Designer Diary: Faction Action
by Audrey Jaeger on Feb 09, 2024
by Mack Martin
I see a lot of discussions these days about the various Cyberpunk RED: Combat Zone factions, what starter a certain player might like, and where the gangs are heading. So, today, I thought we might dive into the philosophy behind each faction’s original design and what the current design team is thinking.
This might be a little longer than my previous blogs, so let’s get started!
Arasaka is defined by a high standard of equipment across their models. Armor 1 and an SMG are the baseline, and many characters have Armor 2 or higher and greater firepower. Suppression isn’t the only way Araska manipulates the [RE]action system either. To represent their teamwork, they have a variety of ways to share [RE]actions or to [RE]act for each other.
Bozos run on Luck tokens. They include a lot of randomness, and Luck tokens help to control that with some bet hedging but with little certainty. In general, the Bozos also include some of our more complicated models. Their Leader Big Top is a pretty potent model at 25EB, but players will need an opponent running Gonks (and some Gonks of their own) to see his full potential.
Danger Gals are a team of mercs focusing on ranged attacks, netrunning, and blast effects. Whether it’s grenades or rockets, they're experts at mowing through gonks or striking targets that have used all their action tokens. Danger Gals take a little finesse, however, as you’ll need careful placement on the battlespace to make the best use of their firepower.
Edgerunners are purposefully a bit of a grab bag. They’re designed to make specific counter-mechanics or strategies available to everyone through the Merc keywords. As a team, they tend to focus on a few heavy hitters that get support from Netrunners. Knowing your enemy is the key to Edgerunner success, which makes sense, considering how much planning goes into a heist or hit.
Gen Red are the masters of the Loot n’ Scoot! Their initial design focuses on leveling up mechanics. A great example of this is Hi-Stick, who is fairly unremarkable at 20EB. Once he gets a couple of campaign levels, however, he comes into his own. This mechanic focus is likely to shift in coming releases. The team currently makes good use of looted gear and attacks with the Stun keyword. That will continue going forward, with a bit more situational deadliness thrown into the mix.
Lawmen are the generalists. They have counters for specific character types (Veterans, Gonks, etc). You’ll find team members who are well-built for holding objectives, bringing firepower, or rushing the enemy line. But you’ll rarely find models that focus heavily on one skill or combat approach. The Officer, for instance, has an effective Assault Carbine, but he’s also got Armor 2 and Melee 2. He’s definitely no slouch in a fistfight!
Maelstrom are Melee focused with a side-order of cyber! As a faction, there’s an expectation that their members will have a bit more gear-per-model than others. This gives them some added customization but can easily spike their EB costs if you’re not careful. They also tend to make good use of Deadly Crits and other Crit abilities. This is because the [RE]action system can see a melee fighter close the gap with Green and Yellow movements, coming into the brawl with Red actions reserved for making meatbags suffer.
Tyger Claws are a team of specialists. Each member tends to focus on maneuverability, shooting, or melee. These tend to be the three big ways scenario victory is achieved, and a team will want to have a spread of all three. It does, however, come with a built-in flaw. If your opponent can correctly assess your team, they might be able to guess your scenario strategy and counter it. This specialization won’t be going away in the future, but you might notice new models that focus on reserve mechanics. This both lends itself to the Tyger Claws overall speed and helps to put more wrenches in their toolbox.
Zoners make heavy use of Gonks in their larger strategy, but in the starter they focus more on shooting solutions. Street King’s accuracy combines well with incendiary rounds early on, and Forty Mike will make short work of enemies who cluster or spend all their actions. The faction can also move quickly as a group, especially with models like Alpha getting Gonks into position.
Whew, that gets us covered on the current state of the Factions as I see ‘em. So what does the future hold? In the short term, Gear. One of the quickest ways for a player to customize the play of their favorite faction is with equipment. The various organized play systems (tournaments and campaigns) alter the way Gear is accessed so that each type of play has a unique metagame suited to the environment. You’ve already seen some of this in the Season 1 organized play document. In addition, we’ve begun testing new Gear cards that supplement faction decks with commonly available chrome, guns, and other iconic toys.
Likewise, we’ll be introducing rules and systems that allow players to field multiple factions together. While it’s vital that each faction has an internal identity, the testing done by my intrepid alpha and beta testers has revealed a very healthy metagame when the teams see a bit more faction crossover. Plus, this little added flexibility goes a long way to supporting narrative play. You’ve already seen this starting with the Season 1 Fixers campaign, and this philosophy will be seeing further development as the storyline evolves.
Whew, I know that’s a lot to take in, but I know I’m excited about the future of Cyberpunk RED: Combat Zone and all the preem gameplay coming!