Netrunner is a Collectible Card Game that depicts cyberspace combat between a global mega-corporation (the Corp) and a hacker (the Runner). The Corp's goal is to complete their secret agendas before the Runner can hack in and spoil their secret plans for world domination. It isn't easy, though, as the Corp has strong defensive data forts protected by malevolent computer programs known as ICE (once again short for Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics). The Runner must use special programs of their own (called icebreakers) to break through and steal the hidden plans - to keep the Corp from taking over completely.
The original version of the game was published by Wizards of the Coast (of Magic: The Gathering fame) in 1996 and set in the Cyberpunk 2020 setting. It only lasted for two booster sets before going out of print, but in 2012, Fantasy Flight Games obtained the rights to Netrunner, updated it to be consistent with its cyberpunk-noir board game Android, and reissued the game as the Living Card Game Android: Netrunner. Though there have been some changes (making the game an LCG and not a CCG, of course; providing "identities" for the Corp and the Runner, each with their own abilities; lots of flavor text overhauls with references to the Android universe and to lots of other sci-fi and fantasy), the gameplay is mostly the same and has been very well received. The game has both a core set and several expansions of varying sizes.
In 2018, Fantasy Flight Games announced that it would not renew its Netrunner license with Wizards of the Coast, and its version of Netrunner went out of print. It was continiued by a fan organization called NISEI (Nextrunner International Support & Expansion Initiative), which regularly produces free print-and-play expansions.
Both games provide examples of:
- Awesome, but Impractical: Several cards that are devastating but unwieldy or cost-ineffective.
- Cast from Hit Points: There are several cards that give the Runner a significant boost, in exchange for unpreventable brain damage.
- And one that gives you money in exchange for brain damage.
- The Cracker: The runner, possibly. In Android: Netrunner, the Criminal and possibly Anarch factions.
- Cyberpunk: Very much steeped in the genre. The original version, in fact, is actually tied into the Cyberpunk tabletop game, to the point one sourcebook (Rache Bartmoss' Brainware Blowout) had rules for using the game as a replacement for the clunky netrunning rules.
- Cyberspace: The game is a simulation of cyberspace-style hacking.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technology: In the original game, the "Omnitech Spinal Tap Cybermodem". In Android: Netrunner, "Spinal Modem". Both cards are cheap computers that provide a powerful edge, but also have a chance to cause unpreventable brain damage when things go wrong.
- Symmetrically, the Illicit ice from the Spin cycle. Rezing it gives the corporation Bad Publicity.
- Dueling Hackers: Represented by the corp sysop cards.
- Everything Is Online
- Fan Sequel:
- Fan expansions to the original were common after it was no longer printed.
- The FFG version is being continued via the NISEI fan project.
- Hollywood Hacking: You can kill programs with a virtual samurai or gangster, or bash down firewalls with a wrecking ball made of binary.
- Mega-Corp: The corporation is obviously the embodiment of this trope. In the remake, the four current corporate factions have their hands in nearly everything in society. Between them, very few things are outside their collective influence.
- Mind Rape: Several of the cards that deal brain damage.
- Muggle Power: Several Anarch members, representing anti-android and anti-clone movements.
- In the remake, the card "All-Nighter": "I don't care what the studies show. From my experience, I can ingest three cans of Diesel an hour for up to twelve hours before going into cardiac arrest." -heard during the eleventh hour.
- Never Say "Die" / Deadly Euphemism: 'Flatlining'
- Playful Hacker: The runner, possibly. In Android: Netrunner, the Shaper faction.
- Shout-Out: Several; many to Magic: The Gathering, with whom the game shares a creator. Lots of references to other science fiction (especially Cyberpunk) and fantasy, too.
- The flavor text of "Archer": "Next time, read the Terms of Service more carefully. Or you might find yourself in the danger zone".
- The flavor text for Urban Renewal (which, flavorwise, has the corp blowing up the Runner's house): "The paperwork has been clearly posted in the basement closet of City Hall since last Thursday."
- The flavor text for the Wyrm icebreaker? "Fire and ichor...".
- The arrangement of the clones in the Nisei Mk. II card is strongly reminiscent of the Precogs from Minority Report.
- The Weyland Consortium brings to mind the Weyland-Yutani Corporation from Alien.
- Adding to this, an AI Icebreaker called Hudson 1.0 has flavor text is: "I'm not here to play games. The game is over."
- Unusual User Interface: 'Decks', the computers that Runners use, can be anything from a juiced-up PC, to a cybernetic implant that runs off of your thoughts.
- The 'Verse: The original was set in the same universe as Cyberpunk 2020 (complete with rules for using the card game in the RPG). Android: Netrunner is set in the universe of Android.
- Viral Marketing: In the original, the Corp Advertisement card "BBS Whispering Campaign". In the remake, NBN's ICE "Pop-Up Window"; and the neutral card "PAD Campaign" seems to imply this as well.
Tropes exclusive to the original TCG:
- Colony Drop: The card "I've Got A Rock" represents the Corp dropping a meteorite on the Runner's house. Also qualifies as No Kill like Overkill, in that it deals three times his maximum health in damage.
