Deep down in my soul I know that, mechanically, Dark Tower isn’t a great game, and yet few games have stuck with me the way Dark Tower has. I was 10 years old when Milton Bradley unleashed this cardboard and plastic monstrosity upon the world, and I remember it occupying my every thought as 1981 crawled towards Christmas. I didn’t get a copy of the game that year, but my cousins did, and it didn’t disappoint. A game with little plastic, sword-sporting figures, 3D plastic buildings and awesome art of kingdoms in decline, and, of course, the massive black monolith standing at the hub of this strange fantasy world? I loved the game, eventually getting a second hand copy a year or two later and then forgetting about it when my tower, like so many others, stopped working. It’s the one grail game that I’ve considered spending $300 or more via Ebay to get a working copy to play with my kids only to realize that I’d then be divorced and probably wouldn’t be spending much time with my kids. Luckily, Restoration Games has picked up the mantle and announced a re-imagining of Dark Tower set to release in 2020.
Restoration Games’ entire purpose has been leading up to this. From the moment I heard about them and their rejuvenation of another game I loved as a 10 year-old, Stop Thief, I wondered when Dark Tower would get the Restoration treatment. They don’t just reprint older games, they re-develop them using game design techniques from today, incorporating them into the old designs while removing some unsavory mechanisms such as roll-and-move. Stop Thief lost its movement dice and replaced them with cards used for which also offer up special abilities. In this way, the designers were able to make each detective play differently without changing the core of the game: listening to clues and deducing where the thieves are.
I backed Stop Thief when it was on Kickstarter and it’s become a favorite with my family even if listening to sounds on your phone isn’t nearly as cool as the giant, red detective phone-thingee was in the old game. They also released Downforce, an awesome racing game from Wolfgang Kramer that incorporates many of the fantastic mechanisms from his early racing games like Daytona 500 and Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix and adding a few new twists such as removing drafting and a betting mechanism. They struck gold with the re-release of Fireball Island–a game that I didn’t play in the 80’s, but I kind of really want to play now–netting nearly $3 million on Kickstarter.
What I’m trying to say is that Restoration Games knows what they’re doing.
That brings us back to Dark Tower, which is set to land on Kickstarter next year and release in 2020. It’s being “redesigned” by Rob Daviau and Isaac Childres. The former is part of the Restoration team and integral to redesigning their previous games, while the latter is the deservedly ballyhooed designer of BGG darling, Gloomhaven. It’s still very much in the design stages and we’re not even sure what the game will look like at this point. My guess is the tower will be replaced with an app, but I expect there to be a tower to at least hold your phone upright in the center of the board. They can’t NOT have a tower, can they? They’ve also announced that the new game will be cooperative instead of competitive. This doesn’t completely ruin it for me, but I sure hope they include the classic head-to-head mode in the box as well. Perhaps as a stretch goal?
I’m really excited about getting the chance to have this grail game back in my collection for, hopefully, far less than $300. Sure it won’t be the exact same game, but I trust Restoration to make it even better. That means it better have all the same sounds, including chiptunes. If I don’t hear Ride of the Valkyries when the Tower falls, I’m going to be very, very upset.