The Automata Initiative Rules Highlights

The release of The Automata Initiative brings with it 65 new cards, and many questions about how these cards work and interact with each other. From the new Threat keyword to ‘Expendable’ abilities, from ice swapping to the return of Psi Games, there’s a lot for you rules heads to get excited about! My name is TamiJo, and I’m an all-round Null Signal Games busybody who’s here to highlight some of the key rules that you’ll want to be aware of in order to really sink your teeth into the new set.



Each card with the ‘Expendable’ subtype has an ability that is active while in HQ, and allows the Corp to reveal and then trash that card for a different effect than the card would normally be used for. When you use one of these abilities, such as that on Slash and Burn Agriculture, it reveals the card and it is added to Archives face up. Then you carry out the effects of the ability. Each of these abilities is a unique instance of that ability, so using three different Expendable abilities (even if they are on three copies of the same card by title) would not trigger your Wage Workers, for example. They would trigger MirrorMorph: Endless Iteration, however, which is probably exciting to somebody. (It’s me. I’m somebody.)


Threat is a new keyword that you will see on Corp and Runner cards in most sets going forward. The number after the word ‘Threat’ essentially means “If either player has at least this many points”. Threat doesn’t replace any existing text on the card, it simply adds an additional ability once the Threat level is high enough. On S-Dobrado, for example, the second part of the text is only active while any player has 4 or more points. The Threat level is based on the actual number of points each player has, so if you have a Nightmare Archive in your score area and a 1-point agenda, the Threat level is currently 0.

Psi Game

Previously the secret spending mechanic of Psi cards was spelled out on each individual card. The printing of Adrian Seis marks the debut of new wording for these effects, canonising the long-used phrase ‘Psi Game’. To ‘play a Psi Game’, you and your opponent are going to secretly choose to spend either 0, 1, or 2 credits. You’ll need to be able to afford to spend them, so if you have only 1 credit, you can’t choose to spend 2. Once both players have secretly chosen, you will both reveal how many you’ve chosen to spend at the same time, and then actually spend those credits. While the new wording makes things more concise, these effects work exactly the same way as older cards with this kind of ability, such as Konjin.


Some cards in Netrunner allow you to swap the positions of cards. The Automata Initiative contains a new armadillo friend, Tatu-Bola, who threatens to swap places with a much less friendly card. The rules around swapping cards have been quite ambiguous and contradictory in the past, and we are taking this opportunity to tidy them up and unify them. When you swap a card that is installed with a card that is not installed, the new card will become installed and trigger any abilities that may be relevant at that time, such as that of the new Jinteki identity, A Teia. When you perform a swap like this, you do not pay install costs, and you may not trash any cards in the root of or protecting the server as part of the install. Swapping two cards that are already installed does not cause either of them to become newly installed, and so does not trigger abilities in this way.

Quick Questions

Q: Do ‘Expendable’ cards need to be active (i.e. installed and rezzed, or in the corp’s score area) for their ‘trash from HQ’ ability to be active?

A: There is a specific rule that governs where abilities are active. It specifies that if an ability can only work in a specific zone, then that ability is active in that zone. Expendable abilities say “Trash this [card type] from HQ”, so that ability is active in HQ. This is the same rule that makes Steelskin Scarring and Strike Fund work.

Q: Does Wage Workers need to be rezzed during the performance of all three matching actions to grant a click, or just the third one?

A: After each action you take, Wage Workers checks to see if you have taken that action exactly three times. If you have, you will get the extra click. It doesn’t need to “see” each action, just the third one (this is slightly different to how a similar card, Jeeves Model Bioroids, worked). Additionally, Wage Workers is looking for specific actions, not how many clicks you have spent on them. If you play a double operation and then a regular operation, Wage Workers only sees two “Play an operation” actions, and will not give you an extra click.

Q: If the Threat level changes while resolving an ability that refers to Threat, what happens? For example, the Runner plays S-Dobrado and runs while the Corp has 4 or more points. They bypass the first piece of ice, and then the Corp rezzes Archer, forfeiting an agenda and going down to 3 or fewer points. What happens?

