15 Minutes with… Core Experience Tournament Participants!

15 Minutes is a series of interviews with diverse members of our community from around the world. If you want to suggest interviewees, please use the comment section, this Stimhack forums thread or write to us at projectnisei+15minutes@gmail.com

Hey there! It’s been quite a busy month here at NISEI Plaza, so… today, we’re taking a relaxing leap back to one of the first big online events we put together as NISEI: the Core Experience Tournament. To accompany me on this semi-nostalgic trip, I have the pleasure of getting no fewer than four participants of that event. It was the first time all of them got into the game on a competitive level, which makes their experience even more interesting. Here’s the complete cast for today:

  • Yours truly (jinteki username: Vesperius), NISEI’s Organized Play Coordinator for Europe, who placed at a decent 25th during the 1A Swiss round of the Core XP tournament – and today I have the pleasure of interviewing others.
  • Verle (jinteki username: verlef), a Park Ranger who placed a dismal 46 out of 50 but still had a damn fun time doing it. That, and I was up at 6am playing cards on GMT when I live in CST… but I had my Board Game Sunday sabbath that I can’t miss… so no joining the Sunday tourney.
  • DJ Nrrd (jinteki username: djnrrd) IT spod who placed 31st out of 48 on day 1B and, like Verle, probably picked the wrong day to play cause I had work the next day and finishing at 1am GMT was way past my bedtime. I know Matt in real life!
  • Jonathan (jinteki username: jonathan) Web Developer who placed 45th out of 48 on day 1B, impressed by everyone’s patience and friendly approach to a new player playing his first tournament. I really enjoyed losing to more experienced players and learning how to improve my decks in the process.
  • Matt (jinteki username: Matthias) Writer & Editor. Of games such as Battlefield 1, Total War: ROME II, and Driver San Francisco. Placed 17th on the day 1A of the tournament, and as DJ Nrrd mentioned, we know each other in meatspace.

OK, let’s get going, then!

Poster for The First 2019 Core Experience Online Tournament
The event’s poster, as a reminder and introduction

Vesper: Hello there! That’s quite a first for me, getting four potential strangers (who knows who knows whom here) into the same online interview. Great to have you all join me! How did you get into the game and how did you learn about the Core Experience tournament?

Verle: I’ve been a part of the Netrunner Dorks Facebook group and saw NISEI advertise the tournament. I love what NISEI is doing. This was first time playing on jinteki.net and I probably owe all my opponents apologies. Lots of /undo-clicks, I thought I’d just have to start copy-pasting the darn command.

DJ Nrrd: I owned the game for about 18 months before really playing it with Matt, and falling for it. Then, after getting every single legal card for first rotation, FFG pulled their support. NISEI’s formation was really exciting and when Matt told me about the tournament I though, why not? The Eternal format was a bit daunting, but this was pure kitchen table stuff. I can cope with that.

Matthias: As DJ Nrrd said, we both got hooked on Netrunner at about the same time. It was really down to them that I got into the game. That and being able to jump onto jinteki.net to play casually online. It’s the ease of playing online, with a lot of practice (yeah, that interface takes some getting used to, Verle), that made me think that I should give the NISEI Core Experience tournament a go, as well as Andrej’s prompting on the excellent Métropole Grid.

Jonathan: I first started playing Netrunner sometime in 2013, based on recommendations from some game developers I follow on Twitter. I exhausted the Core Set with my brother and later introduced the game to my roommates in college. We played up through the first three cycles or so but eventually we drifted away from Netrunner. When FFG announced they were cancelling the game, one of my former roommates told me he was going to complete his collection, and I decided to do the same. My interest in the game came back full-force, and I’ve been trying to find people to play Netrunner with ever since! I heard about NISEI and checked their site on a whim and was pleased to hear about the small-cardpool, beginner-friendly Core Experience tournament and enrolled immediately.

Verle: We’ve got a guy in our game group that is kinda the… game-bringer. If there’s a new board game out, he’s likely the one to have done the research, read the rules, and teach us the newest hotness. Every game group likely has one of them. Bless all of ‘em. He bought one of the original Core Sets and got me into a couple of games. A couple of Sundays later, he buys a copy of the Core Set and slides it over to me. It didn’t take much to get my wife into the game once Jinteki’s thousand cuts style was revealed to her. We’ve been playing ever since. Heck, this week, we spent hours cutting out proxy cards and gluing paper cards to real cards. We’re current now. 🙂 We’re about to move though, so we’re hoping there’s a group existing where we’re moving to.

