It's the classic rags to riches story: start out as a lowly peasant, but work your way up to take the throne through a combination of hard work and cunning. But just like in real life, in Royals — a new game from Asher Vollmer, the designer of Threes — it's never really clear what choices you should make, and how things will play out. A single wrong turn could lead to death.
Royals is a low-fi simulation game that looks like something you might've played on a Commodore 64. The game's site describes it as "an old forgotten game from your youth... you can't find the manual." You start out on a small map, filled with mountains, houses, and lakes, and from there you make decisions in a quest to become a king or queen. You can ransack homes to expand your reach, or attempt to woo some followers at a nearby tavern. Or maybe you just take some time to meditate in the desert. But each decision is incredibly important: every choice you make takes a year off your life, and it's possible (and probable) that you will die young and alone.
What makes Royals feel distinct is just how inscrutable it is. Whereas Threes was a streamlined game that anyone could pick up and play, Royals is a surprisingly complex simulator where one wrong decision could lead to your inevitable doom. Who knew having bad taste in music could have such a big impact on your life? The first few times you play it feels like you're just experimenting, making choices with no clue what will really happen. But once you start to understand the rules, even just a little bit, expanding your reach and building an empire can be a lot of fun.