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Subject: Establishing a new Base Link rss

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BT Carpenter
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In the article from FFG on Tracing, this comment was made concerning the new trace/link system:
Quote:
The Corporation’s trace limit became his base strength for the trace (generally one or two) while the Runner’s base strength was his links.



This article focuses on that, and exploring (based only on the cards we have available to us) what it takes to get our intrepid Runners to a point where it costs the Corporation to enact a trace, instead of allowing a passive base strength to simply drain the Runner’s coffers.

A note on Symbols
When doing analyses like this, I like to bring everything back to the basic units in the game in order to represent opportunity cost. First the symbols I’ll use:
$: 1 credit ($$ is 2 credits)
Π: 1 card draw (Π Π is 2 card draws)
@: 1 click (@@ is 2 clicks)
∞: 1 link (∞∞ is 2 links)

The rules allow the following normal rates of exchange
@:$ (one action becomes one credit)
@: Π (one action lets you draw one card)
$:∞ (one bit lets you increase your link by one during a trace)

Any time you play a card, I presume that you first drew into it, so I’ll represent the play of a card as:
@ Π: effect of card

And if that card costs 2 credits:
$$@ Π: effect of card

Since you can always @:$ and @: Π, a 2 cost card can be thought of as @@@@: effect of card. In this way I try to bring everything back to the number of actions it takes to gain the effect. Likewise, I attempt to bring the effect into the number of actions gained and then compare the cost to the effect.

I am aware that this method doesn’t always take into account the timing of the event or other cards that might give an accelerated effect, so these are always done in a virtual vacuum, and the trick to advanced play is to find where you can accelerate beyond the basics provided by the rules and the cards. I will also be requoting this item when someone tells me that X card can totally change this analysis. I know that.

Definitions
Passive Trace: A trace initiated by the Corp where no credits need to be spent because the trace value already exceeds the Runner’s Base Link.

Active Trace: A trace requiring the Corp to spend credits in order to exceed the Base Link of the Runner, which can then be responded to after the Trace Value has been established.


On to the analysis of the Link cards!

Establishing Base Link
In the early stages of the game, the Runner will be relying on their personal link value and paying Credits to avoid the Corp’s trace attempts.



Noise is loud, flamboyant and hangs out in Seedy clubs a lot. He’s easy to find and doesn’t cover his tracks well. His base link is a 0. Every Trace that Noise doesn’t avoid by outright breaking a routine is going to cost him some credit, or he’s going to suffer the effects of the trace.

Kate is more discrete and constantly changing her digital signature. Her cautious nature means she’s more comfortable hacking in an abandoned bunker than exposing herself in a club. She has a base link of 1. For simple tracing ICE with a base trace of 1, the Corp is already going to be spending credits to trace her. Stronger traces (2 or higher) will still have a small, but less effective passive trace.

Assuming most Corp traces have a Passive trace of 1 or 2, lets first find out what it takes to get each Runner to a base link of 3, which will mean that Corp needs to start Actively tracing the Runner.

Noise
Noise first, and for this analysis, we won’t use any out of faction cards, which limits him to the public access terminals of Global Sec.

This Resource card’s glyphs are:
GlobalSec:: $@ Π: ∞

That ∞ is reusable, and counts as a free ∞ every time a Trace is initiated. Instead, Noise could choose to just $$$ and keep the credits, using them at the standard rate of $:∞ when needed. Essentially, if Noise uses his installed Access to GlobalSec in 3 traces the card is a wash, and at 4 or more traces, this card pays off, and frees up bit gathering actions for other purposes. Of course, with Noise’s low personal link, every time he doesn’t break a trace he’s going to be spending credits, and worse, the Corp can do it passively. This will lead to a choice for Noise: Break the trace routine or accept (at a minimum) the Passive Trace the Corp already has going due to the base strength of the Trace. I believe this is where the bluff/counterbluff comes in – If the Runner chooses to not break a Trace Routine, they’re inviting the Corp to spend credits unnecessarily to ensure the results of the trace, or are banking that the Passive Trace is an ‘acceptable cost’ if the Corp chooses not to boost the signal.
In order for Noise to get to a base link of 3 (in order to force the Corp to start Active tracing instead of letting the Passives be a looming threat), he’s going to need three Access to Globalsec in play.



