By Cody Perez
January 2, 2020
It isn’t that often that a video game creates a brand-new genre that we have never heard of. But such is the case with the Auto Chess genre that popped up out of nowhere. In our Auto Chess beginner’s guide, we give you everything you need to know about this sudden phenomenon.
It started in January 2019 when a popular mod called Auto Chess appeared in Dota 2 on Steam. Mods are not new to the game nor PC games in general, but what was surprising was how well done this mod was and how popular it became.
It was meant to be a strategy mod of sorts for the popular MOBA game and developed by Drodo Studio. The inspiration for the introduction of this brand-new game genre came from the Chinese strategy physical game Mahjong.
Taking elements of the traditional chess board game, Mahjong and even Dota 2, the Auto Chess genre began with the launch of the mod.
Players would be showing up in the main Dota 2 game to play Auto Chess online. What is insane is that the mod had more than eight million players enjoying it by May 2019. That is sheer insanity for a game’s mod rather than a new game itself.
This led to the release of a standalone version of the game known as Auto Chess that players could download and play. It was separate from the mod and didn’t feature any crossover with Dota 2 like the mod. Valve wanted to work with the original studio to create an official game, but this fell through.
Regardless, this led to the release of numerous other Auto Chess genre games like the official Valve spin-off Dota Underlords plus many more.
As the first part of our Auto Chess beginner’s guide, what exactly is this new type of game? As we mentioned, it is equal parts chess and automatic strategy but much more than just that. After all, the actual process of the game is far different than anything that we have seen before.
It is an automatic strategic type of chess where players can battle it out in matches of up to eight players online. There are matches where players can fight against AI and real players, switching back and forth. What is odd about this new genre is how little direct interaction the player has.
For the most part, you play an Auto Chess game by letting it play itself. The bulk of the “gameplay” that the player does revolves around making decisions and strategizing what you should do to take out the opponent’s team best.
The entire game genre is mainly focused on the PC and mobile platforms with no real representation of the game style on console platforms, including even Nintendo Switch where this type of gameplay would work nicely.
Even still, it is quickly becoming one of the most popular and staple game genres on mobile devices with other companies getting on the action as you will see with our list of Auto Chess games further down in the post.
Knowing about the Auto Chess genre is one thing, but playing through a game of this new type of playstyle is a whole other thing. Fortunately, we are going to teach you how a game of Auto Chess works and how to play it in our next part of our Auto Chess beginner’s guide.
As we mentioned, players engage in battles of up to eight players online. What is unique about Auto Chess is that players split up into eight separate chess boards of their own, or just however many players there are in the current match.
Instead of everyone jumbled together into one chess board where all pieces are shown, you have your specific board to play on. You won’t see the other players’ boards at any point in time during the whole match.
You start the game by picking the pieces that you are going to use for that match from among the massive pool of available pieces. This is a public pool shared among the players, so this is where the crux of the decision-based gameplay comes into play.
Every single chess piece that you can choose has an associated race, class and comes with unique abilities all its own. You are going to need to strategize and select the piece that you think fits the match the best and pick it while keeping in mind what your opponents are also selecting.
Once all eight or however many players have chosen their soldiers, place your pieces on the field in a specific way. To us, Auto Chess is a lot like a Tower Defense game in a way but with the twist. It is mainly built for offense rather than defense.
What the two genres have in common is that you place your pieces wherever you want them to go and then the battles play out automatically with you having little to no interaction in the actual combat with your pieces making decisions on their own.
Once you have picked your pieces and placed them around the board, the first round of the match begins. Rounds split between two different styles: AI fights and fights against other real players in the game. These are the two types of fights that make up an Auto Chess match.
First, we are going to go over the AI rounds of the match as they are the easiest and most simple to grasp. In these rounds, players focus on taking a horde of “creeps” as they are known in the community, which are AI monsters to fight.
This is something that all eight players deal with during the round and none of the players battle it out against each other during this round. During each round of the match, every player battles it out on their chess board. You never need to see the opponents’ board.
While battling your creeps on your board, other players have similar fights against the AI monsters on their boards. Fighting the creeps is a pretty easy task as they aren’t that hard to beat, but they are crucial to the overall progression of the match.
It is in these rounds that players can level up, gain some gold and further their troops. There are items that the creeps could drop, allowing you to give them to a specific troop in your army. These items can be buffs that grant bonuses to the character and make them even better.
What’s great is that there is a whole complex system of the items as well with certain items meshing well with one another. Those items can be combined to make even more powerful and sinister ones that are great in battle for getting the upper hand.
Also, defeating the creeps grants the player experience to level up their Courier (more on them in a moment) and gold. Gold is used for purchasing more troops in between the rounds. Inevitably, you likely lose someone throughout the match.
As such, it is imperative that players replace them as soon as possible and, better yet, start building out their army even more so that they are ready to take on the other players in the other rounds. Gold is used for getting those new characters on the board as well as upgrading your existing units.
You gain gold from various activities like winning a round or just completing it, going on a winning streak and even having a losing streak so that you can make a comeback. Gold is a valuable resource that works differently for each player’s gameplay style.
Some players like to spend as much as possible right from the start and command the rounds to get a winning streak while others hoard their gold like crazy, which is another great style since you can accrue interest on your existing gold the more you keep it around.
Then there is the whole matter of the Courier. This is the character that represents you; think the hero character in other games. They are the one who represents your health, level and carries the gold that you have earned throughout the match.
The Courier is the gateway to your actual decision-based gameplay in the game. The match ends for a player when their Courier’s health reaches zero and they are out for the count or they are the last person standing among the players a la battle royale games.
Like in card games and MOBA’s, the Courier starts at a low level of only one and, each round, it gains enough experience for another level. Each level allows you to place more units on the chess board, furthering your chance at winning and allowing you to find better troops.
While you could allow the Courier to get better each turn, you can spend gold on leveling up the character faster. We recommend that you do if you have the gold for it. We don’t recommend that you do this unless you have enough gold to reach the next whole level.
Partial levels are a waste of time as they grant no immediate benefit since you didn’t reach the next level entirely and the gold could have been used for more troops or gaining interest. With all of those basics out of the way, in between the AI rounds, you battle against the other players.
Or, to be exact, you battle ghost teams of their actual current team while they are doing the same against your team. A ghost version of the enemy team appears on your chess board and your troops automatically fight them.
At the same time, a ghost version of your team goes to the enemy chess board and fight them automatically. Your goal in these rounds is to win against the ghost enemy team and build up a strong enough army that your ghost team defeats the real enemy on their board.
If you defeat an enemy team on their board or vice versa, the game won’t necessarily be over for you, but they deal damage to the Courier. You then need to replace troops if this happens to you and try not to let it happen again because if the Courier reaches zero health, it is game over.
That is the basics of playing an Auto Chess match in the game and it only gets deeper from there.
Of course, knowing about the auto battler genre is one thing, but you also need to know which games to play. We have compiled a list of the best major Auto Chess games out there that we think that you should pick between when looking for the right game for you.
Here is our full list: