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Ben Brode Defends Marvel Snap’s Most Hated Locations

Marvel Snap Ben Brode explains why Subterranea isn't that bad, actually.

The beauty of Marvel Snap lies in its variance. No variance in card draws, but in the locations you encounter in each match. Some locations, like Wakandan Embassy, are just nice and comfy. They give all cards in your hand +2 Power. Who doesn’t want that? Aside from the Goblins. Some are a little annoying, but you can still live with them, like Kyln and Sanctum Sanctorum.

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Others just feel like pure evil. These are the locations that completely mess up your deck and your game plan, making you feel like you just want to toss your phone at the wall when you lose, because, goddammit, I would’ve won if it wasn’t for freaking RNG.

I’m talking about Ego, the location where Ego takes control of both players’ cards and plays them in the least optimal way possible. I’m talking about District X, where your deck gets replaced with completely random cards that may or may not synergize with each other at all. And most of all, I’m talking about Subterranea, which shuffles five rocks into your deck, destroying any semblance of consistency that you so meticulously built into your deck when crafting it.

I spoke with Second Dinner’s Ben Brode this past week and asked him if there was any chance these notorious locations would ever get filtered out of ladder mode, especially as there were other new game modes on the way. The answer was pretty much a flat “no”, but Brode went further to explain why these locations are, in fact, awesome.

“Y’know, it’s interesting,” Brode says to me as a smile cracks on his face. “There’s this philosophy in game design my old boss taught me, which I like. It’s the concept of rough edges. And the philosophy goes like this: as designers, we have a desire to have a really polished experience where everything feels really, really good. That’s important. But we can go too far. We can over-polish and then everything feels the same, right? And locations like Ego, District X, and Subterranea add a huge amount of texture to the game, but they don’t come up that often. It’s not like every game’s got weird locations, but it does change the experience and adds some emotional variance to playing the game, and I think that matters.”

Going even further than that, Brode argues that these locations, in particular, are actually a huge test of a player’s skill in Marvel Snap.

“I think those locations are actually quite skill-testing! A lot of people don’t like randomness because they feel like if this wasn’t random, I would’ve won, but both players are feeling the same amount of randomness,” Brode explains.

“And what’s interesting is that when you are forced into a new situation that you’ve never been in before, the player who is better at adapting on the fly and puzzling out a situation is going to do better in that situation. So for example, with District X and whole new cards, both players are dealing with new situations. They’ve never been there before. This is not like any other game they’ve played. They have to think fast about how they’re gonna handle it. Better players perform better in that situation. They win more often, so it can be pretty skill-testing to play with District X.”

Okay, makes sense. But what about Ego?

“So with Ego, it takes away all of the gameplay decisions you’re making, but you have hidden information,” Brode tells me, his smile seemingly getting wider as he speaks. “You know where your cards just got played to, your opponent knows where their cards got played to, but now you have to decide. Am I favored? Am I not favored? Will my opponent think I’m favored? I’m gonna snap. And it puts so much pressure on the snapping mechanic, and it just changes the way the whole game feels. I really like Ego. I think it creates great stories, and it’s skill-testing in that it focuses your skill on this one thing.”

Alright, I’m following so far. But what about Subterranea? Surely there’s no way to defend a location that straight up shuffles five dead draws into your carefully crafted deck.

“Subterranea has some of the best bluffing moments of any location, right?” Brode asks me, and it almost seems like he’s getting increasingly smug as he speaks. Or it could be my imagination. “Because you can go into a game, get an early commanding position, end up with four rocks in your hand, and you’re like… Snap…?” He snaps his fingers. “And your opponent bails and it’s just UNBELIEVABLE! So there’s this unique kind of fun that can only happen with these kinds of locations.”

There’s a pause in the conversation after he says that. A few seconds pass, and I tell him that’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone say anything positive, ever, about Subterranea. Ever. Brode bursts out laughing and says, “Well, there’s a first for everything!”

So there you have it. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever see the more polarizing locations get filtered out in Marvel Snap’s ranked ladder mode, even as casual mode eventually rolls out. The beauty of this game lies in its variance and how no two matches ever feel the same. The next time you feel yourself getting frustrated with Ego playing Mystique on tempo with no Ongoing card on the board, and your opponent hasn’t snapped yet, consider snapping. Maybe you’re favored.

Marvel Snap is now available on PC and mobile devices.

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Zhiqing Wan
Zhiqing is the Reviews Editor for Twinfinite, and a History graduate from Singapore. She's been in the games media industry for nine years, trawling through showfloors, conferences, and spending a ridiculous amount of time making in-depth spreadsheets for min-max-y RPGs. When she's not singing the praises of Amazon's Kindle as the greatest technological invention of the past two decades, you can probably find her in a FromSoft rabbit hole.