Marvel Snap is a mobile card game that has managed to reduce the complexity and distill it into micro-bursts of distilled fun. The game is getting a wide range of praise from all angles, and for good reason too. This is short, sharp, snappy and a load of fun, and today I’m going to run through some of the reasons why you should be checking out Marvel Snap.
Marvel Snap has some pedigree behind it, combining the potentially winning formula of the Marvel catalog of characters with the brains behind Heathstone, one of the most successful online card games we’ve seen. Second Dinner, who previously worked with Blizzard, have managed to take what’s great about Heathstone and remove the layers of complexity, to create simple to understand card game, while retaining just enough complexity to keep players engaged.
One of the features you’ll notice immediately are how fast the games are. Each game only takes 6 turns per player, meaning games are fast and snackable, meaning you can play a quick game of Marvel Snap when you get a quick moment or break. Sitting on the bus, waiting in a queue, or laying on the sofa at the end of a busy day, Marvel Snap is going to fit into your life very easily. The goal of each game if to get as much power as possible in three available slots, and each turn you place cards in those slots. At the end of the 6 turns, the player who controls two out of three slots, wins the game.
The 3 slots, or locations, are randomly generated, and include the biggest and best locations from Marvel. Each location has various power ups or modifiers, and locations are revealed one by one from left to right, with the modifiers having the potential to turn the tide quite dramatically. This adds a layer of excitement and also randomness to the games, meaning you can either come from behind and win, or have victory snatched away from you at the last minute. Locations are from the greatest hits of Marvel; New York, Dr Banner’s Lab, Wanda’s hometown and many, many more.
The cards are focused on the heroes themselves, ranging from big hitters like Hulk, Spider-man and Iron Man, to lesser known heroes like Agatha Harkness, Elektra, and Green Goblin. Most cards have power ups, usually related to the powers of the super heroes themselves. Iron Man doubles all the power at the location you set him down, Hulk comes in with a huge amount of power and Starlord’s score doubles if your opponent puts a card down in the same lane. Many of the cards have good powers that feel like they were designed with the hero in mind, there are a few cards that feel like the mechanic was designed first and then assigned to a hero, but mostly it’s the right way round.
Teh locations and hero powers can have a dramatic efect on the game. For example, one location extends the match to seven turns rather than six, one location promotes the lowest score possible, you get bonuses for predicting where your oppoent will place cards and many, many more entertaining modifiers. The games are mostly quick and similar, but it’s nice for these wildcards to appear every now and again to mix things up.
Marvel Snap has managed to strip things back to the core gameplay, while at the same time offer up enough randomness so your matches don’t feel the same. The three locations in the middle offer up enough variation to keep things fresh each time. Having three random variables in the game keeps you thinking, and you have to react and adapt your plans quickly. Similar card games have you building your deck and then carrying out a tried and tested strategy, and while you can do that in Marvel Snap the random locations mean you have to switch things up often. It’s a smart addition, while seemingly simple, offers up a decent amount of variety.
Pace and progression are important aspects of the game. The matches are very quick, sometimes 4 or 5 mins long, meaning if you lose it’s not too much of a problem, because you’ll be able to hop back into another match and do better next time. The first few games you will play will be against bots, a standard feature for online multiplayer games these days, but get those games out of the way and you’ll be playing against real opponents, going head to head with the prize being rank up points. For this you are going to need cosmic cubes, and you’ll need ten to level up a rank.
At any point during a match you or your opponent can “Snap” and double amount bet on yourself to win. If you snap and your opponent doesn’t, then you are playing for four cubes. If both of you snap, then it’s eight, meaning an element of bluffing comes into it. If you don’t feel that confident you can retreat back, although you will end up with egg on your face. If you do retreat, you will end up saving some cubes, rather than playing out a match you were destined to lose anyway.
Helping with the pace of games are the smaller decks, with 12 cards in total. Hearthstone as a comparison has 30. Less cards definitely help with the onboarding process for new players, as well as wrapping your brain around the complexities of the individual cards and their relation to each other. As you play you’ll unlock new cards, and you can manage your decks in the deck building section, swapping out old cards for new if you prefer. You can also build dedicated decks for different playstyles. Less cards in a deck make creating and managing decks simpler and easier, rather than other card games I’ve played that require much more attention to detail.
Regarding the progression you can upgrade your cards through upgrade materials earned by playing. For example, a card will start out like a regular card, then you’ll upgrade it to break out of the frame (with a very satisfying ‘FRAME BREAK’ notification). You have similar upgrade including 3D, and shiny, animated backgrounds and other such effects. Upgrading your cards earns you a collection rank, which then you progress along a battlepass-like structure with upgrade materials as rewards, plus new cards too. This progression system is the core loop of Marvel Snap, keep playing to upgrade cards, collect new cards, swap them back into your deck, and play more matches. It’s streamlined, but with enough endorphine creating moments to get you to come back for more.
This is a free to play mobile game, so there is a certain amount of monetisation, although it’s probably the least amount of agregious monetisation I’ve seen in a game like this. You can’t outright buy all the best cards, you can only buy a certain number of upgrades per day, making it a very limited way of leveling up. The main benefits of spending money at the moment are due to the variations of the cards and collecting different artwork styles. There is also a season pass to buy, which will give you new cards, credits and bonuses for completing bounties. The season pass is generous with it’s rewards and you manage to level up nice and quickly, so it doesn’t seem like a predatory feature in the game.
I’m normally not a fan of mobile games, I steer well clear of them, and I’ve never really been into digital card games. Despite all these facts, I’m really enjoying Marvel Snap and I find myself playing when I have a few moments throughout the day. The games are short, quick and entertaining, and if you have a commute then this is going to pair perfectly well with that, although it equally fits into relaxing on the couch or a quick game before bed. I’ve gone from knowing nothing about the game to playing it most days per week, plus it’s free to download on iOS and Android, and I’d recommend giving it a try.
Developer: Second Dinner Studios
Platforms: iOS, Android, PC
Release date: 9th June 2022