When ads started appearing on social media for Marvel Snap, I quickly ignored them. The name gave me the impression of a mobile game that I would have no interest in playing. However, after learning more, I got intrigued and decided to try it out. This collectible card battler has consumed my weekend, and I’m playing it every chance I get. The concept is easy to grasp, and it’s a lot of fun to play. That being said, I’m also eager to see how the developers will manage to keep this strong momentum going.
A simple yet varied card battler
Marvel Snap is yet another collectible card game for mobile. But rather than building a deck and directly playing against an opponent, you’re using your cards and strategically placing them on one of three lanes. Your deck contains 12 cards, each with an energy level and a power level. Over the course of six turns, you place your drawn cards on lanes in the hopes of having the most power on that lane. The player who controls two or more lanes with the most power at the end of the match is deemed the winner.
The strategy element comes into play in two forms. First, it’s the cards you play but also the perks that each lane possesses. There are three lanes, each with a stipulation for the match. They can be as simple as granting each player a +1 energy for the first turn to complex ones where you can only play a certain card value on it. This adds an element of thought that forces the player to decide when it’s best to play a card on a particular lane.
The lanes are based on locations from the Marvel Universe, and they get revealed gradually. We learn the location of the left-most lane first, the middle lane on the second turn, then the right lane on the third. You can play your early cards on a lane at any time. However, this can put you at risk if a lane reveals itself with a negative requirement. You might place a low-level card on a lane that only lets you put one card there for the entirety of the battle. If you put a card with a “2” power, your opponent knows a “3” or greater could win them that lane.
Lots to unlock
The game does a pretty good job of gradually unlocking content. For the first few days, I was completing the game’s recruit battle pass. These objectives are all tied to teaching you the ropes of the game. They do a good job of making sure you understand the “combat” before you unlock the game’s first real battle pass, revolving around the Spider-man universe.
Cards don’t get better with playing, they only get cooler looking. Instead of the cards getting stronger as you upgrade them, they only start looking cooler. As you win and lose matches, you’ll earn boosters that will help you improve your cards. The first upgrade is having your cards break through the borders, then you add some 3D. At this of my playing, the furthest I’ve gone with the upgrading is having animated cards. The animations are mostly on the background elements, but they work well with the 3D effect. I’m super curious about the upgrades that happen after that.
Although most cards are unlocked by playing and upgrading your existing cards, the battle pass does contain some unique cards only available if you pay for the premium battle pass. It takes real money, so you can’t use any of the in-game currency you may earn through playing. The Symbiote Invasion battle pass has three unique cards, all spider-man specific and there will be more battle pass exclusive cards in the future. At the same time though, I only played one person who was using any of the battle pass-exclusive cards in combat, so I’m curious how many people are actively buying them. (edit: I’m pretty certain I’m at the point where I’m playing humans and not just bots.)
Areas to improve
Although I’m having a lot of fun, the need to mix up or create new decks hasn’t happened yet. Currently, I have over 40 cards in my collection, but I have 12 that I use regularly. There are cards in my collection that I’ve never felt the need to try. The only incentive to use new cards is to upgrade them and unlock new cards.
Outside of improving and adding to your collection, the game needs to better encourage the use of different decks. It would be nice if there were requirements where you had to create a deck using certain cards. They could go as simple as preventing people from playing a deck with any 6-energy cards. Or they could go the route of giving you a bonus for certain deck combinations. Perhaps, if you build a deck that features all the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy you get a bonus card added to your deck. Or, if you have a villain-focused deck, then your opponent begins the match unable to play their first turn.
While the randomization of lane locations helps to keep battles fresh and relatively balanced, I need more. It’s a balancing act that is incredibly important for free-to-play developers to figure out. You want to keep people engaged in the long term but the battle pass won’t do that. Considering there is only one game type right now, I’m not sure how long people will keep playing if the content is always the same.
Eager to see where this goes
For those who enjoy CCGs like Hearthstone, Marvel Snap is an easy recommendation. It might not be as challenging, but it’s still a lot of fun. I love the ease of access. Matches only take a few minutes. I can play one or two battles, do something else, then come back when I get the urge to play some more.