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Which auto battler should you play: Teamfight Tactics, Underlords, or Dota 2 Auto Chess

The three big auto battlers each have features that make them unique

Players put Garen on the board in Teamfight Tactics, the League of Legends auto chess Riot Games

Auto battler games have become the genre of the moment, and it’s no surprise why. Their combination of strategy and randomness puts them halfway between card games like Hearthstone and strategy games like StarCraft.

While there are plenty of differences between each auto battler game, they all have a few things in common. Each game lets you control a character that starts with 100 health. Matches are then broken up into rounds that pit you against the army of another team. In between each battle round, you can build your army with a selection of random units. Combining units in different ways can give you upgrades or bonuses that will help you win your next combat round. They’re simple enough to get players in the door, but provide enough room for strategy that there’s always room to get better.

The genre’s recent surge in popularity started out a few months ago with the Dota 2 mod, Auto Chess. It has quickly grown to three prominent options: Auto Chess, Dota Underlords, and the League of Legends-based Teamfight Tactics. We’ve put together a list of some of the key differences between the three games to help you decide which one you should try.

Dota Auto Chess scoreboard
Dota 2 Auto Chess
Drodostudio/Valve via Polygon

Dota 2 Auto Chess

Auto Chess certainly isn’t the first auto battler ever made – that honor technically goes to Pokémon Defense – but it is the starting point for the genre’s current popularity. As far as its differences from the other auto battlers released in the last couple of weeks, most of them come down to the late game. Rather than in other games auto batters where upgrading your units is the most important thing, making the game a little bit more about reacting than about making careful plans and sticking to them for the whole game.

On the one hand, this rarity aspect lets players make smaller and more subtle adjustments to their opponents as a match goes on. On the other hand, it yields significantly longer and slower games. In Auto Chess it feels less like you’re slowly developing an army over multiple rounds and more like your early units are just keeping you alive while you wait to pick up better things later. The late game of Auto Chess matches currently feels the most strategic of the auto battler options, but the early games are quite a bit less interesting.

Dota Underlords
Dota Underlords
Valve

Dota Underlords

Dota Underlords is Valve’s own in-house answer to the original Dota 2 Auto Chess mod. The game, more or less, has the same units and general gameplay as Auto Chess, but wrapped up in a much different visual package. While there are a few different units in Underlords, but not too many, the main different between it and Auto Chess is the way that items work.

Rather than in the other games, where items are given out to you randomly and can be combined into other more powerful items, Underlords gives you options on which items you’d like to take. In each PVE round you are given the option of selecting one of a few different items or team-wide passive bonuses that can give buffs to certain units. Thanks to this, Underlords is mostly about thinking ahead and playing around with buffs in the way that will help your team the most.

Teamfight Tactics
Teamfight Tactics
Riot Games

Teamfight Tactics

Teamfight Tactics is a faster auto battler. Matches rarely last 40 minutes, thanks in part to the damage penalty for losing a round, which is significantly higher than it is in any other auto battler. This means that there’s a lot less room for late game adjustments, and if you bet wrong, your chances of losing are high.

The passive bonuses that you get for having multiple units from the same class and origin are much higher in Teamfight Tactics as well, and each champions uses their abilities far more often. Because of this, single units are much more impactful and positioning has a bigger impact on matches. Moving a champion even one or two spaces to the left or right could wildly swing a round and turn a sure defeat into a decisive victory.

Teamfight Tactics will appeal more to players who like to make decisions quickly, and who are focused on the micro-level adjustments of each fight than they are on the macro-level strategies, like which units counter each other best.

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