After the end of Game of Thrones, I was mostly OK with how things went down. Like many fans, though, I still had complaints. After I’d run my course tweeting about them, I decided to open up Reigns: Game of Thrones and try my hand at sitting on the Iron Throne.
Reigns: Game of Thrones, written by my friend and former Kotaku writer Leigh Alexander, is basically regular old Reigns, which is a mobile game with Tinder-esque mechanics released in 2016, with some Game of Thrones flavor on top. You’re given a deck of cards, and you make choices about the fate of your kingdom by swiping them left or right. Each choice affects your money, power, faith, and love of the people. If any of those get too high or low, it’s game over.
The game is framed as Melisandre looking into the fire to find the Azor Ahai, the prince that was promised to defeat the Night King and rule the realm. You start off with Daenerys on the throne, and in my first game, she was killed by sellswords in seven years. From there, I tried Tyrion as ruler. He made it 17 years. Then Sansa—only three years in my first attempt, then 23 in my most recent. Jon Snow didn’t make too bad of a leader, either, with 16 years.
Because these are all hypotheticals, the end of the show is not referenced at all, and Reigns: Game of Thrones instead depicts much more optimistic endings for Westeros. When Dany is on the throne, the White Walkers have not yet reached Winterfell, and she can send all the forces of King’s Landing to aid them. If Jon sits on the throne, Dany is building a new nation across the sea with those aligned with the Dothraki. Sansa, my favorite character, can become so beloved by the North that it no longer matters how much power she amasses—the people will still support her anyway.
It’s nice to return to Winterfell in this way. The ending of the show is pretty bleak, all things considered. Although the people of Westeros can rest assured that this particular civil war is over, most of our favorite characters are traumatized and most will never see each other again. In Reigns: Game of Thrones, everyone is alive and mostly well.
Being king or queen isn’t easy, however. The realm is constantly in crisis, and having a new ruler doesn’t necessarily unite the people. When I played with Tyrion as king, Sansa ended up destroying the Twins, the castle of House Frey, under a flimsy pretense. She later told Tyrion that she did it to ensure that the South could never invade Winterfell. When Sansa was Queen, King’s Landing was constantly at war with the Iron Islands. My biggest problem in all playthroughs was running out of coin. It turns out feeding the people and keeping your military strong is expensive.
I wouldn’t envy anyone on the Iron Throne. History has shown that ruling an empire will hardly leave everyone happy, and that’s in a world without dragons. I do still wonder how well I can rule Westeros. Just like the fans unsatisfied with the show’s ending, I’m sure there must be a magic formula for making everyone happy.