Rules explained in my own inimicable style - as I (OP=Vitenka) think of them. Which is probably better than the rulebook (which deliberately reads like a programming manual in parts)
The magic number is five. You start with five cards, and five bits (counters representing money).
Everything is based upon actions. You get four actions per turn. (Well, technically the corp only gets three and a free card - but it's easier to think of it as four and a requirement that it uses the first one to draw a card)
The fifth action, presumably is a secret.
See what I mean about technical distinctions?
Every card has a cost (top right) - you pay this cost in bits when you use it.
Some cards stay in play - others don't. Operations and Preps don't. All others do.
The corp plays its cards face down. The runner plays face up (unless the card says otherwise). Oh, operations are face up too.
At this point, you really need a diagram. Maybe I'll insert one later.
The gamefield has a layout. The corp will have multiple 'data forts' (or 'forts') - three of which have specific names, and the rest of which are 'subsidary data forts' Each of these might have multiple pieces of ice (some face up, some face down) in front of it - ice is turned sideways to show what it is.
The first named fort is the archives. This is the corps trash pile. If the runner gets in here, they get to access everything in it. Not terribly useful unless the corp has been discarding a lot, or the runner has a card to make it more useful.
Secondly, R&D. The corps deck goes here. If the runner gets in here, he gets to access the top card (or, as always, do something else if using a card that says so)
Thirdly - HQ - the corps hand. Get in here, and you get to access a random card.
If you get into a subsidary data fort, then you get to access whatever the corp has put there - which could well be agenda.
Oh, what is 'access'? Simple - you get to see it. If it's agenda (silvery colour) you get to steal it - and that's how you win - collect seven points of agenda. If not, and it has a trach cost (bottom left, little trashcan symbol) then you can choose to pay that cost and, force the corp to discard that card (to archives it goes!) If neither of those, then, unless you have a card in play that says something else, tough. But at least you get to se it, so you have an idea what the corp is up to. (Oh, ok - some cards 'go off' when accessed - they'll tell you what to do)
So - how does the runner get into dataforts? The runner RUNS. The runner CANNOT WIN UNLESS THEY RUN. Don't forget to RUN. LOTS. There's my gameplay tip for the runner ;)
If you run a datafort, then there is a sequence of events which boils down to:
Choose whether or not to 'jack out' (cut your losses and abort the run)
If the first ice is face down, the corp may choose to pay the cost of the ice, and rez it.
If not, move on to the next piece, and so on.
The runner must now choose whether to use a program to break each subroutine on the ice (they need a breaker that says 'break xxx' - there are three types of ice: wall, codegate and sentry - though there are also more specific keywords) - you need to pay to increase the strength of the breaker to equal or higher, then pay to break each subroutine. Sometimes the cost of this is zero.
Any subroutines you didn't break take effect - usually nasty, and often ending the run.
Move on to the next piece.
When the runner gets past all the ice, they get one last chance to pull out - and then they access whatever is inside the datafort. Which could be a trap... But could also be agenda.
Note: Raised strength only lasts for one piece of ice (unless, as always, the card says otherwise) Once rezzed (turned face up) ice stays that way until something puts it back.
Right - at this stge you're ready for your first game. Every rule from here on is pretty much 'added fluff' that makes the game more interesting. But you can ignore it until you hit it.
Damage. Lots of things do damage to the runner. The runners hand represents (amongst other things) their health. Every point of damage they take requires them to discard a random card from their hand. Take more points of damage than you currently have cards in hand? GameOver.
'Meat Damage' and 'Net Damage' are identical - except that some cards prevent one but not the other. 'Brain Damage' is special - it permanently reduces your hand size.
Oh yeah, hand size. It starts at five (for both players) and at the end of every turn you must discard down to your hand size. If your hand size is negative that is game over. But only at the end of the turn... You can have more cards than you have hand size, but again, only until the end of the turn. Use 'em or lose 'em.
Traces and Tags. Both players take a pile of bits off the table, and hide some of them in one hand and hold it out. Then they both reveal how many they hid. Those bits are SPENT. (Note, you can hold out more bits than you currently have, but only if you have some card (usually a hidden resource) that lets you get them there and then. No loans.) Now you work out your total. The corps total is simple. It's the number of bits they held out. The runners is harder - they need to spend it on activating cards that say 'base link' (can only use one) and 'increase link' (can use as many as you link) If the runner has a higher total than the corp, the trace fails - move on. If the corp has the same or higher, then whatever the card says after the trace, happens. This is usually bad.
A 'tag' is a mark that the corp knows how to find the runner. The corp ALWAYS knows how to make the runners life a misery. While the runner is tagged, two extra actions become available.
Corp only: Spend two bits and trash any one resource of your choosing.
Runner only: Spend two bits and remove a tag.
The runner can have more than one tag at once.
Note that the nastiest death dealing cards can only be used while the runner is tagged - but the corp has a tendency to hang onto them. Note also that the corp CANNOT tag the runner until the runner runs - but the runner HAS to run. But the runner might want to wait until it has a bit of protection.
MU Blegh. Luckily, you can mostly ignore it. You get four memory units. All programs use some, a few use more than one. Some other cards give you more. You may trash a program when you need more - thus freeing it up, but you lose the program.
Strategy note: The corp can win at any time it has 25 bits or more (well, it needs a certain combination of cards in its hand, but if you haven't run HQ lately, you can't be sure it doesn't) It can score agenda without having it in a fort during the runners turn when it has 11 bits or more. Never let the corp get too rich, make it spend money trying to stop you.
Ok - that's playing the runner - playing the corp needs slightly more, and is advised to learn later due to it all being face down.
To install ice, it always goes OUTSIDE all ice currently on that fort. It costs you 1 per ice already there. You MAY trash pre-existing ice when you install. Shuffle it all up, and then install outside (to make it cheaper, if the runner has managed to make a piece of ice useless) Remember - the threat of face down ice is worse than ice the urnner can see.
Installing in a fort. You can put an upgrade into any fort - as many upgrades as you like - even R&Q, HQ and archives. You may put ONE [ node or agenda ] into a subsidary fort.
Advancing a node: Put a bit from your pool onto the node.
Scoring: You may score agenda at any time during your turn - without taking an action - if:
It is installed in a subsidary fort
It has as many bits advanced onto it as its cost (top right)
You don't pay anything - the bits you advanced are enough.
Note that this means you can go straight from a bunch of face down cards to winning the game...
You may ONLY advance a node if it is Agenda, or it specifically says so.
You may rez a node or upgrade at ANY time (during your turn, or the runners - actually, there are a few specific times, but basically any time that makes sense) - just pay the cost, and it is then ready for use.
No text on a face down card does ANYTHING until you turn it face up.
You may look at your face down cards at any time. You may not look at your opponents.
Tips: Always have ice on R&D - you never know whether or not there is agenda in there. Put ice on at least one subsidary data fort - but don't worry too much. Most runners will ignore most nodes. Except when you want them to ;) Ice on HQ is important. Too much and they'll be convinced you have something worth protecting, too little and they'll be convinced you are bluffing. Maybe.
Bluff is your friend.
Remember that you don't have to pay for ice when it is installed - but you DO have to be able to pay for it when you want to use it. On the plus side, once it's paid for, it stays put...
I DID warn you it was complicated. It's not as bad as it seems, really. Enjoy.