If you enjoy carefully constructing a lineup of warriors in games like Darkest Dungeon or Monster Train, here's a surprising recommendation: play Super Auto Pets. The free-to-play auto-battler reminds me much more of those games than the likes of Dota Auto Chess or Teamfight Tactics, focused on building and arranging a line whose abilities will compliment each other. And for something so cute and simple-sounding, it has a delightful amount of buildcrafting. Even the F2P monetisation is good!
Like other auto-battlers, Super Auto Pets is a round-based game where you build a team to battle opponents doing the same, aiming to hit 10 wins in a run without losing all your lives. Between rounds you can shop, buying new units, combining units of the same type to level them up, buying buffs, and paying to roll for fresh offerings on the shop shelves. Then they go off and fight as you watch. It's an auto-battler, y'know?
In Super Auto Pets, the action goes down in 1D lineups rather than the usual auto-battling board. This leads to a focus on positioning, like Monster Train. Many abilities of your various animals are directional, affecting units before or after them, or in a certain position. Anticipating enemy lineups can be important too; I've often agonised over where to place the Scorpion with one-hit-KO poison. Combos and synergies can emerge from your positioning, and the same from the enemy team: teams which simply make unit health & attack numbers big; summoner teams which which grow their army across a round; teams built upon shopping; and combo builds with fiendish clockwork tomfoolery.
As an example, here's one round I fought the other day with a daft combo which sure looked like it was losing for most the battle:
I'll explain. At the start of battle, their Mosquito's ability deals 2 damage to a random unit, which happens to make one of my hedgehogs faint (the game uses this term, not dying). Next, their Crab's ability copies the health of the unit in front of it, that Mosquito. Then it starts getting silly. My Whale's ability kicks in, swallowing the unit in front of it, the other Hedgehog, which counts as making it faint. At this point, the resolution stack processes both Hedgehogs' ability at the same time: upon fainting, deal 2 damage to all units. This wipes out their Monkey, and triggers my Blowfish's ability twice: in response to taking damage, deal 6 damage to a random enemy. Pre-battle triggers finished, the fight starts. My Elephant's ability is that when it attacks, it deals 1 damage to the two friendly units behind it. So while their beefy Mosquito is still standing after trading blows with my Elephant, the Elephant's attack had triggered my Blowfish again, and that randomly hits the Mosquito to finish it off. Next, their Crab one-hits my Whale, which releases the Hedgehog that was trapped in its belly. When the Crab knocks that Hedgehog out, 2 damage rains all over again, taking down their Giraffe and Swan. The Blowfish triggers its spit in response to being damaged too. The two critters knock each other out at the same time, but my Blowfish had the Honey item on it, making it spawn a 1/1 bee after fainting. I win the round. All that took 20 seconds, and my lineup wasn't even arranged optimally.
Plus, with asynchronous multiplayer and no turn timers, I can play at my own pace. The game even synchronises progress between the PC and Android versions, so sometimes I've started a run on the computer at my desk then finished it with my phone on the sofa.
Balance is a work-in-progress, mind. Certain builds are clearly more powerful (though some are getting nerfed in the next patch) but I have won with all manner of weirdness and jank. And yeah, sometimes RNG just isn't on your side in shops; I suppose that's just part of the genre. But overall, a grand old time at a surprising price.
If you want, you can pay a couple quid for an expansion with new animals. The game is certainly good without the add-on, mind, and I still often play the base version. And players with the expansion are only matched against each other, so they don't get an advantage. You can also pay for some of the battle backgrounds, though they can be earned too. It's good.
Also, it's a great demonstration of using asset packs to build games. Many animals and icons are emojis and assets from free libraries, and it works, the game looks cute. Nice.