Devolver Digital's award-winning Reigns is difficult to explain, but once you figure out the main draw of the game, it's a great offline time-waster. You start the game as a king, a ruler of a kingdom where you have to make decisions for the good of the people and for your own rule. If any of the four metrics used to keep track of your own kingship fall to zero—faith, well-being, defense, and finances—you'll be booted from your position as king by poisoning, beheading, banishment, or any other number of terrible outcomes. To control your country, you'll be presented with cards that give you a choice, in a similar fashion to the swiping mechanism we've seen in Tinder. You swipe left or right on the incoming cards to make your decisions, typically either answering with a yes or no answer with occasionally more complex choices appearing within the game. The key to Reigns: when you die, a new king takes over, and you begin playing as the new ruler.
The game has a dry sense of humor—the deaths, especially, can be pretty funny—and the gameplay itself is far deeper than it might seem initially. Your actions, every swipe you make, have consequences in the kingdom, and the health of your rule is represented by four diagrams at the top of the screen. Each decision represents a year in-game, and you want to make sure that you're doing everything you can to make your reign last until your natural death. Ensuring that every category is as high as can be is the key to winning, but it isn't quite so simple. Raising one factor in your kingdom almost always lowers another—growing your army, for example, will undoubtedly spend some of your savings, and trying to pinch pennies can cause your kingdom to be invaded or the people to starve. If any of these factors hits zero, it's your head—sometimes literally. Thankfully, the game allows you to check what attributes each action will affect by slowly sliding the card to either direction.
Luckily, it's just a fictional monarchy, so there's no need to worry about your actual head being on the chopping block. Because of the sliding mechanic, the controls feel simple and intuitive—it just feels like making decisions and selecting yes or no. It's a truly interesting game, and we haven't seen anything else like it on the Play Store. If you're tired of endless runners or console ports, you might want to look into Reigns. At $2.99 with no ads or in-app purchases, it's a great price for a fantastic offline game.
And good news! If you already beat the first Reigns game from Devolver Digital, you can pick up the brand new Reigns: Her Majesty, a brand new follow-up to the original Reigns in which you fulfill the role of queen in a kingdom undergoing a brand new renaissance era. With you as the head of state, you must guide your country through strife and danger to success, making the correct political decisions while simultaneously managing personal relationships and suitors. Reigns: Her Majesty is available for the same $2.99 asking price on Google Play, and if you've already played the hell out of the original, there's no reason not to pick this one up.