Renegade Review

Renegade is a game by Richard Wilkins, published by Victory Point Games. It is for 1-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of hackers or Renegades in a dystopian future. They will be fighting against the AI of one of several Super Massive Computers that have taken over the cities of Japan. These hackers will need to hack into the network and survive the countermeasures and defenses of one of these SMCs as they try to take control of the network in an effort to save their cities. If they’re able to save the SMC’s final Countermeasure they will be declared the winners and will survive to hack another day.

To begin, the Alpha Hacker, or first player, is chosen. The game level is determined by choosing one of the SMC cards to battle against. The unused SMC cards are returned to the box. Each of these cards has a specific set of instructions for setting up and operating during the game. These should be noted and followed once everything else has been set up. The Countermeasure cards are sorted by Security Level and shuffled separately with their description showing face up. A number of cards for each level is now drawn from each deck as shown on the top of the SMC card. These are now put together to form the Countermeasure deck by placing the Copper cards on top of the Silver cards, which are placed on top of the Gold cards. Any unused Countermeasure cards are returned to the box. The server tiles are shuffled together. Each player will take turns drawing a tile and placing it in the middle of the play area, beginning with the Alpha Hacker. The single color side should be used for regular games, while the multicolored side is used with the Fragmented Servers variant that is explained in the rulebook. Once the first tile is placed, each subsequent tile must connect so that at least 2 of it’s partitions are touching previously placed partitions. It should be noted that the numbers on the tiles should also be placed in the same orientation as previously placed tiles. Once the final tile has been placed, players will now choose a Profile sheet of one of the Renegades to play as. Each player will take the corresponding Avatar standee for their chosen Renegade, along with their deck of Basic Command cards. Each player should then place their Avatar on the Access Point, the number #6 spot of the server that matches their color. They should then place a Contaminant token of the same color on the same spot. The SMC’s setup instructions should now be followed along with placing any tokens that it details. Once this has been completed, the number of Access Points without an Avatar on them are counted. The same number of Data node tokens are then placed wherever the players wish across the network. The Advanced Command cards are shuffled and placed face down, forming the Advanced Command deck. The top 4 cards are then drawn and placed in a row beside the Advanced Command deck. This area is known as the Hack Shack. Players will now shuffle their starting decks and deal out 5 cards to form their starting hand. It should be noted that players are allowed to replace their entire hand if they would like to by adding a Spark token to their Access Point, shuffling their hand back into their deck and drawing 5 new cards. This can be done as long as the player adds another Spark token each time they dump their hand. The remaining tokens and dice are set aside into a pool within reach of all players. Play now begins.

The game is played in a number of Cycles, or game turns. The number of Cycles is determined by the SMC that the players are playing against. Each Cycle is divided into 4 phases; Intel Phase, Command Phase, Countermeasures Phase and Refresh Phase. The first phase is the Intel Phase. In this phase, players will check the SMC card’s special gameplay instructions. They will then read the lower portion of the current Countermeasure card for the SMC. This will help remind the players of the special rules and goal for that particular cycle.

The next phase is the Command Phase. This phase is composed of 3 rounds. Each round player’s will each perform a turn, beginning with the Alpha Hacker. Each player’s turn consists of 6 steps that are performed in order. The first step is the Start of Turn Step. In this step, any Start of Turn effects for that player will occur at this time. The next step is the Restock Hack Shack Step. In this step, the player checks to see if the Hack Shack has any empty spaces. If it does, they will draw a card from the Advanced Command deck to restock it back to four cards. Once this deck is empty, the Hack Shack is officially “sold out” and will not be restocked after this time. The third step is the New Sparks Step. This step is skipped on the Alpha Hacker’s first turn. In this step, new Sparks are placed according to the current Security Level of the Round. This number is found on the bottom of the SMC card. The player will roll the Server die to determine the server color and the Partition die to determine which number that the Spark is placed on. These 2 dice are known as the Spark Dice. Once all the new Sparks have been placed, the player moves on to the 4th step. This fourth step is the Command Actions Step. In this step the player will play Command cards from their hand. Each card played will give the player Command points in either Destruction, Deception, Cognition, Information or Leadership. These points will allow the player to perform certain actions by spending a certain quantity. To create Command Points, the player must place the cards face up on the table. Once they have enough points of a certain type to perform an action, the player takes the action and then sets the cards used to pay for the action into their discard pile. The player may continue to generate Command points as long as they have cards in their hand. Once they can no longer take an action or choose to, they may pass. If the player chooses to pass during either of their first 2 rounds, they are allowed to save 1 card to carry forward into the next round, giving them 6 cards for their next turn. It should be noted that a player is allowed to discard any 3 Command cards to generate 1 Leadership Command point. It should also be noted that some Command cards have effects or an execute action that allows the player to perform certain things when played.

