Shacknews Best Early Access Game of 2019 - Dota Underlords

Dota Underlords began as a simple auto chess mod and snowballed into one of the most popular new genres/game modes of 2019.


Trendsetter is a word that can be thrown around all too easily, but 2019 definitely had one and it began with a simple mod in the MOBA scene. Throughout the year, we started hearing the words “auto chess” and “auto battler” in quite a few of our favorite games. And so we have to pass some praise on to the place where it started and continues even now. Dota Underlords was our Shacknews Best Early Access Game of 2019.

Much like Dota itself, the Dota iteration of auto chess began as mod developed by Drodo Studio simply known as Dota Auto Chess. This peculiar little iteration of Dota took our favorite characters of the game and placed them in a game board setting as extravagant little chess pieces. Groups of 8 players assemble their pieces from the pool of 50, each with different attacks and attributes, and battle it out to see who can overcome and take the first-place spot. It wasn’t long before Valve saw the value of the popular mod and sought to adapt it into their official standalone version of the game, known as Dota Underlords (although the original Dota Auto Chess mod is still available). Underlords would enter Early Access in June of 2019.

Valve wasn’t the only one that saw value in the auto chess or auto battler formula. League of Legends eventually adapted their own version of the format into a mode that would come to be known as Teamfight Tactics. Blizzard would also jump into the fray late in 2019 with a version of the auto battler genre adapted to Hearthstone, known as Hearthstone Battlegrounds. These extremely popular modes went on to ensure that Auto Chess and every iteration thereof was a constant fixture of gaming conversation throughout 2019. The modes are, after all, super addictive, easy to pick up and play, just as easy to finish and walk away from, and a very enjoyable format in which to strategize and formulate your own gameplan.

Dota Auto Chess came out in January and its style of gameplay took strategy gaming by storm. For that reason, we have to give love to the original, as well as crowning Dota Underlords with the Shacknews award of Best Early Access title of 2019.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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