
"After the ice has hit your cortex, you lose the tread on those lobes and they no longer corner like they used to."–Anonymous
Playing the Cards
Installing Corporation Cards: To install an agenda card, a node card, an ice card, or an upgrade card, we take an action to place the card face down on the playing area. Our face-down cards are inactive until they are rezzed (see Rezzing Corporation Cards).
Our cards are installed inside or on data forts, the netspace locations where all the processes of our Corporation take place. Each data fort belongs to one of two categories: central data forts and subsidiary data forts. R&D, HQ, and Archives (forts containing our deck, hand, and discard piles, respectively) are our central data forts; they all exist at the outset of the game- even the Archives, though it will be empty until a card is actually discarded or trashed. The central data forts are where planning and administration occur. Uninstalled cards in a central data fort-that is, cards in our hand in HQ, cards in our deck in R&D, and cards in the discard piles of our Archives-are said to be stored in their data forts. Subsidiary data forts are data forts we establish to contain agendas and nodes.
To protect our data forts, we install ice on them. We install ice horizontally in front of the data fort we want protected, although we are allowed to install ice on empty data forts. Ice cards that are protecting HQ are placed in front of our bit pool. Each piece of ice is placed farther from the data fort than the previous piece of ice on that data fort. The farthest ice from the fort is the outermost piece of ice; the closest to the fort is the innermost piece of ice. To install a piece of ice, we must pay 1 for each piece of ice already on that data fort; if we want to reduce the cost, we may first trash existing ice without taking any actions.
While there is always minimal security in netspace, that doesn't cause any problems for top-notch runners like you. It's only after the Corp installs some ice on a data fort that you'll have any problem getting inside it during a run.
We install agendas, nodes, and upgrades inside data forts. These cards are installed vertically. Agenda cards and node cards can only be installed in subsidiary data forts. To create a subsidiary data fort, we install an agenda, node, upgrade, or ice card independent of existing data forts. There can be only one agenda card or one node card in each data fort at a time, though we can overwrite an existing agenda or node card by taking an action to install a new agenda or node in its place, which trashes the existing one. If an agenda or node card is trashed, scored, or stolen by the Runner, we can later install an agenda or node card inside the now- empty data fort as an action.
We can install upgrades inside any data fort, even data forts that already have an agenda, node, or upgrade inside them. Data forts can contain multiple upgrades.
Because all Corp cards are installed face down, you can't tell what the card will do immediately. In fact, at first you can only tell whether the card is ice or not. If the Corp installs a card inside a data fort, you won't know immediately whether it is an agenda, node, or upgrade, which is quite a disadvantage, since some nodes and all upgrades will either make the data fort harder to penetrate or do nasty things to you when you access them.
Rezzing Corporation Cards: With the exception of agendas, our installed cards must be rezzed, or made active, before they can be used. When we rez a card, we turn the card face up. We can only rez ice cards when they are approached by the Runner during a run (see Runs and Countermeasures). We can only rez other cards at the following times:
We rez a card by paying enough bits from our bit pool to the bit bank to satisfy the rez cost, which is in the upper right corner of the card. (Some cards have a rez cost of 0.) We never partially rez a card: at any given time, we either pay the entire rez cost and rez the card, or we do not rez the card. Once rezzed, a card is turned face up and stays active until it leaves play. Note that rezzing a card does not require an action.
Finding out what a card does by watching the Corp rez it usually amounts to finding out the hard way, but fortunately that's not the only way to discover what the Corp has in store for you. Some cards will expose the Corp's face-down cards. If a face-down card is exposed, turn it face up, but mark it somehow, to show that it has not yet been rezzed. If the Corp later rezzes the card, remove the marker. Rezzed cards that are derezzed remain face up, but you mark them in the same way.
Installing Runner Cards: To get a program, resource, or hardware card into play, you install it. To do so, you put down the card face up and immediately pay its installation cost, which is in the upper right corner of the card; the card is then available for use. (Note that some cards have an installation cost of 0.)
The combined MU cost of your installed programs cannot exceed your total MU, which starts the game at 4. If you install a program that causes you to exceed your total MU, you have to trash enough installed programs to make room. Generally, you should install cards as follows: program cards in a first row, followed by a row of hardware cards and then a row of resource cards.
Operation Cards: In addition to cards that we install, we have operation cards, which have some immediate effect when we play them. We play an operation card by taking an action, and the operation card is then trashed.
Prep Cards: You have cards similar to operation cards, called prep cards. You play them by taking an action, they have some immediate effect, and they are then trashed.
On the next page is an example of how the table might look in the middle of a game of Netrunner. We have created two subsidiary data forts, and the Runner has installed two programs, one hardware, and three resources.
Interpreting the Cards
Card Effects and Costs: Certain card abilities are written as "cost(s): effect." All of the costs must be satisfied to use the ability. Note that we and the Runner cannot borrow future actions to satisfy costs or card requirements; we can only take our actions on our turns. Also, if taking an action is part of the cost of an ability, we can only use that ability when we could normally take an action.
