There hasn't been a review of this card for a while and I keep forgetting to play around it. so let's go over this card in general, and some of the newer combos for everyone's favourite way to turn large amounts of money and a cocky or careless runner into a flatline. (or at least, everyone who's forgotten about the colour yellow and the dangers of leaving your window open.)
The defining feature of the card is that condition. In most games the runner's stealing agendas three, maybe four times at most, depending on your agenda suite and certain recently unbanned tricks. The last one of those steals is winning them the game, so there are going to be very few windows where this card does anything in any given game. You need to make them count. Stay rich, because you have to win that trace. Keep the runner poor, because you have to win that trace. If they're poor, threaten to score out, offer them a fork between a hitman knocking down their door and letting you win by further your nefarious plans. Remember you can play multiple in a turn, and take a bit of time running the numbers if you need to. (As a rule of thumb, if you have more punitives than you need, each extra punitive is worth 2 credits minus the runner's link, though they're also useful insurance against I've Had Worse, Imp, Edward Kim: Humanity's Hammer, or similar Anarch tricks.)
Making sure you get the most out of this card, though, starts at deckbuilding, and there are a few things to consider:
-Your agenda suite.
Obviously, to get the most out of this card and for it to be worth the slots, you want to be able to threaten a flatline with it. If you're on all one pointers, then even if you have all three in hand and infinite credits the runner can just make sure they're not stealing more than one a turn and not have a care in the world. Two pointers are a bit better, but even then you need all three to land or the runner to steal multiple at once to get the kill from a full hand, and both of those are things you have very little control over. Realistically, to make this card worth playing, you want to be on almost exclusively three pointers, to maximise the threat of every steal. Even after that, not all three pointers are created equal (and there are a handful of sneaky agendas that are worth less but still have helpful effects for the Punitive kill plan). Agendas that punch up in a punitive kill plan include:
Obokata Protocol, because if the runner steals it you're likely to only need to land one Punitive
City Works Project, for similar reasons (and the fork with Neurospike I'll come to in a moment)
Bellona makes them a bit poorer, though it's not as good as the other two
Global Food Initiative, for giving them less compensation for the steal - the fact it's only worth 2 points to the runner means there's a chance they'll have to steal 4 agendas rather than 3 to win the game, giving the chance for another punitive. It's not ideal in a 40 card deck where you can run, for example, SDS Drone Deployment and City Works Project, but where it does shine is with our next card:
Divested Trust. Finally! A card that lets you play a single Punitive for 9 damage! (They make a multiaccess run, steal 3 3 pointers but you forfeit a divested on the first) While it's not worth 3 points itself, once scored it means if the runner gets in you can take back that 3 pointer the runner just stole and get money to punitive them with - it still counts as stolen for damage (and if they grab it back from HQ that just increases the single Punitive damage). Plus, it makes the option of scoring out slightly easier.
It's also worth noting that agendas with costs to steal do allow some degree of counterplay if the runner is aware you're on punitive - they can choose not to steal if they're too broke to survive. (They do still need to win the game at some point, so this isn't that much of a dealbreaker)
There are a few cards that are very good alongside Punitive Counterstrike, (beyond good old reliable economy), because they can function as extra copies, keep the runner poor, or enhance the scoring fork. In the economy corner, though, special mention goes to NGO Front for being able to bait the runner into getting dragged through your remote and pay you for the privelige. Reversed Accounts fulfils a similar role - either they run it and are poorer because you've dragged them through the remote, or they don't and you hit them right in the credit pool to save on the traces. Consulting Visit and Archived Memories both effectively function as exactly the second copy of Punitive, which is useful since you need two to get the kill against any hand that isn't nearly empty. You play the first Punitive, either Archived it back and play it again, or CoVis to search for and play the second punitive.
The real "secret" spicy combo, though, is Neurospike, and specifically its interaction with City Works Project (and Dedication Ceremony as a bonus safety tool to get it out of the runner's reach faster) - you tick up the City Works with a lot of counters in a remote, while waiting until you have two Neurospikes (or a CoVis/Archived) so you can score and hit the runner for 6 - Punitive here acts a safety valve against the runner trying to interfere by stealing your City Works, because in order to steal the City Works that you're leaving around with a load of counters on it, the runner will take a Lot of damage, and so end their turn in range of a single punitive. The deck has issues - it's inherently a combo deck, and is vulnerable to being sniped from centrals or generally being put under too much pressure to be allowed to assemble it, and though Punitive gives you a little recourse there it's still a weakness that's inherent to the deck's plan.
Salem's Hospitality is also a potential tech card that supports this - it can get a card out of their hand, which is pleasant if it brings them into kill range. Where it shines is against I've Had Worse, so if there's a lot of Anarchs in your playgroup or meta it might be worth trying to slot it.
Overall, despite what the previous review says, I wouldn't consider Punitive to be as free an include as it makes it out to be, especially if your deck is centred on a flatline plan - it requires significant economic support and a specific agenda suite to pose a credible threat - it's cheaper in influence but makes a broader demand on the shape of your deck than Hard-Hitting News + BOOM!.
As for playing around it on the runner side, the first and simplest tip is remembering it exists and your opponent plays that deck a lot :p. More practically, if you see a Punitive, you want to make sure you're out of kill range - ending your turn with 3 or more cards in hand makes their job a lot harder and means they need to be richer relative to you. Also, be conscious of your relative wealth - if they're broke you can go as empty-handed as you like, if you're both similar in wealth and at about 5-7, you're in major danger because the corp doesn't need to boost by much to win both traces., if you're both at similar wealth and at a lot more than 5 then below 3 cards is dangerous because they can probably force one Punitive through. (Also, my limited understanding of Punitive math it's generally only worth boosting against the one that kills you - by hanging onto those credits until the last moment you're making them pay a lot to boost the punitives that bring you into kill range and the one that kills you, those credits effectively pull repeat duty)
One last comment on this extremely long review - the flavour. You're a runner. From your perspective, you're hot stuff. A big deal. Kind of important. Switch things around for a moment. You're the Corp. Ok, maybe not the whole Corp, but someone a bit important. Definitely moreso than the IT Department. Runners are just another problem someone else gets paid to deal with, same as doing the bins or defrauding the government. You have much more important concerns, like making sure your big presentation goes well and keeping on the good side of the Haas-Bioroid scientists you see occasionally at big events collaborating with even if you know most of them are just working on their own stuff on corporate time. Until now.
For someone, somewhere, that last job went pretty well. They got in and out pretty smooth, even if that new Cobra bit pretty hard. Meanwhile, on the other side, you've just had their day ruined. It was meant to be the biggest meeting of your life. Your best shot at a promotion, and all the holoprojectors were instead showing pictures of someone's cat. You want answers. More than that, you want revenge. Fortunately, IT has an IP address, you managed to convince someone in Accounting and your supervisor in a panicked conversation minutes before you were due to present that this runner is a threat to the company at large, so they're willing to fund it. You've promised to give the kid of someone in security a lift to their football game, and in return their mum's done a bit of work and discovered that this runner hasn't exactly sprung for a getaway vehicle. Obviously, they can't deal with it themselves - having a couple of goons march over and kill someone in Broad Daylight would risk it being traced back to them, and, sure, maybe Weyland could get away with murder in the streets, but company policy is to have some separation. Fortunately, you've found someone. Their prices are expensive, but they'll get revenge. You were lucky you could convince your supervisor immediately. A day later, and it would have been old news. Runners come knocking all the time, script kiddies poking and probing and getting themselves fried on ice, and even Weyland's money only stretches far enough to deal with immediate and verified threats.