Riot recently released their version of an auto-battler game (the genre I believe started somewhat recently as a mod for DOTA2, called Autochess), and I have been playing it like crazy. It incredibly addicting, even in its early, still flawed state.
The basics: You pick champions (from LoL), each who has two characteristics (demon+blademaster, or noble+shapeshifter), aiming to build a complimentary team. That team then fights another player, but the key is that aside from starting positions on a hex grid, you don’t control the champs. They auto-battle (hence the name) until one team wins or time runs out. The losing player loses HP, you move to another round, and the last player standing is the winner. The whole thing takes about 40 minutes if you win, and of course less if you drop out quickly. Between rounds you earn gold that is used to buy more champs (three champs of the same type combine to increase in power, and this can happen twice) or to level up, allowing you to put more champs on the battlefield. Some rounds are vs NPC creatures, which can drop items you can then equip on your champions.
The randomness of it all, from which champs+items you get, to who you face, to how the actual battles play out, is part of what has me addicted. I love trying to manage the chaos, to make the best of a bad draw. It’s the games where I have to scramble to make things work that I enjoy far more than when things go right and you just kinda roll to victory.
The game also has an interesting balance of randomness and skill, and I say interesting because I’m not sure yet just which way its balanced. Some games feel super random, but at the same time you do have a lot of control over other aspects, and making mistakes in those areas reflects heavily in combat. It’s almost like poker, where any one hand/game is pretty random, but over the long-term it’s a game where skill wins out and the randomness and luck only go so far.
It’s because of this that I can’t wait for ranked mode to be added. Right now its fun, but without the climb, every game is a random collection of players and you can’t tell if you are doing better/worse because of your actions or because of the competition.
At the top I mentioned the game is still flawed, and this is mostly around how much information it hides from you. You need a cheat sheet on your desk with champion and item info. You just need to know, via experience, the range of each champ, or how quickly they gain mana, or starting stats like hp or armor. I think in time, as the UI is improved, much of this will be clearer in-game, but right now you get tossed directly into the deep end.
But again, even in that deep end the game is incredibly fun, and I have full confidence it will only grow and improve. Expect this genre to be what the Battle Royale genre was a year or so ago; the hot new thing.