I like Criminal and NBN. For the NISEI tournament though, I ran Reina and Spark. I was too scared of net damage sniping out my good Criminal cards. What’d you folks run?

DJ Nrrd : I ran Leela and NBN: Making News. I’ve also got an affinity for Criminal and NBN and it was tempting to run the boy Gabe, and Matt tried to persuade me to do so, but something about Leela and that ability was more tempting. Making the corp have to either adjust for Leela or suck it up was fun. I should have remembered that for my second Corp game where Leela demolished my NBN on turn 2…

What was your Corp/Runner win ratio like? Mine was 1 / 3, I remembered to practice patient Runner, but my Corp play is still off.

Matthias: Stayed very much within my comfort zone, going with my beloved Shaper and Jinteki, with Chaos Theory and Replicating Perfection respectively. RP is actually a new ID for me, having missed out on the earlier cycles of Netrunner, but it just seems so good – the click cost, especially in Core only, let alone what ICE you have installed on centrals, seems a very real tax.

As for Corp/Runner ratio, I wasn’t great with Chaos Theory on the day; went 5 Corp / 1 Runner in the end. Snare! and an agenda steal, with R&D Interface, followed by Ronin against Personal Evolution did for me beautifully in one game, while Paper Trail set me back so many times in the others, but I think my weakness is running in general; I’m too cautious and never draw enough.

Jonathan: I ran HB: Stronger Together and Chaos Theory. I picked those identities because of my lack of tournament experience and because it had been so long since I played Netrunner. I wanted to focus on the rules and smart play without having to also keep track of identities triggering or playing with a specific gimmick/strategy in mind. So I picked what I thought were the simplest and most passive identities. I usually enjoy playing Shaper but prefer Jinteki ordinarily. Most of my corp influence was spent on Jinteki cards which helped me land a surprise win using Neural EMP. My corp deck definitely performed better than my runner deck. It turned out my runner deck wasn’t very good, which I learned the hard way. 😉

Verle: I think I won 1 and 1, Corp and Runner. I was a little anxious and messed up some simpler things. I thought a Junebug required 2 credits to fire… I don’t think that was due to anything but first big tournament jitters. My opponents and I were always cordial in chat. I mean, the community is always amazing in person… I just didn’t expect it online. That was pretty awesome. I’d expected some coldness but everyone was always chatty as they shot me with some Punitives. 🙂 I think my crowning achievement was Queen’s Gambit’ing a Contract Killer. “Gee, Mr Sniper, it looks like you could use some bullets. Here’s a few. I’ll go stand over here now.”

Vesper: That sounds like a fun play, indeed 🙂 At least you got some creds out of that! 😀

I’m glad everyone seems to have had a great time, it’s always really hard to make sure the people behind the usernames and walls of text online can have fun. The OP Team can only do so much towards creating an enjoyable experience – it’s always on the players’ shoulders to make each game fun for themselves and their opponents… and yeah, our community delivers that in spades, I think 🙂

With Core Experience being just one of several known formats of playing Netrunner (with a few of them coming from NISEI), what do you think of its own particular meta? What are the parts of it you enjoy the most? And what’s your favourite format of playing Netrunner if it’s not Core Experience?

DJ Nrrd: I like playing Standard, but while I know most of the major cards I don’t really remember the deck archetypes so I’ll easily walk into someone’s trap. Core is just good, fundamental Netrunner without too many tricksy things so I felt much more confident in entering this tournament than the Eternal one. Saying that, I did forget that Biotic Labor is a card and lost my first match 0-2, so don’t get too cocky 🙂

Jonathan: Since I’ve been kind of out of the game for a while, I don’t really have a strong answer to this question. I think I stopped playing regularly before rotation started happening. I will reiterate what I said above though, which is that I’m very happy to see Core as a first-class, NISEI-supported format. It made it easy for me to slip back into the game after so long, and I think it will help other beginners see what makes Netrunner so special.

Matthias: Standard is what I play the most, with DJ Nrrd in meatspace and online on jinteki.net. Actually, although it is gone now, DJ Nrrd and I are slowly playing our way through Terminal Directive. I miss the Runner IDs that rotated, but not Skorpios.

DJ Nrrd: So he chose Skorpios for the Terminal Directive campaign… :p

Verlef: Standard has been what I’ve played but the single Core Experience tournament was fun! I think my prettier half would enjoy trying an Eternal format. She enjoyed herself some Noise.

Vesper: Given your introductory explanations, I can safely assume that all you have spent quite a large chunk of time with the “real deal” – cards, tokens, maybe even card sleeves ;-).

