15 Minutes with... Pancho, Cris, and Jorge2

(Scoops Season put us a bit out of whack, but we're back with a piece of our regular programming at an irregular time ;-)) (Warning: no scoops included in the article below!)

The global meta spreads far and wide, believe it or not. Over the last few months we’ve seen people rallying around the game with renewed interest all over our little orbiting dirtball. It’s high time then to venture a bit further away from the familiar (to me) corners of my mostly European meta and see what’s up in regions that inspire and drive the futuristic vision behind many an aspect of Netrunner. We’ll be going here and there in the next few installments - and we’re kicking it off with a 3-for-1 straight out of South America. Say hello to Pancho, Cris, and Jorge2 from Chile! :-)

Costanera Center in Santiago (image credit: Wikipedia)

Not quite the Beanstalk, but it's a start (Costanera Center in Santiago) (image credit: Wikipedia)

Vesper: Hey there! Really happy to have you join us and tell us a bit more about running servers and advancing agendas in Chile. Can you all introduce yourselves and tell us when and how you got into Netrunner? Any ONR (Original Netrunner) players among you?

Pancho: My best friend was really excited to get his hands on the original Core when it released but couldn’t find anyone to play it with. I was never invested into card games, just a little time spent playing Magic in the 90s, but board games had caught my attention a couple of years back, so around 2014 (if I remember correctly) I gave in and bought a Core together, since that was what Netrunner was for me back then, just another tabletop game. Never heard of the Original Netrunner either, so everything was brand new for me. I was soon spending a lot of time thinking about the game and its nuances and spending long hours playing it and talking about it. We soon started updating our collection (we were already around the time Order and Chaos was out, by that time) so we started buying packs and more Cores to fill our collection up. Not to long after that, my friend convinced me to attend a GNK event at an local games store nearby. I wasn’t sure the competitive scene was my cup of tea since I don’t consider myself a competitive person and I had all this preconception of the “card game competitive player” and didn’t really want to get into that. I accepted, just to try and play the game with someone else other than him, really, and was really amazed by the community. I had a blast (even if losing profusely) at my first GNK event, because everyone was so nice and welcoming. Little did I know that that very day I’d meet people that today I consider my friends and keep having fun with through playing Netrunner.

After that everything in my world was about and around Netrunner. I started following podcasts, YouTube channels, catching streams of tournaments on the other side of the world, reading articles, taking notes on my games, watching other people play it live, talking to everyone about the shape of the meta or what consequences a new pack would bring. We created a small but tight group of people that’s still in love with the game today and we continue playing it and spending time and money on it. A rare and amazing thing to find in this corner of the world.

Cris: I started to play mid-2013 when the game had 3 data packs out. A friend introduced the game to me as a “Cyberpunk 2020 card game”. At the time I was without a tabletop RPG group and I had also stopped playing Magic and L5R, so I was looking for a hobby. I was also just finishing a 5 year long Cyberpunk 2020 campaign, so the concept of Netrunner really appealed to me. What I found didn't disappoint, in fact I went full in on the game and I haven't stopped playing since. It's probably the best game I have ever played.

Jorge2: Hi, Vesper! Very happy to be here. I’m Jorge Mamani, known to some as Jorge2 (because I was the second Jorge to join the group. We are currently 3), and as “Jojondro” in some other places. I’m an engineer working on a mining company in the north area of Chile and have been a Netrunner player for almost 3 years now.

I’ve been a heavy board game player for around 4 years and this got me into Netrunner, actually; by mid-2016, I was living in Santiago (the capital city of Chile) and I remember this one time I was on a LGS hoping to buy a new game when the Core Set caught my attention. I bought it and took it to my parents’ house to play with my brother, and immediately fell in love with it (my brother - not so much). I asked at the store for people to play with and joined the community there and since then I have tried my best to be involved with this amazing game.

Right now, I play every other Thursday (because of work) and organize and participate in events as much as I can (last one was the draft tournament with the NISEI GNK Q1).

 

Vesper: Thank you for that thorough introductions (now I'm not sure whether Jorge2 is not a bioroid from the Jorge series). It’s great to hear how the game got you all together :-) (a five year long campaign for CP2020 :-O...) Speaking of gaming, what’s the scene in Chile like in general for board games and card games? Are there any big local hits that are not known outside of the country? Is offline gaming a hobby that has a large following or rather something less popular?

