My latest mobile game obsession had the same origin as most of the ones that preceded it—one of my nephews told me about it. “Auto Chess is going to be huge this summer,” he said back in June, right before the game and its many imitators began to get huge this summer.
“Auto Chess” can refer to the mobile and PC game Auto Chess that grew out of a Dota 2 mod, or one of the many similar games to sprout up in its wake like Riot’s Team Fight Tactics, featuring the characters you know and love from League of Legends. It has very little to do with chess, except the battle field where you deploy your troops is set up like a chess board with pieces arranged however you think they’ll be most strategic.
Unlike the battle royale games that have been dominating mobile gaming, this is a casual game where once you’ve put your troops into battle, they do all the work. The strategy is in selecting which characters to buy, combining them in ways that increase their offensive and defensive talents and measuring your cleverness against seven other opponents in games that can last a half hour.
There are enough variables to keep you engaged game after game. What synergies are working for you? Do you build up a strong team from the start or save your coins to earn interest and make a strong push in later rounds? Which characters get the magical items dropped by NPC characters you fight in various rounds? How do you arrange the characters on the board to counter all the different teams you might get matched against when some of them will attack you head-on while others will send assassins behind your ranged attackers?
As you might have guessed by now, I’m in pretty deep. I’ve been smitten at various times with all the Glacier Clan’s attack speed, the Druid’s shortcut to leveling up, the Werewolf’s ability to summon additional wolf minions, the Abyssal Crawler’s stealth. At the moment, I’m likely to go for Knights, including the badass Dragon Knight that just looks cooler than everyone else on the board.
Auto Chess is the kind of game you can play while watching TV or it can demand all your attention if you want to scout the competition and play to win. You can play casual, ranked or the various fantasy modes which switch up the rules periodically. You can figure it out as you go or read the exhaustive strategy guides over at the Auto Chess subReddit.
It’s free to play, relying on players to spend money on chances to upgrade various avatars, icons and decorations. It’s the kind of game that meets you at the level you’re willing to commit to it—which makes it the kind of mobile game I’ll be playing for a long time to come.
Josh Jackson is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Paste and host of The Paste Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshJackson.