For four months, I’ve played Marvel Snap nearly every day. It’s become habitual, but, despite my dedication to the superhero-filled card game, I can’t bring myself to spend a single dime on it.
As a big tabletop and trading card game player, I’m used to convoluted, strategy-focused games that can go on for hours, but what I liked about Marvel Snap is how it satisfies my card gaming itch while being extremely fast-paced. I can fit in a match between a phone call, a bathroom break, or even just before breakfast. In fact, I play Snap at least three times a day, at specific time intervals when the daily challenges drop.
Marvel Snap is deceptively simple. You have a deck of 12 cards, each of which is a different Marvel character. They’ve a cost to play, a power level, and a special ability you can activate if you meet certain conditions. Play Agent Coulson, for instance, and you’ll immediately draw two new cards to your hand. When you start a game, you and your opponent sit opposite a board of three randomly generated locations, each with its own rules – such as the Danger Room, which has a 25% chance of destroying any card played there. To win, you need to be the first to take two of the three locations, by playing cards with high power levels than your foe. It’s straightforward, but there’s a huge possibility for variety.
The small deck size and random locations with game-altering effects result in quick and unpredictable matches. Creating new and exciting decks is easy with such a large pool of unique cards to unlock and choose from, and the trademark Snapping mechanic – where you can double the rewards you’ll earn from a ranked match – adds a rush few mobile games can top. That’s why Marvel Snap is such a breath of fresh air in the mobile space. The high you feel isn’t from dropping money on some kind of gambling system to win a new hero or something, it’s the thrill of the gameplay itself. Which, in its ingenious progression and upgrade loop, allows you to unlock things like new cards or credits in a steady yet semi-grinding fashion – all without spending money.
Marvel Snap does have direct microtransactions, but the game doesn’t punish you in any way for not using them, nor does it give you a massive advantage if you do. So, I’ve felt off the hook this whole time. It would be different if the game hampered me because I wasn’t spending money. Instead, with no limit to how many matches you can play and an unlock system that’s mostly random, Marvel Snap avoids the pitfalls of free-to-play mobile games.
The developers are so committed to a healthy game they even nerfed two of Marvel Snap’s season pass cards because they dominated the meta.
Of all my friends playing Marvel Snap, I’m the only one who hasn’t spent money on it yet. It’s becoming a point of pride that I’m taking on players flaunting paid-for cosmetics with my more standard deck. I worry I would lose the thrill of beating someone who bought something, even if they don’t care about losing to someone who didn’t.
I’ll happily buy DLC when it means entire new campaigns for my favorite RPGs, or even the classic map packs of Halo 3, but in Marvel Snap cards are not locked behind paywalls. My money may speed up my progression and get me some lovely cosmetic variants for my hero cards, but it won’t make me more competitive on the board. This feels rare for a free-to-play game, especially a mobile one, where I can play a multiplayer game so consistently and competitively without opening my wallet.
If I were to pay microtransactions now, it wouldn’t be to get ahead, but to support the developers of a game that’s given me hours of pleasure.