It feels oddly appropriate to publish this on the first of February, a month dominated by declarations of love. While Hallmark is very much to blame for that, it never hurts to be thematic. I’d hope that, one day, the concept of Valentine’s Day comes to transcend cards and candies and teddy bears, but that’s not really going to happen anytime soon, so commercialism it is, with a computer game themed after literature’s most famous variety of romance novels: the 18th century aristocratic coming-of-age romance story.
I must confess that, as the kind of guy for whom video games (especially the kind with punching and explosions) comprise a significant chunk of lifetime, Regency Solitaire by Grey Alien Games was not my first pick of games to play. I’ve never read a single Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte novel, for one thing, and my interest in 18th-century British nobility pretty much stops at “Well, they existed, I guess.” Even the game itself, at first glance being just another themed card game by a developer who primarily made match-three puzzle games like Spooky Bonus and Holiday Bonus GOLD (emphasis theirs, not mine), wasn’t really the sort of thing I’d have wanted to spend ten bucks on. As it happens, though, I came to own Regency Solitaire by way of the now-ubiquitous indie bundles that litter the gaming world. I recall trying it for ten minutes and quitting. After watching developer Jake Birkett’s highly enlightening “How to Survive in Gamedev for Eleven Years Without a Hit” from 2016’s Game Developer’s Conference, I figured poor Jake really deserved more of a chance.
As it happens, this is exactly the sort of solitaire game that fits nicely into the Solitaire with a Purpose theme: it’s solitaire that gives the player a reason to care about playing solitaire. In this case, though, rather than daily challenges and online leaderboards, Regency Solitaire plays out as a Jane Austen novel might (or so I’m told). Your protagonist is Bella, who attends a ball and dances with a certain gentleman. What presumably follows is a tale of social mores and arranged marriages, status and a fair bit of impropriety. I couldn’t say for sure how it might end, as I’ve only really played for about 45 minutes.
While the actual game is just another variant of Golf (the same as Microsoft’s TriPeaks, Game Freak’s Pocket Card Jockey, and Righteous Hammer’s Solitairica), Regency gives the player an overarching meta-game. Doing well at the solitaire portion awards you with gold and treasures, which go towards sprucing up main character Bella’s chambers. As well as looking nice, buying furniture for Bella provides passive effects like revealing face-down cards, or increasing the chance of finding Jokers and Wild cards (which are not the same thing in Regency). It is clear, however, that the developer is very proud of their artist, as the game gives you the option to set any given background as your desktop wallpaper.
I’m not about to proclaim that Regency Solitaire is beneath me. For as much as the theme and subject matter don’t really interest me (then again, I’m a 29 year old single male), I can think of enough people that I know, for whom this game would be quite appealing, that I’ve run out of fingers to count them on. Regency is very much a game for the Big Fish Games crowd, the sorts of people who can find a new and interesting game to play on the bargain shelf next to where the TV show collections sit. People like my mother, my grandmother…perhaps even my great grandmother, if she had ever used a computer.
That’s not to say I dislike the game myself. The basic elements of solitaire (even though it’s Golf, a variant I’m a bit less fond of), coupled with earning and spending gold to upgrade things, are common among games like this for a reason. The player nearly always wants to keep playing because they want to see how much more “powerful” they can become. Challenges that they found difficult before can be steamrolled with no problem once they’re picking up wild cards every other draw, or have the ability to delete a card of their choice with a simple click of a button. It’s a game that should appeal to the completionist (especially with the inclusion of achievements, in the Steam release), and perhaps also the gamer that wants something a bit more relaxing and less reliant on timing and technique. There’s as much a market for games like this as there is for the sorts of games where one wrong move results in your character taking a broadaxe to the face. Which is just about the most metal thing I’ve ever felt the need to write, in an article about a game about love, romance, and marriage in an age where broadaxes are
decidedly not meeting anybody’s faces apparently still meeting faces with frequency I hadn’t anticipated when I wrote that sentence.
Regency Solitaire is available on Steam at a base price of $10. I’m not sure this humble little blog about cards can bring much attention to it, but I suppose every little bit counts.
Update: I somehow forgot to mention that Jake Birkett is currently in the process of making a new solitaire game, Shadowhand, which pairs the Golf-style solitaire rules with piratey dueling and fighting, and is likely to contain more axes-to-faces. I’m told it will be coming to Steam this summer, and I very much look forward to it.