Phone Fun: It’s Not Easy Being King in ‘Reigns’

Brandon Marcus

With the boom of smartphones, you’re never far away from a new time-consuming game. With so many different options to download, it can often be hard choosing the next handheld game to get sucked into. We’re here to help, showing the latest, the greatest, and the games that aren’t worth the space on your phone. For this edition of Phone Fun, we take a look at Reigns, the latest from Devolver Digital.

What We’re Playing

Reigns (iOS/Android)

We have all wanted to be king, right? To control an empire and lay waste to our enemies. Well, it’s not as easy as it seems. Being king is incredibly tough. Devolver Digital’s newest game, Reigns, shows you just how hard it can be using some inventive, fun and addictive game mechanics.

You are a king in Reigns, a king who is ruling over an ever-changing realm. Like any good ruler, you have to look after your people. You have to protect them and punish them and provide for them. Like the court jester, you are juggling many balls in the air. As I said, being a king is tough.

Reigns on iOS

But this isn’t a civilization simulator like Sim City where you look down at the capital you’re building. Instead, Reigns is a card game. That’s right, a card game. But it’s unlike Hearthstone and the countless other imitators populating the App Store. While you are indeed drawing cards, none have stats or bonuses like, say, Pokémon. Instead, each card drawn gives you a scenario and a choice. As king, you have to decide which choice you’ll make. Each decision deducts or adds to points corresponding to the happiness of your citizens, the money in your bank, the mood of the church and the strength of your armed forces. If the meter for any of those departments hits zero, then your days of being king are over.

The longest I’ve been king? Only 48 years, which was about five minutes in game time. My problem was not listening to the bankers enough and running my domain dry. Oops, I shouldn’t have tried to keep my people so happy. Sorry citizens, it’s time to suffer a little!

You Can’t Appease Everyone

Reigns is the type of game you can play for two minutes or two hours, perfect for a mobile device. It’s challenging, and you’ll be caught making tough choices. Do you want to appease the church or the people? Do you keep your army at home despite a growing threat because you don’t have the money to send them? Marry a young princess to bring peace to opposing countries? Will you punish rioters or let them be? Each choice brings pros and cons, helping or hurting you in different ways.

While the mechanics of the game are great, it’s also terrific visually. The style is a bit retro and a bit simple, but purposefully so. The art design has real personality, as does the music and sound effects. The characters on cards will talk to you in an odd gibberish language which becomes almost soothing after several rounds. It’s like having people from The Sims telling you how to run your kingdom.

No aspect of the game is overdone or undercooked. Some people might want more from an empire-building game, like different ways to see your kingdom progress. But that’s not what Reigns is. That’s a good thing because the game’s approach and style are so unique, you don’t want it to try to be something it’s not. Expertly made, easy to pick up or put down, and full of quick decisions that’ll challenge you, Reigns will make you king… even if just for a minute or two.

Check out more mobile games as featured in our ongoing Phone Fun series.

Brandon Marcus
A pop culture lover from birth, Brandon has previously written for,, and He has complained extensively about inconsequential things on all those sites. Brandon resides in the Pacific Northwest but his heart belongs to Gotham City.
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