Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Fear & Loathing Set Review

After leaving us in a bit of a spoiler drought for a while FFG have finally started paying out, with the last week seeing some cards from Lunar Cycle, a few Jinteki cards from Honor & Profit, and now we are getting our dirty little hands on the full Fear and Loathing set - the 5th release in Spin Cycle.


This is one of the weaker Data Packs we've seen recently, IMHO, so rather than dedicate two big blogs to it I'm going to try and whizz through the Runner and Corp cards all at once.  

I couldn't any good icons of Johnny Depp so let's go generic, with the Power Tokens scale...

1Fun?  Thematic?  Cool?  Maybe.  Good?  No.

2 Rarely played but will have its moments

3 Solid card - you'll definitely see this around



4A great card - a faction staple

5You'll see this used across all factions.


Got that?  Let's go for it! 
(and apologies for some of the photo qualities - these are the grainy first shots that leaked out onto the net)



Hemorrhage

As a rule I like cards that add effects onto doing things you already want to do (like making successful runs - hello Desperado, Datasucker, John Masanori...) and a part of me quite likes this card.  What I have a real problem with is that using the effect requires a click.  That pretty much kills it for me because the click efficiency you get from tagging this onto a successful run is lost when you want to actually use the counters.

Quest Completed

Hey look, Notoriety got color-shifted!  In fact Quest Completed is a neat card and one that is almost certainly better than Notoriety - rather than just score 1 point for yourself you potentially steal 2 or 3 points from the Corp, which could be a huge tempo shift.  I think it's still way to much effort than it's worth, but while I'd give Notoriety only 1 out of 5 I'm going to give Quest Complete the benefit of the doubt.


Tallie Perault

Tallie hands out Bad Publicity whenever the Corp does something shady.  Handing out a Bad Publicity is great stuff but this really boils down to what counts as 'something shady'.

Grey Ops - Big Brother, Closed Accounts, Freelancer, Invasion of Privacy, Neural EMP, Power Shutdown, Subliminal Messaging (see below)
Black Ops - Hellion Alpha Test, Punitive Counterstrike, Scorched Earth

The three cards that really stand out there are Closed Accounts, Power Shutdown, and the new Subliminal Messaging - it's likely that all three of those cards will see play in tournaments.  Other cards like Invasion of Privacy and Punitive Counterstrike are on the fringes but not really good enough, while cards like Neural EMP and Scorched Earth tend to only get played as part of a flatline win, when you don't have long enough to enjoy the Bad Publicity.

I think Tallie is a very interesting card and one that is likely to crop up in quite a few decks - being able to dish out multiple Bad Publicity is very useful and that she's a Connection you can find with Hostage makes her attractive as a splash into Criminal (although 3 influence is a heavy price to pay).




Cybersolutions Mem Chip

4 credits for 2MU is expensive but there are some decks that want that much MU.  I don't see this ever cropping up in competitive decks because you set yourself back hugely by investing in that much MU, but some casual decks will lap up the extra MU for their monster rig.


Alpha and Omega

These cards obviously come as a pair - for those who couldn't squint to make the card out in that photo Alpha is an AI breaker that can break any OUTER piece of Ice, while Omega is the same for any INNER piece of Ice.  Install both and any 2-Ice server is child's play.  Great!  But is it?  Any 3-Ice server makes you go away and find another breaker anyway, so why waste 14 credits on some inefficient AI breakers that don't even get the job done?

I know that Kit players will get some value from Omega (Kit's ability is like a built-in Alpha for the first run of each turn) but even then a third piece of Ice scuppers your plan and 7 just feels like far too much for these ultimately limited AI Breakers

Both cards pull the same rating from me:



Executive Wiretap

I didn't like Expert Schedule Analyser (which let you repeatedly see the Corp's hand for a successful run, for 0 cost).  I'm DEFINITELY not a fan of spending 4 credits and 2 clicks just to flash a look at their HQ.  Terrible, terrible card.

Blackguard

Blackguard is one of those cards that just begs to have a deck built around it - Satellite Uplinks, Infiltrations, Lemuria Codecrackers.  Those decks will only be for fun, though.  Blackguard won't trash cards the Corp can't afford to rez so there's no permanent benefit aside from forcing the Corp to jink left when you want to run right, and at the hefty price of 11 credits for the privilege you're paying a long way over the odds.  I like it.  It's fun.  But it's not good.



