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Written Review – Android: Netrunner ‘What Lies Ahead’ Data Pack

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Android: Netrunner released this year to a ton of hungry fans. The reimagined version of Richard Garfield’s stunning collectible card game has spawned a brand new competitive circuit in which Living Card Games are making a huge splash. Not soon after the Core Set for Netrunner launched to the world, Fantasy Flight announced that the game would be seeing expansion installments in the form of 60-card add-ons called Data Packs. Just recently the first of these packs released, entitled “What Lies Ahead,” and it brings some amazing new additions to the game. There’s something for every type of player with this new Data Pack, so let’s take a look at what’s inside.

Out of the Box

As Fantasy Flight stated, each Data Pack will consist of 60 additional cards for the game, which includes 3 copies each of 20 different cards. There are some new tricks locked within this pack for each of the new factions, and together they help to provide some theme and flesh to what each of them can do. With this first expansion we’re introduced to a new Anarch Runner named Whizzard. He’s an online gamer who loves to make his own rules. Not to be left out, the Haas-Bioroid Corporation also gets a new identity that gives them a brand new ability. When you break it down, the Data Pack comes with:

  • Three copies of a new Anarch identity
  • New hardware for the Anarchs and Criminals
  • New icebreakers for each Runner faction
  • A new resource for the Shapers
  • Three copies of a new Hass-Bioroid identity
  • A new upgrade for Haas-Bioroid
  • New agenda for each Corporation faction
  • New ice for each Corporation faction
  • New neutral hardware for Runners
  • New neutral ice for Corpration

Elements of Gameplay

Since each of the factions gains something from this Data Pack, it’s a useful tool to have. I’ll take a quick look at some key cards that I think will be useful from the pack, and identify what they can do.

First let’s look at the new Anarchs identity. Whizzard gains 3 recurring credits each turn that can only be spent to trash cards. This encourages running often to access cards. Though this can be risky for the runner, it’s very dangerous for the Corporation. Just having Whizzard on the board can force the Corp player to lay out as much ice as possible to start protecting servers. While this may be a bit of an obstacle for the Runner, it will cause the Corporation to spread their ice out instead of being able to layer it all on one server. All Whizzard needs is to get through, and the Corp’s cards are history.

Next up is Spinal Modem. This Anarchs hardware offers recurring credits as well, and they’re to be used to pay for icebreakers. This makes running a bit easier, though it comes with a drawback: “Whenever there is a successful trace during a run, suffer 1 brain damage.” This can really put a hurt on the Runner, but it makes sense when you think about it. Using the Modem to run offers up free credits to use with icebreakers, so you’re pretty much going into it saying, “Yeah, I know I’ll break some subroutines here.” If you go in with the Spinal Modem you have to know you can take what’s being thrown at you, or you’ll hurt for making a mistake.

Imp is another important card from the Anarchs (they got some good stuff in this Data Pack). With this program you can host virus counters on it, and at the cost of removing one you can trash any card that you access on a run, even if it couldn’t normally be trashed. Now that’s an important tool. Anything that allows you to trash previously un-trashable cards as the Runner gets a stamp of approval in my book.

The Shapers pick up a resource called The Helpful AI that can be useful when in a pinch. The card gives the Runner +1 link strength while installed, but you can trash it to pump the strength of an icebreaker up by 2. That will most definitely help save the Runner if the Corporation has some tricks up their sleeve.

The last card from the Runners that we’ll look at is Plascrete Carapace. It’s a neutral piece of hardware that comes installed with 4 power counters on it. Whenever you take any meat damage you can remove one of these counters to prevent it. That comes in handy when you take risks that end up in a bad spot. It’s something to think about.

Up next are the Corporation cards, and the first one in the limelight is obviously the new Haas-Bioroid identity. This new identity doesn’t change the face of the company, rather it offers a new ability in place of the one from the Core Set: it pumps up all bioroid ice strength by 1. Haas-Bioroid has continued doing what they do best, and that’s producing bioroids. Their research has proven useful and allowed them to make much stronger units that before.

Haas-Bioroid does it again with the next card, Mandatory Upgrades. With this agenda scored the Corporation has one additional click to spend each turn, and they stack on each other. It costs 6 to score, but with the right amount of strategy and ice this can become an important asset to have.

As a Runner, this next piece of ice terrifies me. It’s Janus 1.0, and it severely brings the pain. Janus 1.0 is an 8 strength piece of ice, but that’s not the scariest part of it – on this piece of ice there are four subroutines that each deal 1 brain damage if not broken. Simply put, Janus is nasty. All this power comes at a cost, however, as you’ll need to have 15 credits to rez this monster.

Braintrust is a powerful agenda for the Jinteki Corporation. It allows you to put as many advancement tokens you wish on it, and when you score the agenda you’ll place an agenda counter on it for every advancement token on it above 3. For the remainder of the game, the rez cost of all ice is lowered by the number of agenda counters on Braintrust. This could potentially reduce the Corporation’s ice rez costs to zero, which is extremely dangerous.

Project Atlas for the Weyland Consortium works much the same way, except you can remove the hosted agenda counters from the card and for each one you do you may search R&D for one card, reveal it, add it to HQ, and shuffle R&D. Basically you get one card of your choice from your deck straight to your hand. I’d have to say that this is one of the best agendas I’ve seen in the game, and it will definitely become important when you’re in need of some help from R&D.

Finally we come to Draco, a neutral piece of ice for the Corporation. It’s got a rez cost of 1 and a base strength of 0, but that’s where things get tricky. When you rez Draco you can spend any amount of credits from you pool. When you do so Draco gains a number of power counters equal to the credits spent, and for each power counter on the ice its strength goes up by 1. This gives the Corporation the chance to have a huge piece of ice that will stop the runner at all costs. If they burn all of their credits getting their icebreakers up to the strength at which Draco is set, then they’ll hit a subroutine they’ll need to break. If they can’t break it, a Trace is run that will give them a tag and end the run if successful.


What Lies Ahead makes for a great first expansion to the Netrunner game. It’s packed with cards that change the theme of some decks, all while fortifying those of others. Each faction grabs something that is useful, and while I didn’t go over each card singularly, they all can come in handy at some point. The ones I mentioned above are just my picks that I think are most important in the pack. At $14.99 this Data Pack is definitely an affordable addition to your game, and I’d recommend picking it up. My only stiff is that it could have more powerful cards for the factions it isn’t focused on, but that’s the point of releasing multiple Data Packs, so it has me looking forward to what’s lying ahead in the future. See what I did there?