What is Auto Chess and Why is it Trending?


Whether you’re a hardcore gamer or a casual mobile player, you’ve probably heard the term “Auto Chess” floating around over the last few months. Categorized as a strategy game, this new “auto battler” genre has been making waves across the Internet.

What is it?

Like many popular games, Auto Chess was born from a mod. We can trace its origin from Dota 2 which, not surprisingly, came from the original custom map game in Warcraft III, Dota (Defense of the Ancients). Auto Chess can be described as an evolution of strategy card games. In Auto Chess, characters (taken from the source content) are pitted against each other on a chess board. Rather than a 1v1 like most deck-building games, Auto Chess is played simultaneously by eight players with a last-man-standing victory. If you want to know more about how the game works, continue to the “How do I Play?” section.

Which one do I play?

Currently, the most popular Auto Chess titles, in no particular order, are: Dota Underlords from Valve, League of Legend’s Teamfight Tactics (TFT), and Auto Chess, from the original creators of Dota 2’s Auto Chess mod. If you’re already familiar with a certain game’s champions and items, it’s easier to transition to said version. If you’re a longtime League player, it makes sense to start with TFT than to learn new content in Dota Underlords.

Dota Underlords is currently playable on mobile and PC, whereas TFT is only available on PC through the League client. Auto Chess is on mobile with a PC version coming soon. It’s also worth noting that Dota Underlords offers solo offline play with cloud saving. What you do on your phone can be picked up on your PC and vice versa.

What are the basics?

Each version has its own differences; however, at its core, Auto Chess is something like this:

  • Progresses in Rounds
    • At the start, players face monsters (non-players) that drop gold/items when defeated to help build their team. Eventually, you’re matched with other players with a few rounds of player-vs-monsters/environment (PvE) here and there for a chance at extra gold/items.
  • Timed Rounds
    • This prevents players from taking too long and adds some pressure to decision making.
  • Health Points
    • Starting from 100, you lose when you reach 0. Damage is calculated by the quantity and tier of surviving units.
  • Player Levels
    • At level 1, you can place 1 unit on the board. After you finish each stage, you get a set amount of exp points. When you level up, you can place an additional unit on the board, so level 2 = 2 units, and so on.
  • Random Hands
    • Each round starts with a random draw and early game consists of low-cost champions. As you level up, you also gain an increasingly higher chance to draw rarer champions.
  • Chessboard Battlefield
    • And that’s all the “chess” in this game. You own the bottom half and positioning is crucial. Placing squishy ranged champions in the front line is not a good move. When it’s time for battle, units on the board will automatically fight each other, hence “auto battler.”
  • Each Champion is Different
    • Champions have traits (origin/alliance/class/etc.). Having a certain amount of the same activates a bonus, which enhances your champions. They also have a defining skill. Some are passive while others are cast at full mana.
  • Gold is Precious
    • Gold is earned each round and used to buy champions. Champions are not made to be equal and have varying costs from 1 to 5, increasing in rarity. Once purchased, they can be held on your bench or placed on the board.
  • Rank Up for Power
    • You need three copies of the same champion to increase its rank. Ranks are measured by gold stars and each rank up improves the champion’s stats. Three starting 1-star units will combine into a 2-star, and three 2-star units will make a 3-star, which is the cap.
  • Shared Pool
    • Everyone draws from a shared “deck.” If you see a lot of players using a certain champion, know that the chances of drawing said champion are getting slimmer.
  • Items Can Make or Break the Game
    • Equip your champions with unique items. The item system is handled differently, depending on which game you’re playing, but what you get is random, and sometimes Lady Luck just isn’t on your side.

Why is it trending?

  • Easy to Play, Hard to Master
    • Once you understand the basics of Auto Chess, it’s very straightforward and easy to play. (Plus, all you need is a finger or one hand for a mouse.) However, you can also take out your thinking cap to brainstorm optimal team compositions, champion and item synergies, tier lists, and more. Players who enjoy theory crafting and deck building can appreciate this.
  • Casual and Competitive
    • Competitive players can play ranked to test their wits and be placed on a leaderboard, while casual users can tap away half-asleep on their train ride home.
  • Not a Team Game
    • Auto Chess is not a team game even though you’re playing with others online. Dealt a bad hand? Leave the game. Have to go? Leave the game. In fact, others would actually enjoy you leaving so they have one less opponent. (I’m not encouraging you to leave a game if one thing goes wrong but, know that there’s no penalty in doing so.)
  • Low Requirements
    • Two of the three Auto Chess games can be played on your phone and even if you were to play solely on a PC, they’re not graphically intensive. (You all have phones, right?)
  • Familiarity
    • If you’re already familiar with Dota or League, you won’t have to spend as much time learning what each champion or item does.
  • Adapt and Overcome
    • Auto Chess is heavily based on RNG (luck), so every match you play is unique. If you go into a game set on a certain team composition and won’t budge, chances are, you’re going to lose early. Being able to adapt with what you’re given is a good challenge of a player’s knowledge and skill.
  • Trying New Things
    • While there are cookie-cutter builds and strategies you can opt for, sometimes it pays to be different. Whether it’s a non-meta team composition, item choice, or even positioning, you might be onto something. Even if you don’t place first, it’s still fun to test some theories.

Easy-peasy right? Buy champions, place them on the board, rank them up, give them items, and watch them fight. There’s plenty more to cover, but it’s too much for an intro piece, so we’ll leave it at that. If you’d like an advanced guide with tips, let us know in the Comments section and, if you’re already familiar with Auto Chess—which one are you playing?

1 Comment

I've never been interested in the DotA-style games; I'm not good with action-oriented, PvP clicking. However, these sound quite different and potentially interesting. I might have to give one a try.