15 Minutes… about Running Versus Cancer

“15 Minutes” is back! We’re taking a turn into a corner that I think many gamers (whatever the game) can be proud being a part of – fun for charity. I have scoured the vast archives of alwaysberunning.net to find unusual and unique events from the past, and I ended up with quite an interesting list. Having contacted all of the organizers I could reach, I waited patiently… and most of them got back to me! Thus, I have the pleasure to introduce you to Steve from Gaming Vs Cancer, a charity initiative by gamers and for gamers. Here we go!

Vesper: From what I could learn about the event from its site, it all started really humbly and with HeroClix being played on the Isle of Wight. There’s also a photo of four suave people with big smiles. Could you shed a bit more light on the origins of this great project for our international readers?

Steve:That is right, it started with just a small event in 2013 on the Isle of Wight (small island off the south coast of England). Around 10 people playing Heroclix in a coffee shop.

However, the enthusiasm there grew quickly into a larger event the next year. A fantastic prize pool was donated by the community, and the 2014 event raised over £1000 for Cancer Research UK.

It was in 2015 that I first became involved with the event, after seeing that the core organisers were looking for someone to run a Netrunner tournament alongside all of the other games going on during the weekend.< Now we are running a whole smorgasbord of games spread out over the two days. It is always something of a challenge to correctly gauge the games to include, and just how much space to dedicate to them.

Vesper: So how did you adventure with Netrunner begin (I guess it started before 2015?) – do you still remember your first game? How do you think it’s going to continue with FFG shutting their support of the down off for good?

Steve: I played Magic when it first came out, when I was in school. Progressed onto other CCGs like Vampire and Rage. I heard about the original Netrunner game, but never actually saw it anywhere.

Years later, I got back into games via boardgames. I even happened to be looking to possibly buy up some original Netrunner cards off eBay, to satisfy my curiosity about this game I had heard of for so many years. However it transpired that just before I did that Android: Netrunner was released, so instead I set off down that rabbit hole.

I already had the Android board game too. The cyberpunk setting has always been a favourite of mine, and FFG seemed to be building a pretty cohesive universe through their games.

Memory is not my strong point (too many programs installed – ha ha). Humour is also obviously not my strong point! So, I cannot necessarily remember my first game. It was likely against my wife, who is often the test subject for my new purchases. I had previously played Warhammer: Invasion with her (to this day, the game she has hated the most!), and I hoped to get her interested in Netrunner as it was less outright aggressive. Didn’t work though, but I was lucky to have local friends who were just getting into it.

From there, I picked up on the fact that the local game store (Wayland’s Forge, Birmingham) was looking for someone to organise Netrunner events. I leapt at the opportunity, as despite years of play I remain mediocre at Netrunner. Being the TO for the local store gave me the chance to introduce new players to the game and the scene.

One thing that is clear now is that there are a huge number of players still heavily interested in Netrunner, even at the end of official support. It seems pretty likely to me that these core players are going to keep running, as their enjoyment has not diminished. I can’t see the numbers staying as high, or events as frequent, but I think the very format of the game is compelling enough to see continued play going long into the future. Myself, I’m just waiting for my kids to get old enough to be introduced to the game!

Vesper: Speaking of introducing people to the game – have you been getting a lot of new Netrunner players at Gaming Vs Cancer events? If there were any, was there any kind of “Netrunner academy” for them or are they just tossed into the deep end of the pool? And, if you were to introduce someone to the game nowadays, how would you approach it?

Steve: I introduced many players at the local tournaments I ran in Birmingham. My mediocre skills were actually an asset there as I wouldn’t need to pull any punches to let new players have a chance at winning.

Due to Gaming Vs Cancer Netrunner event format (random IDs) it tends to favour already established players though. We do get some new players each year, but these tend to be friends of experienced players, with the experienced player having helped with deck construction and teaching the game.

The format is a good introduction to Netrunner though, as all the IDs give a very full appreciation of the breadth of tactics in the game.

I am actually intending to teach a friend the game soon. I don’t think you can really do better than the Terminal Directive campaign for that purpose. It gives pre-built decks to get them started, has a limited card pool, and introduces new cards gradually. You can even take a handicap as the experienced player and use the runner side.

Vesper: Sounds like a good idea, as long as one is still able to nab a box or two from an FLGS. I hope it goes well and we’ll get another Netrunner fan enjoying the game. Speaking of fans… Time for a couple of tricky questions, as asked by my previous guests in this series – Craig and Sanjay. First up, Craig’s question: “Please tell me about your most memorable turn/game in Netrunner.”

Steve: My most memorable game is probably a bit atypical. It comes from an interest in design of games, about how due to the hidden information, a runner can agonise over a decision that the corp player knows is irrelevant (but cannot say it is).

It was at a GNK tournament in Leamington I think, quite early on in the game’s history.

I was playing some flavour of Jinteki (always my favourite Corp) against Reina (sorry, cannot remember the actual player’s name). I was close to winning, with the winning agenda advanced in my defended remote. The Runner had one turn to steal it to stop me from winning.

It was close to time. My defences were not great. I had Himitsu-Bako defending the remote, but I also had slipped in an unrezzed Swordsman. He had a Knight installed, with it hosted on my Himitsu. So unless he installed another program to help get in, I had the game.

First three clicks he drew cards and credits. He then sat there for a good five minutes trying to decide whether to run, or whether it was another trap (I’m always Snare!-heavy). A pretty agonising wait for me, as I needed the full win. I knew his deliberation was pointless. If he ran he would not get in, if he waited I had the game. But obviously I could not reveal this to him in any way.

I won the game, but it has stuck with me how our perspectives at that moment were so different.

