Marvel Snap: Marvel's digital CCG

I didn’t see a dedicated CCG thread, so…Marvel announced a new digital card game called Marvel Snap, for mobile and PC. From the gameplay preview, it looks pretty streamlined: 12-card decks, games last six rounds (about 3 minutes), and simultaneous play. They said that all cards can be acquired through normal gameplay without paying any money (but we’ll see if that’s actually true).

I played Hearthstone for a hot second, but it quickly became overwhelming. I’m hoping this is more accessible.

Looks good! I just switched jobs and there is a big intersection here between playing digital games together to bond, Marvel stuff, and CCGs/LCGs/deckbuilder board games. I see a lot of this in my future.

I pulled up one of the other Marvel games, and it’s just a barrage of “Complete these daily quests to win a Platinum Roster card! Open your SHIELD supple chest to gain 140 crystals! Only $1.99 to receive a daily booster pack! Only five gold to complete your Spider-Man collection! Buy gold here, for only 55 crystals! Buy crystals here for only $5.99!..”

I hope that Marvel Snap avoids most of that. Maybe I’m dreaming.

gotta juice that ARPU baby

I don’t think that Arpu is in the game. Wasn’t he in New Mutants??

All the previous online (Marvel Suoer Heroes, Avengers) have been prematurely shut down or just shutdown at the end of their 1-2 year “lifespan” so new virtual currency can be resold

Was that the one where he had all those really tedious conflicts with his nemeses RunRate and Churn?

Yes! And their teamup with the Whale was epic!

It’ll definitely be like that.

The gameplay they’ve shown makes it look like Air, Land, and Sea, which I’m more excited by than the prospect of another one-mana-per-turn, creatures-on-a-battlefield, Magic-except-we-changed-a-few-things sort of game.

Having only twelve cards to a deck gives me hope that maybe it won’t be too expensive to put a good deck together, but it also makes me worry that games will feel too samey. Hearthstone felt that way, and that’s with thirty-card decks.

Yeah, I got out of the Hearthstone meta so long ago, I have no idea what it’s like today. I hope you can have some standard decks and switch between them. Plus the locations will hopefully add some variety. There’s a gameplay video online if you want more details on how it works.

I also like the push-your-luck mechanic: In ranked matches, each match is 1 point…except it doubles to 2 points in round 6. So if you’re at round 5 and it looks like you’re going to lose, you can forfeit one point instead of risking two. And each player can double the points once per game, so you might go into round 6 with 8 points at stake! If you’re confident, you could double your potential score…or bluff your opponent into forfeiting if you have nothing.

TBF Hearthstone meta is “roll 1d20”.

Yep, exactly what I thought when they showed the three locations and option to withdraw. Seems like something I might get my kids to play with me.

I’ve been playing a little bit of this in the closed beta, and I have some impressions.

First, they weren’t kidding when they said matches were short. A long match where both players time out every round would take about four minutes. But even in such short matches, you’re making a lot of Interesting Decisions based on what’s in your hand, what cards are on the board, and what locations have been revealed.

Decks are small, and the cards are relatively free of RNG. The locations are another matter - there are a lot, and the effects range from uniformly positive (all cards cost 1 less), to generally positive (certain card types gain 1 power), to generally negative (certain costs of cards can’t be played here), to uniformly negative (all cards here lose 1 power), to outright wacky (draw from your opponent’s deck for the rest of the game). There are always three each game, revealed one at a time over the first three turns. So you rarely get completely screwed by them, and they always make you adjust your gameplan (and your understanding of your opponent’s gameplan) on the fly.

There is no traditional ladder, and this is something that vexes me a little bit, mostly because I’ve never played a ranked system like it. Over the course of a normal game, there’s 1 “cube” at stake. A cube is like a ladder point or a rank, in that when you get ten cubes, your rank goes up. Win the match, gain one cube; lose the match, lose one cube. The wrinkle is that at any point during your six-round match, you can “snap”, which is like a wager that increases the number of cubes at stake. When you snap, your opponent can either snap back (or do nothing), raising the stakes, or they can retreat from the match, in which case they only lose (and you only gain) the number of cubes currently at stake. If both players retreat for some reason, no cubes are lost or gained. It’s a novel way of handling progression and ranking, and it opens up another layer of poker-esque bluffing and counter-bluffing.

