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Review: Reigns – guide your kingdom to prosperity, or die!

A card-based, swipe-gestured game that’s 100% designed for smart devices

Price: $3/£3
Version: 1.01
Size: 93 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Developer: Devolver Digital


Update! Reigns was able to marry simplicity with depth incredibly well, to the extent that it won Apple’s game of the year in 2016. While it had a sequel, Her Majesty, how does the original hold up in 2020?

So what’s new? In many ways, Her Majesty was what was new. But that doesn’t mean that its predecessor hasn’t had upgrades along the way. However, we have to look back to 2017 for anything significant. Around a year after release the devs added 100 new cards to the pack, so if you haven’t picked it up for a few years but loved it at the start, you might enjoy a revisit. Elsewhere, it’s added new translations, created a Stickers pack for iMessage and ensured the design has been updated and optimized for the iPhone X and XS Max. Its last update was correcting a bug back in August 2019, so it’s good to see it’s not been left to languish. We wholeheartedly continue to recommend this game.

Revised rating: This remains a brilliant, unique concept, expertly delivered. ★★★★★


Our original review, written in August 2016, is presented in its entirety below.

On the surface, the swipe left, swipe right options that dominate in Reigns might feel like the game is lacking substance, but it’s actually incredibly clever. Using familiar swipe actions that many apps use these days, with the kind of choose-your-own-adventure aesthetic of old, Reigns becomes a wildly enjoyable game as you try to beat your high score of how long you kept a monarch in place for. Each turn, you move through time, succeeding the throne held by the king from your previous turn. The aim is to hold on for as long as possible, but the actual decision making process is delicate, and you have to ensure that you balance the needs of the church, the people, the army, and the treasury to remain in power. If one drops to zero, you’ll be overthrown, and/or probably killed.

It’s a brutal end, and often you don’t see it coming. You can preview what affect each decision will make (see below image), but you don’t always know whether it will be a positive or negative effect.


Swipe left or right to make the decision you think will maintain the balance in your society (represented by the symbols along the top)

The results are complex and it’s difficult to ascertain the outcome. Over years and multiple decades you may learn from history, but there will still be surprises. For example, you might produce an heir and decide to make the general his godfather rather than the priest. But then the general quickly overthrows you, and if that wasn’t bad enough, your son then overthrows him, before deciding, cruelly, to hang you too. This is the middle ages we live through in Reigns, but it’s also a card game that’s hugely addictive.

Sadly, this king just couldn't make enough money to maintain control

Sadly, this king just couldn’t make enough money to maintain control

Reigns is a great, and simple game that can be played in a long and involved, strategic session, or spread out, playing one reign at a time. There’s longevity as well, new cards get added and each reign you can pick a goal such as ‘Meet the devil” or ‘Create an heir’. These goals give you something else to think about as you swipe cards away in search of your goal – a decision you think might help you in this quest might also be your downfall. As time wears on, some decisions will play out over multiple monarchs, and once you start embarking on crusades, you’ll find the pressure ramp up as your population begins to dwindle by the second rather than just based on your decisions.

You'll meet some interesting folk along the way. You may or may not invade them.

You’ll meet some interesting folk along the way. You may or may not invade them

The graphics are also nicely understated – similar to the developer’s other title, Downwell, but a little more progressive. It’s blocky RPG-like approach gives you both a modern and retro experience as you employ old-school gaming capabilities on an updated platform. In conclusion Reigns is a strong concept, one of the strongest we’ve seen in its utilization of a smart device, and it’s executed perfectly.

The game gets pretty addictive and you'll want to been your longest reigning monarch every time.

The game gets pretty addictive and you’ll want to been your longest reigning monarch every time