Remake of the cult classic Netrunner done by Fantasy Flight Games in their own post-cyberpunk Android Universe instead of the Gibson-ripoff that is Cyberpunk 2020. Just like the failed CCG, Android: Netrunner is an asymmetrical game, in which both players during the game match play different roles and have different mechanics: One is subversive hacker knows as a Runner who tries to steal the Corps' shit and trash their assets, where the other player plays the role of the mean old Corporation, who attempts to protect their servers to advance their agenda - or just murder anyone who dares to oppose them.
Both players win by reaching 7 agenda points, but each side has a different loss condition. The loss condition for the Corp is if you are forced to draw from R&D (their deck) and cannot. The runner's loss condition is getting flatlined, which happens when damage or whatever forces you to discard from an empty hand or your maximum hand size is negative at the end of your turn.
Netrunner can also be played online: Jinteki.net is a browser-based service that is the main venue for playing Netrunner online; OCTGN also has a Netrunner server but is mostly dead and requires you to download image packs of your cards - much less convenient than Jinteki.
As awesome as the game was, FFG's license to publish the game ran out in 2018, with their last expansion coming out that same year. WoTC seems to be holding onto the license for the time being. In the meantime, a dedicated fanbase called Nextrunner International Support & Expansion Initiative or NISEI has been making their own fan expansions and rules to keep the game alive.
The difference between a CCG and a LCG
With Living Card Games, instead of either buying booster packs and playing the cardboard lottery or buying singles from Scarcity Games, players buy expansion packs (known as Data Packs in Android: Netrunner) that contain a full playset of every card for that set, with each faction getting something in the data pack. This means that there's a larger investment up front, but you know exactly what you're getting (just read the card list) and if power creep or a meta change invalidates your decklist you're not totally screwed. On the other hand, there's a much greater incentive for power creep to keep people buying FFG's new Data Packs compared to a CCG model. Along with this shit, there are deluxe expansions which focus on two factions, one Runner and one Corp, with the exception of Data and Destiny, which has 3 runner "mini-factions". The deluxe expansions also contain a few neutral cards for both Corp and Runner. Draft packs also exist, and you're allowed to use the cards you get from them in tournaments. Anyone with a brain just plays cube draft though, because draft packs are expensive as fuck.
- 1 Original Netrunner and Android: Netrunner
- 2 Gameplay
- 3 The Run
- 4 Factions
- 5 External Links
Original Netrunner and Android: Netrunner
What's the same
The basic mechanics are the same as Netrunner: Corp has 3 servers representing his hand (HQ) draw pile (R&D) and discard pile (Archives) plus whatever remote servers he makes by playing assets/agendas/ICE, Runner has to run on those servers and get past the ICE using the programs, hardware, and resources he's played in order to get the juicy agendas inside while the Corp tries to stop him and/or score the agendas first. Runs, actions, and most all of the other basic rules are still here.
All the basic card types for each player are still there and still work exactly the same as you expect. Each player still starts with 5 bits/credits and gets more by playing economy cards or spending action points.
When deckbuilding you now choose an Identity card before doing anything else. Identities represent a character or business in the Android Universe; in the crunch they define your minimum deck size, influence limit and faction (see below) while also giving you bonus link and a passive ability for free. This is supposed to immerse players in the world and help newbies focus their decks.
Cards are now divided by Faction, with Runners choosing between three different philosophies (but see below) and Corps choosing between the four largest megacorps in the Android setting. All players have to spend a special resource called Influence to include cards from out of faction and Corps can't include agendas from out of faction period. If a neutral card has an influence cost on it, that means everyone has to pay influence to use it.
Bad Publicity no longer loses the Corp the game; runners get temporary credits to spend equal to the bad publicity the Corp has. As a result lots of Corp cards (usually marked Illicit or Black Ops) now give you bad publicity as an extra cost for playing them.
Bits are now called Credits, Actions are now called Clicks, Prep cards are now called Events, Nodes are now called Assets.
The game as a whole is much smaller in scale than the CCG. When Wizards ran the game, for instance, you'd see cards that dealt damage in the double digits; the most powerful burn card in ADN deals 7 damage and before that 4 damage was considered borderline broken.
Various minor niggles in the rules have been smoothed over, like "the Corp has 4 actions but the first one must be to draw" becoming "the Corp has 3 clicks but gets a card draw every turn for free."
Netrunner has a fair bit of terminology, which may seem confusing at first but is very simple when you get the hang of it. In keeping with the game being asymmetric, the Runner and Corps have different names for their Deck, Hand, and Discard Pile. Respectively, these are Stack, Grip, and Heap for the runner, and R&D,HQ, and Archives for the corp.
