Whether to praise it or condemn it, everyone seems to be talking about the recent release of Cyberpunk 2077. The CD Projekt Red video game is an adaptation of a series of tabletop roleplaying games released under the Cyberpunk moniker starting all the way back in 1988.
Of course, cyberpunk has been around longer than the roleplaying game that borrowed its name, tracing its roots all the way back to the science fiction New Wave of the 1960s and ‘70s.
It was codified as a genre unto itself with the publication of William Gibson’s Neuromancer in 1984, and author Bruce Sterling has described the form as a “combination of low-life and high tech.”
Want to bring a taste of hacking the ‘net, going up against corrupt megacorps, and just trying to survive on the mean streets of the not-so-distant future to your tabletop? These cyberpunk board games ought to scratch that itch.
Originally released in 2008 by Fantasy Flight Games, Android has quickly become among the crème-de-la-crème of cyberpunk board games.
In the original game, which takes place across two cities — New Angeles on earth and Heinlein on the moon, connected by a space elevator – players attempt to solve a murder in a dystopian cyberpunk setting.
The success of the original game has led to a wide range of spin-offs set in the same universe, including Android: Infiltration, a press-your-luck game in which players attempt to pull off a heist before the cops arrive; a hacking sim called Android: Mainframe; and New Angeles, which flips the script and allows players to take control of competing megacorps.
The original Netrunner was a two-player collectible card game from the creator of Magic: The Gathering, designed and released in 1996.
While the original version is now out of print, Fantasy Flight Games acquired the rights in 2012 and released a new version, now set in the same universe as their popular Android line of board games, called Android: Netrunner.
Shadowrun: Crossfire & Shadowrun: Sprawl Ops
The other big player in the cyberpunk roleplaying game scene is Shadowrun, originally published by FASA all the way back in 1989, now in its sixth edition and published by Catalyst Game Labs.
Set in the “Sixth World,” a cyberpunk version of Earth that also incorporates elements of Tolkien-esque fantasy like dragons, elves, and trolls, Shadowrun has also spawned a number of spin-offs including a collectible card game and, yes, board games.
Shadowrun: Crossfire is a cooperative deck-building game while Shadowrun: Sprawl Ops is a competitive board game where players assemble a team of runners (represented by cardboard standees) and compete for jobs.
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Funded by two separate Kickstarters, Human Interface from Postindustrial Games is a miniatures-based cyberpunk board game combining elements of roleplaying and tabletop skirmish games.
The edition funded by the first Kickstarter, Nakamura Tower, is sadly out of print and only available aftermarket.
However, the most recent edition, Be a Better Human is still available from the publisher's website, and while the two are cross-compatible, either can be played as a standalone game.
A fairly recent arrival on the cyberpunk board game scene, Neon Gods was first released in 2018 by Plaid Hat Games, makers of beloved tabletop favorites like Dead of Winter and Mice and Mystics.
In Neon Gods, players attempt to start (legitimate) businesses and keep them thriving under the threat of street gangs — including recruiting their own toughs to protect their territory — in a “kaleidoscopic near future of heightened reality inspired by sci-fi cinema of the 1970s and 1980s.”
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Also from Plaid Hat Games (in collaboration with several others), Specter Ops is a competitive stealth game in which one player takes control of a secret agent attempting to infiltrate a megacorp facility, while the other players control genetically-enhanced hunters attempting to find and stop them.
With stealth mechanics similar to the popular Scotland Yard boardgame, Specter Ops incorporates a private map to track hidden movements, and was a nominee for the Golden Geek Best Thematic Board Game when it was released in 2015.
It has since spawned a standalone spin-off, Specter Ops: Broken Covenant, which hit shelves in 2018.
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A competitive bidding game set in the seedy underbelly of a Martian colony, Infamy plays quickly and has relatively few components compared to some of the more complex games on this list, but don’t let that put you off.
At the core of its mechanics are a “pay to play” system where players bid for lucrative black market items. The more a player bids, the less their currency is worth, but unless they bid, they don’t have a chance to score infamy points and win the game.
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This is a free print-and-play game in which players take on the role of sub-corporations within the massive Zaibatsu megacorp, competing against each other to dominate or expand the game board, which is made up of hexagonal “tiles.”
The game board is modular and agents, mercenaries, and other assets are represented by standees, while cards add special actions and abilities.
A game that is beloved by those who have played it, the downside of Zaibatsu is that it has never gotten a commercial release, and so it is only available to print out yourself from the games' website. The upside is that it’s free, so trying it has a relatively low buy-in except in time.
Inspired by social deduction games like Mafia or Werewolf, The Resistance places the emphasis less on the “cyber” than the “punk” part of that sobriquet, as players take on the roles of Resistance operatives and Imperial spies.
They’ll have to trust one another enough to pull off secret missions, while also trying to ferret out who the spies are in their midst. Affordable and easy to play, The Resistance is a party game that requires at least five people and operates better with more, so it’s not a good choice for (most) family game nights.
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Released all the way back in 1994 and now long out of print, Edge City is among the earliest attempts at a cyberpunk boardgame and can sometimes still be found on eBay and other aftermarket sellers.
Featuring elements in line with several other games on this list, including a modular game board and player elimination, Edge City puts players in control of “the ultimate hacker … a Data Ripper” as they go up against “ICE Ninjas” and other Rippers in both cyberspace and the urban Sprawl.
Plus, just dig that extremely ‘90s artwork ...