To play, you need a deck of Runner cards. The only restriction for your deck is that it have at least 45 cards. You will also need access to a few dozen bit counters ('trode caps and black-market coins work well), each of which represents a couple hundred eurobucks worth of run-support information, spare cash and equipment, and so on. When out of play, bits are in your bit bank; when in play, they are in your bit pool. Keep your bit bank handy at the side of your playing area, and your bit pool somewhere closer in front of you.
During the course of the game, you will have a draw pile, called your stack, a face-up discard pile, called your trash, and your hand. Whenever one of your cards is trashed, whether by you or the Corp, it goes to the top of your trash. Your trash is far less secure than any Corporate Archives: both you and Corp can rummage the trash at any time to see what's in it. If your stack ever runs out of cards, you just keep playing the game with any cards left in your hand and ignore any event that requires you to draw when your stack's running on empty.
Your primary goal is to make runs successfully in order to liberate agendas. Occasionally, you will want to make a run to shut down a particularly useful node that the Corp is using. If the Corp leaves one of its data forts unprotected, especially HQ or R&D, you should feel free to run it in the hopes of finding agendas, but beware traps that the Corp might be setting for you. Eventually, the Corp will install ice, which you'll have to deal with. You should have icebreakers that get past walls, code gates, and sentries, or else you may end up helplessly watching the Corporation score its agendas. In order to ensure that you get your icebreakers quickly enough, you will probably want to play either with several types of each category of icebreaker or with cards that let you dig through your deck. In general, you are fairly safe to attempt a run as soon as you have a killer or other anti-sentry icebreaker in play, because walls and code gates do not usually present a threat beyond ending the run. You can make a run without having any icebreakers in play, but if you don't have one and there is ice protecting the fort, you may be asking for trouble.
In addition to icebreakers, you also should have cards that allow you to avoid receiving tags, or at least get rid of them quickly, and cards that provide links, or you will more than likely end up flatlined. Of course, you will need to draw enough bits to pay for installing your various tools, and to pay for using them.
There are four types of cards in your deck: program, hardware, resource, and prep.
Program: You begin the game with 4 MU, or Memory Units. As the game progresses, you might install certain cards that increase your memory. The combined MU cost of your programs in play cannot exceed the number of MU you have. Since most programs take up 1 MU, this generally means you'll be limited to four programs, or three if you install one of the 2 MU hogs. The number of MU a program takes is indicated in the card's keywords.
Installing a program takes one of your four actions. As you install a program, you may choose to overwrite one or more programs you already have in play, whether or not you need to free up MU. This trashes the program.
If at any time you have too many programs in play for the MU you currently have (for instance, because you just lost some memory chips), you must immediately trash enough programs to correct the situation.
Different types of programs can be distinguished by the color of the dot located in the middle of the left side of the card, and by the icon on the bottom right corner of the card (within which the strength number on icebreakers is located). The following icons and colors are used:
Program Icons and Colors