Of course, there’s an issue with this. Access to Globalsec is a Resource, so if the Corp manages to get even a single tag on Noise, it’s in their best interest to have Globalsec do a security sweep and burn those clandestine accounts that Noise installed if tracing is their thing. $$@ is the cost to burn a free ∞ on every trace which could prove to be very useful and a wise expenditure of funds.

Noise also has to FIND these cards, and assuming even distribution of the three instances through his deck, he’s reasonably only going to find two of them across the course of a game, unless he digs for them with other card effects. Noise is also spending 3 card slots (but no out of faction resources) to have them in his Stack in the first place.

Kate
Kate’s base link is 1, so she’s already forcing Active tracing for any low value (1) trace attempts. Kate has a little device she inserts into the fiber optic lines she runs through that simulate her bouncing her signal to Australia and back. It’s this little guy:



If we ignore the special text for a moment (we’ll get there!), the glyph for this card is:

Rabbit Hole:: $$@ Π: ∞

Which is decidedly worse than Globalsec access ($@ Π: ∞) at first glance, or is it? First off, Rabbit hole is Hardware, so it’s not susceptible to being burned by a tag, though it still might fry if it comes up against ICE designed to overheat hardware. More importantly, the effect of installing this device lets you search your Stack for another copy of Rabbit Hole and install it too! The Core set will have two of these cards, but if you want to have a heavy defensive base link, a second Core set will let you have a third in your Deck as well. So now Rabbit Hole’s glyph is:

Rabbit Hole:: $$@ Π($$)($$):∞(∞)(∞) // where the () denote optional expenditures for optional bonuses.

Kate has a further advantage if this is the first program or piece of hardware she installs this turn, because she’ll get her personal discount, bringing the cost down by another $:

Kate’s Rabbit Hole:: $@ Π($$)($$):∞(∞)(∞)

We'll assume Kate has only one Core Set, so to get to our target of 3 base link, Kate needs 2 Rabbit Hole devices and will be able to install them both at the same time:



This rig will more than pay for itself the 3rd time it is used in a trace attempt, and has the added benefit that the Corp is unable to do Passive traces and MUST choose to spend in order to Actively trace. This may allow Kate to simply ignore trace attempts if Corp funds are low, or more importantly, lower than her resources. This can save further credits when the trace subroutine doesn’t need to be broken, or the cost of letting the trace run is less than outright breaking the routine.

The effect of the 'linked card' (pun not intended) that is Rabbit Hole is also significant. This is effectively one card split across two (or three) pieces of card stock. When you hit one of them in your Stack, you effectively hit ALL of them. This has a deck thinning effect since the second or third Rabbit Hole effectively isn't in the Stack, assuming you pay for a full installation of all three. Alternatively, if Kate feels she needs more cards in deck and less Base Link, that pad is there too.

Conclusion
The Runner getting to a base link of 3 is going to change the Corp's tracing game. The landscape will shift from the Corp being able to Passively trace the Runner to being required to Actively trace. The decision maker will shift from Runner (do I break the routine) to Corp (do I pay more for the trace) and back to the Runner (do I spend to defeat the trace or accept the penalty). No longer will trace come down to a bluff/counterbluff in a simultaneous bid, but will instead exist in the play and counter play of the Runner's base link cards, the Corp's trace boosters (if any exist in the Core set or future expansions) (we haven't seen any of these YET) and the Corp's on-the-spot decisions to boost a given trace. Though we haven't been exposed to all this system have to offer, it provides enough of a framework and boundaries for costs that it is worth exploring.




