Tag Archives: Richard Garfield

Computer Love – Android: Netrunner review

NetrunnerCOVER

Out of all the things that comprise this world of play, the aspect that impresses me most are card games. I love the scope that cards offer the designer and the gamer, the range of opportunity and the variety of formats that a few simple bits of paper can provide. Consider games such as Dominion and Love Letter, Flowerfall and Yomi… all little more than words and images on paper but all very different games. I find it incredible how card games can conjure up theme so well, and now another has been added to my pile of favourites – Android: Netrunner.

I was honoured to have Richard Garfield on the show a while ago. As the designer of the original Netrunner (as well as Magic: The Gathering, of course) he’s responsible for one of the lost classics in gaming, one that has gathered fans through the years despite only really being available through eBay and other second-hand routes. Perhaps going up against M:TG was too much of a struggle, but now Fantasy Flight have taken the reigns some sixteen years down the line. After running it through their great big LCG machine, it’s now available again – albeit in a slightly new format – and is even better than before.

Android: Netrunner is a masterclass in asymmetrical design. Players take either the Runner or Corporation side and attempt to score Agendas, with the first to seven points taking the win. The faceless Corporations will spend their huge reserves of cash to advance these Agendas while also trying to protect them with various pieces of Ice, technological marvels that only the greatest hackers will be able to break through. Unfortunately, the Runner has the tools at their disposal to do precisely that, deftly breaking subroutines and stealing the Agendas from under the Corp’s nose.

Kate is a Shaper, determined to create and play within the confines of the Corporations.

Kate is a Shaper, determined to create and play within the confines of the Corporations.

Of course, it’s not as easy as that. There’s a huge element of bluff in A:N – having control over secret information is key to gaining the upper hand over your opponent.Timing is also vital, especially for the player in control of the Runner. If you can manage to attack the Corporation servers often, you’ll put a huge dent in their coffers meaning that they won’t be able to flip the Ice protecting their precious Agendas. On the other hand, you may well be racing headlong into a trap that will cause you damage – you never know what could happen, which is why attempting to outmanoeuvre the other player is so vital.

If being the Runner is to dart about, looking for weaknesses and chinks in armour, playing as the Corp is all about force and using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Building up well protected servers and confusing the Runner should be the order of the day if you side with the big bad guys in A:N, trying to swat them away like a mosquito. You really do get a feeling of power when you take one of the Corporation roles, creating a (hopefully) unbreachable row of defences as you march relentlessly towards victory. After all, the Corporations in Netrunner rule the world – how could a pesky little Runner stop them from achieving their goals?

Jinteki are one of the Corporations, ready to crush any attacks made on them.

Jinteki are one of the Corporations, ready to crush any attacks made on them by forcing Runners to frequently discard cards.

Quite simply, actually. Despite both players having very different goals (as well as methods of reaching them) the game is generally well balanced. Sure, the different Runner factions and Corporate identities may have a few positives and negatives when thrown into the mix, but most of the time you’ll find that match-ups are pretty even. It’s even suggested in the rulebook that you play twice each time, switching roles after the first game – if anything, it’s a great way to ensure that your skills are relatively even no matter what side you play. You’ll invariably end up preferring one side over the other – personally I enjoy Running much more – but if you want to get truly good at the game you’ll need to work on both.

As you’d imagine, what with it now being under the Fantasy Flight banner, the whole game has a sheen of class about it. The images throughout are lovely, instructions are nice and clear… even the flavour text on the cards is good. Hell, I’d go so far to say that some of it is downright funny; there are plenty of in-jokes and pop culture references to pick up on. A personal favourite is the Archer quote – definitely one for fans of the TV show.

Android: Netrunner has taken the original game and improved on it in countless ways. Where it could often require the assistance of someone else to get into the intricacies of how to play (and more importantly, how to play well), it’s now a lot easier to pick up and understand. Even the rulebook is well put together – where many other FFG products can be like molasses when you’re trying to wade through them, it’s comparatively easy to find out the information you require in this one.

Oh man, they're all so pretty.

Oh man, they’re all so pretty. And useful!

For far too long, Netrunner was left out in the rain. Those who knew how good it was championed the game but with dwindling stocks of cards, managing to play was a challenge in itself. Now, thanks to this relaunch, more and more people are getting to experience this fantastic game properly. With regular expansions being made available, FFG have demonstrated their desire to support it and sales have been good, so here’s hoping that Android: Netrunner is here to stay.

Android: Netrunner is strictly for two players only and games take around 15-30 minutes. Designed by Richard Garfield with assistance from Lukas Litzsinger, it’s now produced by Fantasy Flight Games. A copy from Gameslore will set you back £26, while the expansions (called Data Packs) are an additional tenner each. And seriously, it’s worth every penny.

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Big In Japan – King of Tokyo and Power Up! review

KoTCOVER

Where most people associate this festive time of year with the usual combination of socks, jocks and chocolates (cheers to Tim Minchin for that one), I have a slightly curious Christmas connection: Japanese monster movies. I put this down to the British TV network Channel 4 showing a whole bunch of them one year around this time when I was a kid, and after soon I had a childhood obsession with Godzilla and his rubber-suited ilk. Giant monsters (known in Japan as Kaiju) terrorising the world are always an entertaining thing to watch and now you get become one yourself (kind of) to take on other mutant beasts or take down the city in Richard Garfield’s dicefest, King of Tokyo!

It’s a gloriously silly game where you get to win in one of two ways; either be the first to score twenty victory points or smash each of your opponents into the ground so much that they can’t get up again. In the box you get enough for six players to get involved and even with the maximum amount of people around the table you’ll be done in thirty minutes, meaning that it’s an ideal way to fill some time between bigger efforts or round off your games night… but how does it work?

