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Dark Tower - Board Game Box Shot

Dark Tower

| Published: 1981
41 13 7

An epic fantasy quest to recover an ancient magic scepter from a tyrant king in his Dark Tower, brought to life in electronic form.

To vanquish the usurper, players search the four realms of the circular game board for three keys to unlock the tower's gate. On this journey, there are battles to be fought against roving bands of brigands, dragons, plague and hunger. There are bazaars to visit to purchase supplies and assistants for the quest. There are uncharted territories to get lost in and tombs and ruins to plunder. And there is a mighty army to be raised before the player can lay seige to the tower and fight either to glorious victory or crushing defeat.

User Reviews (7)

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I play blue
El Dorado
Guardian Angel
14 of 14 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“The First Epic Adventure”

Dark Tower is set in a generic fantasy world. Players lead a party of warriors on a journey through three kingdoms to find three magic keys. On their journey, the party will fight Brigands, suffer attacks from dragons and wizards, and lose warriors to plague and starvation. The party will also visit tombs, ancient ruins, bazaars and sanctuaries along the way. The magic keys allow the heroic party to storm the Dark Tower and retrieve the Ancient Magic Scepter, which was stolen by a tyrant king. The theme isn’t very strong in the game. There are no fancy names for places on the map or heroic characters to play. And each of the four kingdoms has the same spaces, with the same buildings at the same locations. However, when this game was released in the early 1980’s it was worlds ahead of anything at the time. Like many longtime gamers, I have fond memories of playing this game when I was younger.

Unfortunately, the game was quickly removed from the market due to licensing issues and has never returned. Although, a search on the internet will bring you to several sites which have reimplemented the game in various forms.

Dark Tower is for 1 to 4 players ages 12 and up and plays in 60 minutes or less. Dark Tower is at its best when played with 4 players.

The components are excellent. The circular board is mounted and very functional, but has fairly drab artwork. There are plastic buildings, plastic playing pieces and an electronic tower. An electronic tower in 1981!! The tower kept track of all game functions and had some pretty pictures which would light up to depict events which happened during your turn. Unfortunately the tower did not withstand the test of time very well. The tower ceased to operate fairly quickly, and today it is very difficult to find an operating tower. There are some websites which offer to refurbish the tower for a pretty penny or two. The rulebook is 45 pages, very well written and organized, and contains many examples of play.

Set-up for Dark Tower is easy but did take a moment. The two halves of the board must be fastened together and the 16 buildings affixed to the board. Each player receives a score chart which indicates his party’s number of warriors, bags of gold, food rations and other possessions. Each player starts with 10 warriors, 30 bags of gold and 25 food rations. The number of players and the desired difficulty level is punched into the Tower. When the Tower plays the epic starting overture, then you’re ready to begin!

Nothing fancy about the mechanics. Players move their party one territory on the map during their turn. Then the player presses the corresponding button on the Tower and the Tower indicates what happens. Every turn costs a minimum of one food depending on the number of warriors in the party.

Players start in their own kingdom and move counterclockwise around the board back to their home kingdom where they hopefully make an attempt to storm the tower. The territories on the map consist of the following:

1. Open
2. Tomb
3. Ruins
4. Bazaar
5. Sanctuary
6. Citadel
7. Frontier
8. Dark Tower

There are no locations here to visit; however, there are several events which can occur. There is the possibility that no event will occur or one of the following events will occur:

Fight a Battle against a roving band of Brigands. The Tower sounds a battle horn and will play out a battle between your warriors and the Brigands. A player can choose to fight or retreat. If the party wins the battle it will obtain treasure.

Dragon Attack. The Tower shows a fire breathing dragon and makes a high-pitch screeching sound. The dragon steals gold and takes some warriors.

Plague Strikes. The tower shows a skull and plays a ‘Death March’ tune. Two warriors perish.

Lost in Uncharted Territory. The Tower shows a picture of jumbled tree limbs with multiple pairs of eyes peeking out from the dark corners and plays a sad tune. The party must move back to the space from which it came.

Wizard’s Curse. The Tower shows a warrior lying on his back and plays a negative tune. The wizard steals warriors and gold and gives it to another player. The party has also lost its turn.

When the party enters a tomb or ruin the sound of a creaking door can be heard. But what’s behind that door? It can be nothing, it can be a room filled with treasure, or it can be battle ready Brigands!