Speaking of Actions, there are several actions that a player may perform with the right amount of Command points. There is the Move action. For each Information Command point the player spends for a move action, they are granted 1 Movement point. Moving from 1 partition to another costs 1 movement point. However, the player is allowed to carry up to 3 Contaminants of the same type with them. The player is then allowed to drop off and pick up other contaminants. There’s more information on picking up and dropping off contaminants in the rulebook. It should be noted however that a player may move across partitions that contain blue tokens (Data ports and Data Nodes) for 0 movement points. However the player must still generate 1 Information Command point to be able to make the move. Also of note is that a player may move from a Data Port to any other partition on the network for 1 movement point or if the destination partition has a Data Node or Data Port on it, it costs 0 points. Next there is the Shift action. This action uses a Cognition Command point to move either a Spark or Contaminant from the player’s Avatar’s partition to an adjacent partition. If a player is on a partition with a green Uplink or Neural Hub, they may use the Shift action to another partition that also contains a Uplink or Neural Hub. It should be noted that if a player is on a partition with a Nerual Hub, then they are allowed to perform any action as if their Avatar was on any desired partition on that server. This includes using other actions. Another available action is the Upload action. For 3 Command Points of the same color, the player is allowed to place a Contaminant token of the same color onto the partition where their Avatar is positioned, as long as there are no Sparks or Guardian tokens present. For each Deception Command Point generated, the player can place a Replicant token, as long as there is a Replicator present on that same partition. They are able to do this even if there are Spark tokens present. For each Destruction Command Point generated, the player may place a Virus token, as long as there is already a Propagator on the partition. Once again, they may do this even if there are Sparks present. Another possible action to take is the Modify action. This can be performed if the player’s Avatar is at a partition that has more Replicant tokens than Spark tokens. The player pays 2 Command Points to Modify the Spark by deleting it and replacing it with a Containment token. For the 2 Command Points, it requires 1 Deception Command point to initiate the Modification and then 1 point of the type of Contaminant that the player wishes to modify it to. Next there is the Install action. This action allows the player to exchange 3 Contaminant tokens of the same color that share the same partition as their Avatar for 1 Installation token of the same color. They must spend 1 Command Point of the same color to initiate the Install action. It should be noted that to do this there must be no Spark or Guardian tokens present and there must be no Installations of that color there either. Next there is the Infect action. This action requires at least 1 Virus token present on the partition to perform. The player must generate at least 1 Destruction Command point and then declare an attack on a Spark or Guardian token. They will then roll the 2 Infection dice. They will adjust their attacking result on the red Infection die by adding the number of Destruction Command points along with the number of Virus tokens to get their Infection score. On the other side, they must adjust the black Resistance die’s roll by adding the number of Spark tokens or add 4 if there is a Guardian present to get the Resistance score. These scores are then compared. If the Infection score is greater than the Resistance score, the player wins the battle and is able to delete all the Sparks or Guardian from that partition. if the Infection score is lower or equal to the Resistance score, then the players loses the battle and must delete a Virus token on that partition. Next there is the Execute action which allows the player to discard an Advanced Command card to ignore it’s Command points and use it’s Execute action instead. Finally there’s the Shop action. This action allows the player to purchase Advanced Command cards from the Hack Shack by paying for them with Command points. First the player reveals the corresponding cards from their hand that contain the necessary Command points to purchase the card with. They will then take the purchased card and add it to their hand. They will then choose one of the revealed cards used to make the purchase and delete it. The rest of these cards are then discarded. Once the Shop action is completed, the player should still only have 15 cards between their hand, discard pile and Command deck.

This takes us to the fifth step of the Command phase, the Replenish Hand step. In the first 2 rounds of each cycle, the player will draw 5 new cards from their deck to prepare for their next turn. After the third round, the player will have no cards to draw. Finally, the last step is the End of Turn step. Some effects will occur at this time due to card effects. Once these have been taken care of, play passes to the next player in turn order, who will then begin with their Start of Turn step. Once each player has completed their turn, that round is complete and a new round begins. Once the third round is completed, play proceeds to the next phase.