Resolving a card effect involves following the instructions for that effect before doing anything else in the game. If a player is instructed to do something that normally would take an action to do, that player does not take any actions other than those required by the cost of the effect. However, other card costs associated with a card effect must be paid, unless otherwise indicated. For example, if we are required to rez a card, we must pay the rez cost.
An operation card reads:
A program card reads:
Keywords: A card's keywords are the bold-face words in the first line of its text box. These keywords indicate what categories that card falls under.
Both we and the Runner have several cards that affect or are unaffected by other cards with certain keywords; these affected keywords are in bold-face text in a card's rules text. Note that a card's title is never used to determine whether it can be subject to a card effect.
A card reads:
Runs and Countermeasures
Your most fundamental action is to make runs on the Corp's data forts in order to access cards in them. Accessing cards may enable you to disrupt the functioning of the Corp, and will hopefully result in your liberating agenda. You are assumed to always have some basic equipment, so you can always make a run, even if you don't have any programs or hardware in play.
If there is no ice protecting a given data fort, the Runner can access its contents with impunity (if the data itself does not punish the Runner). With ice protecting a data fort, the Runner must deal in turn with each piece of ice, from outermost to innermost.
During a run, there are three stages in dealing with a piece of ice. First, you are approaching that piece of ice. If that piece of ice is not already rezzed, the Corp can rez it at this point. The Corp can only rez a piece of ice when you are approaching it. If that piece of ice is rezzed or was already rezzed, you encounter it, at which point you can break its subroutines, that is, prevent them from taking effect. If the ice is not rezzed, or if you break all of the subroutines that end your run, you pass that piece of ice. You can then choose either to approach the next piece of ice, or to jack out, which means to voluntarily end the run. This is the only time you can jack out.
Each piece of ice you encounter will have one or more subroutines on it. Each subroutine will take effect unless you break it. To break an ice subroutine, you need a particular kind of program in play called an icebreaker. Each icebreaker affects whatever keyword categories of ice it references (there are three primary types of ice: walls, code gates, and sentries), but you won't know what kind of icebreaker you'll need to break a piece of ice until that ice is rezzed or revealed. An icebreaker can only break subroutines on a piece of ice if its strength (located in the icon on the lower right corner of the icebreaker) equals or exceeds the ice's strength (located in the icon on the lower left corner of the ice, or lower right if the card is viewed on its side). If the icebreaker is strong enough, you may use it to break one or more subroutines of the ice encountered, paying the stated cost for each subroutine you break. Most icebreakers allow you to increase their strength. If you increase an icebreaker's strength, the increase ends when you finish encountering that piece of ice. Usually a single icebreaker is used to break all the subroutines of a given piece of ice, but you may break each subroutine with a different icebreaker.
If you don't break all of the subroutines of a piece of ice, you suffer the effect of each of the unbroken subroutines, in the order they appear on the card. A subroutine that ends the run does so immediately, and any following subroutines do not take effect. If a subroutine requires a trace attempt (see Traces), make that trace attempt when the subroutine takes effect. If none of the unbroken subroutines end the run, you pass that piece of ice.
If you pass all the ice on a fort, you have one more opportunity to jack out before the Corp decides whether to rez any nodes or upgrades. If you choose not to jack out at this time, your run is considered successful.
If you make a successful run on:
In any of these cases, you access any upgrades installed inside that fort.
If you access an agenda, you are considered to have liberated it, and you set it aside and score the number of agenda points indicated on it. If you access a node or an upgrade, you may pay the trash cost (located in the trash can in the bottom right corner of the card) to trash it, even if it is stored in a central data fort. Otherwise, the cards are returned to where they were accessed from, in the same order.
Run Protocol — Overview
It's been one of those games. A few turns ago, you ran right into one of the Corp's traps, and wound up losing all of the cards in your hand, as well as most of your cards in play. And during the few turns it took you to build your hand back up, the Corp pieced together a brand-new data fort and installed something inside it. You have the icebreaker Black Dahlia in play, and the first thing you did this turn was to install Tinweasel, so you're well armed. You then spent two actions getting back up to a paltry 6, compared to the Corp's 12 Now you take your last action to jack in, and meet the Corp on its own turf once again.
The first piece of ice the Runner approaches is our Neural Blade. Though the sword cannot stop the Runner on its own, it can deliver a shock to the Runner, who will be at the mercy of any ice appearing later in the fort. Also, the Runner cannot afford to break both Neural Blade and Triggerman, so if we rez Neural Blade and the Runner chooses to break both subroutines, the Runner will not be able to deal with Triggerman later in the run. Rezzing Neural Blade will cost us 4, but it will cost the Runner this much to break both subroutines, so we decide to activate it.
After defeating the simple code locks on the outside of the fort, you turn the first corner, only to find a Neural Blade rezzing in front of you. Sword programs like the blade are bad news; while they can't force you out of the Net, they will give your gray matter a healthy shock, leaving you temporarily vulnerable to any nastier ice patrolling the fort.