These are also collectively known as Central Servers on the Corp's play area - the HQ is represented by the Corp's Identity card.
Credits are the game's currency, used by both Corporation and Runner. You might hear oldfags call them bits.
Clicks are used to take actions, described below. At the start of their turn the Corp gets 3 clicks and the Runner gets 4. Clicks do not carry over turns and must be spent, but there is always at least one action that can be taken. Thematically clicks generally represent time spent.
Install: play a card onto the table. Corp cards are installed face down, Runner cards are installed face up.
Rez: flip a facedown card faceup. Rezing does not take a click.
Trash: send a card to Archives or the Heap, respectively.
Clicks can be spent in a number of ways. Both players can spend a click to:
- Gain 1 credit - representing liquid funds, thematically a single corp credit is much larger than a runner credit.
- Draw 1 card - Take a card from your Stack/R&D and add it to your Grip/HQ.
- Install a card - what is installed, where it's installed and if it has a cost will be described below
- Pay a click cost on an installed (or scored) card - what this does will depend entirely on the card, but it will either allow you to do something unique or to do something you could already do more efficiently - for example, gaining 2 credits or drawing 2 cards.
- Play an Operation (Corp) or Event (Runner) - these are non permanent cards. We pay for them, play them, follow their effect and put them in the Archives/Heap.
The Corp can uniquely spend clicks to:
- Purge virus counters: - By spending 3 clicks, the Corp can remove all virus counters from the board.
- Trash a Resource - If the Runner is tagged, the Corp can spend 2 credits and a click to trash any resource the Runner has installed.
- Advance a card - If there is a card on the board that can be advanced - usually an Agenda or an Asset - the Corp can spend a click and a credit to advance it, placing an advancement counter on the card. Agendas must have a certain amount of advancement counters on them (given on the card) before they can be scored.
The Runner can uniquely spend clicks to:
- Remove one tag: By spending 2 credits and a click, the Runner may remove one tag, if they are tagged.
- Make a run: This is the core of the game and has its own section. During a run the Runner overcomes the ICE installed in front of a server to access the server cards, to steal the agendas in it and trash its cards. But not everything is so easy. The Runner may not be able to overcome the ICE protecting the server, or may encounter ambushes in the server that trashes their rig or flatlines them.
The Central Servers you start the game with are R&D, HQ, and Archives - it is important to note that Archives exists even when are no trashed cards in it and no ice protecting it.
Cards in Archives are known to the Corp - they can look at them at any time. For the runner, any card they trash goes to archives face up, and can be seen at any time, but any of the corp cards that the corp trashes that were not rezzed or were being discarded from HQ go in face down and cannot be seen by the runner. When the runner accesses archives all face down cards are turned face up. This is important, because some ambushes work in archives.
Types of card
The golden rule of netrunner cards is that what is printed on the card over-rules what's printed in the rulebook - if a card says it does something that would contravene the normal rules, the card takes precedent. This happens a lot.
Unique cards: cards with this symbol ◆ are unique, which means that only one can be active at any one time. If another copy of the card is installed (runner) or rezzed (corp) then the first one must be trashed.
- Identity: the card on the table that says who the runner is and what their special "thing" is. This card sees no use in actual play, but is quite important when deckbuilding, as it tells you the runner's faction, minimum deck size, base link for traces and influence (a "resource" used in deck construction to import cards from other factions). As IDs inform how the runner is likely to play, corp players may play differently depending on the ID they face. Runner abilities vary widely, and the more powerful abilities tend to be weakened in various ways, such as high deck size or low influence.
- Programs: The primary tools of the runner's trade, "icebreaker" programs are mainly how the runner gets past corp defences. There are also programs with other abilities - programs not used to break through ice are generally called "utility programs" and are generally very specific to a certain playstyle or plan.
- Programs, like all runner cards, are installed face-up, paying the install cost indicated at the top left
- When the Runner installs a program, the Runner may check first if there are Memory Units available for it - the runner starts at 4 MU, and every program has an MU requisite,though 0 MU programs exist and there is hardware available to increase MU. The MU needed is indicated by the smaller number at the top left (in the silver chip).
- The Runner may also trash any number of programs to the heap before installing the new program (but only when installing).
- Should the runner lose MU for any reason (say a piece of hardware got trashed) then they must trash programs until their installed programs do not use up more MU than they have
- Many programs have a cost to use their abilities, written " Cost: Ability" - the cost is usually money (but may be clicks or other things)
- Hardware: Runner's physical stuff, hardware does a huge range of shit, from simply providing more MU to giving the runner protection. The most important and notable type of hardware is the runner's console, a single unique piece of hardware that forms the core of a runner's rig. Most of these are thematically and mechanically linked to a given runner, synergising with their ability in some way (though occasionally you'll find a console that's better with someone who isn't the "owner" of it thematically).
