Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
Return to Dark Tower

A crowdfunding campaign for a second printing of Return to Dark Tower has started yesterday. One interesting aspect is that the campaign is on Backerkit, which used to only operate as a pledge manager platform, but now also started with crowdfunding campaigns. I bought the first edition of Return to Dark Tower this year, haven’t had the opportunity to play it yet, but I do know how the game works. And because I have recently watched a very misleading review of the game on Youtube, I wanted to give my thoughts on this game.

The misleading complaint I had heard about the game was about the power curve, with the reviewer complaining that he didn’t feel his character was getting stronger and stronger, like in other dungeon crawler board games. That is presumably because Return to Dark Tower is *not* a dungeon crawler at all. Instead it belongs to a category of games, together with other examples like Oltree or Siege of Runedar, which resemble the Tower Defense genre of computer games. The goal is *not* to vanquish all enemies, but rather to survive their increasing onslaught until you can fulfill a victory conditions, which could be killing the boss mob, or simply escaping. These games tend to start deceptively simple, but over time more and more threats turn up, which get nastier if not dealt with. Thus the power curve is very different from a dungeon crawler, and often things become increasingly dire before you can hopefully just eke out a victory. The main interest of Return to Dark Tower as a boardgame is that it is a great cooperative experience, with win or loss often determined by how well people can work together, and the external pressure creating great team spirit.

Now Return to Dark Tower is probably the most expensive version of this type of board game, at $190 MSRP, or $150 plus shipping for that crowdfunding pledge, which probably ends up about the same. Oltree has a MSRP of $70, and you can frequently find it cheaper, but it will provide a very similar gameplay experience. Siege of Runedar is even cheaper, but also somewhat simpler and doesn’t offer the modular replayability. The big difference is that Return to Dark Tower has the eponymous black plastic tower, which in combination with a phone or tablet acts as the villain of the game. This is a gadget, but an impressive one. While other games are perfectly able to generate a similar outcome with a deck of random event cards, the tower with its moving openings and glowing runes embodies the villain much better. Between people who love such gadgets and people who are nostalgic for the original Dark Tower game from the 80’s, there is a market for this game. But it osn’t great value for money, even if the game has a lot of replayability due to a modular design where you can select your quest, the main villain, and even the minions.

For me the question is whether I want to buy the Covenant expansion for $55 plus shipping. I like that the expansion has 4 new heroes, but I would have liked more foes rather than the addition of new game mechanics. 


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