Anytime a party wins a battle against Brigands or finds treasure in a Tomb/Ruin it will obtain bags of gold as indicated by the Tower and possibility one of the following items:

Pegasus: Pegasus allows the party to move to any territory in their current kingdom or to move to any territory in the kingdom to the right. Pegasus can only be used once.

Dragonsword: The Dragonsword will slay any dragon which attacks the party when it moves. The party receives the warriors and gold the dragon has been accumulating during the game. The Dragonsword can only be used once.

Wizard: The Wizard allows a player to curse another player. The player using the Wizard receives 25% of the cursed player’s warriors and gold.

Magic Key: The party must collect a brass, silver and gold key to be able to lay siege to the Tower.

The Bazaar is where a party can stock up on supplies or purchase something to help with the journey. Warriors, food rations, a Beast, Scout or Healer can be purchased at the bazaar. The Beast carries up to 50 bags of gold. Normally 6 bags of gold are carried by each warrior, but warriors can perish! The Scout negates the effect of being lost and gives a bonus of one extra move if the lost event occurs. The Healer negates the effect of the plague event and provides two additional warriors if the plague event occurs. The player can Haggle with the merchant if he feels the price for an item is too high. However, the player must be careful not to haggle too much or the merchant will become angry and close the Bazaar. If this happens, the player loses his turn.

The Sanctuary gives a beaten and battered party warriors, food, and/or gold so that the party may continue its journey.

A Citadel functions as a Sanctuary with two distinct differences. The Citadel cannot be used until the party returns to its Home Kingdom. The Citadel doubles the amount of warriors in the party.

The Frontier spaces separate the four kingdoms. A party cannot cross a frontier into another kingdom unless it has the required magic key.

Once a party has collected the three magic keys and returned to its Home Kingdom, it may enter the Dark Tower space and begin to lay siege to the Tower. Hopefully the party has gathered many warriors by this time too! Before entering the Tower to fight the final battle, the player must unlock it by solving the Riddle of the Keys. The player must determine the order in which the keys are used to unlock the Tower. Once the player has solved the Riddle, the battle horn sounds and the final battle is on!

Dark Tower is an easy game to learn and play, and very accessible. My family and I had loads of fun playing this way back when. The game doesn’t quite measure up to today’s standards but even so it is still a good game. My Tower has long ceased to function, but every so often I find myself playing it on line yearning to hear the epic victory overture. Such a sweet sound! Dark Tower is a classic game that every gamer should endeavor to play at least once!

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The Gold Heart
Grand Master Grader
8 of 8 gamers found this helpful
“One of the great classics of the 1980s”

Dark Tower was one of my favorite games as a kid, and at the time I had absolutely no idea that the copy endlessly played at a friend’s house was rare in any sense. It was only as an adult when my then-girlfriend suggested playing the game and was shocked that I knew what it was that the story of its truncated release due to a finding of intellectual property theft by Milton Bradley reached me.

Playing it as an adult, the game held up surprisingly well (quite unlike some early ’80s cartoons I could name). Movement and actions are mediated by the tower, which will generate opponents to fight, merchants to haggle with, and treasures to loot. The player must navigate counterclockwise around a board consisting of four quadrants, each containing helpful structures that allow you to replenish your reserves or dungeons to delve into while attempting to find a key that will allow you to proceed to the next segment. There’s a surprising amount of strategy involved, with resource management (food, soldiers, and gold) being a central component of the gameplay. While the game can be played solo, it becomes much more interesting when competing against others to enter the fourth zone and assault the tower itself before they can.

The main issue with Dark Tower isn’t in the gameplay, but in the electronic nature of the tower itself making everything a bit fiddly. If something is input incorrectly there’s no way to fix it, and there often seem to be issues with getting the tower to recognize that you’re in the right quadrant (that might be due to human error, but it’s hard to tell). Crashes are semi-frequent, possibly due to age, though I do recall the same thing happening thirty years ago. The number of opponents you face in combat also wasn’t balanced very well (especially in the final assault on the tower), and there’s no way to institute a house rule to fix it when a giant black gizmo is making all the decisions for you. There’s also the not-insignificant problem where if the tower breaks, your game becomes unplayable. There’s probably a way to simulate everything with pen and paper, but it’d be a complicated process to work that out (you should still try to do it, or I might just have to).

Dark Tower is fun, especially with other people, and if you’re willing to both overlook the glitches that come from its aging technology and spend the exorbitant $500 to get a used copy… well, you’re probably already a devoted fan who didn’t need this review in the first place.