- There is no limit to how much hardware the runner can install
- Only one console can be installed at any one time
- Resources: Places, people and things that the runner uses and works with to do their thing, resources are pretty diverse, ranging from things like a mob boss, to a safehouse, to a simple job busting out code for cash.
- There is no limit to how many resources the runner can install
- If the runner becomes tagged the corp can pay 2 credits to trash a resource
- ICE (Intrusion Countermeasure Electronics): How corps protect their shit from pesky runners. Each piece of ICE causes the runner a series of damaging effects (ex. losing credits, losing cards, or straight-up ending their run). These effects are neutralized by their enemy programs, Icebreakers. But Ice can only be broken by Icebreakers that are equal strength or stronger than them. This discourages runners from going through Ice they can't break, because nobody wants to get fucked up by their effects.
- It's the Ice's subroutines (↳) that determine these effects, and it's the subroutines the runner must break through.
- Ice has a strength, indicated by the number in the bottom left. This tells the runner the strength that must be met or exceeded by an Icebreaker to break subroutines on the Ice.
- There are four important subtypes of Ice. Each subtype's subroutines can only be broken by corresponding types of Icebreaker. Other subtypes exist, but they only matter for specific cards.
- -Sentries are broken by Killers and AIs. Sentries are the "guardians" of the ICE types and focus on punishing the Runner directly, be it through net/meat damage or a wide variety of other detrimental effects.
- -Code Gates are broken by Decoders and AIs. Code Gates focus on conditional effects relevant to the faction that it belongs to. Jinteki's CGs can have conditional requirements for their subs to murder you, while Weyland may force the Runner to pay the corp or face their run being ended.
- -Barriers are broken by Fracters and AIs. Barriers are straightforward in function - they provide the most "End the run" subroutines per card out of any of the other types.
- -Traps can only be broken by AIs. Traps are seen as a primarily Jinteki type of ICE due to the unique effects they can apply at the cost of being trashed after their subroutines fire.
- Ice is installed face-down in front of the server you want to protect, and always as the outermost piece of Ice. Ice can also be installed to create new "empty" servers.
- Ice is not active until it is rezzed by paying credits equal to its rez cost, indicated by the number in the top left. This only has to be paid once.
- When you install a piece of Ice, you have to pay a number of credits equal to the number of piece of Ice that are already installed protecting that server. A server with no Ice would cost 0. Installing a fourth Ice in a server with 3 pieces of Ice would cost 3.
- You may trash any number of Ice from that server before installing the new piece of Ice.
- Ice is not installed in a server, only protecting it. This is mainly pedantic, but matters occasionally.
- Agendas: What the corp wants to do, their top-secret plans; these are the cards that win either player the game. Ranging from something as small as a sim-sense movie to as large as toppling a government, agendas are what a corp has to protect, advance, and score. Every agenda has an agenda points value, an advancement requirement, and some kind of effect that can be used once the agenda is scored - sometimes right away, sometimes by using clicks.
- The advancement requirement of an Agenda is the number in the top right, the points it is worth once scored or stolen is the number in the centre left - diagonally across the card art from the advancement requirement.
- Agenda effects can only be used by the corp - when a runner steals an Agenda they do not get to use the effect on it.
- Agendas are always installed in a remote server, but only 1 Agenda OR 1 Asset can be installed in the same server at the same time. Whenever you install an Agenda, an Asset, or an Upgrade, you may trash any number of other cards in the server before installing it, and must do so if you want to install an Agenda or Asset in a server that already contains an Agenda or Asset. New servers can be created by installing Agendas, Assets or Upgrades.
- Agendas can only be scored when there is at least as many advancement tokens on it as the advancement requirement, though it does not have to be scored straight away. Agendas can only be scored after each click, or when a turn begins. This does not cost anything or take a click.
- Agendas are never rezzed.
- Agendas are stolen by the runner when they access them, and added to the runner's score area where they are inactive.
- Assets: The shit a corp owns, assets are a pretty diverse bunch of cards that do any number of things, but they are all the same in how they work. Assets have a rez cost and a trash cost.
- Assets are not active until they are rezzed by paying credits equal to their rez cost, indicated by the number in the top left. This only has to be paid once.
- Assets have a trash cost, indicated by the number in the trashcan-shaped symbol in the bottom left. This is the amount that the runner must pay to trash an asset when they access it - this may be when they access it in R&D, HQ or when it is installed.
