Reigns Review

Screenshot from Reigns
One of the things you can choose to do is go on a Crusade

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Nerial
  • Publisher: Devolver Digital
  • Release Date: 11 Aug 2016
  • Time played: 5.9 hours (INCOMPLETE)

What is it

Nerial is a development studio based in London that have so far been exclusively working on the Reigns game franchise. The first Reigns (the game this review is about) was released in 2016 for mobile platforms, Windows and macOS and cleverly employs the Tinder dating app's method of swiping left or right in order to make decisions. Instead of making decisions on who you'd like to date though, in Reigns you're a king making decisions that affects the lives of a fantasy realm, deciding on whether to go ahead with petitioner demands or not. Each time you make a decision, one year of your reign passes and in order to maximise the time you're on the throne, you have to ensure four bars that represent the Church, the People, the Army and the Treasury don't get too low or too high (e.g. if the Army bar gets too high, your general will stage a coup and depose you; too low and your kingdom is taken over by a foreign power). Each of the decisions you make will either fill one of these bars or drain them. If any of these bars become full or empty, your reign will end and you will control the decisions for the new king. The game has a timeline that will you show you the reigns of the multiple kings from the Middle Ages right up until the 21st century and beyond (when the game roughly ends). After playing the game for a while, you'll realise that there is something sinister going on and you'll have to keep playing in order to find clues and add new cards to your deck to solve the mystery and achieve a "good" ending.

Reigns received generally favourable reviews on release especially for the mobile versions such as the iOS version which has a Metascore of 87. The PC version didn't fare as well but still had a respectable Metascore of 77. On Steam, the game has a "Very Positive" rating with 89% of the 5,687 user reviews being rated as positive.

Buoyed by the success of Reigns, Nerial developed two spin-offs: 2017's Reigns: Her Majesty and 2018's Reigns: Game of Thrones. There's even a board game in development called Reigns: The Council after the project was successfully funded on Kickstarter in October this year (it raised £106,524 from 2,923 backers).

How I got it

Choicest Games Contributor Choona enjoys backing board game Kickstarter projects and it just so happens he backed the one for Reigns: The Council. Consequently, he received a spare copy of the actual game which he generously donated to me for review (thanks Choona!).

The game was originally on my Steam wishlist since I was intrigued by its simple mechanics and wondered if this would translate into a fun experience or not.

Screenshot from Reigns
You can get to meet several characters based on historic figures, like this warlord from the East

What I like:


There are a whole bunch of humourous cards you can stumble across as you play this game such as a card that guarantees many years of boring prosperity (and your court making sure you don't forget it) or a card that has a dragon on your payroll to make you look good when you rescue the damsel in distress.

Mix of real-world events and fantasy

While you'll come across things you'd only expect in a fantasy novel such as dragons, werewolves, magic, etc. the game also has many references to real world history, such as the Silk Road, exploration of the New World, the reformation of the Church, the Crusades and more.

Simple, yet appealing graphics

The game contains some very basic graphics (in fact, I could probably do much of it myself in MS Paint) but there is beauty in its simplicity and stylized nature.

Addictive, at the start

When you first start the game, it's all new and exciting which means you'll be wanting to keep flipping those cards so you can find out what kind of decisions are in store.

Simple to learn

By employing Tinder's very simple-to-use interface of making decisions by swiping left or right, anybody can technically play this game… although ensuring its the right decision for your kingdom is going to take some practice.

Bonuses from previous reigns

Just like many other roguelikes, dying isn't necessarily a waste of time, especially if you can somehow unlock some benefits for your next life and this is definitely the case with Reigns. For example, you might decide to build a barn, a hospital or a central bank during one of your reigns and then capitalise on it once tragedy befalls you in a subsequent reign.

Steam Achievements and Trading Cards

The game has 13 Steam Achievements you can work towards and 5 Steam Trading Cards to collect.

Screenshot from Reigns
Eventually you'll run out of years to achieve a "good" ending

What I dislike:

Complicated mini-games

Occasionally, you'll get dropped into mini-games such as exploring the castle dungeons or duelling other characters. While there's apparently a trick to navigating the dungeons and sword fighting your enemies, it's not entirely obvious, which meant I found myself, more often than not, randomly picking cards and praying I either survived through each of my dungeon adventures or duels.

Getting a "good" ending is difficult

I attempted the game a couple of times and failed on both counts to achieve the "good" ending. After reading what is required to get it though, it seems that not only is it quite convoluted but you'll also have to rely on chance in order to get the right cards to trigger the correct events (in this regard, it's quite similar to Hand of Fate).

Can get repetitive

It takes roughly three hours for one playthrough of this game but the problem is, you're unlikely to get the aforementioned "good" ending on your first go, which means when you play a second time, you've already read through a majority of the cards in the game and through any given playthrough, you'll be given the same decisions over and over again. Consequently, the game starts to lose its charm on subsequent playthroughs and you'll probably be skipping a lot of dialogue as a result.


While there aren't many serious bugs in this, I have encountered a few times where the "Next" button disappears while visiting the Timeline screen. This makes it impossible to progress the game so the only solution is to quit the game and restore from the last checkpoint.

Score – 7/10 (Not Bad)

Not a bad little diversion which takes a humourous look at an alternate, fantasy-infused, Middle Ages. It's simple to learn and addictive at the start but will eventually feel quite repetitive on subsequent playthroughs, especially if it's not immediately apparent how you get a "good" ending. Probably a more worthwhile title on mobile than PC.

Is the game worth $4.50 AUD?: Yes. Pretty inexpensive for a game that's worth a few good laughs and definitely worthwhile if you're one to persevere when solving mysteries. As the game is a few years old now, it often goes on sale.

If you like this game, you might like…

[ LINK: Official Reigns Homepage ]