Quickly, you select Black Dahlia from the main menu. The Neural Blade is a sentry, after all, and Dahlia was designed to attack such ice. Rising up in front of Neural Blade, your icebreaker absorbs most of the feedback (and you spend 2 to break the subroutine that prevents you from breaking the next ice in the run). However, you don't want to run out of bits later in the run, so you choose to leave the first subroutine unbroken, and therefore discard one card at random.
Although the Neural Blade was able to shock the Runner, it was not sufficient to repel the intrusion. The Runner is now approaching Filter, so we must decide whether to rez it. As the code gate is no threat to Tinweasel, we decide not to. With any luck, the Runner will assume that the ice is a powerful one that we can't yet rez, and will be more cautious in the future when we have a larger bit pool.
Shaking off the residual effects of the Neural Blade, you continue into the data fort. Looks like you caught a break, since the Corp doesn't rez the second piece of ice. However, you're not out of the virtual woods yet, since you still have to pass the innermost piece of ice.
Because the Runner saved 2 by not breaking Neural Blade's first subroutine, the projection is that our agenda will be stolen. Even if we rez Triggerman, the Runner can simply spend 2 to keep the run from being ended. However, rezzing the killer will also force the Runner to choose between losing a program (namely, the Black Dahlia, which is what we would choose to trash, as the Runner well knows) or running out of bits by spending another 2 to break that subroutine, so we decide to activate it.
Frack! Your cyberdeck slips a low buzzing noise into your feed, indicating that a sentry is rezzing somewhere nearby....
The first assault from the killer almost severs your connection into the Net. However, you quickly recover, and call up Black Dahlia again. With disturbing efficiency, the icebreaker blocks Triggerman's advance, and causes Triggerman to release its hold on your connection (that is, you pay 2 to break the second subroutine). The ice and icebreaker then battle it out, and by keeping on top of things, you patch Dahlia's code back together fast enough to keep her from crashing (that's another 2, to keep the ice from trashing a program; the Corp could choose a program other than Black Dahlia, but we both know what the source of its pain is).
And look what the Corp was hiding! It's the details behind its bid to construct an extension to the Tycho lunar colony. Without a second thought, you download the files, erase the originals, sell the data to the highest bidder (recorded as 4 agenda points rather than as bits), and retire to a quiet evening of bushwhacking Netwatch agents.
If we and the Runner can both perform functions (us rezzing a card, or the Runner using a card effect, for example) at the same time, the Runner always gets the first opportunity to perform any functions he or she likes, and then we perform any functions we like. The Runner does not have an opportunity to respond after we perform our functions. However, effects whose function is to prevent other effects are used whenever appropriate, even if it is the other player's turn to perform functions. For example, at the end of a run, the Runner has a card in play that allows him or her to search his or her stack for a program and install it. The Runner decides not to use that card, and then we rez an upgrade that deals Net damage to the Runner. It is too late for the Runner to use the card to find a program to prevent the Net damage, but if the Runner already had a card installed that prevented Net damage, he or she could still use that card.
Agenda cards represent the data associated with one of our goals. To score an agenda, we must advance it by the number of counters indicated by its difficulty rating, which is the number in the symbol in the card's upper right corner. The only cards that can be advanced are agendas, and those nodes that indicate they can be advanced. We can only advance agendas and appropriate nodes after they have been installed. To advance a card, we take an action to pay 1 from our bit pool and place an advancement counter on the card. Agendas cannot be advanced further after they are scored, but nodes can be advanced before and after they are rezzed.
If we score an agenda card, we remove the card from the data fort, set it aside and clear it of advancement counters, score its agenda points (the number in the symbol in the lower right corner of the card), and receive whatever bonus it gives, as indicated in its text box. Agenda points exist independently of agenda cards, and we may choose to represent them with counters, since we may sometimes pay them out to fulfill card conditions, or increase them through special card effects. The bonus we receive for scoring an agenda is active as soon as applicable.
Scoring an agenda does not require an action, but we can do it only at the start of our turn or after any of our actions. We can, however, choose to put off scoring an agenda that has been advanced to its difficulty rating (certain card effects may make this desirable).
Your goal is to liberate agendas from the data fort(s) they're hidden in. If you access an agenda card, then you've liberated its data. You remove the card's advancement counters and set the card aside, and you score the number of agenda points stated on it, though you don't get the bonus described in its text. You may want to keep track of agenda points with counters: they exist apart from agenda cards, and card effects may increase them, or strip them away.
In the diagram on the next page, the agenda card shown is the agenda card being advanced in the data fort shown. If two more advancement counters are placed on it, the agenda card can be removed from play; we then score 1 agenda point, and the bonus of an extra action each turn. If the Runner liberates this agenda, he or she simply scores 1 agenda point.