- Assets are always installed in a remote server, but only 1 Asset OR 1 Agenda can be installed in the same server at the same time. Whenever you install an Asset, an Agenda, or an Upgrade, you may trash any number of other cards in the server before installing it, and must do so if you want to install an Agenda or Asset in a server that already contains an Agenda or Asset. New servers can be created by installing Agendas, Assets or Upgrades.
- Some Assets can be advanced, like an agenda. They will say, and can be advanced when both rezzed and unrezzed. When unrezzed they may used to masquerade as an agenda.
- Some Assets have the text "when the runner accesses..." - these do not need to be rezzed, or in some cases even installed, to be active - they form the most important subset of assets in ADN, Ambushes, and are used to punish a runner that has gotten into servers or tempt them to make runs. Some Ambushes are also Assets that can be advanced.
- Upgrades: are a different variety of shit the corp owns, but their defining feature is that they improve a server in some way, and as such can share being in a server with assets, agendas and other upgrades. Upgrades have a rez cost and a trash cost.
- Upgrades can be installed by themselves or with agendas and assets.
- Upgrades can also be installed in the root of a central server, which is just an area for upgrades, but is still "in" the server. Again, this is just a technical thing and is pretty obvious when played.
- Upgrades have a trash cost, indicated by the number in the trashcan-shaped symbol in the bottom left. This is the amount that the runner must pay to trash an asset when they access it - this may be when they access it in R&D, HQ or when it is installed.
- Upgrades have a rez cost
- Operations are Events to the corp. You play them with a click, pay the credit cost, and the Operation resolves. Simple, no?
Damage, Tags and Other Stuff
- Brain damage reduces your maximum hand size. This is doubly punishing because in Netrunner your hand is also your life meter.
- Net damage and meat damage are two different names for the same thing; discard cards from your hand or die if your hand is empty. The only difference between them is which cards cause and protect from them.
- Tags are even more bad news than in the CCG because there are more cards that interact with them and more ways to drown a runner in tags faster than they can clear them. If you get tagged, at best you might lose resources, and you can expect anything from losing all your money to a massive tempo swing to pa-pa-pachinko to simply getting murdered. If the corp has cards that give you tags then they've probably got the cards to use them too
- Bad Publicity no longer loses the corp the game, at least not directly. Each point of Bad Pub gives the runner a credit for the duration of the run, for every run. Weyland tends to garner the most Bad Pub due to their cards having a propensity to inflict it on themselves for short-term gain - as befitting their ruthless theming. Some runners and their cards can also inflict Bad Pub but this method is less common.
- Traces is one of NBN's signature mechanics but over time has seen some introduction to the other corp factions. Traces are NBN's main way of both tagging the runner as well as also capitalising on tagged runners in more inventive ways. Whenever a trace is initiated the corp may spend a number of credits to boost the strength of the trace attempt beyond the value printed on the trace keyword. If the Runner does not spend enough credits to match or exceed the final trace strength then the trace succeeds and its effects are applied, usually giving the Runner a tag as punishment. Traces are brutal to run against as they often have decent base strengths that will tax the Runner dearly to avoid being tagged or worse, but a skilled Runner with good Link values can easily turn the tables on the corp and force the corp to pay for traces themselves in order for their rezzed ICE to not be completely useless.
- Psi games are one of the big new mechanics that FFG has introduced. If you played Magic during Lorwyn and remember clash, this is similar but not garbage. Psi games are triggered by the Corp (Psi is one of Jinteki's signature mechanics) and take the form "You and the Runner secretly spend 0, 1, or 2 credits. Reveal spent credits. If you and the Runner spent a different number of credits, <X>" where X is some form of horrible assrape. In a vacuum the Corp has a 66% chance of winning, but since the credits spent are gone either way and you can't spend more creds than you have the actual chance can swing wildly depending on the players' strategies and the current board state.
Runs are the heart of Android: Netrunner, and provide opportunities for the Runner to steal the Corporation’s agendas and trash his cards. In a run, the Runner attacks one of the Corporation’s servers in an attempt to access cards, using his installed programs to help him pass the Corporation’s ice.
Phases of a Run
- Runs typically transpire in three phases. Not every run will include all of these phases. It's recommended for all players to checkout the more comprehensive “Timing Structure of a Run” diagram on the back of the official FAQs.
1. Initiation Phase
- To initiate a run, the Runner declares the server that they are attacking. The Runner can only initiate a run against a single server per run action.
- After the Runner declares the server they are attacking, they gain 1 credit to spend during the run for each point of bad publicity the Corporation has. Then, both players check to see if there is ice protecting the attacked server.
- If there is ice protecting the server, the run proceeds to the Confrontation phase.
- If there is no ice protecting the server, the run proceeds to the Access phase.
