Mobile CCG Marvel Snap Is My Most Anticipated Game Of The Year
First of all, I’m not going to sit here and try to defend my taste in video games. The game du jour doesn’t always interest me, and I’ve been known to get hooked on some pretty obscure indies. While everyone was getting that shit pushed in by Malenia, I was obsessively cleaning dinosaur fossils at my pretend paleontology job. When the whole world was kidnapping wild Pokemon and teaching them about agricultural labor in Legends: Arceus, I was mastering the (laser) blade in the first virtual reality MMORPG, Zenith: The Last City. I know I’m not exactly the every-man when it comes to gaming, but what can I say? I’m Bill Dipperly.
So when I tell you my most anticipated game of the year is a mobile collectible card game, I know exactly how it sounds. But what excites me the most about Marvel Snap, the upcoming CCG led by former Hearthstone director Ben Brode, is how different it is from every other card game out there. Marvel Snap is a casual, pick-up-and-play game that doesn’t rely on a lifetime of experience with trading card games to understand. The rules are simple, the decks are thin, and games are only designed to last two minutes. If you have even a passing interest in card games or Marvel, you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on Marvel Snap as we get closer to the global launch. But if you’ve never considered playing a collectible card game, I think still Marvel Snap might be the one that wins you over.
Marvel is a great entry point for a card game, because it has a nearly limitless selection of characters to choose from that people are already familiar with. Just learning all the different cards is usually the biggest barrier to entry for new players in any CCG, but Marvel Snap soothes that pain point by leveraging familiar faces to make those associations easier.
Approachability is really the name of the game for Marvel Snap. The deck sizes are limited to just ten cards, which makes collecting and building decks so much easier and more manageable. Experimentation is simplified when you have fewer variables, and identifying good synergies is much clearer. You can find your way around a ten-card deck quickly because it's easy to understand what its win condition is and how all ten cards work together.
If you’ve played the board game Smash Up, you’re already familiar with the format of Marvel Snap. Each round, both players spend energy to play cards onto one of three locations, and at the end of the sixth turn, whoever has more points at each location claims it. Your goal is to take two out of three locations to win, with bonus rewards for taking all three.
Each card has an energy cost, a point value, and an ability, while each location has a modifier that affects the cards you play there. A card like Ant-Man, which costs one and provides one power, will earn three additional power for every other card played at his location. Ant-Man synergies really well with the Savage Lands location, which spawns two raptors on both yours and your opponent's side. But Ant-Man needs to be wary of cards like Enchantress, which removes abilities from all ongoing cards at her location. The abilities are simple to understand, but the dynamic ways they overlap and work with and against each other make every game dynamic and surprising. Marvel Snap seems like a game with a low barrier to entry and an extraordinarily high skill ceiling, which is exactly what you want from a CCG.
Digital card games have a bad reputation for being endless money pits, but Brode, who has a lot of experience with expensive card games, has been upfront about Marvel Snap’s monetization. Players will be able to buy monthly battle passes and earn new cards right away, but free-to-play players will still be able to earn those same cards later on. This sounds like a reasonable model, but a recently implemented system called Nexus Events, which introduced random chance and low pull rates into the process, has the beta community in an uproar. Hopefully, this isn't a system that will make it into the live game and Brode is true to his word. This sounds like it could be the first big card game that won’t put a significant strain on your wallet, but if gambling is the primary mode of acquiring cards, the whole game might turn out to be DOA. I don't have any problem with paying for cosmetics, or even gambling on cosmetics through some kind of Nexus Event-style loot box system, nor do I have any gripes with buying cards in a deterministic way. I was enthusiastic that Marvel Snap was abandoning at the standard pack system that other CCGs use, but Nexus Events as they currently are seem to be just another way to sell packs, and perhaps even a worse one.
To his credit, Brode addressed these concerns on Twitter and the Marvel Snap's official Discord by apologizing for missing the mark and promising that his team is reevaluating Nexus Events. While we don't yet whether the system will be altered or removed, it's a good indication that the studio is committed to making the game fair and balanced while considering player feedback.
Short games with simple rules and a low cost of entry are bound to attract newcomers to CCGs, and the Marvel wrapping will definitely bring a lot of attention to the game. I’m looking forward to short seasons with frequent content updates, experimenting with new deck strategies, and collecting some of my favorite superheroes. Ben Brode was put on this planet to sell trading cards, and by all accounts, this is going to be one of the best card games out there.
Closed beta is currently available in select countries, including New Zealand, Philippines, and as of this week, Australia, while additional regions will be added soon. The best place to find updates for the game is on its official Twitter page and Discord server.
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