There has been an auto chess explosion on the App Store. Within just a few weeks, three games in this new genre have popped up and are all competing for your attention.

If you’re not sure what auto chess is, welcome to the club. This new genre was born out of a mod for Dota 2, which is a game based on a mod for Warcraft 3. After taking off on PC and having over 300,000 concurrent players daily, it was only natural for it to make the jump to mobile in a big way.

This has a lot to do with the gameplay of auto chess games. If I had to describe it, I’d say auto chess is like a slowed down version of Clash Royale, but with an in-game store that gives you random units to buy instead of using a deck of your own creation. There’s a bit more to it than that, but it’s focus on management and paced-out auto combat makes it relatively well-suited for touchscreens.

I’m sure it’s a kind of game that isn’t for everyone, but if you want to try auto chess out, you want to make sure you’re doing it right. So with that, I decided to check out the current offerings of auto chess on mobile to let you know which one you should be playing:

Auto Chess Legends: Teamfight - Download for iOS

I’ll start this list off with the clear loser. While Auto Chess Legends: Teamfight might seem the most mobile-friendly version of auto chess, it’s nowhere near as developed or fun as the other two contenders on the App Store.

Legends really highlights auto chess’s similarities to Clash Royale, particularly in the its sytling. The initial menus scream Supercell rip-off, and the field of battle itself also chooses to have both players hang out in “towers” that their heroes are protecting.

The only nice thing about Legends compared to other auto chess games is that you can play it in portrait mode. Otherwise, the game is less polished, has a poor tutorial, has a few bugs, and it can take a while to get into a match. If the game did something to speed up match times (auto chess matches tend to take 20-30 minutes to complete), I could see this being an option for someone that wants a quick hit of auto chess on the go. Alas, it doesn’t, so even its convenient portrait mode doesn’t really earn it too many points.

Dota Underlords - Download for iOS

Dota Underlords is a surprising contender for a few reasons. First, it’s Valve’s first mobile title ever. Secondly, it came out of nowhere. The original Dota Auto Chess wasn’t developed by Valve, and Underlords was announced as their in-house competitor. The beta for Underlords on PC had just been announced when the mobile version released just a day later.

As you might expect from a Valve game, Underlords feels pretty well-resourced. There’s a level of polish and UI refinement here that you won’t find in other auto chess games. An added bonus for this game is its use of the original Dota 2 characters and their names as its fighters, so if you have familiarity with Valve’s still-ultra-successful MOBA, you’ll probably feel more comfortable playing Underlords than any other auto chess game. Finally, Underlords also has a single-player mode where you can practice your skills against bots, which is something its competitors sorely lack.

It’s worth noting that Underlords is in open beta, particularly because it kind of feels like it. I definitely had some trouble linking my Steam account when first firing up the game, and it’s constantly downloading hotfixes and things when you boot it up. That said, once I got into the action, Underlords felt like a pretty slick take on auto chess.

Auto Chess: Origin

Auto Chess: Origin is aptly named, as it was developed by the same folks who invented the genre by modding Dota 2, Drodo Studio. Because of this, it should come as no surprise when I say it feels like a completely fully featured auto chess experience.

Out of all the auto chess games, Origin has the best tutorial. It also has the best built-in reference materials so you can acquaint yourself with its myriad units, items, and synergies in the game. Presumably since it’s a continuation of a pre-existing game, Origin is in full-on “live game” mode, with seasons and battle passes aplenty. This makes it so there’s plenty of stuff to look forward to as you keep playing it.

There are some other nice things going on in Origins that make it a friendlier experience. It separates its multiplayer modes into Casual and Ranked, for example. I also found the game’s UI layout the most readable, despite the fact it's not as sleek or flashy asUnderlords’s.

The bottom line

Between these three, I think I’d recommend Auto Chess: Origin to anyone looking for a place to start in the genre, primarily because of the tutorial. While bot matches are nice, casual multiplayer is a better place to hone your skills as well. The cherry on top here is that playing Origin means you’re supporting the original development team for their own creativity, as opposed to latching on to a competitive cloner.

I could see a case for playing Underlords, but it doesn’t seem nearly as complete as Origin. I’m sure you could be happy playing either of them. Auto Chess Legends: Teamfight is the only one of these three that I’d actively not recommend. It just can’t compete with these other two.

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