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LCGs: Rotation, Rotation, Rotation (Netrunner)

In 2014, FFG announced they would start rotating products around the 8th cycle (and that Thrones needed a second edition), at which point the two oldest product cycles would fall out of competitive play. It was a well-received announcement, but in practice it was a long way off; the first game to hit the rotation threshold was going to be Netrunner - and it hadn’t been designed from the ground up with the idea of rotation in mind.

Fast-forward to 2017, and FFG is finally doing it; they announced at Gencon that rotation would proceed prior to Worlds in order to have Worlds be a fresh environment without the first 2 cycles - even if the 8th cycle wasn’t going to be out yet. Yesterday, they announced more; an Oct 1st rotation date and FAQ re: Rotation, and the release of a new core product to replace the old one (which will also rotate out).

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I’ve recently been writing more articles critical of FFG than praising them, and they deserve praise on this one - so I thought I’d go over the good & the bad here.

The good:
  • Announcements are clear. I’ll get into the one gripe I have about the announcements later, but overall these were well-handled. The release of the new core came with an article explaining it well, offering a full list of cards in it, and the implications of rotation are addressed in a detailed format. When there was some confusion about whether the Revised Core would be available (since it’s legal) for Worlds, FFG were quick to clear up their ambiguity on twitter.
  • They consulted with the community. This wasn’t a product embarked on unilaterally by FFG, and I *know* there were community members consulted on its creation (Not me. But I hope they’ll consider me if they embark on a Thrones related such product!).
  • It is designed for new players, but in a way not to alienate veterans. Veterans will already have every card in this box, and won’t have to buy it at all. It offers re-prints of cards from the Core + Cycles 1 & 2, and while some will have different artwork - which has got to be at least a little tempting - but veterans shouldn’t feel pressured to buy a product catering to new players.
  • The card choices open up design space long “Trapped” by core/cycle 1&2 cards. Certain cards that defined the game (SanSan, Account Siphon, Parasite, Jackson Howard) are gone. This is part of the natural consequence of rotation, but it would have been ‘easy’ for FFG to include those defining cards in the new core - they didn’t. I think that is a wise decision, and keeps the development team from being bound by decisions made 7-8 years and 2 designers ago.
  • Revisiting a product years down the road allows you to apply the lessons learned from years of Netrunner (and other LCGs). This is a factor for design, but also just for quality-of-life of the product; remember Netrunner pre-dates the “Learn to Play + Rules Reference” format, and I expect it to include only a Learn to Play (and an online RR, like L5R)
  • I’m going to refrain from claiming this is a better entry point for new players; I don’t know the cards well enough to see if these decks are better introductions to the game, or whether the core has included high value cards that have been field-tested, and are likely to see use (without being the ‘environment defining’ cards we discussed earlier). But, just to show you how impressed I am with this whole thing, I’m going to put this in the “good” category and ASSUME this is the case. Because why wouldn’t it be? [Edit: Added some comments from a NR player in the comments - it looks like my assumption was OK!]
The bad
  • The timing of the announcement. There had to be something bad, didn’t there. And this isn’t subjective, this is just objectively bad; the announcement about the new core was made in time to make it legal for worlds, but not in time for Worlds registration. Not only did people buy tickets to an experience possibly very different than they thought they were, FFG squandered an opportunity to build on the excitement of this new core to drive Netrunner Worlds sales.
The “ugly” (“Raises questions”):
  • It doesn’t look like the box is all new art (e.g. Sure Gamble). Now this may sound like me being greedy and simply wanting them to invest more money in the product, but my thought is actually the other way; I want the “pull” for a veteran player to be strong enough that veterans will buy the box without feeling they have to. The better this box performs, the better for all LCGs - and in glancing at it, I’m not sure they quite struck the right balance (I’m happy to be corrected if most of it is alt-art, and they just kept a few classics because they were fantastic art).

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  • The box still appears married to the concept of being a launch product (all factions, larger cardpool with several 1x cards). I’ve written about this before, but I’m a little disappointed to see this box look so much like a launch core. Mind you, Netrunner isn’t the bedrock of faction loyalists, has a very different faction mixing system, and needs to have both sides of an asymetric game in one box, so they are operating under different constraints than a revised Core for Thrones would be. The card distribution (with 1Xs) could be a debate of its own, but without a good way to judge how those cards are played “in practice” (as 1xs?) I’m going to refrain from commenting.
  • It only includes product from the Core + Cycles 1&2. This one is a bit of a head-scratcher for me, because it feels short-sighted. No, not quite - it feels like it’s a solution to making the card pool survive rotation, and not quite killing the ‘barrier to entry’ bird with the same stone. It also creates a certain expectation that when cycles 3&4 rotate out they might get some similar treatment - and I’m not convinced that’s the best expectation to set.
Now let’s be clear, excited though I am about this announcement for a game I don’t play, it doesn’t “fix” LCGs single handedly. It probably eases the barrier to entry, but not quite enough. The rotation beginning is great, but the consensus among the community is that it should be a bit faster (and, in interviews, FFG seems on board with the idea) - although let’s keep an eye on Netrunner, with another 2 cycles rotating out a year from now, they’ll get a feel for the pace.

While it is no panacea (and there’s some bad & ugly mixed in with the good) - the whole thing makes me extraordinarily optimistic in a way reminiscent of the AGOT reboot announcement. It shows once again that FFG doesn’t believe they’ve “solved” LCGs, and are still experimenting with new ways to approach the games.