The third phase is the Countermeasures Phase. This phase consists of 4 steps that are followed in order. The first step is the SMC’s Revenge step. In this step Virus tokens are forced to attack all Spark and Guardian tokens on the same partition with them by using Infect actions, but without the aid of any Command cards. This continues until either no Virus tokens or no more Spark and Guardian tokens remain on the same partition. Once this is finished, the Spark and Guardian tokens will delete all of the Contaminant tokens on the same partition with them. Once that’s been taken care of, Guardian tokens will delete any Installation tokens on the same partition with them. Once that’s completed, we move on to the next step, the Success or Failure step. For this second step, the player will determine whether they have successfully completed or failed the SMC’s current Countermeasure card’s goal. If either of these has happened, the player flips over the card and performs it’s corresponding success or fail event by following the instructions from top to bottom. It should be noted that after determining the success or failure, the cards orientation is kept the same and applies to the next step, the Move Sparks step. In this step, Sparks will be moved up or down on the servers as noted on the Countermeasure card. Starting with the arrow on the left and proceeding to the right, the player will move the Sparks. If the arrow points up, then the player will move all the Sparks located on the lowest numbered partition of that corresponding color to the next higher number partition. If the arrow points down, then the player moves the Sparks located on the highest numbered partition to the next lower numbered partition. It should be noted that there is a “Loop” between the 6 and 1 partitions. That means that if a Spark is on the 6 and must move up, then it moves onto the 1 space. Likewise if a Spark is on the 1 and must move down, then it moves onto the 6 space. Once this has been completed, any Spark Explosions are resolved. Spark Explosions happen whenever a Spark enters a partition that already contains a Guardian. Instead of adding a Spark token to the partition containing the Guardian, the player adds 2 Flare tokens to the next lowest numbered partition instead. This can cause a chain reaction as Flare tokens can not be placed on a partition with a Guardian. Instead another Flare token is created and placed on the next lower numbered partition. It should also be noted that if 3 Spark tokens are on a partition, they are removed and replaced with a Guardian token immediately. The final step is the Scoring Token step. If the players were successful on all of the Countermeasure cards at the current Security Level, then they will gain a Countermeasure Scoring token to help improve their score at the end of the game. If they failed, then they will delete the Countermeasure card and place it back in the box.

This brings us to the final phase, the Refresh Phase. In this phase, the players will prepare for the next Cycle or end the game by following 3 steps. First is the End of Game step. For this step, the players will check to see if there are any more Countermeasure cards remaining. If not, then the game ends and the players have won. If there is another Countermeasure card left, then the players move to the next step, the New Deal step. In this step, the players prepare for the next Cycle by discarding any cards still in their hands and shuffling their Command deck. They will then deal a new hand of 5 cards. The final step is the Hack Shack Purge step. In this step, the players will discard all of the cards available to purchase at the Hack Shack. New cards will be drawn and placed during the second step of the Alpha Hacker’s Command Phase.

The game continues until one of the end game events occurs. If at the end of the final phase there are no more Countermeasure cards to be played, then the players have survived and they win the game. However if at any time during the game, a player is required to place either a Spark or Guardian token and they are unable to due to a lack of tokens in the pool, then the players lose immediately. If the players survived and won the game, then they will measure their success through scoring Victory Points. Points are awarded for sets of Sparks remaining in the supply, as well as for each Guardian token remaining. They will also gain points for Installation tokens on the network, as well as for each Countermeasure Scoring token that they earned for completeing all the Countermeasures of a particular Security Level. The results are then compared to a chart in the rulebook to determine how well the players succeeded.

