Posted on May 2, 2017
Card Sharping: Netrunner and Doomtown: Reloaded.
I recently picked up Netrunner, card game du jour… uh, five years ago. I tend not to go in for two player games because that’s useless to me. And the idea of going to a store and playing a stranger has never appealed: if I have free time, I’m spending it with people I know I don’t hate too much.
Netrunner seems like a good game and it didn’t take too long to get the basic idea of the game, unusual to me as it was. You’ve got your Runner and your Corporation and they kind of aren’t playing the same game. The Asymmetrical nature of the game is its selling point and probably increases its shelf life as you can play for a while as a Runner and then switch and go Corporate, you fucking sell-out. If you learn how to play the Corp well, that doesn’t mean you know how to play the Runner, they really are playing two different games.
The Runner creates their decking-rig, increasing their offensive capabilities (for the most part) as the game progresses. The Corporation builds their defenses as the game progresses. All things being equal, the Runner will win that arms race. Which means the Corporation has to do its scoring as it builds, taking time away from defending.
Where the two players meet is when the Runner actually runs, because the Runner scores points by snatching projects away from the Corporation, as the Corp is trying to score those projects. This is the point of conflict as the Runner offense goes up against the Corporate defense, which can often be pretty offensive in its own right.
From what I can tell; this is a good game. I’m looking forward to playing it, sometime.
Doomtown, I got ages ago and is a better fit for me because it’s a four-player game and I have friends I want to hang out and play games with. Unfoooooooooortunately, Doomtown is fucking hard to get in to. Reading the rules will help get you in the mood to play, but there’s a lot of bitty shit to remember beyond the unusual card mechanics.
Part of the problem Doomtown has, Netrunner shares: proprietary terms for just about everything. Netrunner has Rezzing and Unrezzing, Doomtown has Booting and Unbooting. Not Activating and Exhausting, which would accurately describe what you are doing, but their own thematic language is woven through both. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it doesn’t make it easier to get into. Unbooting? That doesn’t fucking mean anything. Is he taking his boots off? Is it a bad thing? No, it means he can do more stuff.
The basic idea of Doomtown is this: You win by having more Control points (largely from buildings that players populate the town with) than your opponent has Influence (largely derived by having people who do your bidding). Basically you can’t lord it over the town of Gomorra until it’s more civilised than it is full of desperadoes. Put Deeds down and your Control goes up, get rid of your opponents Dudes and their Influence drops.
How this is done is pretty cool. Each player has a deck of cards (52 cards), which are comprised of Deeds, Dudes, Goods and Actions; Diamonds, Spades, Hearts and Clubs, respectively.
- Deeds – These are your buildings. You start with a Home base and can then expand out along the street. They provide Control points and Income. By default you get both, but someone else can mosey on over and take control of your building, taking your control points, (although you still get money).
- Dudes – Those that do your will around town. They cost money to bring into play and upkeep, but provide you with Influence (think of them as YOUR hit points, because if you run out you are boned) and offensive capabilities and occasionally special abilities.
- Goods – Ranging from Spells to Horses, these are things you can buff your Dudes with.
- Actions – These are events and play-altering tricks. One category, Jobs require that you form a posse as you would in Combat and meet certain conditions.
You have several different hands of cards throughout the game, i.e. cards that aren’t on the board, while cards that are in play will remain on the board: Deeds on the street, Dudes lounging in buildings or in the Town Square, Goods attached to Dudes.
- Your deck – From which you draw.
- Discard pile – Where played cards go or where casualties go, assuming they’re not so dead they don’t go to …
- Boot Hill – If a dude takes too much damage, he’s dead, not coming back during this game. Probably.
- Play Hand – You get five cards per turn. These are things you can put into play as actions or as reactions during Shootouts.
- Draw Hands – These are temporary hands drawn from your deck. During the first phase of the turn, you draw and whoever has the lowest value poker hand is the winner and goes first throughout the turn and also gets more money. But the main use of Draw Hands is in Shooutouts – which come about either as part of a Job or because someone aggressively moves into someone else’s territory.
Shootouts are maybe the defining and best feature of Doomtown. But to actually get to a shootout is complicated… Your dude calls out another dude and then both players can assemble posses around these dudes. But where in the town the initial dudes are is important as only dudes with them or adjacent to them can join in. And they have to be Unbooted. And then sometimes they become booted if they join the posse. THIS PART IS COMPLICATED.
Fortunately, they provide a chart. Which is still dumb. But after you’ve figured out who can and will join, things get easier. You draw 5 cards, then you draw extra cards if your main Dude is a Stud (Silver Bullet) and one more for every Stud who joins them in the posse. Now you try to come up with the best five card poker hand. If your shooter or posse members are Draws rather than Studs (Brass Bullet) you get to discard some cards and redraw.
Your deck of 52-54 probably contains multiples of the same card and you can still use these when coming up with a hand. So you could well end up with five eights or three aces of Hearts or whatever. This is a cheatin’ hand and while it still counts for combat resolution, some cards will allow you to punish players who pass them off.
Once you’ve whittled down to your five cards you get to both reveal your hands. Whoever ranks highest wins and the difference between the two hands ranking indicates how many casualties you have to soak up. With eleven possible ranks, that means you could be dishing out or receiving an awful lot of damage. and a lucky hand on a badly outnumbered Dude might end up blowing away a larger (but unluckier) posse entirely.
It’s a shame the Boot/Unboot due to moving is so opaque because this part is how you decide to make plays against other players and the rest of the game isn’t too tough once you see how everything works, although there are still a few too many things for me to comfortably remember them.
I’m interested to see how the game works, especially with 4 people. One on one would be easier, sure, but I like the idea of more standoffs, as the game is structured to kind of allow it to come to a boiling point.