[UPDATE: The game has been released on multiple platforms (including PC) as of October 19, 2022. A lot of what I say here still applies, though there have been multiple balance updates throughout the past few months so the cards I mentioned here (e.g. Devil Dinosaur) have been significantly changed. 😄]
Back in May, Second Dinner and Nuverse announced that they’re working on a card game based on the Marvel universe, and among its main selling points is that matches typically only last for three minutes. I managed to get an invite for Marvel Snap‘s closed beta over a month ago, and I’ve been playing it pretty much every day since then.
The devs weren’t kidding when they said that games would be fast, cause there are only six turns in most matches. In order to win, you need to have the most power in two out of the three locations on the board, each of which will have one of many random effects (e.g. “Cards here have -2 power”). This feature makes each match completely unpredictable, especially since these effects can be something as wild as “Destroy the other locations”, “Whoever has the least power here wins”, or “At the end of turn 4, end the game”.
At the moment, the ranked mode is the only game mode you can play, so the main goal is essentially to just climb the ranks by winning cosmic cubes. Each match, you can gain or lose a minimum of one cube, and this is multiplied by two on turn six. Both players can “snap”, which doubles the stakes and potentially allows you to win/lose up to eight cubes. Not only is it a mechanic that lets you rank up faster, it can also be used for bluffing, since you can goad your opponent into retreating (which lets you leave at the cost of half of the cubes currently at stake, up to a minimum of one).
BUILD VARIETY GUARANTEED
While you can never avoid the development of a certain “meta”, especially in a CCG, Marvel Snap features a wide range of cards with unique abilities that make even the silliest decks viable enough that you can climb with them. With only 12 cards per deck, it’s much easier to commit to a certain gimmick. For instance, one of the decks I’m currently running is centered on discarding stuff, because there are cards that actually benefit from being removed from your hand (e.g. Apocalypse, who gains additional power and returns to your hand every time he’s discarded).
Because of this, there’s a lot of potential for mind games. The longer you play the game, the more knowledge you’ll have of how certain cards interact with one another, which means you’ll often be able to predict what kind of deck your enemies are running.
For example, let’s say that your opponent played Collector (who gains +2 power for each card added to their hand that isn’t from their deck), then you can probably guess that they’re running cards like Moon Girl (copies every card in their hand), Devil Dinosaur (+2 power for each card in their hand), and Sentinel (adds a copy of itself to their hand). With just that card, or maybe one of the others I just mentioned as well, they can snap to trick you into thinking that a huge combo is coming, even if they didn’t actually draw them at all throughout the match.
As a free-to-play mobile game, we can’t avoid talking about its microtransactions. Basically, the only things you can purchase are the season pass, variants (basically just skins), and credits for upgrading cards. It’s a pretty f2p-friendly game, as there’s a limit to the amount of power you can actually buy.
Unlike other games, you only gain cards here through leveling up your collection by upgrading cards, which also requires a currency mainly gained at the end of each match known as “boosters”. Cards are also unlocked in pools (for example, Pool 1 starts from collection level 1 until 214), which means that all players unlock the same cards in different orders.
While it’s not a perfect system, it has ensured that players can still stay competitive within their level, and people have been reaching high ranks with cards that are unlocked very early on. It does suck for those who have reached the third pool though, as the gap between each new card will eventually become unreasonably long. This happens at around the 800+ mark, which will take the average player several weeks to reach.
There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but for a closed beta, they don’t seem to have done anything that seems predatory yet. I’m sure they’re aware of the need for another way to acquire cards, but we’ll just have to wait and see how they’ll address that issue (and hopefully they do it soon). For now, it’s mostly a problem for those who have been playing since the start of the beta, since collection level seems to be taken into consideration for matchmaking, and some players will unlock really good cards earlier than others in the same level.
“CAN I PLAY IT NOW?“
As of writing this, the game is still technically in closed beta, though it’s already soft-launched in the Philippines. There are ways you can get in even if you don’t have an invite or you aren’t in the PH, but you’ll have to look for a guide yourself.
So far, Marvel Snap is a pretty fun game that respects your time. You can hop in and play a bunch of matches a day, and you’ll still make a lot of progress by completing your dailies. By the time you reach the third pool of cards like I did some time ago, they’d have hopefully fixed the issues surrounding the unlocking system, but for now, it’s still an enjoyable experience experimenting with the stuff that you already have.