Today’s installment of RtNfFaP is going to be a bit short, but it is going to address something that I feel is important: The choice of whether to play Corporation or Runner first during a match.
Having played for several months at this point, I’ve found that a lot of players seem to be a bit passive about what they want to play. “What does it matter,” they say? ”I’m going to play both at some point anyway.” And there is indeed something to be said for that. But the nature of Netrunner’s scoring system means that it does matter. It can, in fact, be the difference between winning a match and losing it.
See, once you’ve got the first game finished? You know the exact point at which you can win the match. And if you’ve won the first game, this can take a lot of pressure off you.
Take this awkward hypothetical. You’ve got an unrezzed Tollbooth in front of HQ, 7 credits, Project Vitruvirus/Project Vitruvirus/Priority Requisition/Biotic Labor in hand. What do you do? If this is your first game, you prolly credit, something, something to protect your hand and hope that they can’t deal with the Tollbooth. If you won the previous game, let’s say, 10/1, though? There is a strong argument for Biotic Laboring out the Vitruvirus. While this leaves your hand dangerously exposed, it matters less at this point, because you’ve won the match at this point. You’ve guaranteed yourself 4 Prestige.
While the Tollbooth is (arguably) a better play, the problem is that it has really done nothing but keep you from losing the game at this point. It is still fully possible at this juncture for the Runner to find some way to beat you without giving you the opportunity to score another Agenda. Maybe they drop a Sneakdoor. Maybe an Inside Job -> Emergency Shutdown. Maybe even a Femme Fatale! Then they hit your hand aggressively, steal the agendas, you never recover financially, and they win the game 10-0, then win the match 11 – 10.
This example is obviously a little skewed to make the point, but I think it gets it across well. Knowing what you need to win allows you to play for the Match win first (assuring a total of 4 Prestige for you) vs playing to win the game (assuring you nothing more than the 2 Prestige you got from the first game). Then, once you’ve won the match, you’re able to play a less conservatively, taking greater risks knowing that you’ve locked away the match.
In case you haven’t put 2 and 2 together yet, over the last month or so, I’ve become a very large proponent of playing as Runner first.
The fact is that Corporation has a lot more control over how, when, and how risky to be when trying to score agendas, which allows them to modulate their play. A decent example is today. Opened a hand of something like… Tollbooth, Beanstalk Royalties, Beanstalk Royalties, Commercialization, Hostile Takeover against Criminal. Which is a bit of a borderline hand to me in the circumstance. However, I also knew that I won G1 10-0. So the decision here is a lot easier. I keep, and immediately score Hostile Takeover, securing the match.
Now, that said, there are arguments for playing Corporation first. When playing a v e r y, v e r y s l o w corporate deck is a good one. Runner has a much better chance of being able to quickly score agendas if the timer is ticking down. Similarly, the ability to modulate your play (accounting for traps, dangerous ICE, etc) is also altered, I just find your options for modulation as a Corporation tend to be stronger since, well, you know when you have agendas, while the Runner is hitting blind.
So. There you have it. It definitely CAN matter what you play first. The simple fact is that, going into the second game, you’re always going to have more information about what needs to be done to win the match, which gives you certain advantages during the second game (especially if you won the first). So, take some time to think about it.