Yesterday, I introduced you to Anarch’s feature mechanic in the Borealis Cycle, sabotage. Today, I want to share with you the new mechanic for Criminal in Midnight Sun: mark.
While sabotage was a mechanic that survived the playtesting gauntlet as it was initially designed, Criminal’s first mechanical idea did not. Once we determined there was a need for revision, Design and Development took stock of what was working within the Borealis Cycle as a whole, what Criminal needed, and what emotionality we were trying to capture with them in this cycle. A lot of this came from leaning on what we felt was central to Criminal gameplay historically, as well as thinking about our character for Borealis and what would work well for her. You can read about the new Criminal Runner, Nyusha “Sable” Sintashta, and her story here.
The main points of our discussions were as follows:
- Criminals are opportunists. As such, our mechanic should highlight shifting incentives that give the Runner interesting decisions every turn.
- We wanted the mechanic to represent getting a “job” or “tip” from an outside source—an open-ended suggestion that it might be worthwhile for the Runner to change their plans.
With these goals in mind, we brainstormed several mechanical ideas. Some of these were strange and a bit outlandish for Netrunner, but they allowed us to hone in on something simple and capable of creating the dynamic gameplay we were in search of. That mechanic was mark.
Mark has two components. First, each card with mark will instruct you to “identify your mark.” To do this, randomly select a central server, unless you’ve already identified your mark this turn. You can do this using whatever randomization procedure you want, including the three central server cards included in Midnight Sun for this purpose. The central server you select is your mark for the turn. The second part of mark is the payoff: cards with mark will also have abilities that incentivize runs on the mark you identify, in one way or another.
Mark, in giving the Runner a moving target turn by turn, plays similarly to existing Criminal cards like Security Testing or Pennyshaver. Unlike these cards, however, utilizing mark is not merely a matter of finding and attacking the weakest point in the Corp’s servers. Because of the random nature of where your mark is assigned, you’ll often need to make difficult choices between cashing in on your mark and going after more important Corp targets.
Its shifting and unpredictable nature gives us the opportunity to attach some powerful effects to mark that you wouldn’t normally see on other Criminal run-based cards. Cards like Virtuoso, combined with Sable’s identity ability, make runs on your mark tempting, even if that server is heavily protected by ice.
And if you need some extra cash for those runs on your mark, Cezve has you covered, with a couple of recurring credits to fund your search for the Corp’s agendas. Since your mark will always be a central server, cards that are stronger on central server runs will be particularly useful alongside mark!
Developing and testing mark has been a delight, giving us the opportunity to reimagine a core element of Criminal gameplay style. Some of my favorite moments in playing with Midnight Sun have come from getting what seemed like an “unlucky” mark selection, only to find a unique and clever way to turn it in my favor. Criminals, much more than Shapers or Anarchs, are opportunists, and I think you’ll find yourself feeling like one when you get the chance to play with mark in the coming weeks.
Midnight Sun will be released on July 22, 2022, as physical cards via NISEI’s print partners and pay-what-you want files for downloading and printing at home!