Netrunner is the best card game you haven’t played – which means this might take some explaining. It’s a rare example of asymmetric gameplay: one player takes up the part of a shadowy megacorporation, hell-bent on fulfilling agendas of ruthless profit and exploitation; the other player is the scrappy loner hacker – the “runner” – looking to bring down the system and expose said agendas. The card pools of one side are completely incompatible with the other, and even the way that each side is played is drastically different from their opposing counterpart.
It has devotees all over the world, scurrying around the edges of the Magic: the Gathering juggernaut, meeting on Slack channels and insular Facebook groups, Discord servers and pirated game simulators, to share their love of the game – and isn’t it a bit of wry irony that the only online means to play a game of hacking is via pirating the card images out of the hands of the company that owns it?
Magic’s younger hipster brother (for both were the genius fever-dreams of creator Richard Garfield) gets less comparable attention from the overall tabletop gaming ecosystem – but no less passion. It takes a certain level of infatuation, after all, to do what John Dale Quimpo of Manila, Philippines did: name his new business after his favorite deck archetype of the game.
In-game faction Weyland Consortium is the very spitting image of a brutal war-profiteering industrialist. Big, unsubtle projects, burly men in bad suits, a tendency to use “private contractors” to do their dirty work, and are the most likely of all the corporation factions to do “meat damage.”
Or, basically, they shoot at you.
Not coincidentally, Weyland decks that focus on taking the runner out via said damage are called Butcher Shops.
Quite deliberately, Quimpo’s new store is, in fact, Manila’s new Weyland Meatshop.
“We sell meat for a living,” said Quimpo, describing the business’s origins. “My business partner and I used to play a lot of Netrunner back during the height of Supermodernism and Butcher Shop.” Both being deck archetypes. “We sell meat to restaurants, hotels, school cafeterias, food processing businesses and wet markets. We wanted to open a retail business that was in line with our main business, and so we figured a butchershop – or meatshop, as they are known here in Manila – would be a good complement.”
They haven’t gone out of their way to make their meatshop a Netrunner-themed novelty store, but their love of the game’s embedded deep. The name of the store’s inherently distinct among their local competitors, and even the logo and coloring play into their passions. “I wanted green to be the main color, even though traditionally meatshops here use red as their main color, because we have to pay tribute to Weyland Consortium,” said Quimpo. “I also made sure the logo had an Easter Egg dedicated to Weyland – the pig's butt in the M in the word ‘meatshop’ is an upside down bomb because of Scorched Earth and Boom!”
Both Scorched Earth and Boom being cards that renders the opposing player into so much minced meat.
Tabletop in the Philippines
Manila’s Weyland Meatshop is a three-person operation, with Quimpo’s wife involved as well – not just as a fellow proprietor, but as a player. John himself got into the game in the first place thanks to exceedingly positive reviews of it by contributors to BoardGameGeeks.com.
I got into Netrunner way back in January 2013, shortly after the core set was released. I'm a huge fan of War of the Ring, and back then Alexfrog was a very prolific poster on BoardGameGeek. I enjoyed reading his posts about War of the Ring, so I checked out what other games he rated a 10 -- and Original Netrunner was one of them.
I was actually planning on buying some starter boxes and booster packs of Original Netrunner on Ebay, but then I got wind of the FFG Reprint, so I waited for that instead. I joined the local Facebook group of excited players, and bought two Core Sets when they became available, and started joining tournaments as soon as I figured out how to play.
I convinced my wife - then fiancee - to play with me, so I could have a regular playtesting partner. She's super competitive, almost as much as I am, and we pushed each other to become better and better, and we've been winning tournaments ever since.
In fact, the tabletop gaming scene in the Philippines is thriving. Said Quimpo:
Tabletop gaming is on the rise, more and more boardgame cafes are popping up in Metro Manila, and even more players are buying their own games to play at home. I'm also a huge boardgaming fan, though I consider Netrunner and boardgaming to be completely separate hobbies. Magic is HUGE over here and I think they have hundreds of players during the Pro Tour. I also used to play Magic, but I never got into it competitively.
Warhammer and other miniature games also have a decent following and I'm even looking to get into Blood Bowl when I find the time. Magic the Gathering and Warhammer get a lot of support from Neutral Grounds, one of the more well-known tabletop gaming retailers here in the Philippines.
Of course, as Quimpo noted: the overall scene doing well isn’t quite the same as Netrunner doing well. The recent competitive metagame hasn’t been too friendly to its adherents. “We used to have 18 to 20 players during monthly Game Night Kit tournaments, but now have around 10 to 12. Our Nationals in 2015 had around 45-ish players, and Nationals in 2016 only had around 35ish,” he said. Imbalances to factions – and Weyland slipping into irrelevance – is the most common form of complaint among its forums and channels, and he’d definitely like a little more love to his favorite faction in upcoming releases.
“The problem with Weyland [right now] was that it used to be more difficult to score, especially after the midgame,” said Quimpo, going into detail about the difficulties the faction now faces in the current state of the game. Runners have gotten a lot cleaner and efficient – and richer. What were once insurmountable walls of Intrusive Countermeasure Electronics, or ICE, to lock them out of the corporation’s resources are now mere speed bumps.
Granted, the game is explicitly balanced so that there should never be such thing as an unwinnable scenario to the runner – eventually, they’ll either have the tricks or the sheer brute-force cash to break through. But things may get better sooner rather than later.
“I think the new Weyland ICE like Veritas, Mausolus, and Bulwark will help,” said Quimpo. “I know two-time World Champion Dan D'Argenio also designed a Weyland ICE that helps Weyland.”
And when it comes out, it’ll be once again time for a little bit of classic Weyland Consortium barbequing.