Grown tired of walking up and down the street to lure Pokémon? Looking for something more challenging than throwing balls at virtual monsters? Why not try your hand at Reigns, a game by London-based studio Nerial, and discover if you have what it takes to rule a kingdom.
Reigns would be best described as kingdom tycoon with cards. Oh, with a lot of deaths - mainly yours. Taking on the role of king, it's up to you to manage your medieval kingdom as you see fit. You rule solely by swiping through stacks of cards, each presented with a different individual presenting you with a proposition or request. In a Tinder-esque fashion, you can swipe left or right to either deny or allow requests and propositions. Each swipe counts as one year of reigning in-game.
Of course, each decision you make influences your kingdom. On the top of your screen, four icons represent the church, your population, your army, and your treasury. These icons function as meters, and if you wish to stay alive you must maintain balance across all four. For example, completely depleting your population meter will leave you with nothing but pigeons to rule over, thus ending your reign. When your army-meter dwindles down, other kingdoms may invade, and with no church the infidels will come for your head. Needless to say no one can rule without gold, so you better keep an eye on taxes and outgoing expenses too.
With an empty meter meaning certain death, you might expect that entirely filling up a meter will surely be a good thing. You'd be gravely mistaken - when given too much power to either your church, population or army, none will hesitate to usurp you. Even having too much gold is lethal...
Before making a definite decision, you can drag a current card across your screen to see which of the four meters a choice will impact, and multiple meters can be affected with one decision. Although showing which meters your choice impacts, the game doesn't reveal how it will impact them. Whereas some choices may have obvious consequences, others will be a gamble, adding an element of surprise to the game.
Requests can range from the army asking to recruit more soldiers to farmers suggesting you build a barn to fight famine. However, you'll often be presented with outright outrageous requests, which wouldn't be out of place in a Monty Python sketch, such as the stopping of a horde of meowing nuns. These bizarre situations will leave you smirking - even if they cause you to be killed in an unmannerly fashion.
With death lurking around every corner, your demise will come sooner rather than later (we once died before even hitting the one-year mark). In fact, expecting every person in your population of plotting your premature passing may actually get you a lot further than ruling with a fair hand. More often than not you are presented with choices that will question your morals - it's either your life, or sending your soldiers to a war they cannot win, or forcing your population into years of famine.
When you die you immediately take on the role of your successor, thus your rule lasts indefinitely. Choices you made in your role as the previous king may carry over to your current reign - for example, if you instigated a crusade in a previous life, that crusade continues in your current reign. Events such as crusades have an ongoing effect on the game - in this case, a continuous decrease of your population. Other choices, such as trading with merchants, may cause a constant increase in currency. In order to prevent meters from completely filling or draining, you'll have to race against the clock, frantically swiping for your (virtual) life.
Reigns revolves mostly around reading, however there is a small aspect of dungeon crawling too. Again you will be presented with cards, where swiping left or right indicates which direction you go. When encountering an enemy, you'll be swiping left or right to defend or attack.
Besides having to fight wandering skeletons and avoiding death traps, another thing to keep an eye on are your meters - in your absence, all four of them will swiftly diminish. If you can't make your way out of the labyrinth of choices quickly enough, your kingdom falls, ending your current reign whether you're still alive or not. Both dungeon-crawling and duelling are the only two things in Reigns that do become repetitive rather quickly - where no two games of playing King are the same, every dungeon and duel is.
In terms of winning the game - such an opportunity doesn't seem to exist. One time we managed to die of old age after a 57-year reign, respected and adored by all subjects. Expecting some sort of reward, we were simply presented with our next reign. As in real life, the show must go on - there are countries to be governed and usurpers to be slain, and one king's death just means the arrival of a new one.
During each reign, you will find three objectives you can try to complete which will unlock new cards. Not doing so doesn't involve a penalty, however the more cards you have available the more diverse the game gets. At the time of writing, we currently have 425 cards available with more to unlock. With each new game, the deck of cards will get shuffled, meaning no two games are the same. Some cards are more frequently encountered than others, allowing you to foresee the outcome and swipe more strategically.
Apart from how many cards you have unlocked, the game also keeps track of how many royal deeds you have fulfilled, how many different deaths you have suffered and how many characters you have met. Currently these are capped at 40, 26 and 37, respectively. There is also a scoreboard keeping track of your personal high scores for longest reign.
Whilst Reigns is available for PC, where instead of swiping you simply click left or right, we find the game to be much more enjoyable when played on a portable device. As your reign can last anywhere from seconds to probably a minute or two at best, carrying the kingdom in your pocket allows you to easily pick up the game wherever you are. Whether you're in line for groceries or sitting on your porcelain throne - you can rule over your kingdom whenever you desire so.
Also worth a mention, after the initial purchase, you can enjoy the game in full. Neither ads nor hidden expenses in order to progress are anywhere to be found.
With its low-poly art-style and swipe-based gameplay, the card-game seems deceivingly simple. However, the unforgiving yet highly entertaining gameplay will keep you coming back for more. Even though the game has only just launched, we can't wait to see what developer Nerial (hopefully) has in store for us in the future. We wholeheartedly hope for more cards to unlock, more characters to meet, and more inevitable deaths to willingly suffer. Long live the king (maybe)!