2. Confrontation Phase
- The Confrontation phase consists of approaching a piece of ice and then potentially encountering that ice. A Runner approaches each piece of ice protecting the server one at a time, starting with the outermost piece. When a piece of ice is approached, the Corp has the opportunity to rez it by paying its rez cost.
- After the approach stage, if the ICE is rezzed, the Runner encounters that piece of ICE and must deal with its subroutines, either by letting them fire or breaking them. Notice that unless a fired subroutine says to "End the Run", the run doesn't end.
- The Runner must pass each piece of ice in order to approach the next piece of ice protecting the server, continuing until all pieces of ice have been passed or until the run ends. After passing each piece of ICE, the Runner has the opportunity to jack out to end the run on his own will.
- If the Runner passes all pieces of ice protecting the attacked server, the run proceeds to the Access phase.
3. Access Phase
- After the Runner has passed all of the ice protecting the attacked server, they have one final opportunity to jack out. If they choose to continue, the Corporation has one final opportunity to rez cards. After rezzing cards, the run is considered to be successful and the Runner accesses the Corporation’s cards by looking at them. The type of server attacked determines the degree and method of access, and the Runner must access cards according to the following rules:
- R&D: The Runner accesses the top card of R&D, and any upgrades in its root. Unless the Runner steals, trashes, or is forced by a card’s text to reveal the card, they do not show cards accessed from R&D to the Corporation.
- HQ: The Runner accesses one random card from HQ and any upgrades in its root. Any cards the Runner does not steal or trash return to HQ.
- Archives: The Runner accesses all cards in Archives and any upgrades in its root. The Runner turns all cards faceup before accessing them, and does not need to keep them in order. The Runner steals all agendas in Archives and cannot trash cards that are already in Archives. After accessing Archives, all cards in Archives return to Archives faceup.
- Remote Server: The Runner accesses all cards in the server.
- Special considerations:
- If the Runner accesses an agenda during this phase, this agenda is automatically stolen and placed in the Runner score area.
- If during this phase the Runner accesses a card with a trash cost, the Runner may pay the trash cost to trash it to Archives faceup.
- Some cards have a "When accessed" ability, this ability triggers before the Runner can do anything else. For example, a Runner accessing a Snare have to reveal the card and let the Corp activate the ability to do 3 net damage and give 1 tag before the Runner can trash the card.
Concluding the Run
- After the Runner has accessed all required cards, they return any cards not stolen or trashed to their original play states. For example, an unrezzed card in a remote server returns facedown to that server, and a card accessed from HQ returns to HQ.
- After a Runner finishes accessing cards, the run ends. The Runner returns any unspent bad publicity credits to the token bank, and the Runner resumes his Action phase.
One of the biggest changes FFG made from the original Netrunner was putting it in their home-grown Android setting (which also has several books and board games) instead of Netrunner's tie-ins to the Cyberpunk 2020 world, and adding factions - whereas in Netrunner you were a nameless and generic "Runner" and "Corp", in Android: Netrunner you play as an Identity from one of 7+3 factions, with their own flavor, specialties and weaknesses. All faction cards except agendas (which are unique to each faction) have an Influence value from 1 to 5, designated by the blue dots at the bottom of the card and used in deckbuilding and representing how strongly affiliated the card is to the faction. Every ID has influence available for spending on out-of-faction cards. Faction-neutral cards also exist for both runner and corp, representing things that have no ties to any particular faction; only a few of them cost influence, but those that do tend to be very powerful. It's worth noting that, as the Android Universe is post-cyberpunk as fuck, the corps are not always the "bad guys" and the runners are not always good; Anarchs and Criminals in particular are usually portrayed as devil-may-care scumbags in card flavor text, and Global Food Initiative literally says that corporations are not all evil. The setting as a whole also tends to dwell on how awesome the technology looks and the poor oppressed androids instead of the implications of a corporation-dominated society.
[Faction: Summary + Lore, signature card + playstyle?]
Most classically cyberpunk of the runner factions, Anarchs run to smash the system - whether that's to expose corporate lies or just because they like to break things depends on the individual ID. They are also the faction associated with the anti-android forces of Human First, fighting for the working man (usually by smashing said android with a sledgehammer), though this rarely comes up and when it does it's usually because an author wants to make a cheap racism allegory.
As a faction, Anarchs excel at trashing corp cards of all types. They specialize in AI, Fracters, and viruses, but are generally weak in hardware and are supposed to have no good Decoder, though in practice their core Decoder was the Decoder until FFG saw sense and restricted it for tournament play. Their resources and events tend to focus on self-destruction for profit, support cards to prevent them from flaming out early and blunt instruments for trashing the corp's everything so they can either sort through the wreckage later when they run Archives or win by default when the Corp gets decked. Each of the runner factions are somewhat associated with one type of damage - for Anarchs it's the permanent Brain Damage, often self-inflicted. In general, Anarchs are a grab bag of blue and red in their intended play style: you either build Red Deck Wins or destroy and disable the Corp's defenses to win by attrition.
