Reigns: It ain’t easy being king

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They say it’s good to be the king. Eh…it might be, but it ain’t easy.

A few of us at work were talking about phone games and one friend mentioned Reigns. I told him I usually don’t dig on card games without any real action but as he went on about kings, timelines, lineage and clever writing, so I decided to give it a try.

Playing Reigns couldn’t be simpler. It takes the swipe left/right mechanics of Tinder and applies them to a very well written-yet-random card game. It’s the best Choose Your Own Adventure game you’ll ever play.

You’re a king in the dark ages and you have to keep your kingdom in order. This means keeping the church happy, the people happy, the military happy and also keep your treasury full of gold. As it turns out, maintaining that balance can be quite difficult.

Reigns uses a deck of cards to present you with choices. You choose one of two options and then that decision impacts your stats and influences the cards that follow. You’ll hear from popes, executioners, merchants, queens, peasants and even your dog. It’s easy to follow and play but very hard to stay alive.

I’m not usually one that favors games heavy on listening or reading but Reigns hits a sweet spot where it’s not too long, not too short and so well written that it kept me wanting to play just to see which cards and scenarios would come up next. I wasn’t looking to die but learning how you die is always a wonderful (and usually violent).

While the game itself is fun and engaging, the best part is actually when you die and the game gives you a summary report of your reign. It’ll show you how long you ruled along with a nice timeline chart. It’s just cute and clever, if nothing else.

You have side missions too, like talking to a specific person or visiting a certain place, all of which gives you bonus stats and new cards for your deck. You might think that since the game is deck based, you’d see the same cards over and over…and you do…but for some reason, they don’t always yield the same results even if you choose the same answer. Or at least it doesn’t feel that way. I’m sure that’s partly due to the card that follows each one, which is why it’s so clever, but it’s also great that it doesn’t get stale. Some cards are obvious but many are not.

If there’s one thing to pick on with Reigns is that it’s very hard to tell from the interface which stats will go up and down based on your choice. The game gives you clues but even then it’s hard to be certain how it will affect you, and you’ll find that alone will contribute to some very short reigns when you start to play.

Despite the storytelling nature of Regins, the game is very pick-up ready. I’ve found my average reign is about 20 years but that’s after several times of surviving less than 10. Needless to say my family lineage will be littered with names.

I can see why Apple chose to feature Reigns. It’s barrier to entry is very simple but it pulls you in with its touch-and-cheeck attitude of medieval politics. The art style is very clean and abstract but fits the card theme nicely.

Reigns is a premium game in that it costs you a whole $3 in the App Store…or computer, as Reigns is also available through Steam. You’ll waste more money or lesser games, trust me.

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Brian is a staff writer at TMA. He races Hot Wheels at RedlineDerby.com while watching cartoons with his kid. You can follow @morningtoast on Twitter.

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