Simply put, you chuck six dice and see what happens. Rolling three of the same number will score you points (either 1,2 or 3) while each additional digit gets you an extra point – in other words, rolling three 3s gets you three points and rolling 5 gets you five. Claws showing on your dice initially allow you to take control of Tokyo, but then they become even more vital as you use them to attack your opponents.

Now, here’s the only vaguely tricky thing to consider about the game, the concept of being In Tokyo or Not In Tokyo. If you’re In, all attacks effect ALL of the players who are Not In. If you’re Not In, the poor mutant who is In Tokyo takes the hits. In the case of a five/six player game, there’ll be two players maximum in Tokyo, balancing things out a little. And that’s the most convoluted thing about King of Tokyo; understand that and you’ve got the whole gist of the game.

Multiple Monster Mayhem

Multiple Monster Mayhem!

There are two other symbols on the dice as well; Hearts allow you to heal your Kaiju and Bolts bestow little green energy cubes upon you which can be spent on cards that will boost your monstrous abilities. Some are permanent (marked with a ‘Keep’ symbol) while others must be discarded to give you a one-off boost that is often very powerful. Everything from getting extra points through to bonus rerolls can be gained from your cards, so spend those glowing cubes wisely!

As the dice rolling continues, the game gets more and more raucous. King of Tokyo is not a game to take seriously, especially if you play with folks who may take offence at being attacked. With a lot of the focus on player elimination, some people may feel a little sore when they get ganged up on while they’re in Tokyo. You see, while you control the city, you can’t heal your Kaiju – any hearts that you happen to roll are useless, meaning that you have to push your luck and stay in as long as you can without getting wiped out. Once you decide to yield, you hand over Tokyo to the last monster that attacked (still taking the damage, mind you), try to patch yourself up and have your revenge.

Being dice based, there is of course a huge element of luck to the game, but that’s not to say that there’s no strategy in King of Tokyo. Deciding whether you should attack the beast in the city is as important as knowing when you should stop trying to defend it. Getting the right combination of cards can give you an edge, but should you rely on rolling as much energy as possible? This could leave you well behind the other players or allow you to construct a devastating last-place-to-first move… in Tokyo, you always have plenty of options available to you!

Small Box - Big Pandakai

Small Box – Big Pandakai

Now, having been out for a while and being that it’s a very popular game, the first expansion has recently hit the stores for you to add a little more to your battles. Power Up comes complete with a brand new monster – Pandakai – and a whole new game mechanism: Evolutions. These are different to the cards you get in the regular game in that each monster has eight powers specific to themselves that are shuffled and placed face down in front of the player before the game starts. Should you manage to roll three hearts (whether you’re In Tokyo or not) you may take the top Evolution card from your stack. When you reveal this new power is entirely down to you; some will give you a bonus from the moment you draw them, while others act more along the lines of an instant reaction.

The addition of Power Up has left me feeling a little muddled, and it’s all down to how many people I happen to be playing with. If there are three or four of us sitting around the table, it’s a welcome extra that adds another layer of strategy to the game. However, with five or six people involved things take a turn for the negative; it really begins to drag. As you get to heal as well as draw an Evolution when you roll those hearts (assuming you’re Not In Tokyo), it adds a LOT of time to the game. The basic King of Tokyo is a speedy, silly experience, but if you’re still playing the same game after an hour when a few players are still just slogging it out, slowly trudging towards a conclusion… it just doesn’t feel right.

King of Tokyo should be like the epic battles at the end of every Kaiju movie; quick, brutal and daft, and 99% of the time it’ll be exactly like that. Just be a bit wary of adding the expansion in when a lot of people want to play. By keeping it simple, the game will move along at speed and will never overstay its welcome. The old films never worried too much about overcomplicating things, so why should you?

Designed by Richard Garfield and with art by Benjamin Raynal, King of Tokyo was originally released by IELLO in 2011. The Power Up! expansion came out in 2012. The game plays in around half an hour and between two and six can get involved. If you’d like a copy, Gameslore does the base set for £23.99 and the additional set for a tenner

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Episode 23 – A Bit of Magic

Get the episode from iTunes or directly from here: http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/z5i7gs/LMD_Episode23.mp3

This is another one of those episodes where it baffles me how it actually happened. Why? Well, I got to speak to Richard Garfield. The guy who single handedly started the whole Collectible Card Game genre with Magic: The Gathering. There’s not many people who can say they’re responsible for beginning a genre of game, but Richard definitely can. As well as M:TG, he’s also designed games like RoboRally, The Great Dalmuti, Netrunner, Vampire The Eternal Struggle… the list is huge. He’s also just released his latest game, King of Tokyo, a battle of the behemoths! I ask him about pretty much everything I can (as you would, of course) and yet it still wasn’t enough time to get everything out! Here’s hoping I get the chance to talk with him again some day.

Chris also returns this episode with answers to a stack of questions. If you want to get in touch with us, you can email us: michael@littlemetaldog.com and chris@littlemetaldog.com. Thanks to Gryphon Games for sponsoring this episode, and thanks as always to you for listening.

Oh yeah. There might be a competition hidden somewhere in the show too. Maybe.

This episode’s links!

 

Mirror Mirror on Kickstarter - http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/167427101/mirror-mirror-a-game-of-deception-reflection-and-l?ref=live

Magic: The Gathering home - http://www.wizards.com/Magic

Richard’s excellent Three Donkeys site - http://www.threedonkeys.com/blog/

The UKGMN’s videos from UK Games Expo – WARNING – you will see my face - http://www.youtube.com/user/Weirdchris56

Don’t forget, we’re part of The Dice Tower Network as well! The home of fine gaming shows! - http://dicetower.com/

 

 

 

 

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