A: The card text is only active while the Threat level is at the appropriate number. In this scenario, the text is not active at the time the Runner encounters a second piece of ice (the Archer the Corp just rezzed) and so the Runner would not have the option to bypass it.

Q: Does Your Digital Life include itself when being played?

A: Your Digital Life doesn’t include itself when being played because it is in the play area, not HQ, while it is resolving.

Q: How does Mitosis work with A Teia?

A: If you have two remote servers, you cannot play Mitosis. If you have less than two, you will install one card and place two advancement counters on it. Then, A Teia will trigger and you may install a card in the root of or protecting another remote server. Once you have chosen whether or not to do this, if you have two remote servers, Mitosis will not be able to create another server (as A Teia limits you to two) and you will not install another card with it. You may choose to decline to install using A Teia in this instance. If at this stage you still only have one remote server, you will resolve the second Mitosis install as normal.

Q: I am playing Arissana and I approach a piece of unrezzed ice. If the corp chooses not to rez it, can I then use Arissana to install a Kyuban and gain 2 credits?

A: You cannot. Once both players pass in succession during the paid ability window in which ice can be rezzed, you move to the next step. The next paid ability window is after you pass that ice, so a Kyuban installed in this window would not see you pass it and would not trigger.

Q: How does No One Home interact with Oppo Research when its Threat 3 text is active?

A: No One Home triggers the first time you would take any number of tags (or damage) in a turn. Oppo Research gives the Runner 2 tags from its base text, at which point No One Home meets its trigger condition. The Runner may then use No One Home to avoid those 2 tags, but regardless of the choice or the outcome, the Corp may then pay 5 credits to give the Runner 2 tags. No One Home’s trigger was already ‘used up’ the first time Oppo Research tried to give tags, and so it won’t be able to prevent the second set.

Q: Does the Corp have to tell the Runner which card they install with Epiphany Analytica’s ability?

A: The Corp has to tell the Runner which of the three cards they install (top, second, or third from the top) but they do not need to reveal it. If the Runner knows what the top cards of R&D are, e.g. by having accessed them on the previous turn, they will know what card the Corp installed.

Q: Who draws first with Umbrella?

A: The active player (almost always the Runner at the time Umbrella is used) makes their decision first, and then the inactive player makes their decision. Then the player(s) that chose to draw do so simultaneously. 

Q: Which ice does Living Mural need to match the strength of to use its Interface ability?

A: An Interface ability may only be used if the icebreaker matches the strength of the ice you are encountering. The ice you are hosting Living Mural on doesn’t matter (unless that is the ice you are encountering).

Q: If I have 1 credit, Strike Fund in hand and Patchwork in play, can I discard Strike Fund to gain 2 credits and play a Sure Gamble with the reduction from Patchwork?

A: Yes. Patchwork uses Interrupt timing, so its ability resolves before costs are paid. When you trash Strike Fund as part of that ability, a checkpoint is reached and the trigger condition of Strike Fund is met, so you gain 2 credits. You then have 3 credits and Patchwork reduces the play cost of the card you are playing by 2, so you can play Sure Gamble.

Those of you who are interested in further detail will have a juicy update to sink your teeth into when the new version of the Comprehensive Rules document lands on the Organizers section of our website, alongside rules clarifications on individual card pages on NetrunnerDB. Those updates will go into much more depth, but we felt these questions would be more common and we wanted to highlight them in advance of the Continental Championships. In addition, Ed from the Null Signal Station podcast has caught up with the rules squid himself, Cephalopod Wizard, to cover these rulings in more detail ahead of Continentals. You can find that conversation on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, the cast’s RSS feed, or wherever you get your podcasts.

I want to thank everybody on the rules team for clarifying these rulings. We hope you enjoy playing with The Automata Initiative as much as we’ve enjoyed playing and creating it!


  • Tamijo

    Tamijo is Null Signal's Recruitment Team Lead, and has been a member of the EDI Team since its inception. It enjoys anarch decks, tags, and how queer this community is.