What’s your perception of playing a game about hacking cyberspace that’s originally using paper cards and cardboard tokens in your browser’s window, sometimes hundreds if not thousands of [insert your favourite unit of distance here] apart? How does that compare to your “meatspace” experience? Also, do you think it’s possible for someone to get hooked on the game from the beginning just knowing the online experience?

DJ Nrrd: It’s nice to be able to talk with people in a game, and there are quite a few chatty people in the chat log who are generally really nice people. But real chat on a kitchen table is always the best fun. I did sit in the voice channel for my games and Aesynil joined me and that was really nice.

Jonathan: Definitely one of my favorite parts of Netrunner is how tactile it can be sometimes. Physically holding the top few cards of the opposing Corp’s deck, yanking a random card out of Corp’s hand, and playing psi games under the table are some of my favorite parts of the game. Having said that, playing Netrunner online worked remarkably better than I expected it to. This was in part because people were so friendly and patient, willing to explain the interface to me and help me when I made mistakes. Unfortunately, I ran into some technical difficulties and wasn’t able to join the voice channel, but I can only imagine people being equally friendly and perhaps a bit chatty there.

I think it would be possible for someone to learn Netrunner from behind a screen, but I think having a voice or video chat with a more experienced player would help a lot. Netrunner can be a bit overwhelming for new players, and having someone to talk you through it seems like it would help a lot.

DJ Nrrd: Top Tip: People are usually very nice on jinteki.net if you mark your game as “beginner”.

Matthias: Always prefer playing games face to face, but the online Netrunner community is incredibly welcoming and lovely. Most folk are pretty patient, and even a year on, I admit I have moments where I lose track of what’s happening or get a card – especially ones that are rarely played – wrong, plus everyone misclicks at times. But everyone is very forgiving and relaxed, and just there to enjoy the game.

Verlef: I enjoy in-person, meatspace Netrunner but I’ve not done a lot of Jinteki.net running. The Core Set Experience demonstrated the awesomeness of the online community. If folks were that cool in a tournament environment, they must not be bad in a casual setting. I’d like to have gotten some Jinteki.net time in but I’ve literally just unpacked a Uhaul last Monday…

Vesper: I definitely can echo DJ’s observation – if you introduce yourself as a beginner to the game, you will be getting opponents who are more than happy to show you the ropes in a friendly way and share good game banter. I actually tested this with some of my alternative accounts 😉

Now, let’s talk a bit about the competitive side of things. The online tournament was a first for you in some ways, but what about your competitive history in general? How do you approach the concept of competitive gameplay? Also, how do you prepare (if at all) for competitions centred around your favourite game(s)?

DJ Nrrd: Never ever played competitive anything before. I rarely play anything online, and board gaming as a hobby is recent for me, so I’ve never considered myself as competitive. But what’s to lose when you can stay at home, it’s browser based and you really dig the game?

Jonathan: I’m in a pretty similar situation as DJ Nrrd above. I play a few video games semi-competitively but tend to avoid online games. But I made an exception for Netrunner and I’m glad I did!

Matthias: Same as DJ Nrrd and Jonathan, I’ve never really played competitively in any board or card game tournaments… Oh! I did once play in a Magic Tournament in the late 90s, but I just tagged along as moral support for a friend who I gamed with at the time. I didn’t do very well.

Verlef: Oh man, competitive games were a big part of my life. I’d spent some time in Minot, North Dakota and got myself into the LAN parties and computer gaming just to keep busy. I’m a reformed WoW addict. My wife and I have spent a good bit of time playing in Star Wars X-Wing tournaments.

Preparing for competitive gameplay has always been pretty time-consuming. I spend loads of time figuring out my style and my wife’s style and I plot out Runner and Corp decks, X-Wing lists, and we brawl with each other, fine-tune, brawl.. and then we feel tournament-ready. (Speaking of, we have our first NISEI Store Championship at the end of this month and we’re at the first brawling phase. We’re excited.)

Vesper: Not winning a game or two is a natural part of playing, even when not participating at a competitive event. It can start stinging a bit when you play a highly intense game (like Netrunner), even with the friendliest people around (or on the other side of the screen) and your luck just seems to have run out (it is a card game, after all)… How do you get through tough moments at the table? Any tried and tested methods you could share with us?

DJ Nrrd: I got to stay at home, so it was peaceful and I could crack open a can of cider to take the sting off… And if you’re not in it to win it, then losing isn’t the worst thing to happen. The tournament did make me a bit more considered than normal, so I did analyse my losses more than I normally would, but it’s just a game. It’s not high stakes poker.