- Must Have Caffeine: The card "Jack n' Joe": "There's too much blood in my caffeine system."
- Take Over the World: The card "World Domination". If the corp manages to score the card, it wins the game.
- Villain with Good Publicity: One of the Runner's possible victory conditions is giving the Corp enough Bad Publicity points that this trope no longer applies to them. Bad publicity was kept in Android: Netrunner, but it instead provides the Runners with more financial resources to attack the Corporation and is not a victory condition by itself.
Tropes exclusive to Android: Netrunner:
- Androids Are People, Too: The Haas-Bioroid faction specialises in AI and androids. In the verse, they're running a PR campaign to get them accepted as people. They're also trying to get citizenship rights for clones, their main competitor's androids, to undermine their business strategy, although a few notable clones like Caprice Nisei are trying to secure personhood for themselves and their brethren.
- Alphabet News Network: NBN
- Big Brother Is Watching: The NBN faction, besides owning almost all the media, specializes in knowing everything about the runner, which in game mechanics translate to "tags," which enable actions the corp can perform to cripple the runner. There is even an NBN card named Big Brother.
- Bilingual Bonus: The flavor text for Harbinger and Apocalypse are written in Baudot Code, a binary character system used by teleprinters. They translate to "I AM BECOME DEATH" and "THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS" respectively, recalling Oppenheimer's famous quote.
- Bland-Name Product: To energy drink Red Bull's "Red Bull gives you wings.": "Diesel gives you flames."
- Clones Are Expendable: The Jinteki corp mainly sells clones to do work that humans can't or won't do, or to grow medical spare parts.
- Cloning Blues: Life pretty much sucks for clones, who are supposed to have Happiness in Slavery but are hinted to be aware that they're basically slaves that can be "retired". Several do run away, including the playable runner Ken "Express" Tenma.
- Evil, Inc.: All Corporation factions more or less qualify, but Weyland deserves special mention. Their way of dealing with Runners is usually nothing short of assassination, and they don't mind blowing up a whole district just to get one guy.
- Grey-and-Grey Morality: The corps certainly have dubious morality and at the end of the day making a profit and attaining global domination is their objective, but they have often legitimately improved life for ordinary people in the process. This is especially the case for Haas-Bioroid and Jinteki, who can be read as Visionary Villains for their pursuit of androids and clones respectively. On the other side of the coin, some of the runners include criminals who hold no personal grievance against the Corps, and others are willing to do some dirty work to achieve their own ends as well.
- Mass Card Removal: Trashing is the word for removing from the game into a "dead card" zone. Location cards host program cards, and most trash effects only trash one card at a time, but the London Library trashes all cards that are still hosted on it at the end of its player's turn. Which could be a lot of programs, making this a downplayed mass removal since it's not guaranteed to be "mass".
- Power at a Price: Cards that confer strong benefits for some drawbacks, such as trashing cards from the player's hands.
- Runners: Cards that inflict core damage (permanent reduced hand size) are one of Anarch's specialties
- Corporation: Bad Publicity gives 1 recurring credit for runners to use on every subsequent run, but is usually associated with a powerful upfront gain.
- Put on a Bus: Android: Netrunner experienced its first card rotation in 2017, eliminating Andromeda, Whizzard, and Kate McCaffrey from tournament play, but two of them have a single card depicting a narrative for why they no longer run.
- On the Lam depicts Andromeda fleeing pursuit and leaving her dress and wig in the dumpster, revealing she is actually a short-haired brunette.
- BOOM! depicts Whizzard in an apartment, with a small missile heading straight for him.
- Financial Collapse depicts Chaos Theory heartbroken as her dads fight over money, implying she is aware her run on the Titan bank is part of the reason. However, when Core 2.0 was announced, a teenaged Chaos Theory returns as the default Shaper identity.
- Psychic Powers: One of Jinteki's most closely guarded secrets is that they've developed these in their Nisei line of clones.
- Situational Sword: Certain "tech" cards that are strong against certain archetypes or card types but useless if they don't appear. For example, Cyberdex Virus Suite shuts down virus decks but is useless against every other deck type, while Film Critic is only useful for securing agendas that have harmful effects associated with stealing them.
- Uniqueness Rule: Only one unique card of the same title can be active at a time. Duplicates are immediately and unavoidably trashed.
- We Will Spend Credits in the Future: Credits are the universal currency used by both the Runner and the Corp.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: A frequent theme, as far as Jinteki, Haas-Bioroid, and the Anarch group "Human First" are concerned. The former corporations are fighting to ensure that their intellectual property are not considered people, and Haas is trying to undermine its competitor with a suffrage movement for clones. Human First, however, hates all androids (and their owners) for taking their jobs and definitely do not consider them people.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Frequently mentioned. It really does depend on the runner in question; some are motivated by altruism, some by greed, and some simply by boredom. The Anarch faction has the most self-described freedom fighters against corporate oppression.