Board games that grow as you play them have become a prominent fixture in the tabletop gaming sphere. 2011's Risk Legacy, designed by Rob Daviau, was the first mainstream game to let players change the game in permanent ways by marking the board, applying stickers, and giving advantages to certain players that persisted putting the game back in the box. Now, Fantasy Flight Games is bringing something like the "legacy" model to the fan-favorite and award winning cyberpunk card game, Android: Netrunner.
Netrunner is a card game about the evil that corporations do and the shady dealings hackers must resort to to expose their agendas. It was originally a collectible game designed by Magic: The Gathering designer Richard Garfield back in 1996—I remember opening my first starter deck during the dress rehearsal for my middle school graduation. But Netrunner didn't survive the collapse of the CCG market after the Magic: the Gathering boom subsided.
Over a decade later, it was licensed and adapted for Fantasy Flight's Android universe as a "Living Card Game" in 2012—instead of buying individual "booster packs," LCGs are sold in fully-packed card sets, split into small "data packs" and larger "big box" releases. Fantasy Flight Games announced this week that their newest big box expansion for Android: Netrunner would be a narrative campaign instead of their usual faction-based set. The campaign, Terminal Directive, will release in the first quarter of 2017.
In Terminal Directive, two players will each control a runner or a corporation and play a series of games against each other in an attempt to unravel the mystery of a serial killer who appears to be a Bioroid, the signature product of synthetic-android-producing megacorporation Haas-Bioroid .
Each game represents a period of investigation and winning will determine which side gets the next piece of information and how it will be used. This dynamic is represented by giving each side access to cards in sealed packs and by putting stickers on individual boards giving them new abilities or modifying existing ones influencing the action in future games.
When Risk Legacy did this in 2011, it proved exceptionally popular (allowing games of Risk to damage friendships not only for one evening but also for weeks and months into the future.) Daviau went on to make a Legacy version of the popular game Pandemic and his latest game Seafall, an attempt to make an original game with the enduring "legacy" mechanics, was an instant sell-out at Gencon, North America's largest tabletop convention.
I've been telling myself stories ever since I opened the Netrunner core set, so I'm excited to have the narrative instinct nurtured beyond flavor text and rules inserts. Every game feels like a miniature drama about a lone hacker against a giant corporation complete with allies and executives, sly tricks, brutal countermeasures, and all the other trappings of cyberpunk dystopia. Terminal Directive takes those stories that players tell themselves over the course of individual games and aims to validate them mechanically in a way I am beyond thrilled to try next year.