Cris: There has always been a “geek scene” (to call it somehow). All the way back to the 90s, where people used to get together and play tabletop RPGs and LARPs. Magic has been big for a long time, too. And I'd say that for about the last 10 years or so board games have been carving a niche. I wouldn't say these hobbies are mainstream, but they do have a strong following.

And we do have Chilean games, too. Mitos y Leyendas was a local TCG, not my favorite but it was OK. There are also board games such as Corruptia, and a few other local titles starting to appear.

Jorge2: Board games are pretty popular right now thanks to the coverage everyone can do on social media that calls for other people’s attention, and the one board games are receiving on public news and events through the country.

Card games, on the other hand, need at least someone to introduce you to them, be it a friend of yours or someone at a store giving you a demo or something like that. I’m positive most of my friends doesn’t even know Netrunner exists, or any other card game besides Magic for that matter.

Even so, there are several card games being played around here like Magic (obviously), Mitos y Leyendas (local game), Pokemon, Dragon Ball, L5R, Final Fantasy, UFS, VS, Keyforge, etc. There’s even a community that still plays Raw Deal from time to time.

Corruptia (image from BGG)

Corruptia (image credit: Board Game Geek)

Vesper: That's a ton of choice for gamers in Chile, including local options - I'm glad you stayed on board with Netrunner! Let’s talk a bit about the local meta - what are the current trends and eternal inside jokes that you could share with us? Any meta-memes a visitor to Chile who wants to meet with you and play a few games should be aware of?

Cris: I'm not going to lie, I haven't been playing much since the cancellation so I'm not up to date with the meta. I'm waiting for new cards to drop.

We do have a trend where we deviate a bit from what's being played everywhere else at tournaments, we had one national where everyone was playing glacier when horizontal NBN was top tier. Or at the very least someone is going to rebel and play a deck that is not that common.

Jorge2: Our local meta is really weird. Personally, I don’t always have the time to sit and build decks that I would like to play, so I netdeck a lot changing always a couple of cards I think wouldn’t help here. But that’s me. If you get to play with us you will find everything from strong competitive decks (like this Argus deck that took the final match on our last standard tournament in just a couple of turns) to uncommon ones like Exile that one time showed up and beat the crap out of me ‘cause I didn’t know what the hell was going on.

My personal choices most of the time are really far from the meta too. I remember a tournament when I played Adam (my favourite Runner, by the way) with an engine based on GPI Net Tap, Au Revoir and Aumakua (and Bloo Moose because that was a card back then). One time I played Haarpsichord, another time Sync, The Professor, and so on. My current goal is to create some sort of working deck with Fisk.

Overall, our meta is not very different from what you see around the world. We do like to try different things but not as much so as to say we’re entirely different.

Pancho: There’s a lot of memes regarding some bad translation of cards to Spanish, or some unfortunate use of acronyms in English. For instance, CTM is an acronym for quite a rude insult in Chile. Project Junebug was translated as “Blind Chicken Project” and in Spanish “fun” is translated as “diversión”, interesting catch for a not so fun card like Diversion of Funds if you’re the Corp player.

 

Vesper: What’s your take on the Android setting being predominantly focused on South America as the continent where New Angeles is situated? Does that make you feel more at home in the setting?

Cris: You mean a foreign power intervening on a sovereign territory and imposing a socio economic structure where private interests and a small oligarchy can act with impunity while common people struggle? I guess you could say it makes me feel at home.

But I suppose that's kinda the thing with cyberpunk. You can see a lot of the real world in this genre.

Jorge2: I really can’t say I feel familiar with the Android setting at all. Despite the names of places you hear, the fantasy element takes almost all connections I can make with real life away.

Even so, I would like the lore to expand a bit more around the continent. Having a subsidiary of Melange in Chile would actually be accurate (mining is what we do).

Pancho: It hasn’t felt so much like home mainly because every piece of lore regarding South America is still entangled and connected with North America in a sense. I feel that New Angeles represents an expansion of the North more than an integration of the South. I’ve always thought that a better integration would feel more like the one done with Kitara, where african culture and traditions permeate through the lore as a stand-alone entity and not so much “contaminated” by mainstream culture. There’s a lot of awesome pieces of South American culture that could be extrapolated to the Android universe and I’d love to see those represented in future sets.

 

Vesper: Now I’m daydreaming about a Melange Mining-themed Worlds in Chile, somewhere in an active mine we could OK, let’s have a quick one before we dive deeper - can you help me finish the sentence - “In 2020, Netrunner will…”?

