If you’ve spent any time at all playing the new hit mobile card game Marvel Snap, you’ve probably wondered whether the person on the other side of the virtual board was human or not. And you’re not alone. The game doesn’t make it clear when you’re playing against a real person, and as a result, players are now paranoid that most of their opponents are in fact bots, and also that they’re cheating.
Earlier this week I convinced a friend to pick up Marvel’s new hotness and bots were the first thing on his mind. How did he go 15 games without a single loss? The answer is that until you hit rank 10, Marvel Snap appears to match you exclusively against AI-controlled opponents who can delicately carry you up the game’s learning curve. But even after that, the game still appears to lean heavily on bots through rank 30, especially if it can’t match you against a similarly skilled human in a reasonable amount of time.
The game’s subreddit is full of people trying to suss out whether the Spidey or Nick Fury avatar on the other side is controlled by a live human or not. “I’ve played over 100 games and seriously have won all but 2,” someone complained yesterday. “I can’t help but feel like I’m facing bots considering how they play and how they have basic names.” There are dozens of other posts just like it.
Some players think having a conventional superhero name like Bruce Banner is a dead giveaway. Others are convinced that those are actually just real life nerds who picked handles early, and the true bots are those disguised with unusual names and unconventional spellings. “Some are also spelt stupidly like ‘braedyyn’ (exaggeration),” wrote one person who’s been playing since the beta. “Superhero names i think are real people that got in early with their unique, themed puns/names.”
To probe the metaphysical character of their opponents even further, players will use frequent emotes to try and elicit a seemingly spontaneous reaction. Or they’ll interrogate unusual moves for possible signs of bot-hood. Some players think bots make obvious blunders, and that appears to be true at the lower ranks. As you climb the ladder, however, the bots seem to get so good that a few players are convinced they openly cheat.
For months now, veteran players have been accusing bots of reacting to their moves on the fly, either countering plays in the right lane at the right time, or passing turns entirely to avoid triggering their human opponents’ traps. One player made their case a month ago, detailing how a bot just happened to play Apocalypse on Death’s Domain the exact same turn Armor was revealed there preventing him from dying.
“Just gotta know how to play against them, and assume they’re gonna counter you,” wrote one player more recently in response to an “Omniscient Bot” meme. “Cards like Prof. X just plain don’t work against the cheater bots.” Players are convinced that bots can not only see their hands and what’s played, but also know the outcome of random events like terrain changes and RNG draws ahead of time.
While developer Second Dinner hasn’t revealed the true nature of Marvel Snap bots, players have determined a few telltale signs for recognizing them. Agent Carter, a player with thousands of matches under his belt, put together an entire Excel spreadsheet trying to expose their behavior and offering strategies for beating them even when they cheat.
In addition to not responding with emotes or captions, bots don’t appear to use cosmetics obtained from the season pass, and always default to the starting purple art for the backs of cards. And when it comes to trying to beat them, Agent Carter speculates based on his data that bots tend to try and use as much energy per turn as possible, and are more likely to let the board fill up cards than reserve room for their strongest turn six finishers.
Data miners have even claimed that bots have different “profiles” when it comes to snapping and retreating. Some are more flighty while others are more aggressive, though most bots tend to only snap once they are winning at least two lanes. One way players can try to take advantage of this is by baiting bots into snapping, especially since bots have a tendency not to retreat even when their odds of winning drop considerably.
While Agent Carter plans to continue to update his research, and Second Dinner will no doubt patch bots from time to time, it’s clear player bot paranoia isn’t all in their heads, even if some of the mind games are. The Marvel Snap bot armies are very real, and at higher ranks extremely challenging. So if you’re still on a 100 game win streak, enjoy it while it lasts.