Play Reigns for 30 seconds and you will fall in love with it. In this new Android title from Devolver Digital, you act as a king who must carefully balance his kingdom’s army, treasury, religion, and population to reign for as many years as possible. These four “resources” are manipulated via conversations with peasants, knights, witches, members of the church and many other characters. The outcomes of which, in Reigns as in life, are never completely clear.
In each conversation, you must make an important decision by swiping the character card to the left or to the right. If this ever results in the depletion of one of the four reserves – which dangle permanently at the top of the screen – you die and must begin again as the next heir to the throne.
Strategy games have long since employed resource management as a gameplay focus but it’s rare to see it delivered with such attention to narrative. And delivered so successfully. While the politics of a monarchy are, obviously, far deeper and more complex than swiping across a smartphone display, the simplicity provides a delicious simulation of power; I can wave my hand, or point the finger, to destroy people. In a bizarre way, Reigns has made me feel more like a real king than any video game ever has.