Vesper: I love moments like these and playing Jinteki almost always turns Netrunner into a deep mind game of some sort.

Now, let’s have Sanjay’s question: “If you could play anyone at Netrunner, who would it be and why?”

Steve: Probably not the most imaginative answer, but I would probably go for Richard Garfield.

Game design interests me, and I’m a fan of the range of his games.

So it would be great to talk to him over a game of Netrunner, and drill down into how his design has evolved over the years. It would be intriguing to hear how he approached the design on the original game, with how well Netrunner marries the thematic aspects of the setting and game mechanics.

I’d also love to hear his reflections on the games he has been involved in from Magic all the way through to upcoming releases like Keyforge and Artifact.

Vesper: That’s quite a great choice! Having met Mr Garfield in the past (very briefly!), I would wager you’d have a great time talking to him about his (and your own) ideas. Speaking of which, you’ve mentioned game design – imagine you designed a game that you’re happy enough with to put your name on the box (as is the fashion nowadays). What would it be about and how would it play?

Steve: I’m not much of a designer, more of an appreciative critic.

My love of games stems from the enjoyment of seeing all the mechanics of a game mesh together. Seeing how the elements affect each other, and the choices you and the other players interact.

So often I am not overly concerned with winning or losing, but I’m more interested in how the choices of the players steer the game. Netrunner has an abundance of this, with the choices made by the corp being intrinsic in how the runner approaches the game. The most disappointing Netrunner matches for me have always been the ones where a player has a completely predetermined game plan that pays no heed to their opponents actions.

If I were to put my name to a game, the part of primary importance would be an elegant design. I also would look for clean and stylised art, and replayability fostered by the resources available determined by prior player actions (so player A plants builds a farm, boosting available food for all players). Lastly I would try to find a theme that fits the mechanics, and is not zombies or feudal France!

Vesper: Great, I will keep an eye out for elegant games without medieval French zombies, then :-). What’s the game plan for Games vs Cancer in 2019 then? Can we hope for more Netrunner for charity if the servers and clicks are right?

Steve: Having seen the NISEI announcements gives me confidence that we can keep featuring Netrunner as one of our cornerstone games. If the enthusiasm is there in our players we intend to keep hosting events.

Otherwise, we expect to feature the games that have captured players hearts. Heroclix is still proving strong, Pandemic is popular, and Keyforge was recently added (and sold out), so that is looking to be a great addition.

But we are always open to fresh ideas. So, if a game looks like it would be fun to include just let us know and we will see about adding it to the roster!

Vesper: This sounds extremely promising for the future of Gaming Vs Cancer and the lucky gamers who got to attend this year’s edition – as well as the upcoming ones. I wish I lived closer and could attend!

As we are slowly getting towards the end of our interview, is there a question you wish I had asked you? Also, what would you like to ask my next guest at “15 Minutes”?

Steve: I think we are good on questions asked me. As to a question to ask the next guest: “Despite the end of Netrunner, FFG is still producing further work in the Android universe. What would you like to see next for this setting, whether it is a book, game, or other format?”

Vesper: That’s a great one! Personally, I am very quietly hoping for an animated Netflix series about New Angeles at some point in the near future.

The last question from me, then. Can we hope to see you at Worlds 2019 (taking place in Europe, unless the stars are very wrong) and share good times at tournament tables and away from them?

Steve: Worlds 2019 is a possibility. I had to forgo regular Netrunner events due to having kids and being needed at home (they’re twins). But they are a bit older now, so weekends away for me are more feasible.

Otherwise how old do you think they need to be to be introduced to cube draft format?

Vesper: Haha, that’s a great question for which I do not personally have an informed answer ready. Maybe someone should start #NetrunnerParents on StimSlack. Thank you very much for answering all the questions and good luck with the event!

A humble start, a great present, and a hopeful future – what could be better for gaming, one of the most (if not the most) entertaining and uniting hobbies out there? (Especially when focused on a good cause). If you want to follow the news from Gaming Vs Cancer, you can catch up with them on Facebook.

For those of you interested in playing a game or two against Steve, you can sometimes find him at the Boardly Games at Artefact.

[UPDATE] I have also received a “16th Minute” update from Steve, as this year’s event took place last weekend:

“Now that the event is over, I can announce that £7365.45 is the total raised by the weekend. We actually thought that numbers were down a little on last year, but we were obviously wrong!

Netrunner had a strong showing. 30 registered players, 28 on the day. It is very likely that Netrunner will continue to be a featured game. The 2019 Gaming Vs Cancer event is planned to take place on the 2nd weekend of November – 9th/10th.

Another thing to mention is David Culemann popping in mid-tournament –  a very good former player, who has since moved onto other things. He donated a European Championship Top 32 folder absolutely jam-packed with rare and signed alt-art cards. We had so much that I just randomly handed out some of it to everyone attending. It included such gems as Self-Replicating Gourd, Damon Astroscripts, Metal HB IDs, etc. David also donated around half a dozen playmats. A huge “thank you” to him, as well as all of the other prize donors.

Finally, Alex Borrill won the tournament, playing Steve Cambridge as his Runner ID and NEXT Design as his Corp ID. He lost one game on the entire day.”

I will also add a couple of shout outs to the Netrunner event organizers: Steve Kissane and Ruth Chapman! [/UPDATE]

If you have attended the event or participated in it in any other way, please use the comments section below to share your experience with us – thank you!

“15 Minutes” will return soon with more questions and answers by you and for you! In the meantime, please let us know who you’d like to see interviewed here and why – and if you’ve got some questions to suggest, go for it! The comments section is all yours.