How to describe Reigns? It’s an interesting game in terms of design and execution. The first thing that springs to mind is the old classic ‘Choose Your Own Adventure‘ or ‘Pick-A-Path‘ books where you had to navigate a succession of choices to reach an ending for either good or ill.
In that regard making a choice between A or B makes up the bulk of the gameplay of Reigns. You play the part of a King, or rather a long running succession of Kings whose task it is to balance four resources; Religion, Population, Military and Economy. Acquiring or losing too much in any one resource will end your reign, typically resulting in your death, so careful decisions must be made to keep these resources balanced. Sometimes you just need to lose that war to keep your military in check, otherwise they might depose you.
The game apparently contains 750 unique cards, of which I saw only a fraction in my time playing, with certain choices and interactions unlocking new cards for your ‘deck’. There is a storyline hidden throughout all these deaths and lifetimes however, with a conversation with Satan taking place every 666 years and a mysterious figure trapped in a crystal. The goal of each reign however is to simply live and reign for as long as possible. For my part I’ve managed to exceed 30 years. Most of the time though I’m dead in the first dozen or so.
Options for Crusades, Trade Routes, and other important historical events can occur and will impact your resources in a big way, typically with a permanently increasing or decreasing tick on one or more. Various decisions will also generate a short or long term boon or penalty that can occur over multiple lifetimes. The communal barn for instance will save you if your population resource bottoms out, typically resulting in starvation of the masses.
There is a lot of humour contained within the game that I personally enjoyed, some of it quite dark. From annoying court jesters to the local monastery turning into were-wolves, the discovery of child labor to the nuns at the nearby nunnery mewing like cats. All can be dealt with politically or with the sword, often with even more humorous results. Over time I’ve discovered that the Royal Executioner is a man of many passions and artistic ability, although he’s more than up to ending the life of the Royal Jester who was singing songs about how terrible a King I am.
Both in visual and audio the game gave me a feeling of Papers, Please with the characters all speaking in gibberish and the artwork being simplistic but effective. You wont find any cutting edge 3D graphics here with tessellation and frankly there is just no need for it. Music is a pretty simple blend of choir chants and the only quibble I have with the games presentation is probably the lack of background music; I’d have liked a little more diversity. Maybe some jaunty tavern jigs?
I played this game on PC and while enjoyable I can clearly see this game was designed for tablet and phones, and I truly believe it will do exceptionally well on those platforms. It’s the perfect game to play in 15-20 minute chunks while waiting for something else to take place. Having said that (on PC at least) this is perhaps the sort of game you leave running in the background and switch to while you are waiting in a game queue. It’s just not the sort of game you are going to sit down and spend several hours with in a single go. And at $2.99 it doesn’t need to be.
SUMMARY: Reigns is a game designed for casual play that presents an original idea in a humorous format. Quick to learn and difficult to master, I can see this title getting intermittent play for some time.
Reigns is available now on Steam (PC), iOS and Android. You can pick it up on Steam here.
Reviewed On: PC
Specs: Intel i7-6700k, 32GB RAM, Nvidia 770GTX
Time Played: 2 Hours