Day and again, I learn that every fad exists for a reason. I first read some of my friends talking about Dota 2 Auto Chess on Twitter. I was only vaguely interested at this point, mostly because I don’t really play MOBA other than occasional throwplay in League. But after playing a couple rounds, I see how the hype for Auto Chess is real – because it’s so fun! There was a reason this arcade game got the actual game itself to be on the top chart for Twitch streams and now has a separate category dedicated solely for Auto Chess. It will soon be available in mobile version as well. I highly recommend people to try it out!
The basic premise of Auto Chess is that you make your own deck by purchasing different chess pieces. Once you place them on the chessboard, the pieces “automatically” move around and fight with creeps or another player’s deck – hence the name “auto” chess. Each round, the player is randomly offered 5 different chess pieces that are available for purchase. You can pay to re-roll for new random chess pieces or lock the current roster, so that you can purchase it later without getting a new list of pieces. Each chess piece belongs to different classes – such as Human, Mage, Knight, Dragon, etc. The classes all have unique synergies when a certain number of pieces are available in the same deck. For example, having 3 Warrior class chess pieces can give extra-armor to the deck or having 2 Beast class pieces can do extra damage, and so on. You can strengthen your deck by either playing around these class perks or merging the same chess pieces together to create a stronger, 2 or 3-star piece. It does take some time to learn what each chess piece is like and what combination works the best. There are “tier guides” available online that explains what are the “meta” picks right now, but I think experiencing them in game is the best way to familiarize yourself with it.
Compared to some other games, Auto Chess definitely requires less mechanical skills and has little to no storyline. Part of me enjoys that I don’t have to be always hyper-aware when I am playing the game. It is not like if I stand still, Widowmaker is going to dink me in the head. I also can’t “miss” the important plot twist if I step away from the computer for a tad second, since there isn’t any story to start with! I also enjoy how I feel in control of the gameplay. There is something extremely rewarding in watching your chess pieces fight around the board and win. Even though you don’t have any character to identify with yourself in the game, there is a whole squad under your guidance.
The only frustrating part would be that some part of the game feels like sheer luck. Sometimes the one chess piece that will make your character into a 3-star is just never there, no matter how many times you re-roll. Sometimes, you will get an early head start because you are the only person with 3 2-star pieces while your opponents have a random collection of the weakest chess pieces ever. But I think the process of recognizing when your “plan” is not working and reverting to the best option available is another reason the game is so enjoyable. It is only frustrating when you are not flexible and not looking out for Plan B. On the contrary, it is super rewarding when you can break out of your losing streak with your alternative approach.
Unfamiliarity should not be the barrier. I have never played Dota 2 before and I am only vaguely familiar with the rules of chess – I know the rules governing each pieces but am not sure how to establish any meaningful strategy. Despite my lack of knowledge, I still thoroughly enjoyed Auto Chess. It took me some time to learn the rules, different synergies for different classes, and how to efficiently manage your golds. There already are basic guides available online which would serve as a useful introduction to the rules of the game. I am still unsure what the best way to place different pieces on the board are but I’m sure I’ll figure it out as I play more.
The arcade mode automatically ranks you (which I did not know until after I was ranked). After 5 games, you get placed into the rank system that resembles the chess pieces. I got placed in Pawn, which is the lowest rank available and now I am bridging at the very edge of Knight, which is the second lowest rank. It is possible to play unranked if you make your own custom game. In custom games, random decks from real players are selected as your opponent (and they are much harder to fight against than some real opponents in Pawn games, to be honest).
Another warning is that the server seems to be occasionally unstable. There are times when the queue just feels broken. You can press “accept” million times and still not find a game. Also, even though Auto Chess is for 8 players, some lobbies will automatically have 10 — which breaks the game again. There also are times when even though you are in game, nothing happens because the game cannot connect to the server. I am an impatient person but at least the game is fun enough for me to endure through this frustration.
I would say Auto Chess requires some commitment. It is not a game that you can play once — you won’t have fun because you don’t understand what is happening yet. But when you learn the game, it provides you with a unique sense of joy and satisfaction. This probably explains why so many people love it around the world!
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