May 18, 2024

#UnboxingDay ~ Return to Dark Tower by Restoration Games

Michael Eckenfels, 21 April 2022 ~ #UnboxingDay

The original Dark Tower game, released in 1981 by perpetual (at the time) game maker Milton Bradley, was a staple game of mine. At the tender age of 12, I recall playing this so much that eventually, I didn’t need the board any longer. (I’m not sure that’s something to brag about, but it is what it is.) I’d love to own it again – goodness knows what happened to my original copy – but good luck finding it for less than several hundred dollars, and in working condition.



click images to enlarge

When Return to Dark Tower was announced some time ago, I was excited, but cautious. I’m not a big backer of crowdfunded games (I’ve backed a few P500s and one Gamefound title), and would rather pay more money at retail to be sure it’s (a) not a scam, (b) it actually works as advertised, and (c) people give it generally good reviews. I did not back it, but did preorder it from Miniature Market. I barely missed out on the ‘Alliances’ expansion; I actually had it in my cart but before I bought it, someone else grabbed the last copy. Oops. I did, however, manage to get the upgraded tokens pack.


When this arrived, it was a surprise. I’ve preordered games before of course, but I’ve also cancelled preorders that take too long. I received a shipping notification on this a couple of weeks after I placed the preorder, so that was a happy moment. The box was huge and heavy – both good indicators. But games cannot be judged by weight alone.


I almost hesitated to open it. It wasn’t an impulse buy. I did my research and saw it had pretty good reviews out there, despite it being very different from the original Dark Tower game. My hesitation was more along the lines of “what the heck have I done, now?”


This is definitely one thick beast of a board game.


With the shrink wrap off, it still has a commanding presence on the table.


The back of the box highlights the Tower itself (but is somewhat misleading as it looks like it’s black with red hues painted on; this is the lights within, not the Tower itself). 


Once the box top is lifted, some nice art greets us. I find it interesting that this game is actually cooperative, so one to four players work together to beat the Dark Tower. The original game had you playing against each other, but you could solo it if you wanted to. Everyone in that version were competing to be the first to assault and conquer the Tower. Here, you work against time and growing evil corruption to defeat the forces aligned against you.


There seems to be no end to the components!


Just taking off the top layers above the plastic molding that protects the Tower and other components is a hefty action. There’s a lot here – a rulebook, a guide sheet to storing everything in the box (which is very helpful, I might add), player boards, and lots of cardboard components.


The rule book is gorgeous, with lots of color and from what I can see, clarity in explanation. I won’t know for sure until I’ve had a chance to dive into the rules.


I do like how the components are explained. For example, this tells you the Tower is laden with glyphs, which are removed as the game progresses. This can lead to bad things.


A closer look at the organizer sheet.


There are four player boards, representing each of the four characters – the Spymaster, the Relic Hunter, the Orphaned Scion, and the Brutal Warlord. They each have specific abilities and you as the player can add to that as the game progresses, giving you a character that grows and becomes more powerful.


Even the back of the player boards has some nice art on them.


The cardboard components are very nice – thick and large.


I like the care the publisher (Restoration Games) took in packing this. I was hesitant to continue, because I knew I’d need to put batteries into this to be sure it worked, and sync it with the app. Yes, there is an app that is needed to play. I’m not generally a big fan of that, but in this case I was happy to do so. I mean, it’s Dark Tower, man!


When this packing cardboard is removed, there’s two large sections you can see. The Tower is on the left, and the other components, to the right.


The miniatures are really nice. I love that they have some pre-painting to them to give them a shadow effect (I think this is called “sundrop” but I may be wrong, I’m new to this term).


These are the building pieces. The original Dark Tower game had four in each of the four quadrants of the board, for a total of 16. So too does this game – from left to right in the above image, these are Citadels, Bazaars, Villages, and Sanctuaries.


And here’s a close-up of the figures. I’m very inexperienced with painting so I’m happy to leave these as is.


Even the skulls, which represent bad things, have that nice shadow effect painted on them. Then, there’s color bases to snap on to the hero minis as well.


And, the Tower itself. It’s fairly impressive and a bit taller than the original Dark Tower. However, it does not have graphics or a display of any kind; rather, it has a central area that turns via motor and skulls, when deployed, are dropped into the top. They can go to any one of the glyph doors, which can be removed during the game. These skulls will then spill out into one of the areas on the board, where players must place them on one of the four structures in that area. If a structure gets too many skulls, it is removed from the game, I believe.


A closer view of the Tower.


The bottom of the Tower. You can see the glyph doors closely, here.


Here’s a top-down view of the Tower. You can see the dark pit into which you drop your skulls.


Once the minis and Tower are removed, there’s still goodies to explore. Namely, cards.


There’s several included in the game. Unlike the OG Dark Tower, where you merely collected gold and keys, this has all kinds of different items to grab to help in the quest. Keys are no longer needed to ‘unlock’ Frontiers, but instead, these Frontiers that separate each of the four areas can be closed off by the Tower, making their crossing much more difficult.


A view of the art on the other side of the cards.


And last but certainly not least, the game board itself is at the bottom of the box.


It’s fairly impressive when laid out, though it does look pretty simple and minimalistic. I’m good with that as a design approach here, however. It makes it much easier to see at a glance how things are laid out.


A close-up of the West area of the game board.


Another close-up. The board art is actually deceptively detailed when you look more closely at it.


Someone isn’t quite sure about this Tower thing, especially when it lights up and makes noise.


Here are the upgraded components I added, called “The Coffers.” These are plastic versions of the tokens you saw earlier in this unboxing article.


You’ll see among other things, Warrior tokens. Yes, Warriors are a commodity in this game just like in the original game. They’re going to be needed to make any kind of progress in the game!


Thanks for joining this month’s #UnboxingDay with the Armchair Dragoons and we hope you enjoyed our recon of our recent acquisitions.  You can always leave us your feedback in our #UnboxingDay thread, or in the comment area on this article, below.
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