Marvel Snap is a very good card game which recently left early access and is now playable on Android, iOS, and Steam. Unlike any other digital card game, snap does not include a mulligan option at the start of the match, allowing you to dump some or all of your cards for new cards. But as Ben Brode of developer Second Dinner explained on Twitter, although the lack of a mulligan was a problem with early playtesters, the developers solved it by making just a minor change to a single card.
Released last week after a few months of 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 has quickly become one of the most popular mobile games, and a favorite among some of the Kotakupersonnel. I’ve been playing it occasionally since beta and I 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 not to include mulligans. And to do that job required a little tweak to Quicksilver.
On Twitter, Brode explained that what makes card games fun is variance. Wanted second dinner too? Marvel Snap decks should be small, as deckbuilding is often one of the biggest obstacles for new players. And the smaller the decks, the less variance they will have. So to keep players from throwing cards to get exactly what they need – and to make people bluff using the snap mechanic – Second Dinner has dumped mulligans.
As you might expect, the omission of such a popular and traditional part of card games caused some problems. According to Brode, when people played early builds of, snap, they mainly complained about the lack of mulligans.
“We knew that once players understood how the Cube worked and how to jump in at any time for just a small loss of Cubes, the impact of bad luck would be lessened,” Brode wrote. “And also, missing one or two drop-in snap is really different from other card games. There is no ‘tempo’ in it snap. You don’t “lose control of the board” by not playing a card early. It may not be the best, but you are certainly not doomed.”
While Brode and the team were confident that players wouldn’t miss the mulligan once they got the hang of the game, the amount of early feedback that they couldn’t play on the first turn and had no chance to trade cards was hard to beat. ignore. But instead of completely reworking the game, the team made a single change. It put Quicksilver in the deck that players start the game with. The card only uses one energy and also has an ability that always puts it in your hand at the start of a match.
“Straight away [after this tweak] the mulligan feedback dried up,” Brode explained. “Who needs mulligan if you always pull your 1 drop? Eventually, many players decide to trade Quicksilver for another card, but at that point you make the choice to risk a bad opening hand.”
Brode finished the thread explaining that developers often have to decide whether issues are system-wide or just an issue with certain content. In other words, does a problem require you to rework the entire game system, or can it be solved with a minor tweak, such as forcing a usable one-energy card into the player’s first deck?
In this case, a small change to Quicksilver solved the problem without fundamentally changing Marvel Snap. That’s a good thing, because I’m happy with how the game plays today, and don’t miss mulligans at all!