I don’t play a lot of games. Before Marvel Strike Force came along, as I’ve stated elsewhere, my gaming was pretty much limited to buying the new Civilization game when it came out. I would then play it pretty steadily for about a week, then uninstall it and put it away. You see, I sometimes have trouble regulating the amount of time I play a game. (And the Civ games are hella fun, but a week is about all it takes to get tired of the doldrums which kick in halfway through every game.) Which is why Marvel Strike Force, though it has become more sprawling thanks to multiple modes of play, works well for me. Because the best game for me is some form of TradeWars 2002. I shall explain.
TradeWars was a game you played on BBSes pre-Internet. You know, back in the 17th Century. It gave you a certain amount of actions you could take each day. And that was it. You couldn’t spend hours upon hours playing it even if you wanted to. And it reset at midnight. So if you really wanted to be efficient, you could log in just before midnight, play your bit, then log in after midnight, and play the next day’s bit. Quick, in and out.
Marvel Strike Force only has a certain amount of play you can do at any given time before you smack into something even more effective than time constraints: a paywall. You can easily play MSF for free and have a grand old time, which for the most part I do. In fact, before MSF I made it a point never to pay for anything in an otherwise free game. (Maybe it’s the ghosts of all those quarters I shoveled into Dragon’s Lair—they could be haunting me. Not sure.) But MSF is so much fun and for the most part so well executed that I actually felt bad for being a total freeloader. Occasionally, I will throw them coin. But yes, not wanting to spend much money is a very formidable barrier to overdoing it with that game.
That’s probably the one bad thing about Marvel Snap. The one thing that will test me. There’s no real limit to how much you can play at any given time.
Without delving into the gritty details of gameplay (which you can find elsewhere if you’re so reclined), it goes like this. You have cards with Marvel characters on them. They almost all have some kind of power or ability. They all cost a certain amount of energy and have a certain number of points. You play your chosen deck against another human being and their chosen deck, doing so on three locations. The point values can change. The cards can be blown to pieces. Or destroyed and brought back from the dead. And the locations can affect gameplay and even put giant craters in the game board. There’s a card and a location that will take over your game play and play for you, leaving you only to hit the End Turn button. It can get a bit nuts, which is most of the fun of it.
There are ways to setup decks with finishing moves and there are ways to create massive combo plays. And there are a ton of ridiculous ways to yank defeat from the jaws of victory.
There are a few things I really like about this game. One: it requires reading comprehension. Generally, anytime something happens—and you don’t know why or how it happened—you need to re-read something. Because you missed a detail. The words chosen are there for a reason. For example: some locations will not let you play certain cards there. But there are ways to get cards there without specifically playing them there. Like in Taskmaster: all the information you need is on the card.
Second—and this is going to be a weird one: math is helpful. This is odd for me to say because math and I have had what you might call an adversarial relationship for most of our shared history. We both (mathematics and myself) recognize this is due to me going to pubic school in Alabama, where people who are good at math are regularly tried for witchcraft—but still, it hasn’t been easy. Here at last is a game where we can work together towards a common good. For example: I have seen maybe once the Magneto card played at the end of the game resulting in a victory by my opponent. Sometimes it has no overall effect. Most times it actually ensures my victory. And that’s because I know that the Magneto cards move a certain type of card. And if you subtract the points of the cards it will move from the locations it will move them…and add those points to the location to which it will move them…you can usually predict what’s going to happen in advance. Maybe there’s just a lot of Magneto fans out there who just like to see him do his thing. Who can say?
The fact a full match can be played very quickly—usually in just a couple of minutes if both you and your opponent know what you’re doing—is very handy. Whenever you’re stuck with a few minutes to spare—but not enough time to actually start something else—you can fire up Snap and be in a match in about a minute. It’s fun. And insidious. No wonder it won Mobile Game of the Year at the Game Awards this year.
They’re getting ready to implement a way to befriend folks on the game and then challenge them to battles. Which will be handy. But some things on my wish list:
More Titles. These are the little slogans that appear below your name when you’re getting into a match. You can see mine below. To my knowledge, “The Ultimate Nullifier” is not one. It should be. So should other classic references like “Filed Under ‘H’ for Toy,” “Mile a minute non-stop action!” and “I Am Your Father’s Brother’s Nephew’s Cousin’s Former Roommate.”
More Locations. Sure there’s the obvious ones like Krakoa from the X-Men books (“Any mutant card can move here on any turn.”) But I want weird stuff like Duckworld (“Animal-based characters gain 1 point”). And I know “Assistant Editor’s Month” probably isn’t a location per se, but it would certainly be nice to see. And it would confuse young players, which is what all good games should do to a certain extent. Its effect? “All cards play here turn into a random card which is 1-point weaker.”
More Characters. I have been lobbying Marvel Strike Force to add Hellcow pretty much since I started playing, shortly after the thing launched. Snap, however, has Hellcow in it from Day One. So if you’re going to have Hellcow, you might as well delve into some other obscure character treats. Like Angar the Screamer, reducing points of your opponents’ cards at his location. Or 3-D Man, increasing its points…but only for 3 turns. Or ForgetMeNot…his card disappears completely but reappears where it’s needed most if there’s room for it.
The final thing I really like about this game is its willingness to blow stuff up to make the game fun. The TVA can pop up and cut the game down to four rounds, for example. Or my personal favorite: you can play the Galactus card, and if you play it right, well…
…yes. You’re left with one location remaining and two smoking craters.
Anyway, it’s fun. Come find me when they start doing friends and then being able to challenge your friends to battle. You’ll probably kick my ass but it’ll be a blast. Pun only 43% intended.
Nick Fury Signed Variant: Yeah, it’s a digital signature, but whatever. It’s so smart. All players got this as part of their holiday festivities.