Sweating the Small Stuff

It’s easy to blame fate on losing the game. And maybe that is WHY you lost the game. But if you want to improve then you have to look at the cards dealt to you with a lense of finding the best play available. This is all well and good because sometimes it is difficult during the pressure of the game to always choose the optimally best decision at the time: time and the awesome amount of information at your hand coupled with the infinite amount of decisions that are possible can make this process difficult even with unlimited amounts of time. So how does one improve?

Well, the most obvious answer is practice, practice, practice.

The second answer is perhaps not as obvious but certainly not revolutionary. Keep notes of your games. Reflect on decisions you made in the games and try to recreate the game state at that time. A good example of this was when I was playing NBN. I had advanced four points worth of agendas. One of them was an Astroscript Pilot with a hosted counter still in place. I was playing against Kate so my R&D was vulnerable and a likely target. My move was to install another astroscipt and then get an agenda for the win after that. When I advanced to 6 agenda points and I had another Astroscript hosted counter ready to advance any likely agendas that came my way. This seemed like good strategy at the time but my opponent used an Indexing, ran my R&D twice for the win.

Shitty luck, right?

Well yes and no.

I made my opponent win in this case. Reviewing the game afterwards allowed me to see that I limited my opponents choices to one! He had to run R&D. On reflection, I should have held onto my agenda until I drew a piece of icebreaker capable of protecting R&D adequately OR drew another solution entirely.

This reflective process makes my game better because I am prepared for future challenges and have thought through how to deal with them. Chris Hadfield, Canadian astronaut, would call this sweating the small stuff. So, sweat the small stuff Netrunners, sweat away so that you can live to run or corp another day!

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Intel

Intel is very important, as a runner and as the corp. Cards like Infiltration which allow you to peek at cards are, in my opinion, underrated. However, even if you never play with intelligence gathering cards there are plenty of free ways of gathering information to give you an edge over your opponent.

Go through your opponents Discards.

This is a great way to start to piece together the strategy of your opponent. If you are playing against a corporation, I like to sift through my opponents archives to get a sense of what traps lay ahead. If you see no traps or multiples of the same trap, you might be safe to run that iffy server. Remember, you can only have three copies of a card in your deck, so seeing three snares in their archives means you are safe from that particular card.

If you are playing against the runner, you can sift through their heap to get an idea of what options they have available to them in the future. If you count the number of event cards they have played and if it is around fifteen or so, they probably don’t have any more. Also, you can watch what cards they discard. A savvy runner will try to discard cards that don’t reveal too much to their opponent. This can be done by trashing duplicates of programs or resources that are already in play. They will try not to discard game changers or surprises that may alert the corp and thus give them intelligence to start shoring up vulnerable servers. Like escher or sneakdoor.

Counting Influence

Another good habit is to count the influence of any off-faction cards that are being used. This can help limit the amount of surprises you can expect in an opponents deck. For example, if a NBN deck is carrying Scorched Earth, that’s four influence and any good deck will contain multiples to enhance the probability of drawing them. Therefore, that’s between 8 and 12 influence on one card! This is great information because you know the rest of the deck must be NBN cards. This helps the runner a lot. The same applies when playing against a runner. So, try to keep an informal mental tally of all the off-faction cards you have seen. Go through their trash pile frequently to help with this. Knowing what you could potentially run into, is a great advantage.

Guessing Ice

Trying to forecast what ice your opponent has protecting their servers is a powerful exercise. When you initiate this activity as the runner, you begin to think like your opponent and this is always a good thing. By thinking like your opponent you can begin to anticipate or understand their actions. The second reason, which is just as valuable, is that you begin to memorize all the ice types and their effects. Another way of doing this is to play identities that you don’t necessary like just so you can familiarize yourself with the cards and the play style.