Tracing the Runner
Sometimes a card will allow us to perform a trace on the Runner. If a card calls for a trace, it is indicated by the term "trace n," where n is the trace limit. If the trace succeeds, the card does something to the Runner, generally something with deterrent effect. When attempting a trace, we compare our trace value to the link value of the Runner. If our trace value equals or exceeds the Runner's link value, our trace is successful. Trace value is determined as follows:
Sometimes a Corporate card will allow the Corporation to perform a trace on you. If the trace succeeds, the card could do something hideous to you, or might just blow up your apartment's electrical system. To evade a trace, you need a card installed that gives you links, which are connection points along your line into the Corp (a lot of links gives you a maze-like trail that's tough to follow). Your link value is the sum of two parts: a base link, and any modifiers to your link. If you can't manage to get your link value above 0, the Corp's trace succeeds automatically, unless its trace somehow ends up less than 0. You calculate your link value as follows:
|Agenda points in our deck:||Our maximum deck size:|
In addition to the limit imposed by the chart above, we may not play with fewer than 45 cards.
In addition to our deck, we will also need a number of markers, to represent bits and other counters. We will probably need no more than 40 such counters, but there is no limit to the number of bits we have available for use in the game. Each bit represents approximately 500,000 eurobucks worth of company resources: personnel, information, and equipment, among other things. When out of play, bits are in our bit bank; when in play, they are in our bit pool. We maintain our bit bank of counters in a convenient location in the margin of our playing area; we establish our bit pool somewhere directly in front of us.
Our deck is R&D, short for "Research and Development." Our hand is HQ, short for "Headquarters." The Corporate discard area, or Archives, consists of two piles, one face up and the other face down. Whenever any of our cards are trashed, whether by us or the Runner, they go to the top of one of the piles in our Archives. When any of our cards on the table that are face up are trashed, they go to the face-up pile. When we discard a card or when a card that is face down in play is trashed, it goes to the face-down pile. When a card that is accessed is trashed, it goes to the face-up pile. Operations we play go to the face-up pile. The Runner can examine the contents of the face-up pile at any time, but may only examine the face-down pile when he or she accesses the Archives.
Our primary purpose is to advance our agendas, which involves keeping the Runner from stealing them. To protect our uninstalled agendas, we will need to install ice on, and upgrades inside, our HQ and R&D. To protect our installed agendas, or the occasional nodes, we will want to establish subsidiary data forts. In order to make sure we have enough ice to protect our data forts, we should, as a start, try a deck with at least 25% ice cards. Finally, we must remember to obtain enough bits to pay for rezzing our nodes, upgrades, and ice, and to pay for advancing our agendas and playing our operations.
There are five types of cards in our Corporate deck: agenda, ice, node, upgrade, and operation. The following sections explain the special rules for and layout of each type of card.
Agendas: Agendas are data associated with our secret projects, generally projects to improve our Corporate infrastructure or advance our mission. In any case, agendas are highly sensitive data, theft of which could affect the value of our Corporation. Agendas are installed vertically and face down, and only in subsidiary data forts. Only one agenda or node card can occupy a given data fort at a time. If we wish, we can overwrite an existing agenda or node on our turn, which means to opt to trash it as part of the action of installing another agenda or node in its place. The number of advancement counters required to score the agenda, the difficulty of an agenda, is located in the symbol in the upper right corner of the card. The number of agenda points the card is worth is located in the symbol in the lower right corner of the card. Any bonus we might get for scoring the agenda is explained in the text box. Such a bonus is active as soon as it is applicable.
Nodes: Nodes are stores of data supporting projects that would be of little interest to marketplace competitors. If we were to run an advertising campaign, we might construct a node in netspace to contain the campaign's database. Nodes are installed vertically and face down, and only in subsidiary data forts. Only one of either an agenda or node card can occupy a given data fort at a time. If we wish, we can overwrite an existing agenda or node on our turn by trashing it and then installing a node from HQ in its place. Nodes are not active until we rez them. In general the effect of a node can extend beyond the data fort in which it is installed. If the Runner ever accesses one of our nodes, the Runner can pay its trash cost to put it on top of the face-up pile of our Archives. Occasionally nodes can be advanced; this will be indicated on the card. The further the node has been advanced, the more effective it will be, as indicated on the node.
Ice: We install a given piece of ice horizontally in front of the data fort it is to protect, directly ahead of any ice already protecting that fort. Ice is anti- intrusion programming that typically presents itself in netspace as some sort of barrier or obstacle. We install the first piece of ice on a data fort for free. After that, to install each additional ice card on that fort we must pay  for each ice card already installed on the fort. As we install the ice, we can trash one or more pieces of ice already on the fort, and thus lower the cost to install the new ice; however, the last piece of ice installed on a fort is always placed in the outermost position, regardless of the position of any ice cards trashed to reduce its cost. Trashing ice while installing ice does not take additional actions.
The only time we may rez a piece of ice is when the Runner approaches that ice during a run on the fort. We may choose either to pay the rez cost of the ice, and thus activate it, or to let the Runner through. Once the ice is rezzed, it remains active and need not be paid for again. At the point that we rez a piece of ice, the Runner must break the subroutines of the ice, suffer their effect, or some combination thereof. When choosing ice, we need to keep in mind that only subroutines that actually end the run prevent the Runner from continuing the run.
