Dec 20, 2011

Toys of Christmas Past - Dark Tower

Just around the late 70s/early 80s electronics started making their mark on board games. In 1981, Milton Bradley released probably the most ambitious and impressive electronic board game to date: Dark Tower.

The object of the game was to travel to from your home kingdom to each of the three surrounding kingdoms and locate each of the three Magic Keys that would allow you and your army to enter the Dark Tower, battle the Brigands within and restore order to the land.

But this game was no walk through yon meadow. While on your quest you had to do a fair amount of inventory management, which was carried out using the punch card and Battleship like pegs shown above, bottom left. The size of your army (max 99) determines how much gold you can have (6 bags per Warrior) and how much food you need to feed them. That's right, you have to worry about keeping your troops fed in this game or they start dying!

The top of the Tower houses a cylinder with three rows of images. The cylinder would spin to align the correct image with the dark plastic window and would be back lit so you could see the image. That didn't sound as helpful as I thought it might. Maybe Orson Welles can make it clearer for you...

One of the neat aspects of the game was that each player would sit in front their home kingdom and the Tower (which showed game play information and controlled pretty much everything) would be rotated to face each player during their turn so they were the only one that could see it. Of course, if you were familiar with the game sounds, you had an idea what was happening.

And perhaps the coolest thing about the game is that because the Tower acted as your Dungeon Master, you could play the game solo...which I did. A lot! Playing a game with a legit solitaire mode was much more fun than sadly playing the game against yourself and trying to act like different people...not that I ever did that.

Thanks to this game, for the longest time, I never knew brigand was another word for bandit.
I wonder why that was....

Are they Aliens? Monsters? What??
The artwork in the game is something else that really cemented this game in my brain. It was done by illustrator Bob Pepper, who also did the MB card game Dragon Master as well as quite a few book covers. Well of Souls, a Dark Tower fan site, did a brief interview with him which you can read here.

I've barely touched on the details of the game but instead I'll drop some links for you in case you want to learn more about it or revisit your childhood.

The previously mentioned Well of Souls fan site also delves into the Dragon Master card game and other incarnations of Dark Tower.

Hot Flash Games has a single player Flash version of the game.
If you've never played before, be sure to read the rules!

Recycled Thoughts from a Retro Gamer has a great write up of the game too.

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