Despite all this how do you guess what a card is when you cannot see it? There is tons of information provided by the corporation to guess what a particular piece of ice is. The easiest is by doing runs on R&D and HQ and accessing ICE in those locations. If you access a card in HQ and it is ICE and then next turn an ICE is installed, there is a high probability it is the one you accessed. Especially, if the corp hasn’t installed ICE in a couple of turns. Another way is to look at the credits/clicks available to the corp. If you are running servers through unrezzed ice, look at the corps economic situation. Could they not have enough credits to rez the ice? If this is a possibility, then that eliminates some possibilities of what it could be. Or another possibility is that the corp wants to maximize the hurt to you by rezzing it late in the runners’ turn. For example, perhaps it is a Heimdall 1.0 and you don’t have a barrier breaker but you are running it early in the turn. The corp doesn’t want to tip its hand and rez it if you are just going to click out of the damage. Another consideration is the amount of time it takes for the corp player to debate rezzing the ICE. If the game had been fast up to the point of Rezzing then it could be that the corp CAN rez it but chooses not to. The reasons for this are many but can often be reduced to a manageable few. For example, it could mean they have the credits to rez it, making the cost of the ice known, and want to protect the server but need the money for some action later and there is a level of probability that favours the corporation slightly. For example, perhaps you are running HQ with an unrezzed piece of ice and the server has 5 cards in it. If the corp hesitates and has lots of credits, this could mean that there is an agenda in there. The probability of pulling it doesn’t favour the runner but the possibility is there, hence the hesitation. If the corp couldn’t afford the ICE there would be no hesitation. Similarly, if there was no agenda, no hesitation. Intelligence.

The last reason to guess ICE is because it makes you know the cards better and this makes you a better player overall.

 

Overall, intelligence in any form is useful and should be maximized for your gain and minimized for your opponent whenever possible.

Making Lemonade

<<Vandalism on the walls of Jinteki New Angeles>>

No great man has been a victim of Destiny.

What does it mean?

Casper: It means that you make the most of the cards you are dealt. Literally. When you are running..you are running..not complaining.

What does it mean?

Slee Nake(VP of Jinteki Sales): My mom always said if you get handed lemons, than you make lemonade. Even if you wanted orange juice. You look at your options at all times, in this case a hand full of cards and you try to pick the best play from the options you have in front of you. You don’t bemoan the fact you don’t have certain cards but you maximize the “best” options you have in front of you. Ask yourself what a computer would do with the options you have available and play those moves.

What do you do when you don’t have the cards to make a successful run? If you are running and you have no ice breakers, don’t spend ALL your clicks drawing for them(but use some and use them early), rather start playing cards with the long game in mind, especially if the agendas scored by your opponent is low. This means you have some time to establish yourself. You play econ cards like daily casts, kati jones, cyberfeeder, etc and prepare your rig for the future.

For the corp, it is a little different. A corp doesn’t need a rig to setup but they need to establish a defense. The most common win strategies for the corp are flat-lining the runner and fast agenda scoring. For the first strategy the corp needs to tag the runner. This means they need money and cards that can achieve the tag. Setting up servers with the various campaign cards (PAD, Adonis, etc.) are important early on. They can also be used as a means of denying the runner credits, which in turn makes your servers more impregnable because they have a trash cost which the runner has to pay if they want to deny the cash to you. That’s why it is important to only rez these cards at the beginning of your turn. This maximizes their usage for you. To tag a runner means you usually have to convince them to run through ice that can achieve this effect and/or successfully run servers and/or even grab agendas. Its not uncommon for an NBN player to install a low cost agenda like Breaking News to bait the runner to steal it and then follow up with a Midseason Replacement followed by a Scorched Earth. Determining which servers the runner is likely to run against is important before installing cards that give runners tags. For instance criminals typically run HQ a lot and Shapers run R&D. Knowing this, you can install your ice accordingly.

For corporations who win through fast advancing agendas, cards like San San City Grid have to be in place, and/or agendas that allow quick scoring. You may have to draw cards to find these and at the same time defending your HQ and then R&D with ice. Initially, you want low ice on these servers while you create income for yourself to rez more expensive ice later on. Once you create a situation which supports fast advance and it is protected well, then you can start looking for the agendas to place in those servers.

#R.V1 Running with Training Wheels

Casper: Good luck virgin. Just remember what I told you, trust your gut and you will be fine. But here are a few words of advice…do you know what destroys all? Pressure and time. You need to bring both to the table against the corps. Unless you are running against Jinteki, make some quick cash (Sure Gamble is good here) and then hit their servers hard, without breakers. I know it sounds crazy but listen. One of the worst things you can go against is a program destroyer like Roto Turret but if you got no programs, then you gots no problems. You also run the “other” server you are not interested in. Maybe force them to lose some cash rezzing that ice. THEN you go after the OTHER server, the one you want. I like R&D. If you still have a brain afterwards, you should be looking at a poorer corp. You keep running without a rig like that until you can’t, maybe setting up some future opportunities with parasite or beginning the hardware part of your rig. Its hard for the corp to touch that.

