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Games are good at moments of reflection – a very specific kind of reflection anyway. You might call it the “Well, That Didn’t Work” Moment. In games we get do-overs, so when an approach isn’t working, you get to rethink it. Rather than in real life, say, where I just try the same failed approach again but grumpier.
Card games are particularly good at this, and Marvel Snap is a particularly good example of a card game that is particularly good at this. Whenever I lose a game – and I lose all the time – I get to spend a pleasant few moments working out what went wrong, picking over my deck, and swapping cards in and out. There’s a reward for being bad at the game. How kind.
The funny thing is, I’ve always found deck building really overwhelming. In Hearthstone, for example, I never made a deck from scratch. I just slowly transformed old decks that didn’t work into new decks that didn’t work, a single card at a time, until the sheer amount of poor micro-decisions had riddled the whole thing, the way termites will undermine a house one tiny bite at a time.
But with Marvel Snap – and something like Clash Royale – deck building is a legit part of the fun. With just eight cards, it’s something I can get my head around. More than that, I can go from tweaking to testing very quickly. And that way leads to combos.
Speaking of combos, since these moments of reflection are really moments of considering the game design itself, very, very close up, it’s not surprising that I’ve started noticing things about Marvel Snap that I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t brought the slower, more daydreamy part of my mind along.
Example: my new favourite card is Hobgoblin, because Hobgoblin is literally the worst. 5 cost, -7 power, and the moment you play him, “your opponent gains control of this.” You’re basically flinging -7 into your enemy’s house.
And this has made me think. You don’t often damage your enemies directly in Marvel Snap. You and your rival are playing to gain control of two of the three areas on the screen, but it’s not like Hearthstone where you’re whacking their cards and whacking their hero every turn. In this respect it’s a gentler game, which is possibly why I’m already finding it less toxic than Hearthstone. And it’s why packing a card like Hobgoblin makes me feel even more of a jerk.
But every jerk gets their comeuppance. I played Hobgoblin last night and accidentally deployed them on Kamar-Taj where On Reveal effects happen twice. Hobgoblin sailed over to my enemy’s side like I planned, but then the On Reveal effect kicked in again and Hobgoblin came right back to my side. Arguably where Hobgoblin belongs. And that, of course, left me with a lot to reflect upon.