Upgrade: We install upgrades vertically inside data forts, and we can install upgrades inside a fort whether or not an agenda or node currently occupies the fort. An upgrade represents an improvement to a data fort, perhaps a particularly competent sysop or a set of utility programs. There is no limit to the number of upgrades we can have in a given data fort. If we install an upgrade inside R&D or inside our Archives, we place it behind the appropriate pile(s); if we install an upgrade inside HQ, we put the card under or behind our bit pool. The Runner typically doesn't know whether a card inside a subsidiary data fort is an upgrade, an agenda, or a node, but since we cannot play an agenda or node on a central data fort, the Runner knows when we play an upgrade on one. When we wish to use an unrevealed upgrade's ability, we pay the rez cost of the upgrade and reveal it.
Operation: Operations represent some Corporate function of limited scope; we play an operation as an action, pay its cost, and then trash it. Operations are the only cards we trash after we play them. When we play operations, they go to the face-up pile in our trash.
To play, you need a deck of Runner cards. The only restriction for your deck is that it have at least 40 cards. You will also need access to a few dozen bit counters ('trode caps and black-market coins work well), each of which represents a couple hundred eurobucks worth of run-support information, spare cash and equipment, and so on. When out of play, bits are in your bit bank; when in play, they are in your bit pool. Keep your bit bank handy at the side of your playing area, and your bit pool somewhere closer in front of you.
During the course of the game, you will have a draw pile, called your stack, a face-up discard pile, called your trash, and your hand. Whenever one of your cards is trashed, whether by you or the Corp, it goes to the top of your trash. Your trash is far less secure than any Corporate Archives: both you and Corp can rummage the trash at any time to see what's in it. If your stack ever runs out of cards, you just keep playing the game with any cards left in your hand and ignore any event that requires you to draw when your stack's running on empty.
Your primary goal is to make runs successfully in order to liberate agendas. Occasionally, you will want to make a run to shut down a particularly useful node that the Corp is using. If the Corp leaves one of its data forts unprotected, especially HQ or R&D, you should feel free to run it in the hopes of finding agendas, but beware traps that the Corp might be setting for you. Eventually, the Corp will install ice, which you'll have to deal with. You should have icebreakers that get past walls, code gates, and sentries, or else you may end up helplessly watching the Corporation score its agendas. In order to ensure that you get your icebreakers quickly enough, you will probably want to play either with several types of each category of icebreaker or with cards that let you dig through your deck (like The Short Circuit, referenced on pg. 48 of Sample Game). In general, you are fairly safe to attempt a run as soon as you have a killer or other anti-sentry icebreaker in play, because walls and code gates do not usually present a threat beyond ending the run. You can make a run without having any icebreakers in play, but if you don't have one and there is ice protecting the fort, you may be asking for trouble.
In addition to icebreakers, you also should have cards that allow you to avoid receiving tags, or at least get rid of them quickly, and cards that provide links, or you will more than likely end up flatlined. Of course, you will need to draw enough bits to pay for installing your various tools, and to pay for using them.
There are four types of cards in your deck: program, hardware, resource, and prep.
Program: You begin the game with 4 MU, or Memory Units. As the game progresses, you might install certain cards that increase your memory. The combined MU cost of your programs in play cannot exceed the number of MU you have. Since most programs take up 1 MU, this generally means you'll be limited to four programs, or three if you install one of the 2 MU hogs. The number of MU a program takes is indicated in the card's keywords.
Installing a program takes one of your four actions. As you install a program, you may choose to overwrite one or more programs you already have in play, whether or not you need to free up MU. This trashes the program.
If at any time you have too many programs in play for the MU you currently have (for instance, because you just lost some memory chips), you must immediately trash enough programs to correct the situation.
Different types of programs can be distinguished by the color of the dot located in the middle of the left side of the card, and by the icon on the bottom right corner of the card (within which the strength number on icebreakers is located). The following icons and colors are used:
Hardware: You may have any number of pieces of hardware installed at any given time. Installing a piece of hardware takes an action.
Resource: You may have any number of resources in play. Installing each one takes an action. During the course of the game, if the Corporation gives you a tag, it can trash one of your resources by taking an action and paying .
Prep: You play a prep as an action, pay its cost, and then trash it. Preps are the only cards you trash right after you play them.
We and the Runner have each taken our starting bit pools (5) from our respective bit banks. As per standard operating procedure, we place our bit pool next to R&D, to represent the HQ data fort.
Next, we draw five cards from R&D, and the Runner draws five from his or her stack. Our cards turn out to be the sentry ice Code Corpse, the wall ice Fire Wall, the code gate ice Keeper, the node Rockerboy Promotion, and the upgrade Red Herrings. We then make the mandatory draw to begin our turn, which produces the operation Accounts Receivable as our sixth card. Now we are ready to take our three actions for the turn.
