Dark Tower…it was like every planet in the game universe had suddenly aligned. It was a board game, it was an electronic game, it was Dungeons & Dragons, all rolled into one. Milton Bradley called it Dark Tower; we called it “Dear God, I promise I”ll never ever do anything bad ever ever again if you make sure I get this game, and please make world peace, amen.”
The center of this 1981 game was the Dark Tower itself…not only did the big edifice loom over the circular game board, it was also the engine that made the whole game run. The object was to work your warrior’s way around the circular board, all the while building up armies, finding three needed keys and hoarding supplies of gold and food. Individual game cards with red and white pegs kept track of your current physical and financial status, but the real action took place inside the tower itself.
When it was your warrior’s turn, you pressed a button on the tower keypad to signal your turns action’s visit to the Bazaar for purchases and haggling; an exploration of Tombs or Ruins, where reward or battle might await; a simple one-space move; and so on. A randomizing engine inside the tower took care of the rest. At any moment, an enemy army of Brigands could strike, famine could decimate your troops, or luck could yield surprise treasures – the opponent-cursing Wizard, the dragon-slaying Dragonsword or a quick-travel Pegasus card. All results were indicated by one of many lit-up icons inside the tower’s dark, translucent face (an LED display took care of numbers). A dragon game piece roamed the board as well, acting as a fire-breathing spoiler.
After circling the board and amassing keys and troops, the final battle was an assault on the tower itself. After solving the riddle of the keys (which of the three went in what order), a final force of Brigands awaited, one that would tax the limits of your troops’ reserves. Fare thee well, young warrior.
Part of Milton Bradley’s leap into the electronic future of toys (along with Simon, Big Trak and others), Dark Tower was certainly a step up from your run-of-the-mill, dice-rolling board game. The emerging Atari generation was spellbound, as were D&D; aficionados. Unfortunately, the game’s relatively hefty price tag kept it from joining the ranks of Risk, Battleship and others, as Dark Tower vanished back into the Medieval mists after an all-too-brief lifespan.