There have been many great and renowned rulers throughout history. Reigns is your opportunity to see how you may have fared.
Reigns, available on Android, iOS, and PC, is a kingdom simulation game in which you make choices year after year by swiping left or right. While your feelings may draw you one way, Reigns throws a spanner into the works with four elements - the church, the people, the military, and the treasury - that you must keep balanced, or at least from falling too low or hitting a peak.
Every choice that you make can affect up to four of these, positively or negatively. While the game will tell you which of them will be impacted and how great an impact it will have, it never informs you if it will boost it or cause it to fall. In some cases, it's quite obvious and repeated instances of an event over time or over different playthroughs will inform you of how best to progress given the standings of the four elements at that time. But sometimes your choice could have a rather different effect than you might have expected; military choices seem to be the biggest culprits of this.
Initially, you will have a limited, although still extensive and varied, collection of cards to handle. As you progress through the game and unlock new characters and encounters, your playthroughs will vary wildly.
We have been the father to a bastard son, who later turned on us; an incompetent King who got lost almost immediately; a Crusader; and even experimented with mushrooms found in the woods. The important thing is to not get too attached to any of your characters; ultimately, their reign will come to an end. But it's what you do in your time that impacts your legacy.
Reigns is an easy game to pick up and play, but balancing the power between the four elements takes plenty of finesse. There's no perfect strategy and even best laid plans can come unstuck by a surprise event or two. And once your current reign is over, it's onto the next one. The King is dead; long live the King!
The presentation is simple, yet elegant, and it doesn't try to complicate things. While you are playing a continuous timeline, the characters you meet are the same, so you're not tasked with identifying who you're dealing with while making choices. It's simple and straightforward, though the choices at times are anything but that.
One area that Reigns falls down is its recap of history. It offers a high score table, letting you know who ruled for the longest, and keeps tabs on objectives fulfilled, deaths suffered, and characters met, but we'd like a little more. The deaths suffered are presented by cards, but we'd like it made very clear who was the father to a traitor of a son as we flick back through the timeline.
Many games have allowed us the fantasy of ruling an empire, but Reigns offers a very different take on it. You may be tasked with defending your borders or you may simply have to put out fires and stop the church from building more and more churches. It is at times amusing and often challenging, the perfect way to whittle away some idle minutes.
4/5 - Mark O'Beirne