Anarch have had a swing-y time in the meta - a lot of their cards being low influence led to the faction being known as the one to import cards from rather than the one to play (though Noise has been a consistent threat thanks to his unique ability to grind down the Corp's deck), but as their card pool grew - especially after the deluxe box they shared with Weyland, Order and Chaos - they grew from strength to strength, dominating the game after a cards from a few cycles came together to form some monster decks, and their ability to trash cards helped immensely as Assets grew in prominence on the corp side.
It's hard to narrow down any one card as a faction's "signature", but a good example for Anarch would be Parasite: a virus that makes ice weaker and, if left unchecked, will trash the ice it is hosted on, making the server it was protecting more vulnerable. It also helps enable Anarch's suite of efficient but inflexible fixed-strength breakers, bringing ice down to their strength.
Criminals want money. That's about it. Leave ideals to the other factions, 'cause Criminals are only in it for themselves. "Steal from the rich", that's their motto—and who gives a damn for the poor? Naturally, Criminals aren't exactly picky about how they make their money. Robbery, fraud, and organized crime are all just as nice as any 1337 hacking. Hell, they'll even work for the corps—for the right price. Of course, money never helped a corpse. Safety first, cash later; getting info before you run and laying low when it all goes wrong are both just as important.
It's fitting, then, that Criminals have the best economy of any runner faction. You're going to give the corps a run for their money—literally; a lot of your economy will come from making runs. You'll usually do this by playing events. Account Siphon is a good example; it lets you gain up to ten credits while removing five of the Corp's ...as long as you successfully run on their HQ. Attacking HQ is a Criminal speciality, and they have tons of cards (like the aforementioned Account Siphon) that do crazy shit when you run HQ, plus Sneakdoor Beta to turn an Archives run into an HQ run, making all that ICE on HQ worthless.
But even ICE can't stop a smooth Criminal. They're great at cracking Sentry ICE, with some of the best Killers in the game. And anything they can't crack, they can avoid. Criminal cards focus on derezzing or otherwise bypassing ICE; if Anarchs straight-up destroy the corp's board, Criminals slyly fuck with it.
Other strengths include a variety of Connection resources, tutors for those Connections, and the ability to dodge tags and generally avoid meat damage. (Safety first, remember?)
But Criminals still have weaknesses. They're pretty bad at bringing cards back from the heap, and their non-Killer Icebreakers are expensive and inefficient to make up for their ICE evasion and good economy.
They also have the issue that their slice of ANR's "color pie" includes several mechanics that FFG's left underserved: Derezzing and Bypassing ice completely, which have seen some success, making ice more expensive to rez, and Exposing cards - looking at them without accessing or encountering them - which haven't. While these are interesting, historically in the game they haven't been used much, and focus on them has meant they've gotten fewer cards that support strategies people actually play.
This has not stopped Criminal from being successful, however - the first World Championship was won by a Criminal deck, and more than half the runner field at that tournament had Criminals as their runner deck. Some reckon their sheer brokenness (see also: their signature card) in the early days of the game was responsible for most of the blue cards printed since being binder fodder.
Of the runner factions Criminal is far and away the easiest to identify a "signature" card for - Account Siphon is a hugely powerful card that exemplifies everything Criminals do best - robbing the corp blind and making a ton of money. As a run event that requires a successful HQ run, Siphon (there another "siphon" card, but Account Siphon is notorious enough to be known by the name) is very strongly Criminal, as represented by its hefty influence cost of 4. Since the core set Account Siphon is a card that has had to be played around, and all corps should be wary that the card exists. It is also one of the only cards to actively show that a corp's credit and a runner's credit do not represent the same amount of money - the corp's is much, much larger.
Shapers just want to have fun. Some of them do it because committing industrial espionage makes them feel different and special, some of them do it because they like to make and play with cool toys and running against the Corps requires some seriously cool toys, and some do it because running makes you see pretty colors. To sum up, Shapers are the hippie faction. As a result, they get the softest treatment from FFG in the fluff; Shapers may smash shit as wantonly as any Anarch or steal as greedily as any Criminal, but when they do it it's completely morally acceptable because they did it for the lulz.