Blackmail

If you can play this card it's IMMENSE.  The ultimate server-sniping tool I think it's too early to say just how much impact Blackmail will have on how Runners play the game, but potentially it's revolutionary.  If you can create a deck that forces the Corp to leave Agendas sitting in play before scoring them (eg. with The Source) and then sit back and snipe those Agendas with Blackmail then I don't really see what the Corp can do about it.  This all requires the ability to consistently have Bad Publicity, and that's the difficult part of the equation, but if you can crack that then there could well be a whole new way to play the Runner, based around Blackmail.

As a Corp the existence of Blackmail asks real questions about your approach to Bad Publicity while making Fast Advance techniques more powerful, and arguably making traps or tricky assets like Bernice Mai better as well because they bait out the Blackmails.


It all really depends on how reliably the Runners feel they will have Bad Publicity.  Blackmail could be a tournament staple or could be almost entirely unplayed, dependent on the Bad Publicity, but to my mind Blackmail has the potential to be the most important card printed in a long time.

A tentative...






GRNDL

It's been a while since we got a new ID in a Data Pack, and in this one Weyland gets GRNDL, which is basically starting the game with a free Hostile Takeover (trading 5 credits for 1 Bad Publicity), although you lose 5 Influence to do so.

On first impressions I don't like GRNDL at all.  Hostile Takeover is one of the best Agendas in the game so why is it bad to start with a free one?  Well, because you don't start with a whole Hostile Takeover - you don't start with an Agenda point and you don't start with an Agenda you can use to rez Archer, either.  In comparison with the excellent Building A Better World I see GRNDL generating less credits over the course of a game and also handing out a Bad Publicity, which is bad (see: Blackmail) and then doing it with 5 Influence less, to boot.

My one caveat is that for some reason FFG made a point about dropping the Influence to 10.  They had to have a reason.  Maybe it's something we haven't seen yet.  Maybe something is coming that makes it incredible to have 5 more credits and a Bad Publicity.  I don't know.  On the face of it, though, I think most Weyland players will stick to Building A Better World instead of swapping it for life on an oil rig.


GRNDL Refinery

Weyland loves money but I think the Refinery doesn't pay out quite as much as it first appears - it was a one-shot you could Install-Advance-Trash for 4 credits over 3 clicks, which isn't much better than clicking for cash.  Say you compare it to Melange, and Install it one turn then Advance-Advance-Trash - that's 8 credits from 4 clicks, which is 2 more than you get from Melange (which costs 1 to gain 7) but Melange hasn't been trashed and forces the Runner to waste clicks and credits trashing it.

So for GRNDL Refinery to outperform Melange Mining Corp it has to sit around for multiple turns without being touched.  That's tough to do, and you're taking a huge risk that the runner will come in and steal those credits.  Weyland gets plenty of cash from Transactions and in my mind the Refinery is a risk that Weyland doesn't need to take.  Do not invest.


Vulcan Coverup

Weyland has some of the best Agendas in the game (Hostile Takeover, Project Atlas, Geothermal Fracking) so it will take something special for Vulcan Coverup to barge into Weyland decks, and although Meat damage is welcome just dealing 2 random Meat damage when you score an Agenda is unlikely to make much difference at all to a game - it doesn't help you push towards a flatline with Scorched Earth.  That playing it in your deck risks the runner scoring Bad Publicity is just helping me to make my mind up and ignore this card.

Still, it's a 3/1 Agenda and they're never ALL bad...


Market Research

Somebody in the FFG team loves to play NBN.  If there is any gap at all in NBN's Agenda mix it's that Character Assassination is good but not great.  Enter Market Research, which fills in nicely.  The current trend at the moment is for NBN to play Midseason Replacements and leave the runner tagged for most of the game, and that plays directly into Market Research's hands.  As a possible 4/3 this creates some very attractive 7-point scoring scenarios with Astroscript Pilot Program and Project Beale, and because the runner scores it as a 4/2 it means NBN can functionally play more Agenda Points for its own ends than are in there for the Runner.

I suspect it won't replace Character Assassination in all NBN decks, but it will do so in many.


Wraparound

Somebody in the FFG team really loves to play NBN.  Wraparound is the Barrier gift that keeps on giving - not only is it good enough to replace most Ice Walls that NBN is currently bringing in with Influence, at only 1 Influence of its own Wraparound may actually start replacing Ice Wall in non-NBN decks!

Wait, what?  Am I saying that Wraparound is BETTER than Ice Wall?!?

In certain circumstances, yes, it is.  Let's break it down...

1) Once a Fracter is in play Wraparound is a 0 strength wall for Ice Wall's 1 strength.  That won't make a difference against pretty much any Fracter, so it doesn't cost any less to break Wraparound with Corroder or Battering Ram than it costs to break Ice Wall.

