This is the fourth and final post in my Marvel Snap week series. I want to take this opportunity to answer a question I asked in the first post. Why have a Marvel Snap week? Why direct four full posts of coverage if not for personal gain of some sort?
Well, as I mentioned in the first post, there were just too many things it made me want to talk about, and I didn’t think I could fit them into one post. One of the biggest ideas that I wanted to discuss was that of convergent design. Convergent design is the phenomenon where different groups of individuals working in completely different circles, end up making similar things.
So let’s talk about that. Marvel Snap is a game where you have a hand of cards, with various power values and abilities, and your goal is play them to locations, and then have the highest total power value at those locations.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about a board game I liked. In it, you have a hand of cards, with various power values and abilities, that you play to locations, with the goal of having the highest total power value at those locations. It’s called Space Lion.
To be clear, because this seems important, and since I’ll be talking about something much less pleasant in a bit: I do not believe that either Space Lion or Marvel Snap took or stole mechanics from the other in any way whatsoever. I just think the fact that both of them have some similar mechanics is an fascinating example of convergent design.
And despite both games having gameplay with some interesting parallels (such as both relying on hidden placement, and trying to read your opponents’ plays and options) there are also tons of things that set them apart!
Space Lion is a longer form board game, and has no deckbuilding or drawing cards. Instead, your entire set of cards starts in your hand, and the decisions to make about when and where to play them are entirely up to you.
Marvel Snap, on the other hand, has the traditional drawing from a deck, and energy/mana system that’s used in games like Magic and Hearthstone.
In this case, both games just happened to use similar mechanics as part of their primary systems, and it’s neat to see how despite that, they’re both very different games.
So let’s talk about the opposite.
Flowering Heights, Towering Perfection, and Stolen Designs
Several weeks ago, I saw this tweet.
For me, it was an interesting sort of philosophical question. What constitutes copying someone else’s design? Was there actual theft going on here or was this someone being over protective of a mechanic?
I chatted with some folks, had some discussions, and assumed that it would never really be clear who was in the right in this situation.
After all, it’s not like the person who claimed they were being ripped off would post about it right?
And it’s not like their post about it would have exact comparisons, right?
And it’s not like they would have a full set of screenshots of the person accused of stealing the game, playing the game in question in a tabletop simulator playtest session, right?
The Kickstarter for the stolen game in question is down now. It was at a bit over half its goal at time of cancellation, and based off my research*, this seems to be the end of the whole affair.
*Reading Connor Wake’s twitter posts from the last few weeks, and literally nothing else.
Now we’ve moved out of the arena of convergent design. I still find this really interesting. Because outside of the community action and outrage, there’s no other real way to resolve something like this. Board game mechanics aren’t protected by copyright, trademark, and probably not by patents (although there’s some debate). There’s nothing outside of community outrage that actual stops me from just completing ripping off the gameplay of, say, Glory to Rome, naming it Honor to Carthage, and running a Kickstarter.
I also found how people feel about cases of board game copying. Most board game designers I saw talking about it see this as a somewhat necessary state of affairs. Few designers want to make playtesters sign expansive NDA’s, or to stop playtesting in order to deal with possible theft.
The biggest concern I heard was the fear that at some point, someone too big to stop, such as Hasbro, would rip off an indie design, and just bring it to mass market. Hasbro can’t be canceled on Twitter. And to be clear: there’s no legal framework or tools to stop this. Right now this shit operates entirely on the hope that corporations won’t see it in their best interest to rip off an indie designer’s board game.
Anyway, with that series of paragraphs that have absolutely nothing to do with Marvel Snap, this concludes Marvel Snap week! I’d say that you should follow me on Twitter, but it’s possible that platform is literally dead by next week. Or even if it hasn’t died, that it should. You could also watch my stuff on YouTube, but that’s almost entirely Magic: The Gathering. So maybe you can just stay here on this site. Browse the archives. Wait for next week’s post.
Yeah, maybe do that instead.