Indie Quickie: Reigns

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What is it and who made it? A card-based kingdom management sim built around a Tinder-like swipe mechanic. Nerial developed the game, and Devolver Digital’s the publisher–because of course a oddball gem like this would come from Devolver.

What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? Steam for PC/Mac/Linux, the iOS App Store, and Android via Google Play for $2.99. A collector’s edition is available on Steam for $5.96, including the Disasterpeace original soundtrack, an interactive soundtrack app, and a digital companion book. The collector’s edition bonus DLC can also be purchased à la carte for $0.99 each.

How much did we play? Swiped left and right through the reigns of 12 kings in around an hour and a half of playtime with the Steam version. My longest-lasting king to date, Baudouin the Patron, ruled for 36 years. The reign of Harry the Creepy only lasted five years. So far, I’ve achieved 13 of 40 deeds, witnessed 12 of the 26 different death outcomes, encountered 28 of 37 characters, and collected 233 of the more than 750 total cards.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? Nothing too important. The interface controls well using a gamepad or mouse and keyboard–you either tilt the analog stick or scroll the mouse left or right and click/tap a button to “swipe” a card for the desired choice. One thing I did notice, however, was in playing in windowed view I couldn’t choose a resolution any smaller than 1360×768. I generally prefer playing at 1280×720 in windowed view, or sometimes smaller if I leave an app running in the background while multi-tasking on other things.

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Why should you play it?

    • Swipe Left or Right to Rule: All the complexities and responsibilities that come with being the monarch of a medieval kingdom, Reigns streamlines into a simple card game in which life-changing decisions are all made with a left or right swipe. Your reign as king begins with a freshly dealt deck of cards. Each card represents an advisor, general, doctor, member of the church, peasant, or some other NPC seeking council with your majesty to address an important issue–to sign a peace treaty, set out to rescue the cliché princess captured in a dragon-guarded tower, raise or lower the price of foods, increase defenses at the borders, fund the development of a sewer system, accept or refuse bribes, horde wealth or share it with the people, or decide how to handle an earthquake or uprising of beggars. Most cards are one-step events with immediate impact, but certain events follow a progressive storyline of events to carefully wade through one card draw at a time. Choices made for each scenario raise or lower the standing of four kingdom factions indicated by icons above the deck, including a cross (the Church), sword (the army), dollar sign (the treasury), and a stick figure (the common people). If at any point one of the attributes is depleted (or reaches maximum capacity), the reign of your current King ends in one of many possible outcomes and, somewhat akin to Rogue Legacy, a new king is crowned the successor, and you start over. Every card swipe equates to one whole year, so naturally the primary objective is to maintain an even balance with the factions in order to keep a single king sitting on the throne for as many years as possible. Success or failure, the length of a king’s reign adds to the progression along a persistent kingdom timeline, with new event cards and objectives becoming available the farther you make it.

    • Tinder Dungeon Crawling: While fulfilling your kingly duties, certain events lead to duels and dungeon dives that utilize the same side-swiping mechanic. Upon entering a dungeon, cards displaying images of multiple doors or pathways are swiped to decide which direction to follow. Sometimes chests or enemies are encountered, at which point swiping determines if you attack or open and take the treasure. Duels play out in the form of a sort of rock-paper-scissors mini-game where stick figure avatars for the King and the enemy appear in the top status bar, with left or right swipes dictating whether you attack or defend. Underneath the characters are eight dots (four on each character’s side) representing the number of lateral spaces within the arena, and different attacks and defensive maneuvers move backward or forward a certain number of spaces. So there’s a fencing-like strategy to judging the distance and trying to figure the best time to strike, and when to play it safe.

    • Court Jester: The decisions you face as king lead to impactful consequences, but in general the game keeps the mood light and not-so-serious with a wild bunch of characters and scenarios to ponder. In my reign so far, I’ve encountered a convent of nuns afflicted with a malady causing them to meow like cats (they were eventually declared heretics and burned), a monk biting his brothers (is he a werewolf?), children being taught to spit on the King’s men (how dare they!), a doctor who told me my urine smells like rhododendrons (is that good or bad?), and villagers complaining about the price of cereals becoming too high (sorry, lowly peasants, but Royal Crunch is expensive). Oh yeah, and there was that time when my beloved royal dog, Rex, literally turned into the devil. Man’s best friend my aristocratic ass. The card and character art, which has the style of low-poly 3D models flattened into 2D portraits, also adds a cute, simple charm to the proceedings, complemented by gibberish chirps and mumbles and groans for extra whimsy.

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Parting Thoughts: A kingdom management sim, card game, choose your own adventure, and light dungeon crawler all in one, Reigns is a simple yet subtly sophisticated game of chance and decision-making strategy. Without a tutorial, the game doesn’t immediately make the rules clear, so come in expecting to be maybe a little confused at first and have to learn through trial and error as you memorize card effects and achieve a vague understanding of how to interpret outcomes from the card text. Even though cards tend to repeat from king to king, one of the more addictive elements to the game, especially for completionist types, is the collectability of card sets for character portraits and all of the potential death outcomes, as well as different deeds (govern as one King for 20 years, win a duel, recruit certain special characters, produce a heir, et cetera) to complete in order to gain more challenging objectives and advance the story. Reigns hasn’t hooked me in as a game that I’ll be playing for hours on end in a single sitting, but for quick bursts of pick-up-and-play entertainment this game’s a quirky delight.

What is Indie Quickie? It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

Disclosure: A Steam code for Reigns was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s publisher.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!