On the table, Shapers are the "big rig" faction. Their specialty is in hardware and programs; they've got an installable for every situation, and once a Shaper gets their rig together there's very little the Corp can do to stop them. First though they have to actually get their rig together, though, and Shaper stuff tends to be more expensive than their equivalents out of faction to compensate for its power. Not that it matters much, as Shapers are also tied with Criminals for the best economy in the game, albeit mostly by paying less for their shit to begin with; where Criminals make money by making runs and stealing shit, Shapers DIY their rigs, pawn their old busted rig for the new hotness, or straight up print money. Their second specialty is adaptability and staying power; Shapers have the best pure card draw in the game, a near monopoly on tutors and their infamous "Shaper bullshit" to often ignore ICE subtypes or always have exactly the right breaker they need, often without spending clicks because they set up beforehand. That doesn't mean they don't pay for it, though, and a smart Corp can use resource-trashing to render their set-up too slow to be worth it or flatline them before they can build up steam.
Everyone takes advantage of Shaper cards, at least for their recursion and economy options. Anarch and Shaper in particular make a great pair, with Anarch's aggression gaining staying power from Shaper's recursion and defense.
When the deluxe Order and Chaos (Anarch + Weyland) was released the Netrunner community was left to wonder: who would NBN share the last deluxe with? As there are 3 runner factions and 4 corps the answer was not obvious - some reckoned there'd be one of each runner identities, others reckoned a new faction, but when Data and Destiny dropped the answer was somewhere in-between: three runners, each with a very limited card pool, a lot of influence and a unique theme. All had some similarities to the existing factions, but clear differences as well.
- Sunny Lebeau
- Working for the large and independent security corporation Globalsec, Sunny Lebeau tests corporate security and investigates megacorp wrongdoing. She's a strong and independent womyn who don't need no man, working to provide for her children and eventually save enough get her wife Pat away from her job on Mars. Equipped with the best gear and security clearance Globalsec can provide, Sunny has no passive ability - she simply has 2 Link; good for winning traces, the minimum amount needed to turn on the memory-saving ability of certain breakers, and the amount needed to make certain resources work. The general descriptor for the way Sunny operates is "slow and expensive, but good" - with costly but powerful breakers, probably the best high-cost console in the game, and good ability to make money from resources, it often takes Sunny a while to get set up, but her late-games are crushingly powerful. She is the only one of the Mini-Factions to come with a full breaker suite, so she's the most usable and conventional mini-faction runner right out of the box. For the expensive but inevitable late-game power, Sunny is often considered to be similar to shapers.
- Bioroid Jesus. A bioroid with no memory of who he is and and his Directives (Asimov's Three Laws) altered to give him a semblance of free will and a singular and independent purpose: Always Be Running. It could be that he escaped somehow, was set free, or is just a useful idiot for Haas-Bioroid on a blacker-than-black-ops mission buried in his programming.
- Adam has three Directives, resources that start the game installed and are effectively part of his ID text, which offer some powerful abilities, though they all come with drawbacks. His card pool comes with a number of ways to shutting off these Directives along with a console that scales when he scores agendas, showing Adam growing past his programming. Because the directives start installed, Adam generally gets off to a fast start - mainly because he's often forced to run. While this makes him vulnerable, it also puts a lot of pressure on the corp. Other than the directives and the cards focused on removing or temporarily blanking them, Adam's cards are focused on utility. With his early-game pressure and need to run, Adam is sometimes considered to be a pseudo-criminal.
- Most mysterious of the Mini-Faction runners, nobody knows exactly what the hell Apex is except FFG, and maybe not even then. It could be a virus that became sentient, an AI experiment that went rogue, or maybe Gay Purple Man went to /d/ and Apex is what crawled out. All anyone knows about Apex is that it is very hard to stop, and it eats data like a fa/tg/uy eats Cheetos. It gets out as much as a fa/tg/uy too; being a non-physical entity it can't install non-Virtual resources.
- Apex uses the cards on the board as a resource that can be spent - its faction cards usually require it to trash a card to use an ability, and at the start of every turn Apex can install a card facedown for free, no clicks needed. Apex can do a lot of things with these - avoid damage, make money, trash ICE, and power Endless Hunger. That last one is important; Apex can threaten servers even with no cash, though it's rolling for anal circumference if it hits something that doesn't say exactly "End the run" on it. Its signature console makes it very hard to kill - throw enough cards on the table and you can walk through the worst meatgrinders the Corp can muster and come out swinging. Oh, and it can pull a diet Wrath of God out of its ass. For the trashing abilities and common use of alternative costs Apex is most like an Anarch.
Your classic cyberpunk zaibatsu, Jinteki makes half of the setting's eponymous Androids - artificial humans - in Jinteki's case, they make clones. Perhaps the most sterotypical cyberpunk megacorp, they have decent agendas, potentially deadly ice and sneaky traps - perhaps why FFG recomends you start with them (you shouldn't, HB plays much better out of core). Masters of all things biotech, Jinteki's divisions also specialize in medicine, gene modding, agriculture, and exploring the capabilities of the human brain.
