The Auto Chess genre is rapidly expanding
So much to choose from
You might have come across a couple of different auto chess games during the last 2 years. My favourite of these is Team Fight Tactics from Riot Games. As this genre evolves, I love seeing different variations and how each developer approaches the Auto Chess concept from a different angle. Blizzard took advantage of the engine on which they built Hearthstone and created an 8 player Auto Chess, called Hearthstone Battlegrounds. Riot already has a massive array of characters at their disposal, which they use to populate their own Auto Chess. Ubisoft released their own version of the game, Might and Magic: Chess Royale, with a 100 player royale!
Where did Auto chess come from?
It all started with Warcraft 3. Warcraft 3 is an amazing game in its own rights, because of its legendary status, Blizzard even gave us a Warcraft 3 reforged edition. Warcraft 3 skyrocketed in popularity when people created mods where they could express their creativity and ideas using the Warcraft engine. One of the mods that was especially popular was the first MOBA game, Defense of the Ancients or more widely known as DotA. With the rise in popularity of MOBA games, Valve published Dota 2, a polished and optimized iteration of the original DotA attracting players from all around the world. If we look at the Steam statistics for 1st of February 2020, Dota 2 peaked at 592,515 concurrent players. Drodo Studio then created a mod for Dota 2 called Auto Chess. This is where the Auto chess, or as some people like to call it, the auto battler genre started.
How does Auto chess work?
You could say that Auto Chess shares some similarities with actual chess. Think of the format like a chess tournament, multiple players compete but they can only face each other in a 1v1 to determine who progresses and eventually wins. Players will fall out along the way and competition will get quite intense until only one player is left standing.
Every Auto Chess has its own set of characters that fit into the lore and world created by the developers. Characters are grouped together by synergies. There are multiple different synergies that each has their own bonuses. As you play more of your favourite entry in the genre, you will learn which synergies are powerful and how many of each synergy you need to have success. I recommend you try to focus on two to three synergies to maximise the benefit when you reach full synergy. Having two of the same character on the field will not stack a synergy. You need different characters with the same synergy to actually stack it.
Each round you will be presented with a list of units that you can buy. The units you can buy will be randomized each round. When the units in the list do not align with your chosen strategy, you can refresh your list at a small cost. Once you have bought three of the same unit, that unit will evolve into a level two version of itself. Building upon that, if you have three level two units, that unit will evolve into a level three version of itself which is the cap for unit levels. Having higher level units gradually increases their stats making them more powerful in combat. This loop makes the genre so addictive and dynamic. Every new match is a chance to get a high level unit during the early game while your opponents are still stuck with low level units or no synergy.
You have an experience counter, this counter increases every round but you can also boost your experience by using your currency. You might wonder: “why invest in experience rather than units?”. It’s simple, when you don’t have the synergy you are looking for, you can at least buy more board space and have more units on the field than your enemy. This can help you survive early game fights until your strategy comes together.
You don’t receive currency when you kill units on the battlefield. After every round you are awarded currency that will help you buy units and expand the amount of units you can have active on the battlefield. Some of these Auto Chess games give you a little extra cash when you are on a winning or losing streak! How well you manage your funds is a big part of the genre. If you find yourself in a situation where you have insufficient funds every round, you won’t have much breathing room left to buy experience. If you save up all your money, you can potentially lose a lot of early game rounds. At the end of the day there is a fine balance between knowing when to spend and knowing when to save.
Unit placement is an important part of this game. Using the gamer sense you have built up over the years, the obvious choice is to place your tank in front. This way when the battle starts your tank will engage with either their tank or other units placed in the front lines. Characters from the assassin class will attack your back line as soon as the round starts. Therefore unit placement is a dynamic and reactive process. I have found the best way to learn positioning is by experimenting to see what fits your strategy.
As the match progresses, players will fall out of the match as they are defeated. When players fall out their ghost team stays behind. The ghost team automatically continues the battle to keep the numbers even in something like a top 3 situation. When you win or lose a match, your rank will increase or drop according to your outcome. If the Auto Chess that you are playing has a ranking system, you will move through the ranks and compete against people who have similar ranks.
I am excited for the future of Auto Chess games
Most of the Auto chess games are free to play, making them extremely accessible to a large market. I am excited for the future of this genre because of the possibility and potential it has to have multiple exciting new spin offs to keep things fresh.
Good luck out there, may the RNG gods be at your side!