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Guardian Angel
Baron / Baroness
Miniature Painter
25 of 31 gamers found this helpful
“"We will sell no Game, if it is Lame..."”

OK, so the title is a blatant reference to spokesman Orson Wells’ other famous ad tag-line “We will sell no wine before it’s time.”

Dark Tower was a fun kids game which was cashing in on the new craze which was fantasy games (primarily rpgs). The game itself was a simple board game which was represented by a circular map that players had to move around in order to find the three keys they would need to unlock the Dark Tower.

The Tower, in the middle of the board, was a plastic, electronic tower with a touch pad (remember this was the early 80s, not like a touch pad today) that you would use to let the game know certain things – like were you entering a ruin, or going to the bazaar, or crossing the frontiers between kingdoms (and thus could find the next key you needed), etc.

The tower also told you when you would run into bandits, or dragons, or what you might find inside the ruins, etc.

Once you had all three keys – Bronze, Silver and Gold – you would return to your own kingdom and assault the tower. If you had enough soldiers in your army, you’d win, if not, you’d be repulsed and would have to go and recruit more soldiers and try again. All while hoping another player didn’t beat you to the punch, kill the bad-guy, and claim the king’s scepter (or some such) as his own.

I had a lot of fun with this game when I was 15 or so, and remember it fondly. I would play it again for nostalgia’s sake.

Player Avatar
25 of 34 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“A haunting memory of childhood”

I played this game with my friend and his older brother many times back when I was about 11.

One thing I really remember about it is that it seemed nearly impossible to win.

I still remember the sounds the little computer in the tower would make every time I lost. It haunts me to this day.

Playing the game felt so immersive and exciting. It was competitive but in the end you were just happy if anyone could survive it. I think I may have only won a couple of times but that didn’t detract from the fun. The mechanics of the game are incredibly simple but the tower computer makes it seem much more magical. At least it did when I was 11.

But don’t just take my word on it, listen to Orson Wells:

Really, though, all you need to know about the game is on this page, made back in 1997 and archived here:

And…you can even play a flash version of the game here:

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Gamer - Level 1
7 of 14 gamers found this helpful
“What a game! ”

I played this game multiple times as a teenager. My stepfather at the time owned the game and taught me to play.

It was easy enough to learn and immensely fun to play. My only complaint about the game is that because it is an old game and has not been remade it is both difficult to find a complete game in working order and the computer in the tower often messes up gameplay. I agree with another review post that is hoping for a remake of the game!

Because of the tower in the game and the old-school but well-done artistry, it has a very nice fantasy world feel to it. The tower makes you feel more immersed in the game as well as adds the exciting element of chance, luck, and the unknown. Each game truly is an adventure of sorts!

There are a lot of small pieces to the game, and if you are not careful, they are easy to lose. Also, over time, the cardboard pieces (like the scorecards) get worn easily.

In the end it is an exciting game that would be AMAZING remade but is still incredibly fun if you can get your hands on a working, complete original.

Player Avatar
8 of 20 gamers found this helpful
“Praying for a remake”

This game was amazing. I keep hoping to find a company who will start reproducing it so that the costs will come down. As amazing as it was in the 80s/90s, $300+ is a bit steep. If you can ever get your hands on a working copy, PLAY THIS GAME. So much fun.

Players move around a circular board to collect keys and build an army to enter and defeat the evil wizard controlling the dark tower. Through out the game you will interact with the dark tower to log and build your progress. The tower itself kept a record of what you had collected as well as a peg board that each player had. There was also a roaming dragon that would randomly attack you, brigands, and Pegasus.

I hope to one day get my hands on this amazing game.

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I'm a Real Person
Treasure Map
Video Game Fan
8 of 21 gamers found this helpful
“Dare you face the Dark Tower?”

The answer for me is Yes!

I still have this game (and it works!). I have brought it out as recently as last year to introduce some kids to it.

The objective is to collect three keys and storm the Dark Tower to defeat the evil within. You start off in your own land, and travel to three other lands to search for the keys that are required.

– Search ruins and tombs for treasure to fund your quest.
– Visit the bazaar to purchase soldiers, food, a healer, a scout, and a beast of burden.
– May become lost, plagued, attacked by a dragon, or attacked by brigands during your travels.

You will keep track of what you have in your inventory by using a card with pegs in it (the game itself keeps track of what you have in your inventory, but it uses your turn to see what you have).

I will bring it out now and again to face…the Dark Tower.


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