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The Gloomhaven and Pandemic Legacy creators team up for a new project

The campaign for Return to Dark Tower is now live on Kickstarter

Wraiths line the battlements of the eponymous Dark Tower in key art from Restoration Games. The colors are yellow and gray, with gold accents. Image: Restoration Games
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Two of the most popular modern board game designers are teaming up for a massive Kickstarter campaign. Called Return to Dark Tower, the app-enabled board game brings together Rob Daviau (Pandemic Legacy) and Isaac Childres (Gloomhaven) for the first time. The base game will cost you $125, and the campaign itself needs at least $850,000 to be successful. Published by Restoration Games (which recently did the remake of Fireball Island), the campaign runs through Feb. 4.

Dark Tower has been in production for about three years, mainly because of the special technology that drives the experience. At the center of its circular game board is a massive, translucent black plastic obelisk. It only looks like a dice tower, but according to the Kickstarter video it hides a “rotating, motorized core with lighted glyphs.” A cross section reveals multiple chambers and red LEDs. Controlling the tower is a Bluetooth-enabled app, which means a smartphone will be required to play.

“Return to Dark Tower constantly presents new challenges,” says the campaign page. “The adversary within the tower, the plan to access the tower, and the suite of foes you will face can mix and match in thousands of combinations. Play the same array over again or try something completely new.”

App-enabled board games have seen a resurgence in recent years, starting with Fantasy Flight’s excellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which debuted at the Gen Con tabletop gaming convention in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2014. Many other games have followed, along with countless startups trying to digitize the physical tabletop experience in some way or another. Restoration Games, which was co-founded by Daviau and will be publishing the game, is going a different route with a bespoke electronic device purpose built for Dark Tower.

“This game is legit bonkers,” wrote co-designer Childres in his email newsletter this morning. “I could never in my wildest dreams create a game with such insane ambition.”

“I say that as the person who made Gloomhaven,” Childres continued, referring to his role-playing epic in a box that ships at close to 20 pounds.

The original Dark Tower, published by Milton Bradley, came out 38 years ago. You might remember the commercial, which was voiced by none other than Orson Wells. But, where that game was a bit of a commercial flop, Restoration Games already has excellent momentum. At time of publication the campaign has already soared over $425,000.

“It’s fun and entertaining and challenging and full of interesting decisions,” Childres continued, “and I really couldn’t be happier seeing all these elements shine and come together into a product that really is something special and extraordinary.”

A draft of the manual is available for download, and the team will be doing a live playthrough of the game on YouTube all day today. You can find a link on the Kickstarter campaign page. Delivery is set for February 2021.

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