Have You Played… Reigns?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Swipe right to build homes for the poor. Swipe left to refuse to help the priests being charged protection money by the army. Swipe again and again to to make decision after decision until death befalls your king in Reigns [official site].

Reigns has such a simple concept that it feels lazy to repeat it, but there’s no better way to describe it: it’s dating app Tinder’s main mechanic crossed with Game of Thrones. You swipe right and left to yay-or-nay decisions which affect resources representing the people, the church, the military and your kingdom’s coffers. If any of those resources reaches zero – or if you max them out, even – then death or doom will come.

You can therefore play the game with min-maxing in mind, trying to play the hand you’re dealt in order to live for as long as possible, but the random chance of the cards you meet means I find that unsatisfying. Reigns is better enjoyed as a simple machine for telling stories, its probability-driven system for selecting cards steering you down different paths based on chance and choices. There’s an interesting GDC talk on how that system works.


  1. Faldrath says:

    It’s a very clever game, but I find it much more suitable for phones, where the swiping feels much more natural. Lots of interesting little stories, it still receives updates every now and then (although I believe a sequel is in development).

    My main issue with it was the events that made one of the resources rise or fall continuously, which suddenly gave you a rather strict time limit for your decisions – and I really disliked that.

    But it’s still a game I’d recommend, especially when played in short bursts.

    • Jalan says:

      Every time I read an article and have a comment at the ready, someone’s already beat me to the line on writing it.

      Anyway, strongly agree with this assessment. Even through using the arrow keys to choose cards, it just seems weirdly clumsy vs. the tangibility you might have with an actual swipe motion.

      I do wish the game provided the player with a better method (instead of the trial and error approach, since some games run long no matter what cards you choose) to work out where paths branch in the story, which I have to believe could be done without overtly spoiling the story overall.

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    Drib says:

    I saw it mentioned here, I think, and went and played it a while, months ago.

    I find it super boring. The choices are largely nonsense, the stories make no sense, and most of what you do doesn’t matter beyond messing with the stat meters.

    I dunno. I wanted to like it. But the game doesn’t keep enough in mind from card to card, it’s just random nonsense.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      It would kinda work if you knew which events were coming next, so you could develop an actual strategy. As it is, you may as well roll a pile of dice and celebrate every 6.

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    subdog says:

    I like everything about this game except for the dungeons.

  4. Velleic says:

    Great timing, I started playing this just yesterday. I played a slightly earlier version, which iirc didn’t have the overarching story, and was also pretty hard to reach old age in. So I was pretty surprised when my second king reached a reign of 46 years and died of inescapable TB.
    So far that story throughline is the thing that’s pulling me back in. I find it difficult to distinguish each King, but maybe that’s cause I find it very difficult to roleplay.

  5. titanomaquis says:

    This game recently got an update that added new cards, so if you got bored with the same old cards, you might try replaying now. I play on my mobile phone personally, and I’ve found that my niece enjoys watching and helping me make decisions.

  6. Tannhauser says:

    They should really expand Reigns into other time periods, perhaps as DLC. All sorts of possible settings: Imperial China, Aztec Empire, or maybe even Rome.

    They could call it Roman Reigns.

  7. TillEulenspiegel says:

    yay-or-nay decisions

    I love this mistake so much, I always picture a bunch of legislators yelling “yay!” to vote in the affirmative.

  8. Railway Rifle says:

    I really liked the mechanics and stories it made. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the ending for maxing out the treasury. If you neglect, say, the army, the kingdom is conquered, and if you make them too powerful they overthrow you in a coup. Both seem like a consequence of your choices. So does being forced out because you spent all state’s wealth and now nobles own everything, but not “‘We’re rich! PARTY!’ ‘Wait, what?’ You died from too much rich food.