Genshin Impact’s new in-world card game is a personal attack on what remains of my free time. The rules are simple to learn, but the strategy is incredibly tough to master. And I can’t stop trying new decks. I want to apologize to every one of my coworkers who got sucked into Marvel Snap this year. I’m one of you now, just in my silly little gacha game.
Genius Invokation TCG is an original card game that became playable in Genshin Impact as of yesterday. After breezing through the story tutorial, players are given a starter deck and told to wreak havoc upon the NPCs in the sleepy town of Mondstadt. You can even challenge some of your favorite characters like Diluc or Ganyu to matches. Soon, I found myself compulsively zipping through the city streets and harassing the poor citizenry for yet another card battle. But if you saw what kind of cards they dropped upon defeat, you’d be doing it too.
Here’s how the game works: At the beginning of each round, you roll eight dice to determine what your “energy” pool is for that round. Each face represents one of the seven major elements and a universal element. You can spend dice to use abilities, switch out your active character, or play Action Cards that you draw each round (that’s Trainer Cards to you Pokémon nerds and Spell Cards to Yu-Gi-Oh fans). You can also sacrifice Action Cards to convert your dice into a more useful element. Each round, players can attack each other as many times as they want—so long as they still have characters and they can pay the dice cost. The round usually ends when both players can’t spend any more dice.
Just like playing Genshin normally, the gameplay places a large emphasis on combining different elements. You can force your opponent to lose a turn if you combine Hydro and Cryo. Anemo-element abilities can hit multiple characters if they Swirl with a different element. Pyro usually adds extra damage when combined with something else. The team-based strategy helps make Genius Invokation feel like a fresh interpretation of Genshin, rather than being a reskin of an existing card game.
Most matches don’t last longer than five rounds, though I found myself agonizing over decisions every time it was my turn to move. Should I stack combos? Should I go on an all-out offensive? Should I spend dice aggressively now, so my characters are well-equipped for the next rounds? Despite the dice component, winning is all about making more efficient moves than your opponent. I’ve had my share of bad hands, but the effects of RNG feel intentionally minimized. You can redraw the starting Action Cards at the beginning of the match, and you can reroll specific dice once per round. That can come with its own anxiety—if you lose, it’s probably because you did suck. But that just means that you can learn how to play more strategically, instead of being screwed by a chain of bad luck.
Ironically, there’s no gacha component to this in-game TCG. You earn all your cards by battling special opponents, or by purchasing them with the currency that you win from matches. I can already tell that I’ll be spending all my time grinding out the best deck I possibly can, so I’m hoping that HoYoverse adds more cards in the future.
Aside from challenging your favorite characters and the unassuming NPCs you’ve walked past every day, you can also theoretically play against your friends once you’ve won enough qualifying matches. There’s just one problem: You can only unlock ranked PvP once you’ve hit level four, and there’s a limited number of experience points you can earn every week (though you can still invite your friends to play casually). So it’s impossible for anyone to climb the ladder right now. Which is probably for the best, or my Genshin friends will never know a day of peace in their lives.