2) If a Fracter isn't in play then Ice Wall is still vulnerable to AI breakers (Crypsis, Atman) or to being destroyed by a Parasite.  At Strength 7 the Wraparound is much better in these situations, although it does still get broken by Knight (nobody's perfect, right?).  As a niche benefit, this makes Wraparound a lot better than Ice Wall vs Kit, who loves breaking Barriers with Decoders.

So Wraparound is no worse than Ice Wall vs Fracters, and better vs non-Fracters.  The only things counting against replacing every Ice Wall with Wraparound is that it costs 1 more to rez, and in some cases you do actually advance Ice Wall to a higher strength.  Balancing those two means Ice Wall comes out just ahead in the race, but in metagames with lots of Atman or Parasites there's a strong case for putting in Wraparound ahead of Ice Wall.

Make no mistake, Wraparound is a fantastic card that demands to be evaluated alongside one of the best piece of Ice ever printed - Ice Wall.


Toshiyuki Sakai

Toshi got spoiled a long time ago and we've had plenty of time to digest what he does, which is... not much.  Toshiyuki Sakai lets you replace a mind game that the Runner already made a decision about (Agenda or Trap)... with the same mind game, only you've given them a bit more information to make their decision with.

This will be played by Jinteki players because Jinteki players play all sorts of garbage and convince themselves they're using some sort of ESP to beat the Runner.  In reality it's a waste of space.


Restoring Face

I'm not usually a fan of cards that remove Bad Publicity and Saving Face isn't much of an exception.  The list of Sysops, Executives and Clones is a mixed bag but basically contains cards you don't want in your deck to begin with (Isabel McGuire, Akitaro Watanabe) and cards that are so good you'd be crazy to trash them voluntarily (Jackson Howard, Chairman Hiro, Caprice Nisei).  

Amazing flavor, though.  One of the most thematically strong cards I've seen.  I won't play it, but I like it.


Yagura

Yagura is a card that makes me really angry.  I love this card.  I love the cost, and I love that for that cost you get two subroutines.  I love the ability to passively do net damage and I REALLY love the opportunity to filter a card from top of R&D.  I love everything about Yagura.  That is, I love everything aside from the fact that Yog.0 exists, which means that this beautiful piece of game design is unplayable.

Fucking Yog.0, man.  That card should not exist.




Blue Level Clearance

Obviously a step deeper down the rabbit hole than Green Level Clearance, but is Blue Level as good as the original?  In short, no.  A Double event, Blue Level Clearance gives you a Green Level Clearance with your first click then 2/3rds of one with your second click.  It's a solid benefit but in drawing two cards in two clicks you're actually very likely to have to discard at least one of the cards you drew, further limiting what you got from that second click.

I think we'll see it played in (some) HB decks - Cerebral Imaging loves it - but I don't think anyone will spend 2 Influence on taking this into another faction.


Strongbox

The Bioroid version of Red Herrings, only Red Herrings is usually better (when you do you ever get to switch a click for 5 credits).  The strength of this is over R&D when you've got something like a Heimdal in front of it - sure you can click through Heimdal but won't have any clicks left on the other side.  Bioroids work when they hit a critical mass of click taxing and Strongbox helps with that.  But with such a low trash cost would you ever play Strongbox over Ash?


Subliminal Messaging

It takes a bit of lateral thought to work out what Subliminal Messaging does.  If you aren't recurring it then the answer is very simple, which is that it did virtually nothing - you got a credit without spending a click, but had to spend that click to draw Subliminal Messaging instead of a different card in the first place.

If the runner doesn't run, however, you get to pick up Subliminal Messaging from the Archvies and get a free credit out of it.  That's nice.  If you had mutliple Subliminal Messagings in the Archives you can pick them all up, but basically only the first one is worth playing over clicking for a credit.

Subliminal Messaging is a card that I'm going to hold my hands up and say I haven't worked out yet.  I can't tell if the drip-drip credit benefit you get from Subliminal Messaging (only on turns when the Runner hasn't run) is worth the card slots in your deck.  I kind of suspect it isn't, especially considering that modern Runners like Andromeda run A LOT so you won't often be picking Subliminal Messaging up from Archives.  Corp economy has got much better throughout Spin Cycle and I feel as though Subliminal Messaging is coming too late to see play.

But I can't rule out that Subliminal Messaging does just enough to ensure that it's never bad and always slightly helps, in which case it becomes the first three cards on every Corp decklist.

You want a rating?  Ok then...
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What did I get right?  What did I get wrong?  Tell me your own opinions below, please!