“A Fantasy Adventure Born of Electronic Wizardry”
At a time when role-playing aficionados wielded war and wizardry with pencil and paper, Milton Bradley introduced an electronic God into the mix. Released in 1981, Dark Tower proved to be a little bit of everything. It was a board game around which players moved tokens according to the roll of the dice; it was an electronic game, with every player answering to a randomly generated fate on each turn depending on where they landed; and it was a nod to the intriguing world of Dungeons & Dragons.
The architectural namesake squatted in the center of a circular board divided into four segments. Each player controlled a quadrant from which one could amass armies and supplies for the grueling voyage ahead. But before one could storm the castle and battle the evil within, three magical keys were needed. With this goal in mind, players set out on a conquering clockwise quest through every other player’s territory, in search of the bronze, silver, and gold keys that would permit access to the hulking evil dominating the game board landscape. Each player also had an individual peg board with which one used red and white pegs to keep track of vital physical and financial statistics.
While players rolled dice and spent their coin, it was the Tower itself that truly controlled their fate. Each turn, the player pressed a button on the Tower that randomly generated a scenario based on whatever square the player had moved to (i.e., plains, bazaar, frontier, tomb, etc…). The bazaar provided the player an opportunity to haggle for much needed food and supplies while tombs could contain either battle or booty. The Tower’s pronouncements were law, and players constantly found themselves being attacked by brigands or plagued by famine. Sometimes, the Tower would yield up a blessing in the form of a helpful wizard who could hex opponents, a Dragonsword for dealing with a fire-breathing, free-roaming nuisance, or a flying horse for quick and convenient travel. Whatever the case, the Dark Tower would do the math, factoring in the numbers on both sides and spitting out an irrevocable equation. While being good was good, being lucky was often better.
Once a player found the three keys, he or she returned to his own territory for a final tune-up of the war machine before setting out on a dead march toward the Tower itself. A small riddle involving figuring out the order of the keys kept troops at bay for a time before they could enter and face the final swarm of relentless evil-doers.
While Milton Bradley’s previous success in the electronic market was evident in hits such as Simon and Big Trak, Dark Tower struggled to gain a toe-hold despite its awesomeness, and a TV pitch by Orson Welles. The Tower itself quickly wore out after moderate use and the price tag was beyond even the whiniest kids’ abilities to win over parents’ pocketbooks. Add that to a lawsuit claiming that Milton Bradley stole the game from two men who had presented the idea to the company in the late seventies and the result was a toppled tower. These days, adventurers don’t search for the tower so much as collectors. But the reward at the end of the journey remains treasure just the same.
Were you the proud owner of a Dark Tower game, or was it a toy you wanted but never got? Either way, we would love to hear your recollections of this Milton Bradley game in our comments section.