When it comes to auto chess games things can get very confusing. Dota Auto Chess isn’t the same thing as Dota Underlords, but is basically the same thing as Auto Chess. Then there’s also Riot’s Teamfight Tactics, which obviously borrows the main ideas from the original auto chess mod but adds more than a few of its own, and of course features League of Legends lore instead of Dota lore. Then there’s the totally not just renamed Dota lore found in Auto Chess. And this is just the start, just like with MOBAs a few years back you can probably expect every publisher to try and get in on the auto chess, or autobattler, genre in the coming months and years.
But for now there are three main auto chess games for you to get your hands on, all of which already have massive player bases and are all free to play, however, they all do things slightly differently.
Only two are available on PC right now, but with Auto Chess heading to the Epic Games Store presumably sometime soon it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to jump onto the mobile version and get practising, especially as there is a $1 million tournament taking place later this year. Before you get carried away though, you will need to decide if Auto Chess is the auto chess game for you, or if you prefer TFT or Underlords. Fortunately we are here to help.
The best auto chess games on PC are:
Dota Underlords is Valve’s entry into the world of auto chess games, basically taking the original Dota Auto Chess mod and making it a bit more user friendly. Obviously those with a background in Dota will feel right at home here, with the heroes and their abilities coming straight from the MOBA, but even newcomers will be able to pick this up thanks to the pretty detailed descriptions Valve has added for every aspect of the game, which makes understanding Dota Underlords alliances, items, and hero abilities a lot easier when starting out.
One of the biggest differences between Underlords and other auto chess games is the Dota Underlords items system. Rounds one, two, three, 10, and every fifth round after that are creep rounds that grant you a choice of three items, providing you win of course. Some items you can equip onto a hero, with each hero only having space for one item, or there are global items that buff a certain Alliance or your economy. These can completely change the strategy you are going for, if you manage to get the Troll buff Coordinated Assault then you are going to want to get some Trolls on the board pretty quickly. This adds an extra layer of complexity, often forces you to change strategies on the fly and makes things a little harder if the item RNG doesn’t go your way. But it is a better system than the likes of TFT where items are completely random and very important to claiming victory.
With a solid UI that is easy to understand and no major game breaking bugs, as well as a mobile version that allows you to go from playing on PC to mobile in seconds, Dota Underlords is perhaps the most polished auto chess game. Plus, Valve is constantly updating Underlords with performance patches, balance adjustments, and new content, so that level of polish is improving over time.
Riot’s take on auto chess is Teamfight Tactics, and is certainly the autobattler with the most significant differences to its competition. The basic loop of playing is the same, but where Auto Chess and Underlords both stick to the original Dota Auto Chess formula, TFT changes some things up, and of course it’s based on League of Legends and so features very different champions.
Matches are typically shorter than other auto chess games, and feature one of the coolest comeback mechanics in all of auto chess. The drafting carousel rounds see a load of champions circle round the board, each one holding an item. Players who are at the bottom of the standings will be released onto the board first, and have the first chance to grab the champion of their choice, then other players are released going up the standings to make their pick. It means those in last place gets to choose the best option for them without having to worry about it being taken away.
Straight outta comps-ton: Use these effective TFT comps
If you can stick around long enough to reach the later carousel rounds then you can grab some game-changing items that could win you the game. TFT also features item recipes, with each champion able to hold up to three TFT items, which means you can properly build a champion to be a ‘carry’ like in a typical MOBA, which is a big difference to the other games.
TFT still feels a little rough around the edges, but is generally more forgiving to newer players than Underlords. You won’t have to go reading thousands of words about every ability interaction to truly understand the game, but there’s still plenty to master, especially when it comes to TFT item recipes. It almost feels lazy to say this, but it does very much feel like the difference between LoL and Dota 2 when it comes to TFT vs Underlords, Riot’s option is more accessible and lighter for newcomers, but Underlords is generally a little more complex.
For the auto chess purists out there Auto Chess will probably be the free PC game for you, but right now it’s only available on mobile devices. However, it is coming to the PC via the Epic Games Store and it’s a pretty safe bet that the PC version will be exactly the same as the current mobile version. This is the game that comes from the original team of Dota Auto Chess developers, and while it has ditched the Dota lore pretty much all of the units you are going to be placing down on the board can be traced back to their Dota counterparts. As a result, Auto Chess feels very similar to Dota Underlords.
When it comes to learning the game, the tidiness of its UI, and the general level of polish – if you didn’t play the original mod then this isn’t a great way to learn the genre. As in TFT, units can hold multiple items and you can upgrade them by combining certain items, but the item pool is random, and one mistake in placing an item can be catastrophic.
However, when it comes to actually battling on the field and working with the alliance bonuses Auto Chess can get pretty deep. With more units and alliances, known as races and classes here, you can get some pretty complex plays going on, even more so in comparison with the many possible Dota Underlords strategies, and figuring all that out is great fun.
If the PC port improves the polish level a little then Auto Chess will surely be great when it does launch on the Epic Games Store, but if you want to play an auto chess game on your PC for now you’re going to have to venture into the world of TFT or Dota Underlords.