As a longtime MCU-hating hipster, it seems fitting that out of all the possible things that Marvel could drop on us, it was a mobile card game that ultimately converted me. I kid you not, Marvel Snap is just that good.
Developed by Second Dinner, a studio headed up by Ben Brode of Hearthstone fame, Marvel Snap is a digital card game that’s extremely easy to pick up and learn. And unlike Hearthstone or Riot’s Legends of Runeterra, Marvel Snap‘s matches are, well, snappy. They’re fast, they’re over in six (sometimes seven) turns, and every game feels different.
The premise is simple. There are three locations in each match, and whoever has the most points on at least two out of the three locations by the end of turn six wins. The catch is that the locations are random, and they all come with different variables that can absolutely throw a wrench into your plans if you’re unlucky.
Kamar-Taj, for instance, doubles your On Reveal effects. So if you were to play Ironheart there, she would be able to increase the stats of your other cards twice. Or maybe you’ll hit Murderworld, where all cards there are destroyed after turn three, and get completely screwed because you placed a bunch of cards there before the location was revealed.
Locations are revealed on turns one, two, and three, so it’s always a bit of a risk to play a card at an unknown location. But hey, every once in a while, you might get lucky by sneaking a card into Sanctum Sanctorum, which comes with the condition that cards cannot be played there, though they can be moved over.
Of course, tying everything together are the cards themselves. Cards are unlocked as you play the game, and you’ll gradually earn Boosters and Credits that can be used to upgrade them. The more you upgrade your cards, the more you’ll increase your Collection Level. And as you reach certain thresholds in your Collection Level, you’ll unlock even more cards at random.
At the time of writing, Marvel Snap is still in its beta phase and the unlocks are very heavily time-gated. You’ll only get a set amount of Credits each day by doing your daily missions, so you’re hard capped on how many cards you can upgrade and how quickly you can progress through your Collection Level ranks. Even for folks who are planning on whaling and buying more Credits for faster upgrades, there’s a cap on how many Credits you can buy each day.
The good news is that card upgrades don’t have any bearing on a card’s ability whatsoever. Upgrades are purely cosmetic, and the more you upgrade them, the more insane they look. This is where Marvel Snap really shines, as you can see the amount of love and dedication that went into creating this game.
As you upgrade a card, the borders start to glow and change colors, the characters start to pop out of their card frames, and they even get awesome 3D holographic effects that look really sick. The visual effects don’t end there, as the cards also come with their own unique sound and visual enhancements as you play them. Moving Star-Lord from your hand to the board, for instance, triggers his jet boosters at the bottom of the card, while Spider-Man’s card shoots out webs from all four corners.
It’s also obvious that Second Dinner has put a lot of time and consideration into the card abilities, as they’re all reflective of that character’s personality and skills in the MCU and the comics. The Guardians of the Galaxy, for instance, come with highly reactive abilities that will buff their stats whenever you correctly guess where your opponent is about to play a card.
Captain America boosts the stats of the other cards at his location because he’s a defender, Ant-Man’s own stats get boosted when the location he’s played at is full up with other allies because strength in numbers, and Wolverine just gets randomly played at another location whenever he’s destroyed because you can’t kill the Wolverine.
Cards also come with their own energy costs. Each turn, you’ll get one additional energy point, but the catch is that energy doesn’t carry over. This means that you’ll always have four energy points on turn four, but if you don’t have anything to play, your turn is effectively wasted as you’ll lose those points for the rest of the game.
This is where the deck-building component of Marvel Snap becomes really compelling. Players are encouraged to play along the energy curve so that they’re never wasting energy, and they’re always allocating stats to a location in each turn. It also becomes very important that you look for cards with abilities that synergize well with each other, and try to play them together or consecutively.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that the best laid plans will get totally messed up. If you feel confident in a match, however, you can use the Snap function to double down. Matches in Marvel Snap have both players playing for cubes, which will allow you to increase your player rank over the course of a season. Typically, you’ll get two cubes for winning, and you’ll lose two for losing.
If you’re feeling confident, you can Snap and double your prize from two to four when you win. And if your opponent also feels confident, they can Snap back and double the prize again from four to eight. Once you Snap, there’s no going back. If you lose that match, you’ll lose eight cubes, and that could very well de-rank you.
With so much RNG coming into play with the three locations, this can seem frustrating especially if the locations work against whatever deck setup you have. Marvel Snap allows you to circumvent this by conceding and retreating from a match, and you’ll only lose one cube by doing so. It’s not perfect, but you’ll at least have a way to mitigate your losses if the odds are really stacked against you.
This isn’t to say that Marvel Snap is a perfect card game. It’s clear that there are still a lot of little issues to work out. The game’s UI, for instance, is a bit of a hot mess. Jumping into the game for the first time, I was immediately overwhelmed by how many things were in my face. I didn’t know the difference between Boosters or Credits or Gold, and navigating between the play screen, the mission list, and the Season Pass is more cumbersome than I’d like.
The slow collection process and the lack of game modes are also obvious, glaring drawbacks, but Second Dinner has stated that Marvel Snap’s final build will incorporate more modes to check out, and allow players to get cards at a faster rate. I sincerely hope that’s the case, and I truly want this game to succeed because there’s just so much potential here.
Collecting cards has honestly been the best part of the game, as it just feels like a celebration of all of Marvel’s heroes and villains. I’m coming across characters I never even knew existed –did you know there’s a hero literally called Strong Guy? Have you heard of Multiple Man? Or Hell Cow? Or Devil Dinosaur?
If you’re a diehard Marvel comic book fan, I probably sound like a total amateur right now, but I’m willing to bet that your average MCU fan doesn’t know any of these characters, either. And that’s what’s so fun about Marvel Snap. The spotlight isn’t just on the usual mainstays like Iron Man or Thor, it’s a chance for all the lesser known characters to shine, especially as you start getting attached to them because their abilities are just so cool.
Now I’m not saying that I’m a Marvel fan now. I wouldn’t go that far. That said, Marvel Snap has completely hooked me with its easy-to-learn gameplay, and plenty of room for improvisation and fun counter-plays. Not to mention all the love and care that’s gone into the card designs, their variants, and how badass the animations and effects look when you play them.
As long as the core gameplay remains simple, and the matches stay fast, I could see Marvel Snap becoming a very worthy competitor in the digital card game scene. And I absolutely hope it does.
- All Marvel Snap Cards Available at Launch
- How to Play Marvel Snap Beta
- Does Marvel Snap Have Microtransactions?