  • gramyotron likes this


Sep 12 2017 02:08 PM

How this new core contributes to easy the entry barrier? Because I don't really see it.

How this new core contributes to easy the entry barrier? Because I don't really see it.


Again, with my limited Netrunner experience, I'm making a few assumptions here (and I'm happy to be corrected if I'm wrong). Note that I'm not only referring to the "cost" (in $) of entry, but the knowledge barrier, the intimidation factor of the purchases, the ease of learning the rules, etc...


- (Assumption) A point of entry that includes more of the competitive staples in the new "meta" (in other words, replaced some of the duds from the core with cards that will see play) (Edit: See next comment, assumption validated)

- A point of entry into a new meta that isn't "solved", making it a good time to jump back into a game without needing quite as much knowledge of the old card pool. This is a very short-term advantage, but if the goal is to pull players back in, it likely does so.
- (Assumption) A better balance of starting decks (Edit: See next comment, assumption validated)

- A revised appearance (Learn to Play, digital Rules Reference) that makes the game a bit more approachable. I may be alone in this, but I found the Netrunner rules document hard to follow.

- Rotation decreases SKU count by 13 and increases it by 1, making it less intimidating to buy-in (but not sufficiently so). 

- (Speculation) A distribution of cards that better reflects how cards are actually played in real decks nowadays (?) (Distribution of certain cardtypes changing, like resources, suggests this is probably somewhat true?). (Edit: See next comment. Speculation unsupported) If that's not the case, it at least looks like the value of a second core is greater than it was with the original core.

To add some thoughts from a Netrunner player to whom I asked these questions;


- Do these look like better starting decks to learn the game?
> Yes. They're much better decks, less likely to end in a snap with the Runner screwing up and dying (Sea Scorch Scorch), and they've taken away a card new players have a lot of trouble playing around (Breaking News)

- Does the % of "dud" cards seem lower than the initial core

> Yes. Most of the cars removed from the core were either Awful or Broken, and they replaced them with actually useful cards. 


- Does the distribution of cards (cardtypes, and which are 1x, 2x, 3x) better reflect distribution in real competitive decks?

> Not really. There are some real head scratchers (Spec Orders is a 3x in competitive play, Diesel a 3x, they're 1x and 2x respectively), and others that make sense.

- How is the netrunner community, as a whole, recieving this announcement.
> Very well! There's the usual (and inevitable) cry of "3 cores to buy in", but otherwise players are excited.

They had the chance to include lots of singles so buying 3x core might be more appealling. But they missed again, and included lots of 2x.

Sep 12 2017 03:35 PM

Ok, but... it doesn't really ease the entry barrier, it's just a cool more effective new toy that can lure new players. Better than a kick in the groin but still not as near as something that can ease this problem :\

Ok, but... it doesn't really ease the entry barrier, it's just a cool more effective new toy that can lure new players. Better than a kick in the groin but still not as near as something that can ease this problem :\


I think given the answers I've received from Netrunner players about the new decks being better for new players, and the prospect of a better learn to play guide, and the fact that the core includes more "usable" staples - it is a way to facilitate player entry (or re-entry) into the game and decrease their dependence on quite as many different products to buy in. Not drastically, but I think enough to make a difference, yes. 

Sep 12 2017 06:17 PM

They had the chance to include lots of singles so buying 3x core might be more appealling. But they missed again, and included lots of 2x.


The original Netrunner core set was the only one of their LCGs where people could play at a high level without 3 cores, and I knew a number of people that did/do, where the only cards they were really missing were the 3rd Aesop, SanSan and Desperado. 3 cores are required to have a full playset either way, so why not shift the 'burden' onto the competitive players, and leave a better, more consistent product to present the game to new players, in order to attract and keep them? FFG have stated in the past that the majority of their sales are to people who buy nothing other than a single core set, and at least letting it function like a real game is highly beneficial to those 'game in a box' players.

The mechanics of Netrunner mean that you cannot properly function without certain cards (mostly icebreakers on the runner side, where you could get gearchecked to oblivion) so you'd be presenting a truly awful experience without multiples of cards. An experience that would probably be approaching or even worse than the AGOT core set where you can't really even teach core mechanics like duplicates.

    • Berr likes this

I personally think that this is a good move and it signals, that FFG won't let Netrunner die in the near future.


I personally think that it would have been better to remove the second and third copy of some of the cards and add more cards that would rotate out, but it is how it is.

Among this discussion of quantities of cards to include in the core set, I think it's important to note that the new core set has improved in this regard by increasing the variety of cards included.

There is the (well-supported) assertion that the core set must be optimized for new/casual player experience & price point, and this means including some 1x and 2x cards to make a balanced & larger cardpool within the card count available.

Within the framework of that assertion, the more 1x and 2x cards in the core set, the better, because that means less 'dead cardboard' in additional purchases, and a larger resulting cardpool. As 'Pandawithissues' pointed out, netrunner's mechanics do not lend to pure 1x in the core set. However, the new core set increases the spread of cards quite substantially, so it's a strong improvement in this area.

Comparitive card numbers: [old]->[new] : [+-diff]
Number of unique cards (other than IDs): 106->125 : +19
Number of 1x cards: 11->33 : +22
Number of 2x cards: 55->49 : -6
Number of 3x cards: 40->33 : -7

Considering all the other objectives also achieved by the Revised Core, and the significant constraint to only use cards existing players already had (to only use cards from old core + genesis + spin, and not modify any), I think it's a pretty good effort to improve value of additional core sets.