Dota Underlords is a great way gateway for the Auto Chess craze – for now

By Joe Robinson 24 Jun 2019 0

Drodo Games’ Auto Chess mod for DOTA 2 will always go down in history as the game that started what is probably one of the best crazes to come around in the last few years. Regardless of its resemblance (or lack-of) to Chess, it’s a smart, engaging game mode that really touches those very cerebral strategy centres in your brain and I’m glad it exists.

By removing the need to actually fight with your pawns, you are a near-perfect personification of generals and commanders. You can plan and prepare all you want, but ultimately the results are out of your hand – it’s down to your pawns to make the most of the situation in front of them. The other half of the addictive gameplay is studying what happened, and what changes you can make. I imagine this is why people like playing Football Manager.

dota underlords2

The problem with Auto Chess itself is that it’s in a bit of a limbo period right now. You can always download DOTA 2 and try out the mod, but it’s clunky (being a mod) and lacking quality of life and usability features that it really needs. Drodo are currently developing the stand alone version, but the only real place to play that is on mobile. It will be coming back to PC at some point via the Epic Games Store but isn’t helpful to anyone who doesn’t want to play on mobile.

DOTA Underlords is Valve’s official take on Auto Chess and is a stand-alone experience that you can play right now on mobile or PC. It’s an excellent gateway game to this new craze for several reasons:

  • Being a purpose built game, it’s had much more thought put into UI, Quality of Life, usability etc… than the original Dota Chess mod did.
  • Being derived from Auto Chess itself, all of the pieces and synergies are familiar so anyone who has tried out Auto Chess already won’t be totally stuck. If you're a total newb, they're not that hard to learn anyway.
  • In a rare display of ‘woke’ Valve are keeping on top of Underlords with very regular updates and taking on community feedback.
  • It has some great online functionality, with robust bot opponents and a tutorial.
  • You can seamlessly switch between mobile and PC, which Is pretty great considering a game of Auto Chess is quite long, and you may need to take your game with you.

Our sister website, Pocket Tactics, has posted a pretty extensive beginner’s guide for anyone looking to get involved. Since there’s nothing about the game that’s platform specific, we recommend you guys check it out as well.

There are other Auto Chess (or Auto-Battler, as is an alternative name) like games around or coming. League of Legends has Teamfight Tactics for example, and I imagine more will be on their way, not to mention the hordes of clones and me-too apps on mobile. For the moment though, Underlords is a great showing from Valve and the (currently) best available first step if you’ve always wanted to give Auto Chess a try but didn’t want to engage on mobile or download the mod.

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