Kakurenbo is a strange card that's somewhat looking for a home.
At its heart, Kakurenbo is a card that installs and advances things. Those are both basic actions; normally, if a card's effect can be replicated with basic actions, the card is designed to do that more efficiently. For example:
- Mushin No Shin: cost ; effect 1 install + 3 advances (3, )
- Dedication Ceremony: cost 1, ; effect 3 advances (3, )
- Saraswati Mnemonics: Endless Exploration ability: cost 1, ; effect 1 install + 1 advance (1, )
- Priority Construction: cost 1, ; effect 1 install (ignoring all costs) + 3 advances (3+, )
- Shipment from Tennin: cost 2, ; effect 2 advances (2, )
In all those cases, we have savings. Normally there's a saving of a couple of credits, but more notably, every single one of those cards has a click saving. And when it comes to installing and advancing, a click saving is really powerful, because it lets you get more counters on a card before the Runner sees it.
Many of the above-listed cards have drawbacks preventing you from unconditionally using them to immediately score an agenda; it doesn't take much Netrunner knowledge to see why "IAAA, score" is a powerful play that fundamentally changes the game when it's possible. But even if you don't have the ability to do that with an agenda, many other advanceable assets also care about being able to advance them highly before the Runner sees them, especially in Jinteki (which is why, when fast-install cards have the "cannot score or rez" drawbacks, they generally come in red). If you IAA a Project Junebug, then a Runner will be set back somewhat if they decide to check it, but it won't be all that hard a blow; they were prepared for potentially taking 4 net damage, their hand size is likely larger than that, it won't take long to draw back up. And if you use only basic actions, an IAA is the fastest you can charge your Junebug up. Mushin No Shin would let you IAAAA your Junebug before giving the Runner an opportunity to check; surviving a check on that with only basic actions would be "draw, draw, draw, run" and leave the Runner with no cards in hand going into the Corp's turn, something that a Jinteki deck shouldn't have much trouble taking advantage of.
So after seeing the sort of cards that Kakurenbo has to compete with, we can look at its numbers and get very confused:
- Kakurenbo: cost 2, ; effect 1 install + 2 advances (2, )
This isn't a Mushin No Shin. It isn't a fast-advance-for-assets. It doesn't do anything any faster than you could do it normally!
As such, any possible use of Kakurenbo has to think about "why am I using Kakurenbo, and not just manually IAAing the same target?". The whole "shuffle around cards in Archives to hide what you're doing" effect doesn't actually help when installing a card from hand, because if you directly install a card, the Runner still normally doesn't know what it is (unless they happen to know everything in HQ already, e.g. because they knew last turn and also saw the top card of R&D). So there are only a few differences between the operation and the basic action that might potentially make it usable:
It can be used to retrieve a card from Archives, if the card you wanted to IAA isn't in your hand. In other words, this can be used as a kind-of janky Archived Memories / Restore equivalent in Jinteki colors; you're retrieving the card and installing it with no click loss, nor without the loss of other cards of the same type, but with the drawback of having to IAA it rather than doing something else with the card. If the card you want to install was face-down (e.g. an agenda or an ambush that was earlier discarded to hand size), then this will also conceal its identity from the runner. If it was face-up, though, a runner with a good memory will only need a single Archives run to figure out which card you installed; they can simply look there to see which card is missing.
So this effect isn't particularly good for shell-game purposes, but might nonetheless be helpful for recursion in cases where you don't care if the Runner knows what you're doing. The other review mentions NGO Front, which is a good example of the sort of card that can be IAAed unprotected even when the Runner knows what it is; a Kakurenbo on an NGO Front is basically the equivalent of Hedge Fund, click for credit, click for credit. Another good example is the in-faction Bio Vault, which can quite usefully do work protecting a pre-existing scoring remote.
It becomes better for shell-game purposes if you can fill your Archives full of ambushes that fire from there, thus discouraging the Runner from checking. As of the 20.06 ban list, this is very difficult; Shock! has rotated, and Breached Dome is banned, so the nastiest thing a modern Jinteki deck is likely to have in Archives is Cyberdex Virus Suite. Given that Kakurenbo is in Uprising, it won't be of any use in the older formats, either; you'd have to play an "almost all cards legal" format, in which case you probably have more broken things to be doing.
Note that this card has the "Remove this operation from the game instead of trashing it." line of text, that's normally reserved only for recursion cards, even though it's probably unnecessary in the case of this card in particular (as it only retrieves one card); this implies to me that NISEI probably had Archives recursion in mind as one of the primary uses for this card when designing it.
It flips Archives face down. Industrial Genomics: Growing Solutions would have loved this effect, if the two cards were ever legal at the same time (but sadly, they weren't). Maybe that's the reason you'd play Kakurenbo in an older format. Apart from that, this effect doesn't seem particularly useful; it isn't like it forces the Runner to forget all the cards they saw earlier (although maybe some Runners will).
It allows you to trash cards from HQ. This is something the Corp can do anyway, by discarding to hand size, but that's sometimes undesirable (requiring overdrawing, which often places agendas in HQ before you're ready for them), and is something that the Corp often wants to be able to do without making it obvious that's what they're doing. (In particular, if you're planning to hide an agenda in Archives due to flood, you definitely don't want the Runner to figure out that that's what you're up to.) If you use Kakurenbo to trash one card from HQ, then install a card previously from Archives, then it looks the same as if you installed a card from HQ; perhaps the Runner will decide that they don't know what the card is anyway and thus that there's no point running Archives to see if anything is missing from it. This seems like a high-risk strategy and not strong enough to lead me to put Kakurenbo in a deck, but it might be a fringe benefit.
If you trash more than one card, it will be obvious what you're up to, but in some cases that might not matter, e.g. when it's already known that the Runner won't survive an Archives run due to a large concentration of Archives traps, or unbreakable ICE on the server.
It's a different type of action from the "install" and "advance" basic actions. Haas-Bioroid has something of a sub-theme of caring about types of actions; in some combo decks, being able to perform one action as a different type of action has been valuable. For example, MirrorMorph: Endless Iteration's ability triggers if you perform three different types of action in a turn.
The most notable card in this respect is Jeeves Model Bioroids, which triggers if you spend three clicks on the same sort of action. An IAA turn will never trigger Jeeves; you only spent two clicks advancing. On the other hand, Kakurenbo triggers Jeeves automatically, being an operation that naturally costs three clicks.
What's notable here is that Kakurenbo's main drawback, of not actually saving you any credits or clicks, gets entirely negated if you have a rezzed Jeeves: the bonus click from Jeeves makes up for the complete lack of bonus clicks from Kakurenbo. And that fourth click becomes hugely valuable in this context, because it gives you a third advance for an IAAA. That's faster than you could normally advance a card, and Kakurenbo has no restrictions against rezzing or scoring. So Jeeves + Kakurenbo is a two-card combo that lets you score a 3-advancement agenda from hand. It would also allow you to immediately use a hypothetical asset or upgrade that requires three advancements to use (although as far as I can tell, no such assets or upgrades currently exist).
So in conclusion, Kakurenbo is not really a Mushin No Shin or Dedication Ceremony at all. Taking account everything it actually does, it is in effect a weird sort of Restore equivalent that also lets you score 3/x agendas from hand if you happen to have a Jeeves Model Bioroids installed already, and might potentially have some small amount of shell-game usage if Archives happens to be heavily iced. It's clear how the ability to fast-advance might be useful in a deck (and in fact, the only use I've managed to make of Kakurenbo is the Jeeves combo in a fast-advance deck). Its other abilities are somewhat all over the place and don't seem all that helpful, but perhaps they'll be useful to some future deck (the requirement for an iced Archives immediately makes me think of a Jinteki: Replicating Perfection shell-game deck that wants to reuse Ronin and Project Junebug, which might be viable but probably isn't the best Replicating Perfection build).
This is a really fantastic review that covers almost everything you would want to know about Kakurenbo. Great stuff!— Trinity_
Pretty cool review! I only have to add that the only other spice (apart from cyberdex) that you can get in the archives is... news team by now.— valerian32
+1 great review!— TheGardener