Marvel Snap Ignored A Card Game Staple And It Worked

An image shows Quicksilver from Marvel Snap in front of comic book artwork.

Image: Marvel / Second Dinner / Kotaku

Marvel Snap is a very good card game that recently left early access and is now playable on Android, iOS, and Steam. However, unlike basically every other digital card game, snaps doesn’t include a mulligan option at the start of the match, letting you ditch some or all of your cards for new cards. But as Ben Brode of developer Second Dinner explained on Twitter, while the lack of a mulligan was a problem with early playtesters, the developers fixed it by making just one tiny change to a single card.

Released last week after a few months in early access, Marvel Snap is a free-to-play card game created by former hearthstone director Ben Brode and his new game studio, Second Dinner. It’s quickly become one of the most popular mobile games going, and a favorite among some of Kotaku‘s staff. I’ve been playing it on and off since the beta and think it might be my favorite digital card game in years thanks to its focus on quick matches, random elements, and small decks. However, as part of this stripped-down approach to a card game, Brode and his team decided early on to not include mulligans. And making that work required one tiny tweak to Quicksilver.

On Twitter, Brode explained that what makes card games fun is variance. However, Second Dinner also wanted Marvel Snap decks to be small, as deckbuilding is often one of the biggest obstacles for new players. And the smaller the decks, the less variance they’ll have. So in order to keep players from just throwing away cards to get precisely what they needed—and to let folks bluff using the snap mechanic—Second Dinner ditched mulligans.

As you might expect, cutting out such a popular and traditional part of card games caused some issues. According to Brode, whenever people played early builds of snaps, they mostly complained about the lack of mulligans.

“We knew that once players understood how the Cube worked and how you could bail out at any time for only a small loss of Cubes, the impact of bad luck would be lessened,” wrote Brode. “And also, missing a one or two drop in snaps is really different than in other card games. There’s no ‘tempo’ in snaps. You don’t ‘lose board control’ by not playing a card early. It might not be the best, but you’re certainly not doomed.”

Even though Brode and the team were confident players wouldn’t miss the mulligan once they understood the game, the amount of early feedback concerning not being able to play anything on turn one and not having a chance to swap cards was hard to ignore. But instead of completely reworking the game, the team made a single change. It placed Quicksilver into the deck players start the game with. The card only uses one energy, and also has an ability that always places it in your hand at the start of a match.

“Immediately [after this tweak] the mulligan feedback dried up,” explained Brode. “Who needs to mulligan when you always draw your 1-drop? Eventually, many players decide to swap Quicksilver for a different card, but at that point you’re making the choice to risk a bad opening hand.”

Brode finished up the thread explaining that developers often have to decide if problems are system-wide or just an issue with some content. In other words, does a problem necessitate you reworking the entire game system, or can it be solved with a smaller tweak, like forcing a useful one-energy card into players’ first deck?

In this case, a tiny change to Quicksilver solved the problem without fundamentally changing up Marvel Snap. That’s a good thing, because I’m happy with how the game plays today, and don’t miss mulligans at all!

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