I Had That! #27: Dark Tower

Last week’s edition of “I Had That!” was pre-empted for Gen Con, a huge boardgaming convention. I’ve been playing boardgames for almost all of my life, and this is a good time to talk about two notable ones.

The first is Dark Tower. There are things kids want, and then there are things kids will beg and plead for, offering all sorts of bargains and extra chores and sacrifices to get. Dark Tower was the latter. It was as pricey as an electronic, computer-controlled boardgame would have been in 1981, but to a 13-year old, it was so very worth it.

It was an epic game. You searched the lands for three keys that would allow you to enter the eponymous tower, all the time building up your soldiers for the final battle and food to feed them. The computer, which was housed in the large plastic central tower, kept track of it all, spinning wheels with pictures on them that showed what was going on and playing sound effects and music. It was advanced for 1981, and there’s no boardgame like it on the market today, 33 years later.

We played the hell out of this thing, and I loved every single bit of it. Not just the tower, but the plastic buildings that fit into the board, the pegboards that you kept track of supplies on, the plastic dragon, it was all amazing to me.

Alas, my Dark Tower suffered the fate of many electronic devices back then: being stored with batteries in it, which ruptured and corroded, destroying the tower. No tower, no game. Much later in life I found two copies at tag sales that I was able to combine into a single working copy. However, the lure of cash was too much and I ended up Ebaying it.

One thing that helped Dark Tower was the incredible artwork, done by Bob Pepper. His artwork also showed up in another Milton Bradley game, Dragonmaster.

This was a trick-taking game with oversized, lavishly illustrated cards and cool interlocking plastic gems. It was a gorgeous looking object and I found the rules of play to be absolutely impenetrable. I never played it a single time. I was fascinated by the art, though, and I thought the Runesword was just the coolest thing ever. I didn’t play it, but I still remember it fondly. Now that I know and enjoy trick-taking games, I’d love to get another copy of it. (It’s based on a game called Coup d’Etat, which I do have a copy of but come on, I want those great cards!)

When did I get it? Both of these came out in 1981, so probably around then.

Do I still have it? I don’t have Dark Tower at all, or any of the Dragonmaster cards. I do, however, still have two of the red plastic gems from Dragonmaster.

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