Cost: $2.99
Seller: GHI Media, LLC
Devices: iOS and Android
Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
Three and a half stars

Pros: Inexpensive. Doesn’t need the Internet. You’ll be king.
Cons: May take a while to get into it. Trying to avoid death.

First impressions

When it comes to iTunes and the App Store, I usually find the Editor’s Choices pretty reliable, to the point that I simply download them with abandon. The films don’t disappoint me and the apps are always interesting.

Therefore, when I saw that a game called Reigns was in one of the coveted slideshow bar spots running along the top of the App Store, I of course had to buy it.

The reviews were overwhelmingly positive and there were lots of them. The words “simple” and “terrific” were peppered throughout the brief amounts of text I read. This sounded like the one for me!

It involved being royalty, making tough decisions and ruling a country – right up my alley. My head was designed to wear a crown.

The cost of the app wasn’t a king’s ransom (guffaw) and so I opened the treasury to download it.

How it works

Well, wouldn’t you like to know? With all the hype about this thing, you’ll be ready to be immediately enchanted by it. The app opens up and … where are the instructions?

You’ll be given a set of cards with what appears to be a king on the front one, and the only information you’re granted is a visual graphic, showing that if you swipe the card to the left, you’re saying “no” to whatever query is upon it, and “yes” if you swipe it to the right.

That’s it.

Along the top are four symbols that seem to represent the church, the king’s life, the army and how much money the kingdom has.

As you swipe away at the cards, you’ll see the levels of these icons either increasing or decreasing, based on the decisions you’re making.

What you’ll also find is that the cards don’t always ask questions. You’d therefore be understandably wondering how you can make a “yes” or “no” decision when it isn’t relevant.

The trick is to move the card slightly in one direction or the other to see what the alternatives are. For example, one of your staff could be telling you that there is a plague in the town.

If you move the card slightly to the left, you could see “Burn the livestock,” and to the right could be “No big deal.” I’m making up this particular example, but you get the picture.

You are set goals at the start of each reign, which include meeting certain characters, gathering an heir, and managing to survive for a specified number of years. The last one is the tricky one.

You really need to watch the levels on those icons along the top of the screen. Once one of them is completely depleted, a skull appears above and you are given a full description of how your king (you) met his (your) end. The app tells you how many years the reign lasted, and that’s that. There is never any time for mourning. It’s straight on to the next king with new tasks to achieve, and you get to make decisions on familiar and new situations. No rest for the wicked.

If you manage to survive long enough, you’ll get new decks of cards, encounter some strange creatures, and fight duels with graphics reminiscent of Space Invaders. Thank goodness the cards are written in English, ‘cos the language spoken by each member of your court certainly ain’t.

reigns-3When I played it

After reading all the reviews singing Reigns’ praises and lauding its simplicity, I really felt like an idiot when I first gave it a go. What the heck were they talking about? I didn’t find it at all self-explanatory, but then was it that I just couldn’t see the forest for the trees? Was I trying to make it more complicated than it was?

I confess that in the end, I actually did a bit of research on the web, as I wasn’t grasping the magic of this at all.

Learning that not all cards had to be questions and how to respond to them was a big help. I also hadn’t really paid attention to those icons at the beginning, but I soon grasped how important they were.

If money was low, agreeing to any spending of it was not a good idea, and so on.

By the time I’d been using it for a while, I’d managed to get a king to last 22 years on the throne before he bought the farm. I knew I shouldn’t have trusted that fortune teller …

Final thoughts

I finally get what people were talking about when they gave this app high marks. It’s a kooky little number that’s difficult to pigeonhole, which makes it unique and interesting to play.

Anyone who thinks they could rule a kingdom can test out that theory here. Just watch your back, because it seems there are many keen to see the king fall.

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.