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An auto battler, also known as auto chess, is a subgenre of strategy video games that features chess-like elements where players place characters on a grid-shaped battlefield during a preparation phase, who then fight the opposing team's characters without any further direct input from the player. It was created and popularized by Dota Auto Chess in early 2019, and saw other games in the genre by more established studios, such as Teamfight Tactics, Dota Underlords, and Hearthstone's Battlegrounds, releasing soon after.
Each match starts with eight players. Players are paired off randomly in each round, in a mini-tournament sort of format, in which the combat between minions is played out automatically, with the goal of having units damage the opponent's units, and ultimately be the last player standing. At the start of each round players buy units, which can be combined to make stronger versions of the same units. Certain types of units get bonuses for being on the field at the same time. After units are deployed, they fight each other automatically, with no player input involved whatsoever. Battles are finished when all units from one player are removed from the board, which will cause the player to lose that duel. The remaining units of the winning army do damage to the loser's central health pool. If player loses all his health, he is eliminated from the match. Some gameplay elements, such as last-man-standing, have resemblance with battle royale genre.
In January 2019, a group of Chinese developers known as Drodo Studio released Dota Auto Chess, a community-made custom gamemode for Dota 2. The popularity of the mod, with it having over eight million players by May 2019, led to the creation of the genre that had a number of other games being released. The first games of the genre were initially developed as a game modes for already established video games, such as Teamfight Tactics from Riot Games, released within their MOBA game League of Legends. Later in 2019, both Drodo Studio and Valve developed their own standalone versions, Auto Chess and Dota Underlords, respectively. In November 2019, Blizzard Entertainment introduced their own take on the genre, Battlegrounds, in their card game Hearthstone.