Cris: ...still be played. The game is too good to die.

Pancho: ...Finally release a set that really captures the essence of South America.

Jorge2: ... still be an awesome game with no end in sight.

 

Vesper: Great to hear those hopeful thoughts (and I totally agree with Pancho, this needs to happen! A NISEI World Tour, of sorts :-))

Now, let’s get to the question forwarded from our previous guest, Necro: “What was your favourite deck so far and why?”

Cris: Decks. Corp side, Foodcoats from around 2016, when Advanced Assembly Lines, Jeeves and Lateral Growth were the new thing. I always, since I started playing, wanted to make a glacier deck that could impose itself through money. Early on the game trying to do this meant you could defend one run and then go broke. This baby just kept pouring money and scoring without a care in the world. It was a good time to be purple.

Runner side, I'd have to say Whizzard. I'm a long time Criminal player, but at one point whizzard was just too much fun to play. It also helps that Whizzard got me the second place on a National tournament by using Showing Off with a 3 counter Medium.

Jorge2: My favourite so far, and by far, has to be the Logic Bomb iteration of Pirate Adam. Adam is my favourite Runner, mostly due to the way he manipulates information and forces the Corp to adapt its playstyle against directives. When the dinos came up, and Geist was top tier, Adam took his cut too in the competitive scene, and when Logic Bomb arrived and you could just tell the Corp “I don’t care about your big ice, we know each other, he’s a friend from work” and walk pass by it, it was awesome.

I really hope Ashes brings new cards for Adam to further explores his possibilities (along with the other mini factions). Maybe not Adam-faction cards, but good enough to take advantage of those 25 influence points.

Pancho: My all-time favourite deck, and Runner, is MaxX. I’ve played every single MaxX deck there’s ever been, but I think my favourite has been Apocalypse MaxX from early 2016 that I think Dien Tran made famous in a Store Champ. It was really oppressive deck with 2 Siphons, 1 Apocalypse and 2 Keyholes that just remembering it makes me a bit nauseous - just how bonkers things were back then. It was a raw power engine but demanded a lot of piloting expertise and adapting to the opponent. Since the Eternal format is a thing I’ve had the opportunity to try it again and relive those “I’m I being Apoc’d?” faces.

 

Vesper: OK, so now we know your favourite tools from the existing card pool, including some quite iconic combinations that are no longer valid in Standard. I hope the next Eternal tournament (online or offline) is happening soon!

Since Pancho mentioned a set capturing the essence of South America - let’s imagine you could design it together. What would you include in there and why?

Pancho: South America is an awkward mix of pre-existing ethnic groups, some of them large enough to have been expanding civilizations prior to Spanish invasion, and mainstream western modern culture. Having ourselves large companies that drive their tentacles all the way to the summit of political power, we also share an overlooked tradition of rebellion against empires and mass riot driven social and cultural changes. We had prominent dictator figures in the 70’s all over South America and that still shapes the way we do things now. We have more common things than our language as a region and that it’s definitely something that can be tapped into to create a future set. Looking at all this in a dystopian cyberpunk future I see South America as a blend, probably a region that had to unite at some point to out-weight northern power, were sparks of rebellion still light up through the cracks of power that our politics and company overlords leave, probably in the shape of runners really attached to their ethnic past or coming from low-income communities left to their chances for decades, with program and hardware names taken from south american mythology, that connect the new techo-world with our roots in the way we treat our forest, rivers and our own Gods (“Inti” as the Inkan Sun God is really a waste of lore). Corporations swimming in credits through the extraction of raw materials like minerals or oil, leaving behind a trail of death from endangered animals, native rainforest all the way to humans and isolated ethnic groups that drink their poisoned waters or breathe the polluted air. We also have a sad tradition of corruption in our politics and have ever-expanding cities mixed with beautiful isolated natural landscapes, that off course these companies look at with dollar signs in their eyes. There’s so much of what is happening right now here that can be actually be taken from cyberpunk future, but sadly it’s very much real in the present.

Cris: Hard to top what Pancho just wrote. But I guess I can give my 2 cents. I guess in some ways Chile is already a cyberpunk country. Most of our population is located in a single city of 7 million people where we live work and party crammed uncomfortably. There is a sharp divide between the poor and the rich. To the point that you could argue we have 2 capitals, one for the businessmen and corporate elite… And one for the rest of us. We have a private sector paying off politicians to write laws that fit them, scandals which resolve in nothing after years of investigation. And a police force known to be authoritarian and brutal. So.. That, but with flying cars.

