Reigns is one of those games that has a simple concept, but also an effective execution. Imagine being put in front of dozens of decisions that will shape the fate of your kingdom. Now imagine that you make your choice by sweeping left or right. So, the simplest way to describe this game is the combination of Tinder and Crusader Kings. Although that premise seems a bit silly, Nerial studio manages to craft that concept in such a way that each decision feels heavy. There is more about this game, with secrets and plots to discover an overall goals to reach, which gives each player a particular purpose beyond mere survival.
Reigns gives you an endless string of various prompts from various people, concerning the matters that affect your kingdom. While answering those prompts you have to check and balance between four scales. These scales represent the power of the church, the satisfaction of the people, strength of the military, and wealth of the kingdom. The goal is not only preventing any of the scales from falling to zero, but also reaching the maximum. For example, if the military scale goes too strong, you’ll fall under a coup, and if you become too rich, you’ll die due to overeating. If your church gets too strong the Pope will come and make the Vatican II (with strippers and blackjack) out of your kingdom, and if people get too powerful, your kingdom will soon become a democracy with you working as the gardener. Favoring one option will damage one or two others. If you decide to build a new church, priests and people would be happy, but it will affect your wealth significantly. If you agree to help a witch or the alchemist, people would like you, but the church will start to prepare the inquisition. Whatever you do, you can’t win, even if you try your best to keep everyone satisfied. But what you can do is to set the highest scores for the longest reign, like the royal British family. What, you really think Queen Elizabeth II doesn’t keep the score of her outlived predecessors? She should. And you can do it in this game.
Well, in a way you can win, at least on the global scale. The thing is that devil cast a curse on you and trapped you into experiencing every reign. First, he visits you in 666, returns in 1332, and finally appears in 1998, when the game resets due to the devil deciding he’s done visiting you and resurrecting you, so he condemns you to eternal misery. So the game has a higher goal, and every death your kings suffer might reveal something new. Similar to Dark Souls, every death serves as a learning experience, and playing the next time you’ll know some of the rules this game abides by. Once you hit 1998, you can reset the game and start over, but with the knowledge of at least some of what is possible in the game.
The cards’ effects are always the same but the outcome might get different depending on how and when they’re used. There are also long-lasting effects that would give your entire line of kings constant bonuses. For example, if you start a crusade, your successors will continue it even after you die.
The real quality of Reigns is in making a simple game with binary decisions feel like something grandiose. It makes all rulers work together to uncover something big, or to achieve a huge goal while managing various aspects of kingship. This game isn’t deprived of a sense of humor, and there’s always that sense of ridicule lurking through the game. After all, the game in which you decide the fate of your kingdom by picking cards is probably well aware of its own silliness.
For a simple game, Reigns hides a lot of secrets, and some of them are pretty hard to discover. Others are not, though, since you discover them automatically after a certain point in the game. Some of the events are more obscure than others, for sure. Don’t refrain from experiments, because it’s the only way to figure out what will trigger some events necessary to advance and beat the game. It can get a bit frustrating to get stuck, not knowing what to do. Still, discussing the game with other people is interesting because sometimes they’ve discovered things you haven’t, and vice versa.
Reigns is one of those games you might have missed, which is a damn shame because it works perfectly as a mobile game. This game is a fantastic example of the game that doesn’t require complex gameplay to be deep and engaging.