Return To Dark Tower by Restoration Games is a 1-4 player “sequel” to the 1981 grail game, Dark Tower – and it is incredible! You can truly relive your childhood through this sequel – it even comes with the original 8-bit sounds. Dare you enter the tower and see which adversary awaits you?
As you might have guessed, Return To Dark Tower features a huge tower that sits in the centre of the board. Wow! What a showstopper it is! Never has a game component been so engaging – you cannot take your eyes off it! The game comes with an app that pairs with the tower causing it to light up, rotate, spit out skulls and make noises seemingly at random. It’s so cleverly done, and you find yourself drawn to it throughout the game.
We backed the upgraded Dark Horde miniatures pack and the Alliances expansion on Kickstarter so this review will feature some content from those. Instead of the centre board being a board, featured is the Neoprene mat which is an upgrade. It’s no different in design, only the material differs. In the expansion, minis replace Foe tokens, and you get different coloured skulls that have different powers; however, these aren’t necessary to enjoy the game and we’ve played many times without the expansions.
Now let’s talk about those skulls! The design of these is top-notch. They even include a few extras should you misplace any. They add so much to the theme of the game, and you really do need to keep an eye on how many you have left to put on the board – if they run out, you lose the game. You also get detailed player boards, lots of tokens, cards and intricately detailed buildings for each section of the board – Citadel, Sanctuary, Village and Bazaar. It’s all very impressive!
Return To Dark Tower can either be played co-operatively or competitively and is a strategy game featuring mechanics such as engine building and resource management. You will take on the role of a hero who in the first part of the game is attempting to build up strength to take on the adversary who lives in the tower. Each player is given a home kingdom and corresponding player board, – North, East, South or West, all separated by a river, and you will need to sit facing your home kingdom. You then link the Tower to the game app and choose which foes you would like to play against. The app can decide this for you if you wish. The app keeps track of the monsters and tells you where on the board they spawn.
The game is split into six months, and at the start of each month you are given two quests to complete that month. Interestingly, you will not know how many turns are in each month, so you want to complete these as soon as possible. On your turn, you will take three actions which could include collecting resources, cleansing an area of skulls, fighting an adversary, battling quests or entering a dungeon. You will move your mini around the circular board completing actions and helping your allies.
At the end of your turn, you will drop a skull into the tower which automatically notifies the app that your turn has ended. That skull, however, could roll out of the tower if there’s an opening, and land on any kingdom – and it will need to be placed on a building in the kingdom it rolled onto. Have you been cleansing your kingdom? If not, a building could be destroyed by these skulls! All manner of dastardly events could unfurl after you drop in that one tiny skull! Once you have completed the main quest, the adversary is unleashed from the tower and Act 2 begins. Do you have the strength and skills to defeat this foe?
Is It Complicated?
The game itself once set up is fairly straightforward, however, don’t be fooled as you can get bogged down cleansing or battling monsters that you forget your objective and run out of time! Each time a quest is not completed, the difficulty of the monsters is increased. Those monsters can be tough! It’s an easy game to learn but a hard one to master. The app helps to streamline the game and is one of the best we’ve seen in the board gaming world. I think the sheer number of components and the time taken to set up and tear down make Return To Dark Tower look a bit daunting, but don’t let this put you off.
I absolutely love this game. Return To Dark Tower is dripping in theme, and you become fully immersed when playing. It plays around 120 minutes and manages to keep you captivated the whole time, so you don’t feel as though you’ve played a long game. It’s a strategic game that will have you returning to the tower again and again. I’d highly recommend the Dark Horde miniatures expansion, as the detail and quality is second to none. The one downside is that it’s a huge table-hog. We have a very large gaming table, and this takes up most of the table without player boards. If you have the space, it’s worth the investment.