If you are runnin against Jinteki though, its the opposite. You got to play the cards you want the most and keep enough back to save your skinny ass when their ice begins ripping chunks off of you.

Now, you still green, which means you got to get your feet wet before you pick your faction. They each have their different style. Criminals, well they like the money but they’re a little bit impatient. So, they like to hone in on the HQ. Successful runs here give them a lot of advantages: like money and/or the ability to affect ice on other servers and even steal some money from the corp. Shapers, they usually stick with R&D and have lots of cards to increase the probability of getting agendas. Anarchs depend on viruses a lot which usually come with successful runs. A corp can really ruin their day if they got ice protecting all their main servers and the Anarch can’t get pass any of them. Anarchs can go for either HQ or R&D but again, bets are they will target the R&D server.

A good corp will ice the relevant servers based on the runner identity they are playing.

Anyways Dash, good luck to you and I will see you on the other side. No doubt you will be a little scarred but wiser. Keep runnin’. Casper.

#C.v1/The good, the bad and the probable

….initializing….

….starting scripts….

….verifying identity…..

….identity verified….

…welcome Root…..

#//Ready? open email.exe

<<

Memo: Leveraging risk in our corporate activities

To: Director Fisk

Fr: Arvin Contor

Risk or probability is often viewed as negative. People want to limit risk to nothing but in today’s world, this is an impossibility. Every action contains an amount of risk no matter how much it is minimized. A well prepared R&D can screw even the most experienced CEO and even the poorest decks can top deck the exact card you need at the perfect time. It is important to view risk, otherwise known as probability, in long time frames and to play and construct decks with the intention of making small improvements in your win percentage over many games, not just one. Just like the Boy Scouts, being prepared should be your motto during deck construction. Inserting multiple copies of cards you want to see and to see early, is a must. Three copies of a card means you are three times as likely to see the card and statistically speaking, you will see the card in the first 10 rounds of the game, assuming you draw only one card every turn and you have an initial hand size of five cards. (In fact you have a 69% chance of seeing it in your starting hand if you count the mulligan) In cards games, thinking in terms of the likelihood of drawing a card is an important mindset because even though that important card may come up in your initial hand or not at all during your entire match, when you play many games, cards tend to behave as expected. Most good decks are constructed around certain themes, such as milling or flatlining or denying their opponent credits. Cards are chosen that maximize these themes and work together, if possible. You pick the best cards you can with the intention of drawing them and therefore you want to maximize your ability to obtain them and that means limiting your deck size to the minimum requirement as much as possible(usually 45). Increasing your deck size above the minimum decreases the likelihood of drawing cards that you want, which in turn handicaps the overall win strategy of the deck. That’s why Chaos Theory has so much potential as an identity(which hasn’t had much traction for other reasons). With its 40 card minimum deck size it is incredibly efficient.

So thinking about probability when constructing decks is important for both the corp and the runner. However, probability can also be leveraged to help the corporation defend its agendas. On average, the corporation has ten to eleven agendas in a deck of 49 cards. Although most corporation identities allow a minimum deck size of 45 cards, 49 is chosen to help decrease the probability of the runner finding an agenda.

When ICE defense is scarce, unaffordable or insufficient, probability can be used to defend agendas. A run on R&D for example, is likely to score an agenda based on how many agendas are left in the deck divided by the number of cards in R&D. So, allowing runs on R&D may be a good choice by the corp because the probability of the runner scoring could be low. That’s why counting the number of scored agendas and the ones in hand are useful.

This method can also be used for agendas in HQ. Assuming a 5 card hand, with one agenda in hand, there is a 20% chance of accessing the agenda. Although for each subsequent run, the chance of scoring that card remains the same, it becomes less and less likely that the runner will continue to miss the agenda, making this defense ineffective if the runner has many chances at HQ(Going to 36% on a second run and 49% on a third run). Even so, drawing cards to minimize the probability of the runner accessing an agenda sometimes is the best strategy for a corp that is poor and/or is having difficulty finding ICE.

Mr. Fisk, I hope you find this memo useful in helping you make decisions for your company.

regards,

A. Contor, Department of Risk Management