The newest addition to the Marvel mobile gaming universe has arrived in the form of Marvel Snap, a new multiplayer collectable card game featuring all your favourite caped crusaders battling to win various locations on the board. Whilst the game has been available for a while to Beta Invitational players, it’s now available for free to everyone on iOS, Google and Steam (PC).
Whilst free-to-play, the game does offer in-store purchases, which for the most part, are cosmetic. You can use real cash to buy season passes and gold, one of two currencies, which can be exchanged for cosmetics or credits, the other currency, which is used to upgrade your cards and Collection Level.
For the most part, there’s no way to buy powerful cards early, the season pass aside, which needs levelling up and just gives you access to select cards earlier. Instead, Marvel Snap uses your Collection Level for matchmaking games, making it a more level playing field by having opponents with a similar card collection to your own. The only reliable way to get new cards is by increasing your collection level, and to do that, you need to upgrade cards with credits and boosters, which is basically a card’s experience points.
None of the ‘free-to-play’ vs ‘pay to win’ stuff matters, however, if the core gameplay is boring, and Marvel Snap makes sure it has your attention at all times thanks to a combination of its unique Locations mechanic, small deck sizes and numerous card abilities, all of which means that no one game is truly the same.
Each player uses a resource called Energy to play cards at one of three Locations on the board. Every turn you gain one more energy, meaning you have to wait until later turns to play higher cost cards, and you are limited to just four cards per Location, with the winner being whoever has the highest Power value at 2 out of 3 Locations. The cards themselves are all Marvel characters; you’ve got your X-Men, Mutants, Avengers and everything in-between to build a deck of 12 cards, so it’s fairly easy to build a deck based on your favourite characters across the Marvel universe.
The Locations where you play your cards also have different effects or win conditions, and each Location is random going into a game, which makes every hand of Marvel Snap you play very different from the last. One game I played had the second Location reveal itself as Ego, with the special effect that Ego now plays the game for both sides for you. Cue me and my opponent both watching the game play itself for us, whilst doing emotes all the way to the end. Somehow Ego decided I was winning that game in the last round, but since then I’ve never had the Location appear again, but it’s a great example of how random and game-altering some of these Location effects can get.
It’s this random element to each game, as well as the fast pace, that keeps you coming back to Marvel Snap, giving you that “just one more game” feeling every time. The wildly different effects each Location can have, the possible combinations you can play with Locations and cards and the effect they have on your game plan mean new strategies can open up as each game progresses, and no two games play alike. The team behind Marvel Snap keep coming up with new ideas for Locations and adding new ones on a regular basis as well, which is a nice way of keeping things from feeling stale. This is especially the case when you haven’t played for a couple of days, and it’s nice to come back to some minor new updates.
The cards themselves each have gorgeous designs too, with each card designed almost to resemble a comic book front cover. You can also upgrade each card to rarer variants by playing rounds of Snap gaining experience or “boosters”, allowing you to make the artwork bigger with a frame break, add various shiny borders, logos and animated effects. Most cards have a unique ability as well that tries to keep in-line with a character’s abilities whether superhuman or not.
Swarm, for example, is a Spider-Man villain who’s basically a skeleton made up of a swarm of bees. His card’s ability is to make a copy of itself if you discard it, a bit like how he can command his bees to make two versions of himself in the comics. Quicksilver will always be in your starting hand because he’s super fast, Captain America makes everyone around him gain more Power because he inspires other heroes, Dr. Doom deploys Doombots at other locations because Doom always wins. It’s little touches like these you like to see translated into a card game because for fans it shows the developers care about the source material, and the wider player base has some crazier cards to look forward to the longer they play.
Marvel Snap is one of those rare free-to-play games that respects the time you’ve invested in it rather than the amount of money you’ve pumped into the cash shop because, quite frankly, what can be bought for real money are superficial and cosmetic variants of cards in your collection. Having players match up based on collection level and rank also means you’ll encounter new cards at a steady rate, giving you time to understand what they do, creating some pretty good and even matchmaking. At collection level 600+ myself, I can’t say I remember a single match at this point that I lost because my opponent had vastly better cards than me or cards I’d never seen before and, therefore, didn’t know how to counter. Most matches I’ve lost I can put down to not reading the Location effect properly or just being outplayed at the end.
If you’re a big Marvel or card game fan, Marvel Snap is definitely worth checking out and playing for a few hands. The gameplay is quick and addictive, and the constantly changing Locations will always keep the gameplay feeling fresh. Whilst turn-based card games and mobile games certainly aren’t for everyone, Marvel Snap shows it can be done really well in a fair way that doesn’t price people out and scare them away before they’ve even finished the tutorial.
There are no open packs hoping for the cards you want with luck and chance against you, there are no massive decks to build, and there’s not really a “meta” way of playing that dominates the player base either. Whilst the wins come thick and fat early, when you get to higher collection levels and more cards are unlocked, you’ll keep encountering new strategies and deck types that start to trip you up. By that point you should be hooked by the gameplay loop and system mechanics.
If you haven’t already given Marvel Snap a try, now’s a good time to start, with a new Silver Surfer and Power Cosmic based theme, some improved card art and a new Token Shop, which offers another way to get specific cards you want rather than just through the collection level, still remaining free-to-play friendly. If you ever wanted to get into comic books or card games, Marvel Snap is a great place to start.