COMPONENTS
This game has a lot of great looking pieces. For anyone familiar with Android Netrunner, they may find the theme, feel and look of this game to be very similar. The artwork on the cards, profile sheets, tokens and even the tiles have a lot of similar looks. All of the tokens are bright colored and very thematic. They’re made of thick cardboard and look great. Even the Avatar standees are the same thick cardboard. The Avatars have some plastic stands for them to be fit down into. The images on the Avatars are also found on the profile sheets. The profile sheets are a little more detailed and bigger with lots of great information. The profile sheets are double sided with several different characters to play as. The cards have a great looking linen finish to them and they show off a lot of the theme and looks of the cyberpunk universe that the game centers around. These are all normal sized, while the SMC cards are a little larger almost tarot sized. Each card, each piece is completely dripping with theme. The Infection dice look very similar to the numbers on the server tiles and these are all engraved. The Spark dice look like they have stickers on them but I’m assuming these are screen printed instead. These are a little less impressive than everything else but is probably the only thing that I’d say looks a little less cool. The server tiles are all fairly large and thick. One sided is single colored while the other side has multiple colors on them. Needless to say, this is one cool looking game. Fans of the cyberpunk universe like that in Android Netrunner should really love how thematic and fun the game looks. I’m very impressed with the amazing look especially on the cards, profile sheets and dice. I can’t say anything really negative about any of it.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is actually quite thick. There are a lot of great looking pictures and examples of gameplay throughout the book. There are images of how to setup the game as well as of each of the different components. The rules are explained in great detail in step by step process. The different types of cards are even explained in great detail. There’s a glossary of all the different terms that are used in this game, from partitions and networks to SMC and avatars. The rulebook contains so many good examples, there’s even a complete walkthrough of the game so that players can be familiar with the rules in a step by step way. I can truly say that I’ve never seen a rulebook with something like this before. I’m rather impressed with it. The book contains some gameplay variants for everything from using the back side of the network tiles to hardcore and horde modes of play. There’s special rules for using Rootkits with Renegades with the Leadership profile. There are also detailed descriptions of each of the different Renegades that players can play as. The back of the book contains a great reference guide including a sequence of play along with a list of actions, card commands, installations and SMC countermeasures. This is a great tool to have on the table when playing the game. I’m very impressed with this book. While it is full of information, it’s actually a lot less scary than it actually looks. It takes a bit to read through but once through it, everything actually makes perfect sense. It may be a bit difficult for some people to understand but those familiar with deck building games and Android Netrunner shouldn’t have any problems with this. Overall the book covers everything in a really good way and looks amazing. I’m really pleased with both the look and feel of it all.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
While this game is at it’s heart a deck builder, it’s a lot different from any deck builder that I’ve ever played. That’s saying a lot since I’ve played a lot of different ones. Most deck builders have you working on getting a lot of better cards to power up your deck to be able to get more points to beat your opponents. In this game, points are an afterthought and since all the players are working together, the idea of opponents doesn’t even enter the equation. Like with most deck builders, you’ll be trying to build up your deck, except that you have to make really good decisions as each time you add a card to your deck, you have to remove one permanently. That’s why each decision you make is such an important one. That’s definitely true when it comes to the board. This is another part of the game that is a bit different from most deck builders. You set up this complex network and then move your avatar around as you try to accomplish these goals to basically stay alive on the board. Along the way you’ll be moving tokens around adding tokens and hoping that you don’t run out of Spark or Guardian tokens to place on the board. That means that you really have to stay on top of keeping the population of these tokens off the board. Of course there’s more to it than just that. As I said there are goals that you’ll be trying to accomplish and yes points do still count. The more points you have at the end of the game, the better the victory will be. However sometimes you’ll find just surviving as a victory in itself. This game can be quite brutal when playing against some of the harder SMCs. Even some of the easier ones can still be tough. I can truly say that this has to be the most unique deck builder that I’ve ever played. As a big fan of the Shadowrun game and the universe that it comes from, I can say that I really love the cyberpunk theme in this one. It feels like it should fit into that world quite well, even though it’s not a part of it. My favorite character to play in Shadowrun was always the Decker, because I really enjoyed how they were able to hack into computer systems and do things noone else could do. This game brings back a lot of those old fond memories of that game. Needless to say, anyone that is a fan of Shadowrun or the Android Netrunner LCG should love the thematic elements of this game. Deck building fans looking for a little more weight and meat to their games should really enjoy this one too. Needless to say, I’m thoroughly impressed. I like it quite a lot. I like that everyone plays as a single team with this one. Even when playing other deck builders like Legendary or the DC deck builder, I hated that the game wanted it to be about competition between the players and not about beating the bad guys. That’s why this one works great with several players or even for playing solo. I definitely like being able to play this one by myself when no one else feels like playing anything. It gives you plenty of theme that will really suck you into the game. Solo players should love this one. Overall, this is a game that I would highly recommend. It’s definitely one of my top picks
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Renegade is a cooperative deck building game that is set in a cyberpunk universe. It is a moderately long game to play. Most play sessions last between an hour and a half and 2 hours. Solo sessions can go a bit shorter in length. The game looks amazing. There are lots of really great looking cards and tokens. I especially like the artwork throughout the game. It reminds me of games like Shadowrun and Android Netrunner. The rulebook is a bit thick but you shouldn’t feel intimidated by it. Everything is laid out rather well and there are plenty of great examples to help guide you along the way. The game itself brings an entirely new look and feel to the deck building universe. It’s definitely one of the most unique deck builders that I’ve ever played. It can be a bit tough, even on some of the easier levels. I like that this is a cooperative game instead of being competitive. I enjoy the theme and find that fans of the cyberpunk style of games, like those in Shadowrun or Android Netrunner, should enjoy the thematic elements and gameplay of this one. Deck building fans will really enjoy this unique take on the mechanic and should enjoy this one as well. This is a game that I would highly recommend. It breathes new life into deck building at a time that I was starting to get burnt out on the mechanic. I really enjoy this one and expect to continue hacking the networks for many more times to come. It’s definitely one of my top pics for this year.
9 out of 10

 

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Victory Point Games at their site.

http://www.victorypointgames.com/

 

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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