Reigns: Kings and Queens invites you to take the throne as a king or queen and navigate the treacherous waters of diplomacy.
The gameplay is simple. As reigning monarch, you are presented with cards that contain a dilemma to resolve through one of two choices. Someone in your royal party will address you with an issue and you swipe either left or right to select your response.
Each of your answers impacts your country, either positively or negatively affecting one of four groups that you need to keep appeased: the people, the church, the army and the treasury. Sometimes pleasing one will enrage another. Sometimes there is no choice that can satisfy anyone and all you can do is mitigate damage as best you can. It is an incredibly rare occasion that something you say will please everyone.
The goal is not to become universally loved, however, but to lead in moderation. If you are too powerful, you can be considered a threat to opposing nations; if you become too wealthy, you might be crushed by the weight of your own bejewelled carriage as it crashes through a weak pavement into a sewer.
Ultimately, you want to stay in power as long as possible. Each time you die, you are reincarnated and return to the throne, equipped with the knowledge of your past life.
As well as having to avoid the pitfalls of any ordinary ancient monarchy, you also have to deal with dragons, witches, vampires and werewolves.
The game gives you goals to aim for, which determine how each of your rulers is remembered after they die. These start as simple as ‘reign for five years’. Your legacy might depend on your allies or your skills or the rumours spread about you, and every one of them is down to the decisions you make.
For all its simplicity, Reigns: Kings and Queens is very addictive. It’s easy to let the power go to your head. It’s equally easy to get caught up in your own benevolence until your adoring people crush you in an avalanche of roses. This makes the actual balancing act more challenging than you might at first imagine.
The stories vary a lot between the experience of being a king or a queen. Having access to both in one convenient bundle offers a great contrast and a good way to take a break from your game without having to stop playing.
The potential deaths are really creative. As a queen, you might die in childbirth or get locked in a tower to rot or strangled by magic vines that your witch accidentally unleashed upon the kingdom. As a king, you might die in a hunting accident, or by a skeleton warrior you encountered in the dungeon.
Every card in the game is beautifully illustrated, with a cute art style that contrasts adorably with some of the dark eventualities in this game.
Reigns: Kings and Queens is effectively endless and you likely won’t encounter the same story twice no matter how much you play. Given it costs less than $10, you will definitely get your money’s worth.