Quinns: Have you heard the news? I’ve been playing sad fanfares on my cyber-bugle all weekend. On Friday Fantasy Flight announced that Wizards of the Coast has ended the licensing agreement for Netrunner, which means that Fantasy Flight’s phenomenal living card game Android: Netrunner will be coming to an abrupt end after the next big expansion, Reign and Reverie.
Paul: What?! But Fantasy Flight have only just released the revamped starter set!
Quinns: Yeah. As you’d imagine, the unexpected announcement has left the Netrunner community in a state of shock.
As you say, Fantasy Flight had only just rebooted the core set, but on top of that card rotation had only just begun (cycling older cards out of competitive play in a bit of tricky housecleaning), and new lead designer Michael Boggs had only just dragged the global metagame into a healthy place. This was a game that had lasted six years and was being shored up to last another six years.
Plus, from Wizards of the Coast’s perspective, this was a near-valueless intellectual property that Fantasy Flight were turning into one of the most respected, beloved and socially diverse card games in existence.
So why did this happen? We don’t know for sure, but there are a few conspiracy theories that sound plausible to me, and in honour of all things cyberpunk I’m going to don my tinfoil hat for a little bit. Please, indulge me.
One possibility is that this is a horrible casualty in a much larger war. Fantasy Flight is owned by Asmodee, and Wizards of the Coast is owned by Hasbro. With Asmodee undergoing incredible growth in recent years, it’s possible that Hasbro yanked the licensing deal away as a means of plucking a small jewel from their new competitor’s crown.
A more sensible reason might be that Wizards of the Coast think they can make more money producing Netrunner themselves. This taking back of the Netrunner license might mean that Netrunner will be rebooted again in a collectible card game format as a sister product to Magic: The Gathering. That would be a bittersweet turn of events. I have no doubt that Wizards of the Coast would do a fine job with the game, but making it an order of magnitude more expensive to collect and play would be a sad, sad thing.
Paul: There’s a lot to think about there and this is no small news story. But let’s switch to the personal angle: A lot of our fans have been asking how you feel about it. So, how do you feel about it?
Quinns: Hmmm. Conflicted? Obviously this is a tragedy for the community that I still, in some ways, consider myself a part of. Also, if Netrunner returns with a horrifically expensive business model involving card rarity then that’s going to be miserable. But then again, Fantasy Flight were never quite able to give Netrunner the support it deserved, namely the kind of marketing and R&D that we see Wizards pour into Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. It’s not impossible that this could end up being a good thing for the game… ?
After all, if a game is really, really good it’ll always end up coming back from the dead in one form or another. And Netrunner is really, really, really good.
Paul: So what are Fantasy Flight turning to instead? It looks like Heroes of Terrinoth will be one of their next big releases. Traipsing over to our tabletops this autumn (or “fall”), Heroes of Terrinoth will be a reboot of FFG’s supposedly-excellent Warhammer Quest card game, giving you and your friends the chance to band together in a classic adventuring party, battering goblins about the head until gold coins pour out of their ears.
It’s all the most typical fantasy-by-the-numbers, set in FFG’s uber-generic Terrinoth, but their track record with card games is such that this is definitely one we’ll be watching from the bushes, ready to leap upon like a beastman ambush. We missed our chance to review this design the first time, but like a dwarven axe-baron, we never miss twice.(?)
Quinns: What’s a dwarven axe–
Paul: I don’t know
Quinns: Further news acting as balm to my sucking Netrunner-related wounds is that two Shut Up & Sit Down card game favourites are being reprinted.
Arboretum will be republished this year by Renegade and Z-Man has just announced a brand-new edition of Condottiere.
Paul: BUT HAVE THEY REALLY? Like the saucy armies of Condottiere themselves, could this just be one big bluff oh wait no it’s not no sorry it really is back.
Quinns: Yep. The new edition of Condottiere will come with a bigger box and board than the old edition, but will also be $10 more expensive than the old Silver Line edition that we reviewed approximately 9999 years ago.
Paul: Every day, before the sun is up, I board the Shut Up & Sit Down canoe and paddle out to Kickstarter Island, running my fingers over the branches of the low-lying bushes to see what fruit they offer. Today, that fruit includes GAMEBOOK – The Interactive Book of Board Games. Flip those firm pages to give yourself eight classic abstract games, from Pachisi to Nine Men’s Morris, a game about nine men who drive Morris Minor cars around a board until they die from dehydration. Probably? I don’t know. I’ve never played it, but this is a lovely way to present a collection of board games and so much classier than the tacky “10 Games in 1”-type board game collections I had to endure as a suffering British child.
Quinns: That’s such a cool idea. But for me, there’s only one book I’ll be Kickstarting this week:
The Board Game Book: 2019 is “a beautiful book exploring the year in tabletop gaming.” Not only does it have professional writers examining the year’s best releases, it has the nicest accompanying photography I’ve seen in a board game book.
Paul: This is so big and shiny! It’s really satisfying to see photography that shows off how cute, colourful and charismatic board games can be.
Quinns: SO satisfying. Turns out, from a certain light, this weird hobby of ours looks… professional and appealing? Who knew?!
But what I’m the most interested in are the interviews with literally dozens of board game designers. I’ll have to get this book just to have the behind-the-scenes gossip about all these awesome games.
Paul: You know what’s good? Art. Art is really popular these days. So too is design (design is anything that has lines). It was really interesting for me to read this account of the art and design process behind the High Society re-release, where Medusa Dollmaker talks through her inspirations and process.
I love seeing how people make things, from filmmakers to musicians to artists, and seeing these work-in-progress illustrations alongside a description of her method is really insightful. If you’re a board game designer, artist or illustrator out there, and if you have the time to spare to share some insights into how you worked and why you made the choices that you did, please do! It’s inspiring and interesting to see how something is created. Don’t believe it when people say they don’t want to know how the sausage is made. I WANT TO BE TAKEN RIGHT INSIDE OF THE SAUSAGE.