Digital card games have grown in numbers over the past decade, but few have left their mark more than Hearthstone, which integrated a universally recognized property with easy-to-learn game mechanics. Nearly a decade since Blizzard's game card released, a new studio led by many of those same Hearthstone creators are now taking a universally recognized property and mixing it with easy-to-learn game mechanics. It may not surprise people to hear that lightning may have struck twice, because Marvel Snap, from the team at Second Dinner, is an engaging (and also bite-sized) card gaming experience.
Marvel Snap is a fairly simple game to understand. Without going into all of the details on how to play, it's a game that can best be explained as one you win through control. The idea is to take superhero cards of varying costs, power levels, and on-board effects and use them to take control of two out of three locations. The locations are randomized and also have their own random effects, so players must load up on cards that not only synergize with each other, but also roll with whatever punches the random locations deliver.
The game does a good job in bringing players along, using low-level bots to teach them the ropes before tossing them into the deep end. Outside of the central mechanics, however, there isn't too much to teach. The beauty of Marvel Snap is in its simplicity. At its core, this is a numbers game and the path to victory lies in being able to crunch numbers and solve simple equations. In a nice touch, sometimes the numbers don't lie and they spell disaster, so players are then allowed to retreat before the final turn to keep their losses to a minimum.
Conversely, the game's other main system is the Snap mechanic. Cosmic Cubes are what players use to level up and the Snap mechanic allows them to double down on a single session's base bet. If players feel like they have a game won, they can Snap and try to win double their Cosmic Cube count. This further amplifies the sense of victory and defeat, especially the latter given the way certain interactions can turn everything on its head by the end of the game. For example, one game I played saw an opponent with a mostly empty board played a Ka-Zar, which buffs up 1-Cost cards. I hit the Snap button thinking I had things won, but the opponent's final turn saw him play Ultron, which filled the board with 1-Cost drones, snapping up every location for him. These memorable moment-to-moment interactions and the way that they vary each game because of the randomized locations are a big part of what makes Marvel Snap such a memorable experience and further feed that "one more game" mentality.
The cost of doing battle
If Marvel Snap has a weakness, it's in its progression system. The first thing to note is that there are multiple currencies. That's not unusual for a free-to-play title, but some players could be confused by Credits, Gold, Battle Pass XP, and other forms of currency that are thrown their way. Worse than that, there isn't a whole lot that in-game Gold can actually do.
In-game Gold can help refresh daily Missions and purchase card variants. That's about it. Those looking for Gold to assist with a purchase of a Battle Pass are going to be disappointed, because those can only be purchased with real money. The cost of the Battle Pass is another major issue. On paper, $9.99 USD for a premium Battle Pass isn't a lot. However, Marvel Snap is refreshing these things monthly. At that point, $9.99 a month starts to add up and when players see everything on the Battle Pass track that requires a Premium purchase to unlock, it's hard to say no. The saving grace here is that a Premium Battle Pass doesn't offer an overt competitive advantage. The game doesn't constantly throw ads at users prompting them to buy the Battle Pass, either. In fact, it's possible to avoid spending money entirely and still have a lot of fun with Marvel Snap.
On the subject of daily Missions, these are what help players progress. They provide the necessary Credits to help boost a player's Collection Level to unlock new cards. The problem is that once the daily Missions are done, there isn't a lot left to do. Winning further games will mainly unlock more Boosters and without accompanying Credits, they're not much good. There isn't much incentive to keep playing once the daily Missions are done, other than the bragging rights associated with a higher level.
As a digital card game, Marvel Snap is one of the best to come along in years. On top of being easy to learn, it's a game where you can brainstorm some wild card deck ideas and blow people's minds with Hulk-sized numbers. I've come to greatly appreciate the attention to detail on certain card effects and how they tie to their associated heroes, like how Wolverine can be destroyed and simply keep coming back somewhere else on the board. Plus, the game's locations and their effects have been wonderfully creative and I hope to see more of them in the future.
There's room for improvement on the progression front. It takes a while to feel like a collection is really starting to grow. On top of that, there are no user accounts to tie those collections to, as of now. Users can only tie their card collections to their Google or Apple accounts and the latter is not suggested, because the Steam Early Access version will not allow Apple logins.
In spite of some growing pains, Marvel Snap is fantastic and a marvelous first effort from the folks at Second Dinner. Like Marvel itself, it should be fun to see how it grows going forward.
This review is based on a pre-release TestFlight build, as well as the 1.0 iOS version. Marvel Snap is available now and free-to-play on iOS and Android. It is also currently available on Steam Early Access.
- Creative mechanics
- Easy to play and understand
- Sessions are quick
- Gameplay loop leads to memorable moments
- Premium purchases aren't needed for fun
- Monthly Battle Passes could get pricey
- Progression slows heavily after daily Missions
- Can't save card collection without Google/Apple logins
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Marvel Snap review: Snapping into it
I’m still addicted. I hope they don’t change the money model because it’s pretty good right now. I see myself playing for a long awhile.
Only played 30min of it last night but seems good.
Yeah I’m addicted.