2 August 2019

THE BIRTH OF A NEW GENRE – AUTO CHESS

 

You would think that by the 21st century, with video games existing for close to 70 years, that humanity would have discovered every genre possible for a video game to exist in. And yet, human ingenuity prevails. A couple of years back, it was Battle Royale games, and now: it’s Auto Chess (also commonly called Auto Battlers).

 

The Auto Chess genre is a game that is simple to play, hard to master and improbable to plan (not impossible, but it certainly feels that way UGH). The concept is simple enough that a player with no prior experience could sit down and understand the game after one or two rounds. You gain currency which you can use to buy units. You then place those units on a chessboard-like battlemat (hence the namesake). Your units will fight automatically, targeting the closest enemy, and firing off its ability when it’s at full mana. The more units that survive the battle, the more damage you deal to your enemies life totals.

That is the core concept of the game, but beneath this colorful and easy-going surface lies a lot more depth and complex interactivity. There are so many other delicious factors that will drive your decision making process and you will soon learn that the game plays you just as much as you will be playing the game.

 

Firstly, there is an aspect of supply and demand in the game. Getting three of the same unit will merge them into a stronger version, capping at the 3rd merge (more commonly known as 3-stars). However, what units are available in the pool will determine the units offered to you: the more players who have that unit, the less likely that unit will be offered in future rounds. Therefore, players are incentivised to look at their opponents’ boards to see what units are highly sought after, while scouting them for potentially hard matchups and their formations being run.

On top of that, each unit can contribute towards different team buffs, depending on what faction, type, or class they are. All units will have at least two labels, which means they could fit into two potential types of lineups. This in turn, will also lead towards the players decision making process.

 

Lastly, the other thing that you have to take into consideration is your economy. For every 10 gold you have banked, you’ll get an additional 1 income. This maxes out at 50 for a total of +5 per round. Do you sell off a few more units to get to the closest 10? Do you save now for more income in future rounds or do you invest into efficient units and lay the beatdown on your opponents?

 

These are the types of questions that make the Auto Chess genre so thrilling. Every round will present you new options and new decisions that have to be made. Synergy, economy and pacing all come together in this fun little package.

 

I’ve gone over the basics, now to go over the differences among the three most successful titles in the genre. The first of its kind, DotA Auto Chess was an arcade mod for Dota2, created and maintained by Drodo Studios (who also made GemTD and SkateMaster, two other popular arcade mods). Drodo Studios paired up with Dragonest Co. to produce their own standalone version: Auto Chess. Later, Valve Studios released Underlords, with the blessings of Drodo Studio. Shortly after, League of Legends also followed suit with it’s own game mode, inspired by Auto Chess, called Teamfight Tactics. I’ll briefly list the differences and the pros and cons for each game.

Auto Chess
+ The originator of the genre
+ Longer, fulfilling games with good planning
– Huge unit pool, diluting the available selections
– RNG can be frustrating
– Matches can drag out towards the one hour mark

DotA2: Underlords
+Consistent item timings
+Less RNG: every few rounds you get a selection of three available items
to pick from
+Unique Faction buffs can be gained during item selections
-Matches still take about 40 minutes in total

League of Legends: Teamfight Tactics
+Catchup mechanic: Every few rounds, there is a carousel of rotating units carrying powerful items, players with the lower health totals get first pick.
+The Golden Spatula: A unique item that can give a unit a new faction or class, giving every unit a chance to fit into other comps
+Short and quick games, around 25~35 minutes
-Item dependencies mean RNG can determine the winner very early, sometimes getting no items at all during the early game
-Smaller map with hexagonal tiles, less emphasis on positioning
-Still in beta and has some rough (potentially game-losing) bugs

There you have it, ladies and gentleman! The simple rundown on the latest hit, Auto Chess, and what you need to know to get into the genre.

 

And with that, I’m off! Keep gaming and keep positive!

Written by: Dexter Lim aka Trilz
The views expressed are those of the author and do not in any way, represent nor reflect those of HP OMEN and its affiliations.