Tracking Down One of the Most Rare Board Games Ever: Dark Tower

Dark Tower board game

The most gorgeous board game illustration of all time! Bob Pepper’s work is brilliant.

For those who don’t know, I’m a board game enthusiast. The holy grail of my hobby is the hard-to-find, out-of-print, ‘Dark Tower.’ It’s a fantasy adventure game with an monolithic computer tower calling the shots. Milton Bradley only published the game in 1981, when two designers successfully sued for intellectual property theft. 700K awarded, ‘Dark Tower’ never saw store shelves again.

I only played the game once, in 1982, when I snuck into a D&D session of my older brother, Mike Wodzianski. His friends brought the Tower over to our house for some pre-RPG antics. My mind was blown, and I’ve been thinking of the game for the past thirty two years.

The complete Dark Tower board game by Milton Bradley.

The complete Dark Tower board game by Milton Bradley.

Over the decades, I’ve made a handful of attempts to acquire a copy. I always fell short of my goal, usually for a copy’s poor condition, or an extremely high price tag. High school buddy Steven Prior claimed he had a copy in his attic, but I never saw it (I forgive you Steve).

On Monday, August 4, 2014 – I got my Tower.

Instructional manual for Dark Tower.

Despite the game’s simplicity, the instructions are long. 1981 computers (aka Dark Tower) have come a long way.

A tale itself, I found the seller on Craigslist. Willing to accept offers, I low balled him and (as requested) gave him my cell number. ‘Greg’ called three hours later, and said he had might have a copy of Dark Tower waiting for me. But first, I had to be interviewed. In what is certainly my most bizarre Craigslist transaction, I was questioned on board game intent, studio practice, and technological prowess. It turns out, the potential seller had been researching my web presence for the entire morning. With questions answered to his satisfaction, I was invited to his home.

Upon arriving, Greg was there to meet me at the front door. A modest, two story brick, split level gem in the suburbs disguised the fact that inside was a staging area for horror. Greg is a Haunted House hobbyist. He and his wife transform their humble home into a neighborhood freak show every fall, with 40 staff/actors scaring the crap out of anyone who steps onto the property. Greg was very excited to share his ‘Ultra Vampiri Stalk Around’ costume with me. Of course, it was in the basement. Also in the basement, was his wife Linda’s artwork! She’s an artist, and we spent a while critiquing her work and sharing creative experiences. Another thing in the basement? The Dark Tower.

The author, the seller, and a haunted house prop.

The author, the seller, and a haunted house prop.

Greg insisted we open the game and check for every component. After everything was inventoried, it was only natural to play a few rounds. We didn’t finish the game, but agreed on a great price. We also agreed that I would play the game, not flip it on eBay, and in general – be a good steward to this piece of gaming history.

Setting up Dark Tower board game.

Greg and Linda set up one last game.

My copy of Dark Tower is near perfect!

Fellow gamer and friend Ken Cho stopped by yesterday afternoon, and we attempted to lay siege to the crown jewel of my collection. Ken’s warriors got lost in the woods, while my mighty band of ten warriors attacked the black fortress. Against an imposing force of twenty brigands, my troops won the day with minimal loss. Victory was mine!

I slept well last night.

Playing Dark Tower with a friend.

Playing Dark Tower with a friend.

About the author: Andrew Wodzianski is an interdisciplinary artist working in crocodile tears, puppy dog tails, and magpie chatter. When not painting, professing, playing, or pretending, I like to pose Barbie dolls and print fashion plates. I live and work in Washington, District of Columbia USA.

  • I love stories like this. The cool experience of getting to meet someone new over a common interest is what makes life interesting. And, you got a great board game to bring home when it was all over. Double bonus!

  • Dex

    There’s a flash version online: http://hofle.com/darktower/DarkTower.swf

    I think mine is sitting in my parents’ basement still. I played the heck out of it as a kid. Loved the artwork too.

  • LarryBundyJr

    I was after one for years too, even harder to get one in the UK, despite it having the hell promoted out of here.

    But I found a semi working copy, the light bulbs had died on it and it was an utter nightmare trying to track down replacements. GE made the bulbs originally, but they stopped making them in the mid 80s, I could get clones, but all the stores I found online were charging $40 to ship to the UK!!! $40 for a f***ing tiny light bulb.

    The only other resource for these precious bulbs was to hack open an old Electronic Simon as they used the exact same. But by total luck a friend in the US was willing to have new bulbs shipped to him, then shipped to me, which ended up being vastly cheaper!!!