Our first priority is to put ice on vulnerable forts to keep the Runner from stealing our agendas. We are never quite sure what R&D is up to, and for all we know, the next card of R&D could be an agenda. Therefore it makes sense to install ice on that data fort. And while we have no agendas stored in HQ, we do have a node and an upgrade that the Runner could trash if they were accessed, so we would like to protect HQ as well.
Having determined that we must protect both our forts if possible, we consider the ice we have available. The first ice card on each fort is installed for free, but if we can't pay to rez a card, it won't stop the Runner if the Runner decides to ignore it and run the fort, so our first concern is whether we can rez our cards. Our Fire Wall costs 5 to rez, Keeper costs 4, and Code Corpse costs 10. Our starting 5 does not allow us to rez any two of these ice, but playing Accounts Receivable will increase our bit pool to 9, giving us just enough bits to rez Fire Wall and Keeper (as long as we don't install them both on the same data fort, which would cost us 1 for the second ice installed). So we decide to spend our three actions playing Accounts Receivable, installing Fire Wall on R&D, and then installing Keeper in front of HQ. Running Bit Total: Runner: 5; Us: 9
While the Corp was going about its business, you were looking at your hand. The five cards you drew were The Short Circuit (a resource), the preps Score! and Livewire's Contacts, the program Force Shield, and Zetatech Mem Chip (hardware). Checking out the playing field, you see that the Corp has installed ice in front of R&D and in front of HQ, and has the bits to use them. Making a run on either fort right now would be risky, since either ice could be a sentry. Running into a code gate or wall wouldn't be too bad, though, as chances are the ice would simply end your run, but a sentry could easily trace you to your location or slap you with some Net damage-or do something just as depressing. Force Shield would help with the Net damage, but some sentries trash programs, and you wouldn't have any defense against that.
Luckily you have the resource The Short Circuit, which allows you to dig through your stack for programs, such as icebreakers. You spend the first action of your turn installing the Circuit, paying its installation cost of 1. As your second action, you pay 1 to use The Short Circuit's ability to search through your stack, and you quickly settle on Loony Goon, which is a relatively cheap, versatile icebreaker designed to defeat sentries. You show Loony Goon to the Corp before bringing it into your hand, as per The Short Circuit's card text, and then shuffle your stack.
Sadly, you can't afford the icebreaker's installation cost of 4 anymore, and you certainly can't afford to use Loony Goon once it's in play. So you spend your third and fourth actions playing Livewire's Contacts and Score!, bringing your bit pool first to 6 and then 10. Running Bit Total: You: 10; Corp: 9
As always, we begin our turn by drawing a card. This time we draw the agenda Employee Empowerment, which is worth 3 agenda points for the player who scores it. (It's a good thing we protected R&D last turn!) However, we must now decide how best to keep the Runner from accessing the data. Do we install it, and hope to process it quickly, or do we keep the agenda in HQ, and improve our defenses? If we install the agenda and then install the Code Corpse to protect it, the Runner may get the agenda, since the Runner can break sentries. We decide to consolidate our resources before creating any new data forts, so we spend our first action installing Code Corpse in front of HQ, just outside Keeper. Since we aren't trashing Keeper, we pay an installation cost of 1 to do this. We're just a couple bits shy of being able to rez Code Corpse, so we spend our second and third actions drawing a total of 2 from the bank. Running Bit Total: Runner: 10; Us: 10
The Corp hasn't created a subsidiary data fort for you to plunder yet, so your options for running are limited to R&D and HQ, given that running the Archives is pointless. Since the Corp just installed a second piece of ice in front of HQ, it's unlikely that you'll have the right icebreakers to get through, or that you'd be able to afford to break the ice even if you did. You decide to run on R&D. But first, you install Loony Goon, at a cost of 4, giving you an option for breaking ice. This leaves you with 6, which is enough to use Loony Goon to break almost any ice with a single subroutine. However, you could be in trouble if the ice is strong and has multiple routines, so you spend your second action drawing 1 from the bit bank to give yourself more of a cushion. For your third action, you run against R&D.
The Runner is making a run against R&D, and is fast approaching Fire Wall. Rezzing Fire Wall would leave us with only 5, and we need to plan ahead to the protection of HQ. 4 is enough to rez the Keeper ice on HQ, but not the Code Corpse. However, the Runner still can't break Keeper, and we have four cards in our hand, so even if the Runner gets through to HQ successfully, we might not lose our agenda. We decide to rez Fire Wall on R&D, paying its rez cost of 5.
