August 15, 2016 12:51 PM | Christian Valentin
The king is dead. Again.
And yet the kingdom lives on, year after year, rule after rule. Decrees spread their influence across generations - a crusade waged here, a hospital built there - even as rulers come and go. Reigns is a game of empire management from the perspective of the throne, through the seemingly simple means of selecting or discarding cards. Each card is a decision or situation that requires your input, be it to share spoils of war with the population or to let the church burn witches and blasphemers. Every choice defines your reign, and perhaps impacts the reigns that follow. Choose wisely.
Your line is cursed, doomed to experience every succession until one can escape a deal with the Devil made generations ago. Each in-game year, Reigns presents you with a card, a choice, to be swiped left or right to choose between two options. Sometimes those options are simply yes or no; sometimes they're to send help to plague victims or close the city gates and let the common folk suffer. Either way, your choice will affect your standing in four distinct factions - the church, the people, the army, and your treasury. Building a school to scientifically enlighten the population will increase your favor with the people, but hurt your relationship with the church. And so on, challenging you to make decisions that might make one or more groups too strong or too weak. Either outcome can end in your usurping or your death if a group grows too powerful or diminishes completely
As you progress between reigns, your advisors will introduce you to new individuals, from a mysterious witch to a helpful doctor skilled in the arts of science. Each of these milestones add new themed cards to the overall deck, allowing greater variation and fresh scenarios to arise in later reigns. Major decisions will have similar effects; a crusade will last multiple reigns and add war-related cards, at the expense of losing civilians every second due to causalities. Building a hospital or spice road will diminish the effects of plague and bring in constant revenue, respectively.
It's this dripfeed of new content, combined with the lasting effects of certain events, that makes Reigns more than just simple left-right card swiping. Those swipes have weight, and even when choices begin to repeat, your choice may have to be different depending on the current situation and the state of those four factions. Some decisions will even affect the cards themselves, such as jumbled text or silly portraits of your advisers due to the influence of psychedelic mushrooms. But perhaps most exciting is how developer Nerial expands the gameplay beyond decision making.
There are duels to be fought, where new moves can be learned and success hinges on smart timing of defense and attacks. There are dungeons to enter (or be banished to), with multiple paths, crates with loot, locked doors, and enemies to fight. Impressively, these twists on Reigns' mechanics are all played through the same card swiping structure, left to attack and right to defend, left for one path or right for the other, among others.
Reigns seems simple on the surface, but this game of kingly decrees wrings a surprising amount of weight and diverse scenarios from its easy-to-play mechanics. The developers have stated they also have plans to expand the game with a new deck of queen cards and events, so there may been even more variety in Reigns' future.