I love great games. Obviously. I’ve been playing hobby games since I was eleven and first tossed D&D dice (thirty-four years ago — oh, my head); and working professionally in the industry for more than twenty years now. So a great game, for me, is one that is fantastic and cherished and re-played many times. Just as enjoyable are brilliant universes/settings that captivate and never let go. Dune, Star Wars, BattleTech, Firefly — to name a few of my all-time favorite. And, of course, Shadowrun.
Twenty-eight years later, I still remember walking into Game Depot in Tempe, Arizona and seeing that brilliant First Edition cover by Larry Elmore as a poster on the wall and stopping dead with a “What is that?!” Our gaming group grabbed four copies of the tabletop RPG the instant it was released, and while I’ve not always played it as much as other games, the dark dystopian universe of the Sixth World has always captivated and fascinated me to no end.
And, of course, one of my all-time favorite things to do is mix those up. After all, IMO, the best universes lend themselves to iterations of experiences across a wide range of mediums. Books, movies, comics, video games, tabletop games: it’s always about that new and enjoyable way to experience a universe we love with friends. The Battlestar Galactica game itself is absolutely amazing, and would’ve been great (almost) regardless of the skin. But, pairing it with such a great and gritty TV series elevated the enjoyment all the more.
While Shadowrun remains a tabletop roleplaying game experience at its heart, Catalyst Game Labs has pushed that envelope into other avenues. First with the critically-acclaimed Shadowrun: Crossfire deckbuilding game, and then with our fast-and-fun, push-your-luck dice game Encounters: Shadowrun. Next up, we’ve got a two-player, dueling hacker card game in Shadowrun: Zero Day.
There are as many ways to reach a final game design as there are, well, games, and I’ve been a party to so many of those different avenues. However, while I love taking a rough game and developing it into a final version, one of my favorite experiences as a games publisher is to discover a diamond that’s sitting there, all polished and ready to go. The best example I have of that from personal experience is The Duke.
Shadowrun: Zero Day is a close second. We’ve made a few subtle tweaks — working with the game designer, Brian Suhre — but, by and large, the game we played last year at the Origins Game Fair is the game you’ll be breaking out to enjoy.
In the real-world, a zero day vulnerability refers to a security hole in just-released software that’s unknown to the vendor. This hole is exploited by hackers, which brings it to the awareness of the vendor, who fixes it as quickly as they can. This exploitation of an unknown weakness is called a zero day attack.
In Shadowrun: Zero Day, two players duel as they each launch a zero day attack against the various Megacorporations of the Sixth World. The goal is to determine who has the brains, guts, and gear to obtain the most paydata in trade secrets, credentials, passwords, nuyen (the currency of Shadowrun) and so on, before the besieged corps can shut the vulnerabilities down.
Set-up is quick, with each player grabbing their twenty data cubes and their draw decks of twelve Tool cards — three Decryption, three Sneak, three Exploit, and three Guard — while building a communal deck of twelve Countermeasure cards. Each player will also place four different face-up Megacorporation Cards, as well as the deck of eight Data cards and twenty-one corresponding Data tokens, which are placed face down. Players then lay out three face-up Countermeasure cards, randomly drawing and placing one Data token on each Countermeasure, as well as revealing face-up three Data cards. Each player then draws four cards from their draw decks and the game is ready to begin.
Play proceeds with one person taking a turn, followed by the opponent. The game ends immediately if three Megacorporation cards have been fully scored, or if you need to fill a Countermeasure spot and you cannot (because the Countermeasure deck is empty). Players then add up their points to determine the winner!
On each player’s turn, they play a Tool card from their hand. Only one type of Tool card can be played at a time, but the player can play as many of that card type as they have in their hand. After they’ve played their cards, if the player has three or fewer left, they draw two cards from their draw deck, and their turn is done.
Playing a Tool card lets a player place a data cube on any matching Countermeasure card (the colors will match up). Once the total cubes placed by both players equal the card’s target number, the player with the most cubes wins the Countermeasure and the Data token on the card and places both in their score pile (both players place any of their Data cubes on the card back into their reserves). If the opponent had at least one Data cube on the defeated Countermeasure, that player may select a Data card to place into their score pile. Once a Countermeasure has been defeated, a new one is revealed to replace it.
For the Megacorporation cards, there are two ways to score. First, if a Tool from a player’s hand is played and there are no Countermeasures corresponding to that Tool, that player automatically places their Data cube(s) on the Megacorporation of their choice. The second option for scoring is when a player defeats a Countermeasure, any of their Data cubes placed that exceed the target number on the Countermeasure are placed on the Megacorporation card of their choice.
As with a Countermeasure, when the total number of Data cubes from both players matches the target number of the Megacorporation, it is scored. The player with the most cubes takes the card and puts it into their score pile, while their Data cubes are returned to their reserve. If the opponent had at least one Data cube on that Megacorporation card, any of their cubes are then placed into their score pile.
Shadowrun: Zero Day is a fun and quick game that lets you dip your toes into the brilliant Sixth World in an engaging way that’ll have you exploiting zero day vulnerabilities over-and-over again.