Whoops! Sadly, Loony Goon can only break sentries, so you can't break Fire Wall's subroutine. However (as is usually the case with walls), the only subroutine is "* End the run," so the only penalty you suffer is that your run is ended. For your last action, you are not sure what to do. Should you use The Short Circuit to find a wall-buster that you can use to break into R&D? Now that the Corp has fewer bits and might not be able to rez both pieces of ice in front of HQ, maybe you should run HQ. In the end, however, you decide to draw a card. You hope to get a better source of income, but instead you draw the prep Inside Job. Inside Job lets you get past the first piece of ice you encounter, for free, so you could use it to raid R&D, or to help you get into HQ. Drawing this card is your last action this turn, but you are already thinking about what you will do next turn. Maybe you should continue your quest for more bits, or go search for that wall-buster. So many options, so little time to stop the Corp's nefarious plans.... Running Bit Total: You: 7; Corp: 5
Well, R&D and HQ are relatively safe right now, but this won't last long, since the Runner can continue to search for programs with The Short Circuit. Loony Goon, however, is going to be very expensive to use against Code Corpse, so the Runner won't be able to get through to HQ very often; once we rez Code Corpse, we should have more time to build up our resources. With anticipation, we draw a card to start our turn, and we get the operation Trojan Horse. Now we have a nasty surprise waiting for the Runner! If the Runner does manage to steal our Employee Empowerment or another agenda, we can play Trojan Horse, which tags the Runner after he or she steals an agenda. If we get a tag on the Runner, we could pay 2 to get rid of the resource The Short Circuit, which is giving us real problems. And there's always a chance that we'll draw a card that will enable us to deal with a tagged Runner permanently....
Access: When the Runner makes a successful run on one of our data forts, he or she accesses its contents. The way the cards are accessed and the number of cards accessed depend on the type of fort successfully run.
Action: The basic unit of a turn. An action can be taken in a number of ways. We have three actions on our turn after our mandatory draw. The Runner has four actions and no mandatory draw.
Advance: To score an agenda, or to improve the functioning of certain nodes, we can advance them. To advance an appropriate card, we take an action and pay 1 to put an advancement counter on the card advanced.
Agenda: The data associated with an especially sensitive Corporate project. Netrunner is a contest between us and the Runner to score agendas.
Approach ice: The Runner is said to be approaching a piece of unrezzed ice just before we decide to rez it, or approaching rezzed ice just before he or she is about to deal with its subroutines.
Archives: The central data fort that protects and includes our discard area, which contains a face-up pile and a face-down pile.
Base Link: Your link value is composed of two parts: your base link and any modifications to your link, which you add to your base link. Your base link starts off at 0 for each trace attempt. You can set your base link by using a base link card. Only one base link card can be used per trace attempt.
Bit: A counter representing a unit of wealth. Bits are spent to pay for cards and card effects. Of course, our bits represent more wealth than the Runner's.
Bit bank: The supply of bits not in use.
Bit pool: The bits we have available to spend. The Runner also has a bit pool.
Break: To stop a subroutine from taking effect.
Central data fort: R&D, HQ, or our Archives.
Code gate: See ICE.
Corporation: Your opponent.
Damage, brain: Damage to the Runner's brain. For each point of brain damage, the Runner loses one card at random from his or her hand, and his or her maximum hand size is permanently reduced by 1.
Damage, meat: General trauma to the Runner's body. The Runner loses a card at random for each point of meat damage.
Damage, net: Sensory overload induced in the Runner through the Net. The Runner loses a card at random for each point of Net damage.
Data fort: Discrete locations on our side that the Runner can attempt to gain access to. We have two types of data forts: central data forts, which we always have; and subsidiary data forts, which we build during the course of play. Any card we install is part of a data fort.
Derez: A card that is derezzed is marked to indicate that it hasn't been paid for. It is left exposed. Derezzing an unrezzed card has no effect.
Die: A six-sided die (or a randomizer subroutine with a range of the integers one through six applied with equal weight) is used with cards that call for a die roll.
Difficulty: The number of counters by which we must advance an agenda to score it.
Encounter ice: To meet and have to join battle with one of the cybernetic wards, traps, or demonic slaves of the diabolical Corp.
End the run: To force the Runner out of netspace. If an ice subroutine ends the run, any following subroutines do not take effect.
Expose: Certain cards can expose one or more cards the Corp has installed. If an unrezzed card is exposed, it is turned face up so that you can see it, but is marked to indicate that it has not been rezzed yet. Exposing a rezzed card has no effect.
Flatline: When the Runner ceases to be a threat.
Gain bits: Take bits from the bank.
Hardware: A deck or other piece of gear you can install to give you that extra edge.
HQ: Short for "headquarters." The central data fort that includes and protects our hand.
Ice: A program that protects our data forts from intrusion. An acronym for "intrusion countermeasures electronics." (An acronym for "insidious cortical electrocution.")
Icebreaker: A program that neutralizes ice in some way and permits its user to gain illicit entrance to data forts. A basic tool of the trade for hardworking proponents of information freedom.
In play: Only installed cards are considered to be in play.
Install: To put a card into play. Nodes, agendas, upgrades, and ice are installed face down. Ice is installed on a data fort. Nodes, agendas, and upgrades are installed inside a data fort.
Installation cost: Normally our cards have no installation cost, but each piece of ice on a fort after the first has an installation cost in bits equal to the number of pieces of ice already on that fort. All your cards other than prep cards have an installation cost stated on them.
