Cracking the Code

In our previous article looking at ice and breakers, we discussed building and breaking barriers, showing off some of the cards you’ll be using to secure and smash through servers in System Gateway and beyond.

Cyberspace isn’t all walls though, and the types and variety of ice can constitute a veritable funhouse.



NBN Ice: Code Gate

Rez Cost: 5 – Influence: 2

Strength: 4

When the Runner encounters this ice, end the run unless the Runner takes 1 tag.

sub Give the Runner 1 tag unless they pay 4credit.

“I might take a break from VR after this one.” —SeaOfRibaldry, sensie streamer

Illustrated by Bruno Balixa

“Hey, wait a second!” you might say. “This ice looks oddly familiar.”

You would be correct. NBN’s new Funhouse is the spiritual successor to the iconic Data Raven. As June Cuervo, NISEI’s lead designer, recently explained, NISEI is going to be de-emphasizing traces in future set design, and Data Raven was conspicuous in its absence from the System Update 2021 card list. By forcing the Runner to choose between taking a tag or ending the run on encounter, Funhouse keeps the defining aspect of Data Raven alive for a new generation of Netrunner players.

This ice isn’t all nostalgia though. As the eagle-eyed will have noticed, there are also some key differences. First up, Funhouse is a code gate rather than a sentry. This means that it matches up against a whole new suite of breakers, and competes for slots with some very different ice from its predecessor. I hope you’re ready to retool your ice suites in Argus and NBN.

Secondly, it has a more taxing subroutine. For all our recent talk of breakers, the Runner often just let Data Raven’s trace fire instead of breaking it. Even if it fired, the Runner had the chance to beat the trace—or just go “tag-me” and allow the token! While Funhouse still offers the opportunity to drench yourself in tags, simply paying through will always cost you 4 credits. This might not seem like much, but many of the most played Runners could dive breaker-less through a Data Raven, trusting in their link to ensure they only had to pay 2credit to beat the trace.

Finally, we are also getting an NBN identity in System Gateway that loves tagging the Runner. Any run through Funhouse out of Reality Plus can give the Corp serious tempo via drawing cards or gaining credits.

Not only does all this justify the slightly increased rez cost of 5credit, it means that on the other side of the table, Runners might actually have to think about breaking it. How might you do that for fewer than 4credit?



Shaper Program: Icebreaker – Decoder

Install Cost: 3 – Influence: 2

MU: 1 – Strength: 1

Interface → 1credit: Break 1 code gate subroutine.

1credit: +1 strength for each installed icebreaker (including this one).

The joy of handcrafted code—each fits perfectly within the whole.

Illustrated by Liiga Smilshkalne

If there’s something encrypted in the neighbourhood, who ya gonna call?


Yes, Shapers, the faction of Gordian Blade, Engolo, and Cyber-Cypher, are back to bust code and chew bubblegum. And they’re all out of bubblegum. Unity is their latest hyper-efficient decoder.

Unity may not have stellar base stats at only 1 strength, but as part of a full rig it can pump strength more efficiently than any other icebreaker in the game. Note that it always counts itself as installed, so with a standard suite of breakers, your ticket through the Funhouse will be a mere 2credit (and some personal data, of course). Find room for an AI icebreaker, or a utility breaker like Ika, and you can match strength with Fairchild 3.0 and Engram Flush for only 1credit as well. I ain’t afraid of no codes!

In a game increasingly dominated by super-taxing code gates, this is a welcome bonus for Shaper: it offers them an alternative to Engolo that will also save MU. Like the other “faction showpiece” breakers in the set, Unity is also only 2 influence, leaving lots of room for experimentation in other factions. 

The only flies in this ointment are the time and resources spent installing a rig—issues that have always plagued Shaper in the past. While help here is on its way, I would advise anyone playing System Gateway to watch out for cheap…



Neutral Ice: Code Gate

Rez cost: 2 – Influence: 0

Strength: 0

sub The Runner loses 3credit.

sub If the Runner has 6credit or less, end the run.

[this space intentionally left blank]

Illustrated by Scott Uminga


Unfortunately for Runners crafting highly efficient rigs, not all ice has to be taxing. Just as Funhouse carries the torch for Data Raven, so the neutral ice Whitespace carries the torch for a gallery of small but highly impactful code gates.

At only 2credit to rez, Whitespace is about as cheap as most ice gets, but that doesn’t stop it packing a punch. Taxing the Runner 3credit on facecheck makes rezzing it a net tempo gain for the Corp, and if, as is likely, the Runner is left with 6credit or less after that tax, it will end the run to boot!

That 6credit figure is cunningly chosen as well. Runners will be disappointed if they try playing Sure Gamble and running through it on the first turn of the game. That once-safe opening move is no longer quite as reliable—when they faceplant into Whitespace with 9credit or less, the first subroutine will ensure the second keeps them out. While this ice is technically porous, Runners need only run through it once or twice before the credit threshold on the second subroutine looks a long way out of reach.

For the Corp, Whitespace lets you trade the guaranteed “end the run” of Enigma for a nastier bite on facecheck and almost the same stopping power. Pretty handy when powerful Corp cards like Hard-Hitting News don’t require the Runner to have made a successful run on their previous turn, only to have made a run at all.

While this ice may have literally 0 strength, the difference between 0 and 2 matters very little for most decoders. Just watch out for wandering turtles.

Even Aumakua will still often have to pay 2credit though. That’s no longer true of all decoders.


Anarch Program: Icebreaker – Decoder

Cost: 4 – Influence: 1

MU: 1 – Strength: 3

Interface → 1credit: Break up to 2 code gate subroutines.

3credit: +1 strength.

Destruction is an art.

Illustrated by Cat Shen

Just as Cleaver was Anarch’s newly-honed answer to barriers, so Buzzsaw is new runner Loup’s tool for cutting through code. 

Buzzsaw is pretty well named for the job it does. Not since the mighty (and eventually rotated) Yog.0 have code gates with 3 strength or less been carved up so brutally. Gatekeepers, Enigmas and off-HQ Afshars all get chopped to pieces by this. In fact, some popular ice might even become a liability when you can break this effectively.

This is only a sense of the warping effect that Buzzsaw can have on a game. Three credits to boost strength may be a lot, but Anarchs have always preferred to bring things down to their level. With the same strength-modifying tools you might use to support a Cleaver, Buzzsaw can carve through even premium ice for no more than 2credit. Even Slot Machine won’t always be worth installing against such a rig.

This might only be where it begins though. Anarchs aren’t the only faction that likes to play with the Corp’s ice, and this kind of breaking power is more than affordable at only 1 influence. In fact, I can think of one returning Runner who might well want to add this to her Kit. Couple this with Pelangi, perhaps, and you can see how this could form the core of a powerful new rig in Shaper or Anarch. Criminals splashed for Yog.0 back in the day too…

That brings us to the end of our reveals for today. Of course, you can never truly predict how a metagame will evolve with new cards and new decks, but we’re confident the ice and breakers you’ll find in System Gateway will impact the game now and for many cycles to come. That isn’t all that’s coming, though, so check back tomorrow for some killer new content.

System Gateway and System Update 2021 will be released on or shortly after March 28, 2021, as physical cards via NISEI’s print-on-demand partners and pay-what-you want files for downloading and printing at home!


  • Felix

    Felix has been a Netrunner since Cyber Exodus and a playtester since Ashes. He lives in London.