I joked earlier about a foreign power intervening on a culture, but I think that is something that has left a mark on every country in South America. From the Spanish invading, to the wars for independence, to the CIA influenced dictatorships.

I imagine a cyberpunk South America as one where the corps have all but bought the legitimate governments to squeeze the land for every drop of profit, Weyland would reign supreme by bribing politicians used to get unconventional “campaign funds”, at the same time a sort of resistance should exist, extremist groups that border on terrorism trying to break the routine of the alienated people in the cities.

Jinteki and Haas should have interests on the region only to obtain the resources for the rest of their operations, since New Angeles would be the center of attention.

Anarchs should be heavily influenced by both communism and originary cultures.

And while it would be easy to just give crims the role of narcos, it's probably the best fit. Though I would like to see some Criminal IDs linked to both the corporate world and to the LEA. Corrupt people with power that don't blink twice about stealing credits.

Shapers should be mostly artists, graffiti painters and muralist.

Jorge2: I believe the design space for SA is rather an artistic one than a card-mechanic one, meaning we have a lot of different stuff going on here culture wise that you somehow can’t actually tell if you are still in Chile when you travel from one city to another. In that aspect, and similiar to sets like Khan and her breakers, the art based on cultural archetypes from Chile, and from South America, would be amazing to work around for the runner side.

For Corps, all is said. SA has always been a land of resources and who could be a better fit to take advantage of those resources than a giant Corporation.

Mapuche sculptures

These native Mapuche sculptures could probably inspire interesting Bioroid ICE designs... (image credit: Wikipedia)

Vesper: That’s a solid writeup - thank you so much! I am pretty sure that NISEI’s Creative and Development teams will read it gladly and… who knows what happens after Ashes ;-D

Moving on, if you could be anyone (or any...thing) in the Android universe, who would you go for and why - and how would you position yourselves, considering the events in the game’s universe before the end of FFG’s support of the game - Kampala Ascendent and the second Beanstalk slowly being built in Africa?

Cris: Knowing myself, I guess I would be someone trying to carry on among the madness…

I don't know, the Film Critic. Everyone hates her, but she is just doing a job.

Pancho: My main job is as a Director at an NGO and often times I feel like we’re just a front for some invisible power figure, so when NGO Front got released I felt very connected to it. I guess that’s my take on the context of the game at its current state, do as much as you can to help people even if that help is just a front for someone else.

Jorge2: If I could be anything I would probably end up as a neutral current that you can include on both Runner and Corp decks. I mean, one always feels there’s a bad guy and a good guy in almost every context in real life, driven by you moral standards, but the way real life is played I feel that fighting for the greater good is only possible when you’re not alone in it. Sure you can put a guillotine in the middle of the city to scare some politicians and force them to do the right thing, but happens when they resign and new ones take their place? What happens when you take every single plastic bag off the commerce to help the environment but at the same time your country is building a factory that is 10 times more harmful without you even knowing?

If I could be anything, I’ll end up as this current that could benefit both, the Corp and the Runner, as long as I get to take a piece of the cake.

 

Vesper: It’s interesting to see that you chose personas that are not straightforward “plugs” into the Runner and Corp archetypes. Who knows, maybe in the future we’re all Resources and Assets one way or another ;-)

Time for a quick Recruiting Trip! With NISEI coming up with new cards and versions of the MWL, looking for new people to join its ranks quite often (hey, we’re looking for people to work on MWL and alternative formats!), what would make you consider applying for a position and which team would you choose?

Cris: Having the time to focus on the game a bit more. I would love to cooperate with NISEI, but now is not the time for me.

Pancho: When NISEI launched I actually applied for a position. Probably right now I’m not as invested as then because I’ve already filled the spaces of my spare time with other activities so a leading role is out of the question. But I’ve served as judge here in Chile a fair amount of time, and have helped organizing tournaments so working with OP might be a natural thing for me.

Jorge2: I may or may not be already working with NISEI.

 

Vesper:  I can or can not confirm Jorge2’s statement ;D I hope we can keep spreading and incorporating (heh) more people into our sinister plans to keep playing the game we all love - and that you will keep being active members of the global community as long as you feel like it.

