Second Dinner's Ben Brode feels like he's on a mission with Marvel Snap. His endgame is turning a legion of die-hard Marvel fans who never play card games or have been intimidated by the genre into devoted digital CCG converts.
Brode calls Marvel Snap the "perfect card game" for anyone who's never tried a card game before. And after my quick chat with him at New York Comic Con, and considering his history as game director during what's widely regarded as Hearthstone's golden era, he might be onto something.
What sets Marvel Snap apart from other games like Hearthstone and Runeterra is just how quick and easy matches are. It's a snack-like approach to battling where one quick match can quickly turn into 10 if you're not careful.
Snap's core gameplay hasn't changed much since we checked it out earlier this summer. Rivals face off against each other for six turns with a deck of 12 cards featuring all your favorite Marvel heroes and villains fighting for control over three random battlefields. The aim is simple: Finish the match by scoring the most points in two out of the three locations.
When comparing it to working on Hearthstone, Brode focuses on how the team designed for Marvel Snap's low barrier to entry. "It's challenging to make a game this simple but have this much depth." He joked that it's easy to make a game with a lot of depth; "you can just keep adding rules," but it eventually becomes "overwhelming" for new and lapsed players.
Brode opted to strip out things that would scare away new players, making the simplest cards possible without sacrificing the depth required to ensure long-term fun. "We have less numbers on a card than in any other card game. We have less card types than any other card game. There's only one card type; cards, that's it!"
Brode said it took a lot of playtesting to make Marvel Snap matches just the right length. "We tried every option. We tried five turns, six turns, seven turns. We even tried skipping turn one and just playing turns two through six." Ultimately, six ended up being the magic number because he said it gave players the "perfect blend of fast games while doing cool combos." He told me wants the player to feel "smart and clever" in every match.
As for the cards, we spoke about how Marvel Snap will handle card collections and the plans to keep things fair and balanced for players with less competitive decks, especially after scrapping Snap's controversial previous monetization strategy. Unlike other CCGs, there are no card packs to buy or unlock here. New cards are gated behind progression in its version of a battle pass.
Ben Brode was a 15-year veteran at Blizzard Entertainment who began as a QA tester on Warcraft III before working multiple roles on the Hearthstone team, including lead designer and game director of Hearthstone from 2016-2018. Brode is co-founder and chief development officer at Second Dinner. The studio's first game is Marvel Snap
You can pay for boosts that will unlock cards on those tracks faster or pay for fun variants that change the appearance of a card. So you can take the Kang The Conqueror card you own and transform him into Kang the Cosmic DJ or, my personal favorite, Baby Doctor Doom (opens in new tab).
All the cards can be unlocked by simply playing more of the game. Brode wants you to "earn your cards" but also wants you to feel like you can make a powerful deck with the cards you already own. "Cards you unlock later down the road aren't more powerful; they're just different. It gives you more options."
The fear for any new player is to be matched up against someone with a far superior deck of cards with stuff you've never seen. Brode explained that to keep things on an even playing field, Snap's matching system will only pit you against people with similar card collections. This means both you and your opponent's 12-card decks will come from more or less the same pool of cards you've already unlocked.
Now that Marvel Snap is about to leave beta and be released globally, I asked Brode how excited he was feeling. "I do think Marvel Snap is going to be the biggest card game of all time." He followed that typically confident statement by saying he has "a lot of experience in growing the size of the card game genre. This team that worked on Marvel Snap is the best in the industry, and it [Marvel Snap] will be huge."
Will Marvel Snap live up to Ben's high expectations? We'll know when it releases on PC, iOS, and Android on October 18th.