It’s good to be the king! Or at least that’s what we’re told. More often than not in Nerial’s card game Reigns, being king results in misery, death, and dismemberment. Yet, each unique path to destruction is your own choosing, and this addicting game will have players readily dying again and again.
Reigns is a simple card game that puts players in a king’s throne and asks them to make royal decrees based on the draw of a card. Each question has two possible answers and you’ll swipe right or left to indicate the one you choose. This Tinder-esque mechanic makes for an intuitive and addictive game.
Swiping left and right is simple and fun, but there’s a lot more going on in Reigns than making royal decisions. The key to a successful rule is to keep a balance between the various factions in your kingdom. Treasury, subjects, church, and military will all be vying for your attention, money, and favor. Let one faction have too much power and they will overthrow you. Make them feel disenfranchised and they will rebel against you.
Now with all those kingly proclamations weighing down on you, the game feels a lot more like Crusader Kings or Long Live the Queen instead of Tinder for royal decrees. Of course, I didn’t want to burn the alleged witches but I needed the support of the church. Decisions must be made for the good of the kingdom, not necessarily on moral grounds. The simple swiping action coaxes you into a false sense of security, subtly taunting you to quickly flick through the seemingly simple decisions you're making when instead you should be seriously contemplating the consequences of every single choice.
When contemplating a decision, a dot will display over which faction it will affect. The size of that dot will indicate the magnitude the effect will have. But here’s the kicker, it doesn’t tell you whether that effect will increase or decrease a particular faction’s favor with you. So, while one may make an educated guess about the right choice to be made, they can never know for sure, unless they’ve encountered that card before. This makes playing Reigns feel a bit like gambling. You have to make choices on luck and little information, hoping it all turns out for the best.
As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock more cards that are permanently added to your deck. You can also achieve special statuses that will help or harm you along the way. In this way the game is reminiscent of a rogue-like, letting each reign feel unique, even though you are encountering many of the same cards. Getting the best combination of status effects will make for a better playthrough.
With over five hundred cards that are dealt out as they are organically unlocked, there’s a good amount of variety. Still, players will find themselves facing the exact same dilemmas as the king before them, making royal life feel a bit repetitive. Facing the same cards over and over again will, however, let players make more informed decisions at a quicker pace.
Certain choices seem to have no good answer no matter which way you swipe. Choosing to delve into the mysterious dungeon will almost certainly spell your doom. Yet, in Reigns players are supposed to fail, over and over again. With each new reign, players are meant to learn from their mistakes and try again.
Endless decision making is broken up with a couple of mini-games thrown into the mix. Gamble at dice with the court jester or bet on a friendly fencing match. These diversions make good use of the swiping controls and are well-integrated into the story.
The story in Reigns primarily comes from emergent gameplay. Players are given goals for each new reign—things like “have an heir” or “start a crusade." As you encounter the randomly drawn cards attempting to achieve those goals, players' imaginations will impose their own tales of woe and triumph over the list of choices they’ve made and characters they’ve encountered.
Still deeper is an underlying plot concerning deals with the devil and conspiracies against your life. The bold simplistic art and quirky characters are contrasted against the serious and regal background music to impart a comic tone. You’ll never take your own death too seriously.
Simple mechanics and complex choices combine to make an intriguing, amusing, and very enjoyable game in Nerial’s Reigns. Small in scope, this card game is well-polished, and although it can be played through in a few hours (it’s so addicting you just might), there are so many achievements to unlock and outcomes to discover it has a fair amount of replay value.
Small in scope, this card game is well polished. Simple mechanics and complex choices combine to make an intriguing, amusing and very enjoyable game in Nerial’s Reigns.