Marvel Snap

I’ve been playing trading card games for the vast majority of my life. Pokémon, Magic the Gathering, Dragon Ball Z, and even the Star Wars: Episode I game. I’ve spent far more money than anyone should, opening booster packs and chasing specific cards. In recent years though, most of my card games have moved into the digital realm. I don’t have time to get together with others often enough to be worth the investment in real cards, so this has had to do. I’ve tried my hand at games like Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering Arena, which are both solid options, but the cost of keeping up, in both time and money, is simply beyond what I can justify.

That’s why Marvel Snap is such a wonderful surprise. With free-to-play card games not having the best reputation, I was initially hesitant to dive in, but in a very short amount of time, it’s become part of my daily routine. While you can play on PC as well, Marvel Snap is designed first and foremost for mobile play, and for once, that’s a good thing.


Built For The Time You Have


Marvel Snap

Unlike most card games where you have to build a huge deck of cards to compete, Marvel Snap decks contain only twelve distinct cards. You don’t have multiple copies of each, you don’t have to worry about drawing mana, just twelve cards that you’ll play over six turns. A normal match in Marvel Snap takes about three to five minutes. If you’re playing with someone who is real slow and drags out the turn timer to its maximum length each turn, you might end up playing a few minutes longer, but this is a game designed for short bursts of play. It’s perfectly designed to fit into the downtime in your everyday life.

Over those six turns, you’ll draw cards from your deck. You start out with three cards, and in a normal game, you’ll draw another six, allowing you to see nine of your twelve cards. That means decks are consistent, and while you can’t rely on having the exact weapons you need every turn, there’s a lot of opportunity to build decks that have strong synergy, which look to execute highly specific gameplans.

Each card has an energy cost, but unlike in some games, you don’t have to play energy. You get that automatically, with the amount you receive rising each turn. On turn one, you get one energy, on turn two, you get two energy, rising all the way to six energy on turn six. So on turn one, you can only play one energy cards. On turn two, you can play a two energy card, or two one energy ones. Most cards aren’t only useful on that one turn, but the general goal will be to build decks that have enough cards of varying cost that you can use as much of your energy as possible each turn. Otherwise, you’re just giving your opponent an advantage.


How To Win


Marvel Snap

Each game has three locations you can play cards. You win a location by having the most power at the end of turn six. Each card has a set amount of power, and many have some sort of ability as well, which allows you to impact the game or other cards in various ways. Elektra, for example, is a one cost card that has only one power, but if played at the same location as a one cost card your opponent has already played, she’ll destroy it. This matches the theme of her being an assassin. When the game ends, the goal is to win at least two of the three locations. Whoever does wins the game. It doesn’t matter if you win those two locations by one point each and your opponent beats you in the third location by thirty, you still win. Managing these locations is the strategy of the game.

There’s an extra element of randomness that will impact each game, however, meaning most of the rules I mentioned above aren’t set in stone. Some of that comes from the powers various cards have. One card, for example, might have an power level that keeps rising over time. The biggest element of randomness are the three locations in each match. Each location has a power of its own, which are revealed over the first three turns of the game. These are randomly selected from a much larger pool of locations. One location, for example, might grant each player extra energy on turn one. So instead of having only one energy to play, now you might have six and be able to play a powerful card on turn one instead of waiting until the end of the game. Another location might destroy any card you play from your hand there, meaning you’ll have to use cards with special abilities to get any power there. Some locations even add a seventh turn to your game. While getting a location that works poorly with your deck can stack the odds against you, the randomness keeps things fresh, and the short length of matches means the pain of a bad loss due to this won’t linger for long.


Three Ways To Progress


Marvel Snap

Players who are used to these games might say that sounds like fun, but how am I supposed to get these cards without spending a fortune? The good news is that Marvel Snap is not pay to win. Well, it’s mostly not pay to win. There are theoretically ways you could spend a small fortune to advance quickly, but the value proposition would be absolutely awful.

You advance in three ways in Marvel Snap. The first is a Battle Pass, much like in other games of this nature. It has fifty levels, and at each level, you’ll earn a reward if you’ve paid the $9.99 fee for that month’s pass. There’s a free pass as well, but only certain levels give a reward to players who haven’t paid. Often it’s every other level, though sometimes there can be two or three levels between free rewards. The Battle Pass can be great, but it mostly provides you with nice bonuses. You’ll get avatars which are purely cosmetic. You’ll receive variants of cards you can unlock for free with different art. They’re nice, but again cosmetic. You will also gain some of the game’s two main currencies in gold and credits, which can speed up progression, but only so much. You only actually get a single card in each pass, which is exclusive for a time to people who bought the pass, though, after several months, these cards are added into the most recent pool of cards you can unlock for free. The Battle Pass is overall well designed and a good value if you’re really into the game, but far from exploitive or necessary to make progress.

