Reigns is a medieval game of life or death (mostly death)

Reigns is a new gaming app, currently featured as a favorite by Apple. You are a king and the answer to whether you live or die — and how — is in the cards. Quite literally. As ruler, you are presented with a deck. Each card is someone in your kingdom who is asking for help or notifying you of a problem on the rise. How you answer determines your fate.

A swipe to the left is one answer, the right another. But the tricky part is you need to juggle resources. You must keep the people and the church happy, while having enough money and troops to keep your kingdom safe. It is really easy to splurge your resources in one area, for a good reason, but it will cost you — your life and your reign. Layered on top of this delicate dance of power is the objective you need to fulfill: meet a witch, recruit a minstrel and have an heir — and other kingly duties. Each time you fulfill an objective you are rewarded with new cards in the deck to make the game more interesting and hopefully less deadly.


The motive behind this game is to extend your reign (i.e. stay alive) for as long as possible. An interesting dynamic is that every game you play is kept in a timeline and each new play uses the decks you have built out in your past lives. As you browse your timeline, for each reign you are given a name and title that best describes what type of ruler you were, like Henry the Blessed, George the Sorcerer or James the Wicked. This naming convention strangely helps you remember past games and the mistakes you’ve made.

Overall, I found the game to be quite clever. There are fun dynamics between certain recurring characters in your deck, like the doctor and the witch. As you build trust, certain characters tattle and make fun of each other to you, their trusted ruler. There are mythical elements like witches, werewolves and even the threat of polyamory in your kingdom, which lend the occasional giggle — particularly in this rather odd stretch of the game, where you are making decisions while clearly on some sort of weird drug trip. I also enjoyed the well-designed variations within the game. You might be lost in a dungeon, impaired with old age or dueling a foe. All serve as a welcomed break from the standard swipe-right decision making.

But, what stands out the most in this game is the artwork. It is simple, but haunting. It is done in a modern geometric style that leaves a lot to the imagination. It is simple, moody and not what you’d expect from a medieval or card-based game.

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Reigns is a dark and weird game, but entertaining and worth it if you’re looking for something different to play. Right now it sits at the No. 3 game overall, paid or not. And for good reason. It’s a great game. It launched last week and has been featured 281 times on the iTunes home page worldwide. Reigns is $2.99 on the App store and Google Play.