How does Marvel Snap compare to Hearthstone? While they’re both digital collectable card games, they play very differently
Marvel Snap is a digital card game from developer Second Dinner, a studio employs several original Hearthstone team members including Ben Brode and Yong Woo, among others. Like you and your annoying kid brother, comparisons between the developers’ two “children” were inevitable. And we’re curious ourselves: is Marvel Snap just Hearthstone with the Scarlet Witch instead of Jaina Proudmoore? After playing many games in the closed beta, I can say that answer is a big “no.”
So how is Marvel Snap like its big brother, Hearthstone, and in what ways is it totally different? Let’s dive in and find out. Please note that everything in this article is taken from the closed beta version of the game. It may (and probably will) change between now and when the goes live.
Marvel Snap remains faithful to the digital collectible card game genre
The designing Marvel Snap, Brode and his team went straight to their wheelhouse: it’s a digital collectible card game just like Hearthstone is. You collect various cards, organize them into a deck, and use them in game to defeat your opponent. The cards all have unique effects and interact with both your own cards and your opponent’s cards.
But cards also interact with the board, and that’s where the differences between the two games start to manifest.
Different win conditions drive many distinctions between the two games
These two games have fundamentally different win conditions, and that’s what really makes Marvel Snap unique. In Hearthstone, you use your spells and minions to reduce your opponent’s health to 0 while keeping your own health above 0. In Snap, you use your minions to gain control of three different iconic Marvel locations, and whoever controls the most of them wins.
You’ll see places like Wakanda, the Sanctum Sanctorum, Avengers Tower, and so forth. Your minions don’t fight each other in Snap: instead, you play them at one of the three locations, vying for control of that location. Each minion has a Power stat, and whichever player has the highest power at a location by the end of the game controls it. Of course, there are all kinds of interactions between the cards, and even between the cards and the locations, that can alter the Power stat. For example, Iron Man has 0 power, but he doubles the power of all the minions you have at his location when you play him.
Tony Stark is a buff bot? Whodathunk?
Marvel Snap games run on a timer instead of a condition
Hearthstone games continue until one player or the other is reduced to 0 health. Although the developers have taken steps to shorten games, you never know how many turns a given match will take. It could take 5 turns. It could take 10.
A game of Snap has 6 turns. At the end of turn 6, the game tallies up the Power at each location and declares a winner. It feels like the difference between baseball where you play to twenty seven outs versus football where you play until the timer expires. The end result is that Marvel Snap games are very fast — often much faster than Hearthstone.
Card acquisition and monetization
There are no packs with random cards to buy in Marvel Snap, which might be a good thing as Blizzard was recently sued over Hearthstone random pack mechanics — and they’re hardly the first company to land into trouble for these random mechanics. You buy Hearthstone card packs with in-game Gold or real currency, but the game includes many other items you can buy with Gold or currency like Hero Skins, Battlegrounds Perks, mini-sets of cards, Adventures, Battlegrounds Strikes, Battlegrounds boards, and more.
In Marvel Snap, new cards are attained via the Collection Levels and Season Levels. Collection Levels and Season Levels are two separate Battle Pass style tracks that provide all kinds of rewards including cards, Gold, avatars, card backs, Boosters, and Credits. It feels like the Hearthstone’s Rewards Track, but there are two of them. For example, you get the White Tiger card added to your collection when you hit Collection Level 12. The Colossus card is awarded at Season Pass Level 6. Eventually you are start to see “Mystery Cards.” You don’t find out what they are until you earn them.
I miss the Hearthstone’s ability to craft cards when I play Marvel Snap. Right now, Elektra is quite a strong card since she can remove an enemy card from a location. I wish I had her, but the only way to get her is to get her from one of “Mystery Card” spots.
Snap has a dizzying array of currencies
You have Credits which can be used to upgrade your cards. Upgrades also require Boosts, which are card-specific. Upgrading cards is a cosmetic effect only for the card, and it awards Collection Levels. You have daily and weekly missions which award Season Pass XP, and a weekly challenge which awards Gold and Credits.
Every 12 hours, you get 50 Credits for free, but you can buy more Credits with Gold, which you buy with real currency. Gold is used to purchase Premium and Premium+ Season Passes, which help you along the Reward track in different ways: Premium gives you more rewards as you level up, while Premium+ advances the track by 10 levels immediately. As a free to play player and having spent 0 Gold, after my playtime I’m 50 Gold short of the price of Premium and 750 Gold short of Premium+. I would either need to keep saving or use cold hard cash to buy the Gold I need.
In addition to Credits, Gold can be used to purchase Variants, which are versions of cards in your collection with different artwork. Functionally, they have the exact same as the regular card, so they aren’t required to succeed — however, the card art is definitely part of the game’s appeal, and anyone who enjoys collecting may want to grab these variant cards.
Marvel Snap has fewer gameplay options
Marvel Snap is the younger game of the two, and lacks the wide range of game modes and options Hearthstone possesses. Perhaps one day, Snap will add things like Battlegrounds, Arena, Duels, or Mercenaries, but for now, there’s just one game mode which most closely resembles Hearthstone’s Standard Ranked Ladder.
This does make Snap straightforward: all you need to do is press Play and it will set up a match for you based upon a hidden ELO rating. But if you’re looking for a lot of variety in your gameplay, Hearthstone has a definite edge.
So which game is better? The jury is still out
It’s far too early to declare any kind of “winner” between the two games. Hearthstone has been out since 2014 and has had lots of time to evolve and build out its offerings. Snap isn’t even released yet.
While both games are free to play, players still have to determine how to spend their most precious resource: time. Developers obsess over metrics like Monthly Average Users (MAUs) because they know that where gamers spend their time, they’re likely to spend their money. Both Hearthstone and Snap provide ways to spend that real world money.
So should you try Snap when it’s released? My best advice for long-time Hearthstone players who are enjoying the current game would be to try Snap and see if you like it. If you do, dabble in it when you need a break a break from Hearthstone.
But maybe you’re a Hearthstone player who’s ready for a change of pace. Maybe you’re not enjoying the current meta. Maybe you didn’t like changes such as the way Hearthstone fundamentally changed the way Control decks won the game. Maybe you just want something new. I know you’ve got a significant sunk cost to overcome, but you should definitely give Marvel Snap a try. Just remember that while Snap is the shiny, new toy, it still has to prove it has the staying power to provide a good cadence of content to keep the game fresh and exciting.
If you are new to digital collectible card games and wondering which one you should try, I would strongly advise you to to download both. Both are high quality games with a zero cost barrier to entry. You might want to start with Snap as it has a gentler learning curve with fewer modes and fewer cards — but until the beta opens up and the game gets a wider launch, Hearthstone is the only one you can check out.
But as we’ve said, they’re very different games. After playing both, most players will likely find themselves gravitating towards one or the other. Follow your passion and play the game you’re most excited about playing.
For my part, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Marvel Snap. The only thing keeping from dumping even more hours into it is knowing all my progress is going to get wiped at the end of the closed beta period. I can see myself playing Snap quite a bit on release.
If you’d like to check out Marvel Snap as soon as possible, the game is currently in closed beta. You can sign up for beta access on the Marvel Snap webpage.