The second means of progression is your season rank. This increases as you win battles, but especially if you snap. You see, in each match you play, you’ll be putting up a resource called a cube. If you win, you get your opponent’s cube, and if you lose, they get yours. Throughout each match, though, you both have the option to snap, which means to raise the stakes. Each of you snapping raises your investment to four cubes. That means if both players snap, you each have to put in eight cubes by the end of the match. Lose, and you’ll drop, but win, and you’ll climb. You’re never forced to match a snap, though, which means if your opponent does so and you don’t think you’re likely to win, you can retreat and only lose what you had already put in. There’s a lot of strategy to snapping at the right time, to not losing too many cubes when you lose matches but winning as many as possible when winning, while trying to not scare your opponent into retreating. Every ten cubes you earn, you’ll rise a level, and every ten levels, you’ll get a reward, though these are, again, resources and cosmetics, not cards.


Unlocking The Cards


Marvel Snap

You get cards through the third and final path of progression, your collection level. Over time you’ll climb collection levels by spending one of the two major resources, credits. These are earned from the Battle Pass, from raising your collection level, by completing daily, weekly, and monthly challenges, and the game gives you a few of them for free each day in the store, as a way to encourage you to go into the store. You use credits to upgrade your cards. Not their power or abilities, mind you, those are set in stone from the time you get them. No, you upgrade your cards purely in looks by spending these tokens. As you do, though, your collection level rises. At first, you get a new card every collection level you climb, and just completing the daily challenges can allow about ten levels a day, give or take. Completing weekly and monthly challenges, climbing the Battle Pass, and getting your season rank up can allow for a few more.

The rate you get cards quickly drops. Soon it’s every two levels, then every four, then eight, twelve, then eventually even more. Other rewards do start to get sprinkled in between these to keep players pushing forward, but they’re mostly cosmetic or more resources. For a long time, though, it’s a steady enough pace that you’ll constantly be earning cards. There are currently three pools of cards, with you needing to unlock all the cards in one pool before you can climb to the next and start unlocking those cards. While the exact order you’ll unlock the cards in pool two, for example, is random, a player working through pool 2 will only unlock those cards until they have them all, and mostly only play players in the same pool to keep things relatively fair.


Free To Play, Not Pay To Win


Marvel Snap

Currently, getting to pool three, which has by far the most cards of any pool, slows things, however, to the point where it grows fairly frustrating. You’re no longer actually guaranteed a card at any specific point, only a chance to unlock one, which means you can often climb a lot of levels without getting any new cards, and the ones you need can feel almost impossible to get. The good news is that the developers recently unveiled an update for the end of this month, which will add another free currency to the game, which will allow you to work towards unlocking a specific card you want. It isn’t a perfect system, and it won’t make unlocking all cards a quick endeavor by any means, but if you really want to play a specific deck and need a couple of specific cards to do so, it should make that a lot more possible.

If you’re asking how the game makes money when none of this outside of the paid version of the Battle Pass costs anything, you’re not alone. There are a few ways. You can buy gold, the other resource I mentioned earlier, but the main use for that is to buy variants, alternate art versions of cards which can look awesome but are purely cosmetic. You can only buy variants for cards you have, too, meaning you’re not unlocking something new to play by doing so. You can convert gold into credits, which does give at least a theoretical way to pay to jump ahead on your collection level. This is a terrible value, though. Even spending $99.99 for the largest bundle of gold available would only get you 10,000 credits. That may sound like a lot, but it’s going to get you 200 collection levels. That’s actually not that much, even getting to the third and currently, final pool of cards requires you get nearly to level 500, and you’re going to be well into the four digits before you unlock all of those. This isn’t a game designed to sap money out of you to get ahead in the actual game. The developers are currently counting on cosmetics to pay the bills.




While progression eventually grinds to a crawl, Marvel Snap had me hooked far before I reached that point, and I’m excited about already announced changes that should at least partially address those issues. This is a card game designed to fit into the free moments in your life, and it does that extremely well. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to play one more game.

Final Verdict: 4/5

Available on: Android (Reviewed), iOS, PC; Publisher: Nuverse; Developer: Second Dinner Studios; Players: 1; Released: October 18th, 2022; ESRB: N/A; MSRP: Free To Play

Full disclosure: This review is based on a Free To Play game, and no funds or resources were provided by the publisher.

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