I’ve been looking forward to Pokemon TCG Live all year, the reboot of the digital Pokemon trading card game, but now that it’s here, I have no interest. I tried to play a few matches this week, but it just couldn’t hold my attention. Now that I’ve had a taste of Marvel Snap, everything else feels slow and boring by comparison. I used to love Pokemon, Hearthstone, and Runeterra, but Marvel Snap ruined all of them for me.
My first game of Pokemon TCG Live was deflating, and not just because the redesign is underwhelming. At the start of the match, both players have a 25-minute clock that tracks their turn length. 25 minutes each means a single match could take 50 minutes to play. I know I used to be fine with that, but not anymore.
Every time it was my opponent's turn to play, I sat there in silence, waiting for my turn, sometimes for four or five minutes. After a while, it occurred to me that I could play an entire game of Marvel Snap in the time it took for one person to take one turn in Pokemon. I launched Snap on my phone to put the theory to the test, and sure enough, I played an entire match in the time it took my opponent to finish their next turn.
It isn’t just about the length of a game though. Part of the genius of Marvel Snap is that it’s always your turn. You never have to sit and wait for another player to make their moves the way you do in other card games. Every once in a while you’ll make a snap decision and need to wait for your opponent to figure out what they want to do, but even then, you’re never sitting idly for more than a few seconds. Sitting there for five minutes while your opponent plays Pokemon cards is excruciating. I know I ought to be paying attention to their moves, but after a minute of watching them deliberate, I’m so bored that I just want to concede.
Part of the problem with other TCGs is the snowball effect. Sometimes when you play a game of Pokemon or Hearthstone it can be clear pretty early on that you’re losing. Control-style deck archetypes can make losing a long and painful process, and when you realize your opponent is using one, you may feel like conceding before the match even really starts, just to avoid the inevitable.
Once again, Marvel Snap out-designs that problem. The vast majority of Snap matches aren’t decided until the last turn, and pulling off last-second victories are some of the most satisfying games you can play. Even losing matches in Snap can feel good if your opponent has a particularly clever play. Other TCGs don’t have a lot of surprises once you learn the very specific meta decks that everyone tends to use.
Marvel Snap is not the ultimate card game, and I think there is space for it alongside other, more traditional TCGs. For me, Snap revealed the friction points that other games have always had that I just took for granted as a convention of the genre. It solved problems I didn’t even realize were problems before. Now that I’ve gotten a taste for a faster, more exciting card game, I don’t know if I can ever go back.
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