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Sorry if this is quite a basic question, but I've reviewed the rule book a few times and haven't been able to answer it myself (although I appreciate that doesn't mean the answer isn't there, but I've just not been able to find it!).

When a Runner encounters a rezzed piece of ICE, that ICE has a numeric strength and perhaps a number of subroutines (as well as encounter events/abilities, but those are not relevant to my question). I think I understand that when it comes to the subroutines, as long as they are either broken or do not include "End the run" as an effect, the Runner is not prevented from proceeding past the piece of ICE, but I'm not 100% clear on how the strength of the ICE factors into this.

I know that the Runner must have an installed Icebreaker with at least the same strength as the ICE being encountered in order to be able to interact with the ICE (and therefore break the subroutines). But my question is: Does the type of the Icebreaker need to match that of the ICE being encountered to be able to use the strength to gain access to interact?

So for example, if the Runner has an installed Mimic icebreaker, which has a strength of 3 and the ability to break Sentry subroutines, can it be used to gain access to a non-Sentry piece of rezzed ICE which equal or lower strength, with a different icebreaker (with a strength lower than that of the encountered ICE) then used to break some/all of the subroutines (or not, if the Runner is happy to let the subroutines run)?

  • I'm not completely sure what you're asking, but to be clear: you don't need an icebreaker in order to encounter a piece of ice and have its subroutines fire. Essentially if you don't have an icebreaker installed, or don't have one that can break the specific type of ice subroutines you are dealing with, then the strength doesn't matter. The strength is the number an icebreaker must be at in order to break its subroutines, but has nothing to do with whether you can run and encounter it. – user30903 Feb 15 '17 at 12:58
  • I see, so the only relevance the strength of the ICE plays is to determine how strong an icebreaker must be in order to be able to break any subroutines on that piece of ICE? – 3N1GM4 Feb 15 '17 at 13:03
  • That is correct – user30903 Feb 15 '17 at 14:04
  • Thanks, feel free to post as an answer and I will upvote and accept. – 3N1GM4 Feb 15 '17 at 14:16
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Unless otherwise stated, strength simply determines which icebreakers can interact with (typically meaning break subroutines on) a piece of ice. From page 16 of the rulebook:

An icebreaker can only interact with ice that has equal or lower strength than the icebreaker.

Notice that the individual icebreaker whose breaking ability you want to use needs to have high enough strength, the strength of your other icebreakers isn't a factor. It's also worth noting:

Many icebreakers allow the Runner to temporarily increase the icebreaker’s strength by spending credits...This strength increase lasts only while the current piece of ice is being encountered, unless otherwise noted by card abilities. After an encounter with a piece of ice, the icebreaker’s strength returns to the value shown on its card.

Just to be clear, it's certainly possible that at some point in the future an ice will be designed for which the strength factors into some other effect (e.g. "do X meat damage. X is the strength of this ice"), but I don't believe there's anything like that in the card pool today.

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Mimic cannot break non sentry ice. Nor does the strength of Mimic matter when trying to break ice of a different type with a different icebreaker, each icebreaker is totally independent of others, with the exception of a few like Baba Yaga, which hosts other breakers to get their abilities and Crowbar, Spike and Shiv which set strength based on number if installed breakers.

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