Jack in: To enter the virtual reality of netspace. A neural interface connects your brain with your cyberdeck, typically via wires plugged directly into your gray matter. Your deck then connects to the Net, and your deck translates the signals it receives into direct sensory input. Jacking in is assumed to precede each run.
Jack out: To exit netspace. If the neural link to your deck is broken for any reason, your deck cuts its connection to the Net, dumping you back into the meat world. You will also be jacked out if you are flatlined, or if the power to your deck is cut. To jack out voluntarily, you typically send a thought-command, instead of punching a button on your deck.
Keywords: Bold-face words in the first line of a card's text box, and sometimes referenced within a card's rules text. Keywords identify the categories to which a card belongs. If a card references a keyword, the keyword will appear in bold text.
Link: Connection points along the Runner's telecommunication trail (a Runner with a lot of links has a maze-like trail that's hard to follow). The sum of your base link and any modifications to your link is your link value.
MU: Short for "Memory Units." You are limited as to the number of programs you can install by your current MU.
Netspace: The practically infinite virtual-reality environment of the Net.
Node: Data associated with one of our projects that would be of little interest to competitors. Nodes are stored in forts like agenda and in lieu of agenda.
Operation: One of our cards that is played as an action and then trashed. Operations are simple, one-time actions that are not part of our regular procedure.
Overwrite: To replace installed data with other data. Data may not merely be thrown away; it must be overwritten. If we wish to replace an installed agenda or node with a new one, we can trash the existing agenda or node and take an action to install an agenda or node from HQ. You may overwrite programs when installing new ones. This option can become desirable if you have no more MU left for installing additional programs.
Prep: One of your cards that is played as an action and then trashed. Preps are one-time special options you can exercise to make the job of netrunning easier.
Program: One of the main categories of cards available to you, which includes icebreakers, among other tools. You are limited in the number of programs you have in play by the number of MU you have.
R&D: Short for "research and development." The central data fort that protects and includes our draw pile.
Resource: Any of a number of different tools or connections in or outside netspace that you can work to your advantage. If the Corp tags you, it can trash your resources.
Reveal: A card turned face up, but not rezzed. Exposed cards and cards that have been derezzed but not trashed are considered revealed.
Rez: When we make an installed card active, we rez it by paying its rez cost. If it was face down, we now reveal it. Rez cost: The cost we pay in bits to rez an installed card. This is a one-time cost.
Run: An attempt to gain access to a data fort.
Runner: Our opponent.
Score agenda: After we have placed a number of advancement counters on an agenda equal to or greater than its difficulty rating, we may choose to score that agenda. We may only score agendas during our turn. You score agendas by accessing them during a run.
Sentry: See ICE.
Stack: Your draw pile.
Store: Uninstalled cards in central data forts are considered "stored" in those data forts.
Strength: Our ice cards are rated at a certain strength: the higher the strength a card has, the harder it is for programs to sabotage it. Your icebreakers come rated at a certain strength, which can be temporarily boosted in many cases. The icebreaker must have strength that equals or exceeds the strength of a piece of ice for it to affect that ice.
Subroutines: The functions of ice, marked by *. Each subroutine on an ice card corresponds to an anti- intrusion effect. Icebreakers also have subroutines, marked by their separate costs to use; generally, these subroutines either break the subroutines of ice cards or boost the icebreaker's strength.
Subsidiary data fort: A data fort other than R&D, HQ, or our Archives. Can contain an agenda or a node, and any number of upgrades.
Tag: Information about the Runner. When tagged, a Runner is vulnerable to many card effects, and we can trash one of the tagged Runner's resource cards by taking an action to pay 2. You can get rid of a tag by taking an action to pay 2.
Trace: An attempt to figure out where the Runner is physically located.
Trace limit: The maximum number of bits we can spend to perform a trace on the Runner. The number n in "tracen."
Trash: To send a card to a discard pile, that is, our Corporate Archives or the Runner's "trash." When one of our cards is trashed, it goes to our Archives; when a Runner card is trashed, it goes to his or her trash. "The trash" is the name for your discard pile; cards go face up to the trash.
Upgrade: An improvement to a data fort's security.
Virus: A special class of programs the Runner may have access to and for which we provide a perennial debit allowance in our annual operating plan. A special class of programs that you may have access to and that cause the Corporation misery.
Wall: See ICE.
ACTIONS, 8, 13
ADVANCE CARDS, 24
BBITS, 33, 40
DATA FORTS, 9
HQ, 9, 33
Breaking subroutines, 17
Installation cost, 12
See also ICE
Program symbols, 43
INSTALLATION COST, 12
JJACK OUT, 17
See also TRACE ATTEMPT
MMU. See PROGRAMS
OPERATION, 12, 40
PPREP CARD, 13, 46
REZ, 11. See also DEREZ
STORE IN, 10
Breaking. See ICE
TRACE ATTEMPT, 26
TRASHING CARDS, 7, 19
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