Marvel Snap's Bedlam Highlights Mario Kart's Balance

The Besties Podcast discussing Marvel Snap during their Game of the Year bracket:

Justin McElroy: Recently, I’ve found the Locations that will pop up are so wild and random and significant that it sort of makes all your deck building and even the playing of the match irrelevant. I’m running into more and more areas like that. I had the planet “Ego” Location pop-up and that just plays all your cards for you. Like, you don’t even play anymore. And there’s a lot of Locations like that, where it’s so wild that it doesn’t matter what I’ve got in my deck — the match is already over.

Griffin McElroy: There was a recent Location that had you draw three cards then it destroyed the rest of your hand. I run a deck based around a handful of cards that if I don’t draw them, that’s it. If that was the first Location on the very first round of the game, I would say, “welp, I’m gonna lose, so bye.” And the game’s not particularly fun when someone bails out after a round or two. It completely gets rid of the whole Snapping-wager mechanic, which is so brilliant because it forces you to slow-play and bluff sometimes, which are mechanics that haven’t really been featured in a trading card game before. But it’s rendered completely void by these Locations that pretty much turn it into a roll of the dice.

Marvel Snap was a saving grace when rocking my infant daughter back to sleep after middle-of-the-night feedings. I could squeeze in five or so games due to its quick-start gameplay, small playfield, six round limit, and low stakes. It’s the perfect pick-up and play mobile experience. (Honestly, the 10s splash screen is the most tedious part.)

When the game first launched, I felt like I was able to run quick math to strategize the most opportune plays, which led to informed Snaps, the wagering mechanic Griffin mentions above. But as time went on, the Locations that alter the playfield with unique rules became so batshit insane that I felt like I could no longer track how a particular play would net out. I might increase Iron Man’s power 20-fold and obliterate my enemy’s cards or somehow sabotage myself by accidentally negating my cards’ powers, destroying my cards, or sending my cards to my enemy. Sometimes, a combination of all of the above would be triggered.

Hearing The Besties discuss the chaotic turn Marvel Snap’s design has taken initially had me drawing parallels to Mario Kart’s “anyone’s game” design. But the more I think about it, the more I believe Marvel Snap’s wild and seemingly unpredictable behavior highlights the balance and restraint designed into Mario Kart.