Jonathan: I knew I wasn’t really in a position to perform very well in this tournament, especially considering the fact that I had almost no time to prepare for it. Having repeatedly failed to find a local Netrunner group, I was just excited for the chance to play Netrunner with some new people! I can definitely tell that my playstyle is not as efficient as it needs to be, although I’m still figuring out exactly what I’m doing wrong there. But I think it was pretty clear to me how my decks were underperforming; these are lessons I can take into my next deckbuilding session. I don’t mind losing in this case because I had no expectations that I wouldn’t lose, I had fun doing it, and I learned some lessons along the way. Did anyone else learn anything through their losses?

Verlef: I learned to check and double-check card costs! For some reason, I excitedly ran a double-advanced Project Junebug thinking it cost 2 credits to fire.. and they wouldn’t be able to do that awfulness to me.

I’m pretty spectacular at bonking into traps and killing myself. I’m certain that I’m part of the reason my wife enjoys Jinteki like she does. I think the aggressiveness in which I play usually takes some sting out of losing.. because I’ll either win pretty quickly or die. It’s fast, fun, and usually painful.

Vesper: Let’s talk a bit about your favourite futuristic and game-related bits and bobs. What brings the game to life the most for you? The cards? The tokens? The playmats? Have you used any for decoration or other practical purposes (e.g. playmat as mouse pad)?

To expand a bit on these: is Netrunner the most cyberpunk thing you’re into or are there any other cyberpunk worlds you like to visit from time to time? Have you tried any other games from the Android setting? Finally, probably the most important question in this segment: which piece of flavour text or insert fiction made the game most fun, unique, and interesting in your opinion?

DJ Nrrrd: I work in IT and code a bit for that, so the way that the cards are laid out to represent a server, and the rig is this set of modules that you can call on does evoke the feeling that you get when trying to solve a problem in code. I did buy the Aurbits tokens to play with in meat space, and boy are they lovely.

I’m not a big cyberpunk buff, in fact I think the original Blade Runner movie is a bit slow and dull; 2049 was a good slow pace for me. The other Android games could be interesting, but my pile of unplayed board games is building again.

Snare! was the card that really gave me the feel of the game. A virtual fly trap that was ready to chomp down on your digital avatar and eat you whole if you weren’t careful. You are nothing but a pest to these corporations.

Matthias: For me, it’s a combination of the great art and the flavorful text. I really enjoy seeing the worldbuilding that is done in games such as Android: Netrunner, as it needs to be incredibly succinct and minimalist by its very nature.

I’m a huge fan of sci-fi in general, but although I devoured Gibson’s Neuromancer as a teenager, I much prefer his Bridge Trilogy. As for other cyberpunk interests, I played quite a bit of the Shadowrun RPG back in the day, as well as Harebrained Schemes’ games.

Verlef: The theme is HUGE for us. We’ve read the Android universe novels and novellas. We’ve played the other games in the Android universe and would love another book with Drake 3G12RC. We’ve dragged our old board game group into the New Angeles negotiating, abstract Mainframe shenanigans, and the intense, narrative Android board game. Man, we want the Shadow of the Beanstalk book now. Also, some Matt Zeilinger art for our living room but we gotta unpack some board games first.

As far as bits and bobs go, we’ve gotten some click trackers from the amazing Rei2Jewels, and I’ve got a tie-clasp that I’m anxious to wear as I find all the snares. We love that the prize support for Netrunner isn’t overpowered, rare cards… but just alternate-art of cards we already enjoy. Man, we need another set of Crowdfunding.

Vesper: Back to the tournament and competition theme, then… What tips or suggestions would you have for those who want to get into the game on a competitive or more organized level? Starting their day clicking through netrunnerdb.com? Contemplating the meta on top of the highest mountain they can find nearby? Maybe something else? You don’t need to be serious with the answers here, by the way 😉 Also, if you have some good tips for us as Organized Play coordinators, especially regarding getting new players to participate – this is the time and place to share them!

DJ Nrrd: It’s like Highlander, right? You chop the head off better players and absorb their energy? Then write an apologetic letter to their mum.

Verlef: It’s always a therapeutic few hours of meditation when I enter the NetrunnerDB Nirvana and find that effing weird card that I want to see work.. and click on that sublime link that leads me to decklists using that card. Bad Card + Ken Tenma = Something I Can’t Sleeve Up Fast Enough.

Vesper: Maybe instead of heads, one could chop the power cable that leads to their opponents’ mainframes or consoles :-D.

What is the next tournament or fun event for Netrunner (online or offline) that you hope to take part in? Anything in your more or less serious competitive sights?

