A conversation I have been having a lot recently is as follows:
Gio: Have you played Auto Chess?
Friend: I haven’t heard of it. What is Auto Chess?
G: It’s a (now mobile) game that I am completely addicted to. It’s fun!
F: But what exactly is it?
G: It’s played on a chessboard, you buy and upgrade your units with coins you earn. It’s sort of like StarCraft and Hearthstone had a bastard non-blizzard/Activision baby on a chessboard.
F: … that doesn’t explain anything to me
So what exactly is Auto Chess?
Auto Chess was originally a game mod for Dota 2. The mod creators (Drodo) used the Dota 2 characters in a weird mashup of character upgrading and strategic team building. After possibly hundreds of thousands of collective game hours, the Drodo reached out to Valve (Developers of Dota 2) for mutual support. On June 13th, Valve announced their iteration of Auto Chess: Dota Underlords. You can access the closed beta if you are a current Dota 2 battle pass holder.
Drodo took their game mobile on Android and iOS with Auto Chess. This is the iteration of the game I am playing (until of course I get my hands on that sweet sweet Valve beta). They are currently working with Epic to create their PC version of the game.
Following the seeming success of the Dota 2 mod, and mobile game, Riot Games released a Limited Time Mode in League of Legends called TeamFight Tactics. Instead of a standard grid system, they use hexes and, of course, League characters.
So it is accessible to just about everyone.
How do I play?
You (the player), start in a game with 7 other players. A timer starts and you get your choice of one of five random units. You place your piece on the chessboard and BAM! watch the game happen. Sounds easy, right?
As you progress you gain coins. These coins can be used to buy more units or upgrade your experience level. When you buy 3 of the same unit you can upgrade it to level 2. 3 level 2 units makes 1 level 3. So you have to be very careful which units you want to use and upgrade. All units are level 1. They cost anywhere between 1-5 coins. Do some quick math: 5 coin level 1 costs 15 to get to level 2. You need 3x level 2 units so that’s 45 coins. That is for 1 unit. The game goes on so long you could potentially have up to 7 units. Trying to get all of those to level 3 could cost up to 315 coins not to mention the coins you used to level your characters. But don’t worry, you gain interest on your coins. A whole 10%. So 10-19 coins at the end of the round rend you 1 extra coin. 20-29 gets 2. 30-29 gets 3… you get it.
Still with me? Good. Here’s another twist of the game. Matching Race and Class Combos and Bonuses. Yep, there’s a whole different type of skill tree that isn’t really laid out for the players. Having multiple of the same race or class grants bonuses to your team. Some bonuses only affect the class granting it, and some grant bonuses to your whole team. So choosing the right units from the start is extremely vital.
Ready for more? Ok. The units that you choose come from the same pool. Everyone in the lobby is pulling from the same pot. That means that healer you picked up: Someone else may have also gone with that healer. That tank? Might have been picked by someone else as well. So awareness of what is in the unit pool is also very important. You can reroll your 5 pool for coins, but that precious resource could be used better in different ways. But if you feel lucky, you can try to reroll to get that precious 3rd unit for that upgrade.
Having multiple ways to use your coins creates different strategies. Do you hold your coins for the interest and hope that you can get some sweet mid/late game units? Are you going to Blitz roll your pulls looking for all the units you need for your lineup with nothing banked? Will you drop quality for quantity and get levels first? This is the beauty of the game. You can change your strategy from game to game.
So there you have it. The extreme basics of the game. Whatever happens with this game, I sincerely hope it doesn’t go like Apex: Legends. A game that could have killed Fortnite.
Edit: Though Auto-Chess is good, DOTA Underlords launched after I completed this and it is much more streamlined. You can find my review
Giovanni “Pinch” Mapile
Giovanni is a Freelance writer, tech-nerd, and level 5 Kenku Monk