You may have recently asked yourself what is Auto Chess, as it's quite the gaming break out recently. If you hop on Steam right now you'll see almost 90,000 players currently enjoying DOTA Underlords, almost 80,000 people are watching people play Teamfight Tactics on Twitch, and more than 9 million players are following the DOTA Auto Chess mod on Steam. If you're wondering how to play Auto Chess (opens in new tab) then you should know that it has little to do with real chess, outside the game taking place on an eight by eight checkerboard. A better description for the genre would be a turn based strategy game all about team composition and unit placement.
If you're not up to date on what is Auto Chess and how it works, then here's a handy guide to get you up to speed.
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What is Auto Chess?
Auto Chess, or auto battlers as the genre has been known to be called, is a mixture of team building and hero placement. Games consist of eight players fighting each other in randomized one vs one matches. Players place heroes on the board at the start of each round and the heroes battle automatically. Simple, right?
The game that started the trend, DOTA Auto Chess, isn't a full game but rather a DOTA 2 community mod. There's no official tutorial, and it has a steep and slippery learning curve. Despite that however, two weeks after the mod launched in January of this year, DOTA 2 Auto Chess became one of the most popular games on Steam and one of the hottest trends since battle royale. DOTA Underlords and Teamfight Tactics have since appeared, creating their own take on the genre.
How does Auto Chess work?
Let's start with the basics: Auto Chess is about buying units and placing them on a chess-like board. Games are broken up into a number of rounds and you'll buy and place units during each one, fighting the computer or one of the seven other players in your game.
Once you place your units on the board they'll fight the opponents units in real time - you have no control over it. That's the auto part of Auto Chess. If you win you get gold, which can be used to buy units and experience, and move on to the next match. If you're defeated you'll lose hit points, lose enough of them and you'll get eliminated. The last player standing out of the original eight wins. Auto Chess has a lot of intricacies past this point, so it'll be tough to understand everything until you've actually gotten a few rounds under your belt.
Each game of Auto Chess starts you off at level one. As you win rounds, gain gold, and level up you'll be able to place more units. You'll only be able to play one unit at the beginning, but you'll be able to build a team as you level up. The number of units you can play directly correlates to how high of a level you are (with a max of 10 heroes).
There are different types of units with different abilities and strengths, bonuses you get for combining and obtaining the same type of unit, and different ways units work together as you get deeper into a match.
How to download Auto Chess?
You can download the DOTA 2 Auto Chess mod by subscribing to the Steam Workshop (opens in new tab) page for the game. You'll need to have the base version of DOTA 2 (opens in new tab) in your Steam library as Auto Chess is not a standalone game. Both are free to play so there is no monetary barrier to jump over before playing. Teamfight Tactics (opens in new tab) is Riot's League of Legends version of the game while and DOTA Underlords (opens in new tab) is Valve's 'official' version.
What are the different versions of Auto Chess?
After the original DOTA 2 Auto Chess mod blew up in popularity both Valve and Riot jumped on the gravy train with their own versions. Teamfight Tactics uses Riot's League of Legends to create a version of the game, while Valve has made an official version of the game as DOTA Underlords.
Teamfight Tactics is a standalone mode in League of Legends, so you don't need to download anything else. It's very similar to Auto Chess, only with all of the heroes being part of the League of Legends universe instead of DOTA.
While both games are multiplayer focused, Teamfight Tactics puts an emphasis on the shared experience. Fights against other players in Auto Chess are actually against a clone version of that players team due to technical limitations (so each player will see something slightly different, even if they are playing each other). The game simulates the fight rather than actually pitting two players against each other. Teamfight Tactics is different in that it actually has players battling against one another in real time, giving player the ability to trash talk and collaborate in the early stages of a game.
Teamfight Tactics also has a Shared Draft at the beginning of every match, and after every few rounds, where players come together on a neutral board and draft units from a wheel. It's a little something to up the competitive nature of Riot's auto battler.
DOTA Underlords, on the other hand, is a more direct take on the Auto Chess mod. It's developed by Valve so it's more complete and bug-free. It's got a streamlined UI that's a tad easier to use. It's available on PC, Android, and iPhone.
The main difference between Auto Chess and Underlords, which entered Early Access on Steam on June 20, is the amount of randomness in the rewards you receive as you play. While the rewards are random in Auto Chess, the amount of rewards you get in Underlords is set per amount of round. What you pick is still random but you know when and how much loot you'll be able to get.
What's next for Auto Chess?
Unlike MOBAs or battle royales, which rose to infamy over the course of a few years, Auto Chess is brand new. The DOTA 2 mod only launched at the beginning of the year and we're already seeing tons of success come to the fast-growing subgenre.
We're bound to see more takes on Auto Chess with different skins, user interfaces, economies, and gameplay mechanics in the coming months and years. If one of these games doesn't fit your fancy, a new one could bring in some new mechanics that fit your fancy.