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Lucas Townsend
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Nice read, thanks! However, how do you know that there will only be two copies of Rabbit Hole? Shouldn't there be three? I mean, a long time ago, FFG said they would publish all LCG cards in sets of three from that point on to increase deck-building opportunities?
 
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BT Carpenter
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Empires wrote:
Nice read, thanks! However, how do you know that there will only be two copies of Rabbit Hole? Shouldn't there be three? I mean, a long time ago, FFG said they would publish all LCG cards in sets of three from that point on to increase deck-building opportunities?


Look on the bottom of Rabbit Hole, right hand side.

= O 39 (O is the 'on switch' symbol)

The '=' (2 bars) has been guessed at being frequency in the core (on symbol) set, this being card #39.

-=-=-

FFG said that they would publish expansion packs with the x3 format, but said nothing of core sets. That discussion has been beat to death in other threads on the game, and I'd prefer this thread not devolve into the merits or horrors of a potential lumpy distribution across the Core set.
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Drew Dallas
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And here is a link to the that thread http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/816987/lcgs-and-card-distrib...
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Edwin Twentier
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You're assuming that links go up to 2, what we've seen are early game ice that may or may not be all that we have. If a corporation like NBN has access to trace^2 subroutines on a 1 rez cost ice, imagine what that is going to look like on cards that have an endgame tracing mechanism. Perhaps on a 6 to 7-cost Ice that provides a trace rating of 5 and two tags on success, just as a potential example. Getting to a 3 rating doesn't do a thing to that mess, certainly not in the game breaking fashion you've listed. That being said, if the traces are split into two trace routines, getting to 3 or 4 link is a true boon.

From a strategy standpoint, it seems to me that a rabbit hole is going to be a 3 of in just about any shaper deck, and depending on what other links are available perhaps in any runner deck. Whether or not getting tagged is as problematic for the runner will also be of interest to see how much links get played. I assume that anyone checking up on an article like this and theorycrafting is going to play in events, and as such that player is going to find a full compliment of rabbit holes.
 
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Matthew Trent
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Nice information.

How big do you think it would be if the final Runner has a base link of two?
 
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BT Carpenter
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Edwin20er wrote:
You're assuming that links go up to 2, what we've seen are early game ice that may or may not be all that we have.


No, actually I'm taking the original FFG article at its word per the premise in my original article. I quoted this:

The Corporation’s trace limit became his base strength for the trace (generally one or two) while the Runner’s base strength was his links.

Sure, there might be bigger trace values out there, which will give the Corporation a boost on that particular trace, but generally, a Base Link of about 3 is going to change the landscape of most of the game from Traces being something the Runner has to break or run from to something the Corp has to pay to enable.

Quote:
From a strategy standpoint, it seems to me that a rabbit hole is going to be a 3 of in just about any Shaper deck, and depending on what other links are available perhaps in any runner deck.


From what we've seen, yes, Rabbit Hole is a reasonable cost, deck thinning, non-resource link card that has a low 'pip' value (whatever that means). A Corp can expect this hardware to be part of the meta game, which means they will need ways to deal with that problem. How to do so?
- Bigger Passive Trace Values
- More Money to directly spend on Traces
- Means to destroy Hardware
or...
- Ignoring Trace/Link altogether -- but that wasn't the point of the whole exercise of changing everything, was it?

Every measure has a countermeasure, but if traces are part of the metagame, so too will cards like Rabbit Hole be.
 
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Jonathan Folkert
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Did anyone else do a doubletake on first seeing the flavor text of "Access to Globalsec" on the website, before enlarging it? At least on my monitor's resolution, the "L" and the "I" in "flicked" seemed to merge together to form a "U".
 
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Big Head Zach
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Sometimes the only way to get your equipment to work right is to give it some love.
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Edwin Twentier
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byronczimmer wrote:

No, actually I'm taking the original FFG article at its word per the premise in my original article. I quoted this:



Fair enough, I had missed that, both in your read and the article.
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