Your player level (not your rank) is determined by “collection levels”, and this is how you get new cards. It’s true that there’s (sort of) no way to buy cards. After each match, you get a number of boosters for a random card in your deck, based on how long the match went. When you hit certain thresholds, you can pay credits (in-game earned currency) and boosters to upgrade a card. This doesn’t change the card’s function, just its look. But upgrading it gives you collection points based on how much it’s been upgraded. Collection points give you collection levels, and collection levels alternate between awarding you various currencies and awarding you a random new card. This is both a blessing and a curse because you truly do earn cards through playing, but there’s no way to target cards you want. You’re at the mercy of the RNG.

The bottleneck quickly becomes credits. You can get a few hundred in a day from daily quests. But as your cards get upgraded more, those costs go up as well. Naturally, you can buy credits with money, but you can only earn the boosters by playing. You cannot whale your way to a large collection without also playing a lot.

With CCGs, my tendency is to think about them from a competitive standpoint - what makes a good deck, how to mitigate randomness, how to play it competitively - and I think this game kind of rebuts that a bit over all its systems. They don’t seem interested in making an esport as much as making a fun game, and that’s fine with me.

Thanks for sharing this! I’ve watched some playthroughs on YouTube, and apparently there’s a subscription that gives you additional daily quests, so you can speed up your acquisition of credits that way. But it seems very confusing how the different reward tracks work–apparently advancement on one track speeds up your progression on others? It was not clear. So it’s not pay-to-win, because you’re only buying cosmetic enhancements…but those cosmetic enhancements move your collection track, which DOES get you new cards??

I really love RNG elements like random locations, and there were some crazy ones in the playthroughs I’ve watched. One location make everyone discard their decks and you get a completely new deck of random cards. So then the guy pulled Agatha Harkness, which says “While Agatha is in your hand, she plays cards for you.” And the guy watched as Agatha played the rest of his game for him!

Anyway it looks cool and I can’t wait to play! Who knows when that will be though.

I’m very interested in this one and have watch some streamers. I hope the business model is not too punishing. I can see Marvel Snap as a popular quick game to challenge each other with in the house since I’ve worked fairly hard to build the Marvel fan base at home.

Wait, is it a feature to challenge anybody or does it have to be random online match making?

Neat. Backgammon is played the same way for money. Either you give me $1 now or we’re now playing for $2, kept track with a six sided die.

Yeah it was interesting watching online matches and see the guy figure out when (or if) to double up. Do you scare the guy off in round 3 and win 1 cube, or string him along and see if you can get two or more?

(Also, from a purely mathematical perspective, I like the elegance of the doubling system: One vertex is a dot. Double that to two and you get a line. Double that and you get a square. Double that to eight and you get a cube.)

The devs are trying to strangle the game in the crib:

Normally, I roll my eyes any time someone starts complaining about “predatory” monetization. And I would still say this is a little bit overblown, but the gist is that they have added a loot box with the following contents:

  • Jane Foster (a new, mechanically unique card) or the Destroyer - 1.5%
  • Guardians of the Galaxy card variants or avatars - 9.5%
  • Credits or boosters - 89%

There’s some bad luck protection in there that guarantees you’ll get the two cards after 50 openings, but you could be spending up to $200 to get both of the headline cards, and double that if you want everything. And they’re planning on doing two of these every month.

Monetization aside, the rest of the game is actually pretty generous for free playerss – there are lots of daily quests and a free/premium battle pass that keeps credits flowing in. The game itself is really solid. They’ve really made a CCG that breaks free of the “mana, creatures, life total” paradigm, and the way you think tactically is so refreshingly different from other CCGs, it’s like learning a new language. They have made it a little easier to get new cards, but card acquisition is still entirely random and gets slower the more you progress.

But having to deal with this kind of press (Polygon isn’t going to write about it anymore) before most people can even download the game is not promising.

I find it odd that they are doing this, (and that the way you get cards is so ludicrous in the first place) especially since they have a gold mine in a great game, great IP and could easily make bank just selling decent variants of each card.