DJ Nrrd: I might be tempted to go for a Standard tournament if one was ran online.

Matthias: Same! I’d be up for a Standard tournament online. That or a slightly extended version of the last tournament; so using multiple System Core 2019 sets, the upcoming Downfall (and Uprising), plus maybe Reign and Reverie.

Verlef: We just moved to the Pacific Northwest and met up with a few of the runners here. We ate some good sandwiches and ran the ‘nets. 🙂 We’re getting amped up and doing our montage for a Store Championship late this month. (Hi, Mox Folks!)

Vesper: Here’s a little battery of questions I am passing your way from our previous guests:

From Pancho: “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.”

DJ Nrrd: I’d love to see a proper worm style virus, that moves from asset to agenda to upgrade, slowly eating away at them and trashing them before moving onto the next one, forcing the corp to either keep purging, or trash/score the asset/agenda before it can move onto the next one. It should be called “The Worm” and have artwork that looks like WWE Superstar Scotty 2 Hotty.

Matthias: Hmmm… Probably a new unique ICE set, along the lines of Mother Goddess and the Grail ICE. A unique Sentry, Code Gate, and Barrier that each gained more subs when another member of their set was rezzed, perhaps?

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

DJ Nrrd: Outside of money cards, it’s often Diesel, for very cheap fast draw. Although my new favourite is Golden, for when you can derez that annoying Anansi while the corp is poor.

Matthias: If not Sure Gamble and Hedge Fund, I’d probably say The Turning Wheel and NGO Front.

Vesper: From Cris: “What’s your favorite moment playing Netrunner?”

DJ Nrrd: I was playing a System Core 2019 game and the corp had put the winning agenda (for both of us) behind 2 unrezzed ice. 9c in my pool, 9c on Kati Jones, Femme Fatale and Inside Job in hand. Take money off Kati, install Femme and target inside ICE, then play Inside Job. I felt like a genius 🙂

Verlef: I’d love for a Runner card to be able to be usurped(?) by the Corp. I’d reference where I’m stealing this idea from but that feels jerk-ish. It’d be awesome for more MCA-Informant style interaction with the Runner’s Connections and the Corp’s immense resources.

Drake 3G12RC needs to be a card.. yesterday. Floyd too, dang it. More Miranda Rhapsody references! (Readers, does the Shadow of the Beanstalk have this stuff?)

Vesper: Time to slowly wrap up. One quick round of questions between you all? Pick someone, ask them a question, let’s see where that gets us? 🙂 (yeah, I am that lazy at interviewing people, I make them interview each other!)

DJ Nrrd: For everyone: I was having fun sharing music choices in the Discord chat to soundtrack my running (Tangerine Dream, some random Twee Electro Lounge Pop band, Yes, Rainbow – the Ronnie James Dio years, natch). Do you guys have a soundtrack to “get in the zone?”

Verlef: We use Melodice for the majority of our mood-setting for the Running and other board games. It’s lazy but it does the trick pretty well. For everyone: why wasn’t Whizzard running some meat damage protection?

Vesper: I’m hereby inviting the readers to contribute with their answers in the Comments section 😉 How about some question(s) That I will forward to our next guest(s)?

DJ Nrrd: “If you could immortalise yourself in a card, what faction and what would the card do?”

Verlef: Ooh, I like that question. Martyr: Play only as your first click. For the remainder of this turn, you must trash every Trap you encounter, if able. If you encounter four non-ICE trap cards this turn, traps in Archives do not count, add this card to your score area as an Agenda worth 2 points. “If you didn’t die, that is.” And my question is: “Who is your favorite Runner and Corp? Why? Which Runner and Corp do you identify with the most? “

Vesper: Thank you for the questions (and answers). All that’s fun must end, sadly… Probably to make space and time for other fun things in the future 😉 So, let me…

DJ Nrrd: Before we leave, Let’s give a massive shout out to the TO team, Blue Haired Hacker Catgirl and Manveruppd. They ran a solid ship, and BHHC was giving some wild fun energy in multiple chat channels.

Verlef: Yes! NISEI, TOs, Streamers, this has been amazing to be a part of. Folks like you made this community as awesome as it is. As good as a game Netrunner is, we’d likely have moved on by now if the community wasn’t as amazing as it is. Thank YOU.

Matthias: Seconding the others, thanks everyone for organising the tournament, and for all the incredible work the NISEI team and community are doing.

Vesper: …thank you on behalf of the whole Project NISEI team, and especially our Organized Play bunch, for playing the game and making the community what it is! I hope you all get a lot of games (tournament or not) going in 2019 :-). See you around a server or two 😉