Over the past few years, League of Legends has grown into a huge massive multiplayer online sensation, with tournaments and teams dedicated to competing in it and new players hopping on board regularly.  And why not?  It offers a huge universe to explore, along with various characters to choose from and try your hand with.

But let's say you're jumping into it for the first time, as I attempted to do this weekend in order to learn what it's really all about.  It can be quite overwhelming, especially if you're paired against someone who really knows their way around ganking and jungling.  (Pro players will know what I'm talking about.)

Here now, as part of a strategy guide, are a few basics to help walk you through getting the start of the game.  It might take a little bit of learning to nail everything down – or win a match, for that matter – but you won't be so lost after taking these under advisement.  Remember to approach with a good sense of optimism and experimentation, but also be ready to fight.

Structure

Basically, League of Legends boils down to building enough defenses to keep your home base from being overrun, while, at the same time, doing sufficient damage to your enemies, through both the defeat of their "Champion" and eventually destroying their Nexus.  There's a certain balance to combat, however.  Those who manage to overtake a good portion of the man will be given access super minions to help turn the tide in battle, though an inhibitor can easily emerge on the other side of the field, giving the enemy the chance to respond.

Starting this off, you'll enter into a laning phase.  Here, you'll earn gold and experience by defeating enemies, while champions let the "little guys", if you will, do most of the work, though they can occasionally step in, in case of being overrun.  This can stretch out for a few levels, before the ganking stage begins.

As funny as the term "ganking" sounds, it's quite serious, as heroes will depart their defensive positions in an effort to take on the champion on the enemy's side.  This can be a lopsided battle, depending on the strength of this warrior, but if you do manage to defeat this warrior, even more gold and experience points can be awarded.  It's just a matter of seeing who lasts longer, and how many champions emerge over the course of the match.

Finally, there's the team fight phase, also known as "pushing".  Here, teams will work together to start chipping away at enemy defenses in order to access the Nexus, mainly through defeating turrets.  These can lead to some of the biggest fights in the game, with all ten players in a match taking part.

It all sounds a bit confusing, but by being broken down into phases, players stand a better chance of surviving in a match – provided that they're team players and not "loose cannons" – and competition can be really heated.  You haven't lived until you see dedicated LoL teams go at it for a tournament prize.

Moving on, let's get to Champions…

Champions are broken into categories, depending on your skill set.  You've got the well-built Tank soldiers, the powerful Mages, the Ranged and Melee DPS soldiers, and the Support, who can help those that are downed.  They're usually divided into structured characters, such as Alistar, Nunu and Cho'gath in the Tank class; Annie and Ryze in the Mage class; Ashe, Tristana and Sivir (all ranged) for DPS, and Taric, Soraka and Sona in Support.

Here, you'll have to do some experimentation to see what kind of player is right for you.  Are you the defensive type of player who prefers to let others do the dirty work, while attacking from afar?  The ranged DPS and mage may be your best bet – and that last one's good for spellcasters, too.  If you prefer the direct approach, taking enemies head on, then the tank and melee DPS classes are the way to go.  And Support is, obviously, for those who like helping a friend in need.  (There are those who live to aid others, after all.)

If you do find a champion type that works well for you, make sure you stick with that particular character, as you'll earn experience and really see how their strength grows over the course of each match.  To constantly switch up can put you at a disadvantage against more powerful opponents.

Summoner Spells and  Runes

One important aspect to League of Legends' combat is choosing the right Summoner Spells and Runes for your soldier.  Again, this involves a bit of experimentation and "finding what's right" for your character, but that's part of the fun.  These spells can be cast on your party, either giving them heightened strength over the course of a battle or harming the enemy – or maybe even a different effect, depending on what you choose.

Runes are also important, but the good news is you won't have to worry about them too much until you get going later on in the game.

Finally, Get Used To Your Team

One important factor – and we cannot stress this enough – is playing the right way with your team.  Newcomers may be overwhelmed at first by how good some of these League of Legends players can truly be, but you'll fit right in provided you follow along with the plan being laid out by your teammates.  Don't be afraid to pair up with someone, even a fellow new player, because the more you rely on team-ups, the better you'll be.

Now, these are just some basic tips to get you started with the game, and over the next few months we'll have additional strategies, champion breakdowns and much more to get you accustomed to your world of League of Legends.  It really is something else – as any given professional player can tell you.

League of Legends is available now for PC.