Jinteki's most recognizable card is, without a doubt, Snare! Recognizable, painful, and costly to encounter, Snare! has ended many a game for a careless runner by inflicting 3 immediate damage and ending a tag. The OTHER reason you don't run on last click, a runner that survives a Snare! has no chance to remove the tag or draw any more cards (usually), which is quite bad news for them. On the other hand, 4 credits is not cheap for a one-off ambush, which is especially bad for the notoriously poorest faction- and a savvy runner knows what 3 credits or less means. While not quite ubiquitous in every Jinteki build, it's emblematic enough of all of Jinteki's little traps and tricks: costly and awkward at times, but satisfying to pull off.
The other megacorp that makes androids, Haas-Bioroid's product is in the name: they make Bioroids, entirely inorganic humanoid robots with electronic AI brains based on human brain-maps. How they make these maps, and who they make them from (usually they find someone who was good at whatever the bioroid is for, like being a cop, or an investment manager) is HB's secret, but they're expensive as fuck apparently . Yes, this includes sex robots. Other products include flying cars, cybernetics, AI software (oftentimes it's actually a bioroid, often without a body, and they tend to be less than stable as a result) and industrial machinery. In many ways they are the Shaper to Weyland's Criminal; they rez cards for less, pull cards from Archives, and usually rely on XBOX HUEG servers to score agendas behind. They have an exclusive ICE type - Bioroid - which represent the robot brains hooked into their network. Bioroids have much better stats than other comparable ICE, but their instability means that a Runner can just "wait it out" by spending clicks to break their subroutines. Being all about efficiency, they have quite a few click-saving cards that do multiple things at once. When it comes to "iconic cards" though, their best bet is both their main product and their way of closing out so many games: Biotic Labor. This is a very simple, powerful operation, and in conjunction with their agendas can make for some very strong scoring.
You know how /pol/ always complains that the entire media colludes to spy on people and hide The Truth™? That's NBN. They created the Network that everyone uses for everything, own all forms of media and news, and collect marketing data on every man, woman, child, and android in the Android Universe. As such they specialize in tagging people and then using those tags to fuck with the runner or buff themselves; Weyland often gets splashed here to turn all those tags into a massive wall of murderrape. Also the kings of Corporate aggro, with cards like SanSan City Grid and Psychographics to score agendas in one turn, denying the runner a chance to react.
The Weyland Consortium
Builders, bankers and businessmen extraordinaire, the Weyland Consortium is not one business, but an alliance of large corporations working together; though known for constructing Earth's space elevator - nicknamed the "Beanstalk" after the consortium's founder, Jack Weyland - what Weyland does is buy, sell and invest in other companies and corporations, leveraging their huge wealth to pursue their goals. Uniquely, most Weyland IDs are not divisions of the Megacorp, but corps in their own right - a transnational bank, a fusion power company, a space exploration company etc. - a lore reflection of part of the early design process, where several factions were folded into one.
As a faction, Weyland specializes in barriers, tutoring, and making money - in fact, they have a card of every type that makes money, even ICE! Weyland is also strongly associated with meat damage - almost all the corp cards that do meat damage are Weyland, even if Weyland isn't always the best at employing them. Speaking of things Weyland isn't the best at, like HB, a fair bit of Weyland ICE has a unique feature (no extra subtype though) - it can be advanced like an asset or agenda, to change it: some ICE gets stronger, some gain subroutines, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of this ice is over-costed, especially when the additional cost in clicks and credits is included - the investment is not often worth it. When this is combined with Weyland's other weaknesses - limited code gates and noticeably few and poor upgrades it becomes a bit clearer why Weyland struggles to score agendas or protect what it's got. Weyland is also famously unsubtle, having almost no ability to disguise agendas. However, when scored, their agendas can often recoup their cost - if they can actually score an agenda Weyland will rarely slow down, though often this money comes at a cost in Bad Publicity - an example of Weyland's willingness to get things done at any cost, also seen by their tendency to trash their own cards for money or other advantage.
Much like Criminal, Weyland's signature card is easy to identify - the often game-ending Scorched Earth. While Weyland often has to import the card that will give the tag, and often the card is splashed by tag-happy NBN, the kill is unmistakably Weyland, and has the influence cost to prove it. Scorched Earth is the most infamous tag punishment in the game, its use being partly responsible for the maxim: "don't run last click" - the risk of getting a tag and being unable to clear it making such a run an often fatal mistake. Scorched Earth also has something of a psychological effect - playing against Weyland often makes runners a lot more circumspect about running without enough money or protection, which can be exploited to score out agendas.