Dota Auto Chess is like Football Manager with wizards

People have been making weird and wonderful custom Dota 2 games for years. With so much good stuff coming from outside the dota-sphere, that’s easy to forget – but not when a possible bug convinces the internet you’ve got more players than Grand Theft Auto V.

That seems have happened with Dota Auto Chess, a custom game where you pit teams of increasingly powerful wizards against seven opponents. Even with that bug in mind, it’s still throbbing with players – popularity made me notice it, but quality kept me playing. For half a game, at least, until I got crushed by the people who knew what they were doing.

Here’s the case for those player numbers being bugged, though I’m less interested in that than I am in whether the game is actually any good. Have a gander at the Steam page if you feel the same way, though note that the translation from Chinese is a little hard to parse.

First of all, forget about the chess thing – the only real point of comparison is they they both have pieces and boards. You build a team of heroes, whack them on the board, then leave them to get on with the actual whacking by themselves. They all have abilities and synergies, with the aim being to build a balanced team a la Dota 2 itself. Unlike Dota 2 itself, those heroes level up by fusing into bigger and better units.

I made a massive Axe, for instance, and ran away with my first two minute-long matches. Then the people who knew how to build better team comps started doing that, and I didn’t win a single other round. Every loss cuts away at your health pool, and the game continues until only one player remains.

It’s one of those games that filters great complexity through condensed decisions. Recruitment money is in short supply, so do you spaff that early on new units, or gamble on a redraw that might let you upgrade your existing ones? You need to constantly evaluate whether its worth retiring a hero in favour of flesh blood, and balance your short term needs with the long game. I’ve never played anything quite like it.

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