I’ll take one more (slightly more personal) turn - Android is a very visual setting, filled with plenty of words, too - but what do you hear (especially musically) when you dive deeper into what the game does to our imagination? Are there any local or regional acts or musicians you could recommend as good soundtracks to playing Netrunner?

Jorge2: Have you seen that meme about the hundreds of different musical genres in the world, and how you keep on listening the same 20 songs? Well, that’s me. I know there are a lot musicians here in Chile, with different styles (and different amount of success), but in all honesty I can say and don’t hear very much of them, maybe one or two that are not suitable for a cyberpunk-like game. That said, one of my favourites musical artists is Daft Punk, and some of their songs are really good to put you in the mood for some runs (Derezzed is the first one that comes to mind when I imagine myself in this setting).

Pancho: I’m with Jorge in this one, I’m not the best person to ask for Chilean music because I mainly listen to the same international bands since high-school. But from a different angle on this, I’m not the kind of people that believe that the future will be an overloaded electronic mess regarding music, just like today is nothing like the future some 70s or 80s fiction showed us to be. With that in mind, I think music will be a natural oasis for people to run away from the hectic mess reality becomes, so bands like We Are the Grand, Astro, and Ana Tijoux are now (and probably will continue being) my go to Chilean bands to escape, Astro being the one with more of an electronic vibe to it.

Cris: I agree with the guys. Chilean music, at least the more commercial music, is not really suitable for a cyberpunk setting. We tend to have music that goes for a more rock & pop feel, even local punk. I tend to listen to perturbator, lazerhawk and other synthwave bands for that retro futuristic feel. Since Netrunner also has some noir influences I think electro swing and electro tango are good fits, like Caravan Palace or Gotan Project.

But it's also true I'm not big on local music, so there may be local djs that do something that could fit. I just don't know them.

 

Vesper: Thank you for the recommendations! I’ll check them out online if the webs allow… OK, last proper question for today before I let you get back to shuffling cards and plotting your next few clicks ;-) What is the chance we will see anyone from the Chilean meta at Worlds (in Europe) this year - and how about organizing Worlds in the near future in Santiago?

Jorge2: We have talked in the past about going to an international event but, at least for me, it's a little bit difficult because my work schedule (I work on a 7 day shift). Nevertheless, going to a big event like this is kinda like a goal in my Netrunner life, so it’s not out of the question.

Regarding a Worlds in Chile, it would be amazing to host one. I have organized events in the past and I know is hard on everybody, specially adults who spend their free time in doing so, but if the possibility for it to happens exists, then I can say in the name of several of my fellow players here, we would be more than happy to help put something this big on the map.

Cris: I would if I could. I can't for the foreseeable future, but I would love to go to Worlds.

And I think that we would love to host Worlds. The community for the past couple of years has made an event of watching the streaming of Worlds. So playing a part in the biggest event on netrunner would be an opportunity that none of us would pass.

Pancho: When the “Jacking Out” article from FFG came along the first thought in my mind was “Damn, I never got to play Worlds”. Traveling from Chile to almost anywhere in the world is expensive, so for us attending one in the northern hemisphere is a huge expense. I have a plan to travel to Europe sometime this year so if the stars align (and my wife doesn’t kill me in the process) I may be able to go, but again, it’s a stretch.

Regarding Worlds in Chile, I’m with the guys. We’d be more than happy to host one, Chile is a very welcoming country with lots of decently priced accomodations for such an event, and the community here is amazing it would really be an awesome experience. Hey, Worlds aside, if any runner or sysop cares to make the trip over here just let us know! ;-)

 

Vesper: Finally, are there any questions you wish I had asked and I haven’t? Also, what questions should I pass from the three of you to our guest(s) in the next installment? :-)

Pancho: I think we covered a fair amount! For the next guest: If you could design a card what would it be? It can be from mechanics, to lore or a specific interaction you’d like to see appear in the game.

Jorge2: Which is the one card you feel you should include in every single one of your decks?

Cris: Questions for the next guest: What's your favorite moment playing Netrunner?

 

Vesper: Thank you for the friendly question blast and the whole interview :-) Looking forward to more greatness in South America from your meta!

 

So ends the first interview of the “15 Minutes World Tour”... Where will we go next? Hah, keep following the feeds and you may just find out. Want to point the interview drones in a particular direction? Provide me with coordinates in the comment section below or on Stimhack.