The Unofficial (and Unfinished) Dark Tower Board Game

See You Next Tuesday

A quick update for everyone who’s been enjoying the blog: going forward my Weekly Reading Posts are going to go up Tuesday morning instead of Friday night.

I just put one up a few days ago, and didn’t have time to do the reading and write up a whole new post for today, so the next Weekly Reading will be posted on Tuesday, December 22nd.

But I wouldn’t want you all to go more than a week without your fix of Dark Tower content, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to share the prototype for one of my many pet projects…

I Will Play Silly Games

When I first started reading the Dark Tower in high school, I quickly got one of my best friends hooked on the series as well. In case you hadn’t guessed, my friend and I were both huge nerds, and had been playing Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons since long before I ever picked up The Gunslinger. So it was only logical that we eventually decided to create our own game based on King’s Magnum Opus. Unfortunately, this game never progressed beyond crudely drawn cards scribbled on cut out rectangles of computer paper. As I got older, I completely forget about our quest to gameify the path of the beam. Until four years ago…

In 2016, as I sorted through old junk in my childhood home, I came across a few of the old cards my friend and I had made, and the memory rekindled my desire to for a Dark Tower-themed game. Since I was in high school, the popularity of complex board games for adults has exploded, and having played many of them, I was suddenly sure that I could actually pull it off this time. So once again I set about adapting the Dark Tower for game night. Since then I’ve worked on it on and off, obsessing over it for months at a time and then putting it aside for a while.

Let me be clear: I have no experience or training in board game design and I’m useless when it comes to graphic design. My goal here was to come up with a play-testable prototype that I could then bring to someone who actually knew what they were doing, and ask for their help perfecting it. Here’s what I ended up with.

The Dark Tower Rules

In the Dark Tower Board Game, players choose either the side of the White or the side of the Red—good or evil—with one side trying to save the Tower, and the other side trying to bring it down. It can be played one-on-one, two-on-two, or even two-against-one with a slight modification.

Each player draws a hand from their respective decks, which include several card types: Ammo cards, Gunna cards, Glam cards, and Character cards. In addition to the White deck and Red deck, there is a third deck of cards colored a neutral gray, the deck of Ka.

The board (shaped like a wheel, of course) is a combined map of Out-, Mid-, and In-World, as well as various versions of Earth. Depending on what location or region a character’s token is occupying, they might be stronger or weaker in battle. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Instead of being geographically accurate, the “map” is more chronological, following the events of the books in a clockwise cycle.

Every game starts the same way: The man in black flees across the desert and the gunslinger follows.

This means that the White always begins with Roland in their Ka-Tet (the collection of characters a player has out on the board at their disposal) and the Red always begins with The Man In Black in theirs. Roland starts on the space marked “Gilead,” Walter starts across the board in the Mohaine Desert.

At the beginning of a player’s turn, they select which character in their Ka-Tet they want to control. They cannot control the same character two turns in a row, unless it’s the only character in their Ka-Tet. Once they have have selected a character to play as that turn, they roll the travel die (a D20, modified so that it ranges from 0-19 instead of 0-20) to determine how many spaces that character may move. If a player rolls Black 13, however, their opponent gets to move that player’s character to any space on the board they choose.

The spaces on the board can be one of three colors—White, Red, & Ka Gray—matching the cards. Whichever color space a player’s character lands on, that player must draw a card from the corresponding deck. If a player lands on a space of their own color and draws from their own deck, they add the card to their hand and can use it later. If they land on a space of their opponent’s color, they reveal whatever card they draw and discard it, ensuring the opponent won’t be able to use it, unless a character card is drawn, in which case that character joins the opponents Ka-Tet and immediately attacks the character who drew the card. Lastly, if a player lands on a gray space, who knows what might happen? It might be good, it might be bad, it’s Ka…

After moving their character and drawing the appropriate card, each player may take one of the following actions: playing a card from their hand, attacking their opponent’s nearby character with their own, or replenishing previously spent Ammo cards.

The combat is a little complicated and it’s the part of the game that still requires the most refinement, so I’m not going to get into to much detail here, but the broad strokes are that characters can find themselves battling each other in one of two ways. Either a player draws another character from their opponent’s deck after moving their own, or when a player uses their action to attack a character their opponent already has on the board.

In the first instance, the Character who was drawn from the deck attacks first, because they are surprising the character that moved. In the second situation, the character instigating the battle attacks first. The actual combat consists of players taking turns spending Ammo cards to inflict damage commensurate with their character’s strength (which can be modified with gunna and glam cards).

A character reaches the clearing at the end of the path when they take more damage than they have hit points. Whenever a player kills an opponent’s character, they get to draw three cards from their own deck. If the winning character was drawn directly into battle from the deck, their token remains on the board and the character remains in that player’s Ka-Tet.

There are three ways a game can end: a) One player kills all of their opponent’s characters, b) The White reaches the Tower at the center of the board and defeats the Crimson King in battle, or c) the Red defeats each of the twelve Guardians at each Beam-Portal.

Game On

Now, what I’ve laid out here are only the general rules. There are some intricacies and more granular rules that I’ve omitted, some because they aren’t interesting, and some because I already know I want to amend them in the next draft of the game. And there definitely needs to be a next draft, and a next one, and a next one after that. There’s a ton of tinkering and rejiggering that still needs to be done, and after that there’s still the matter of making it look good and figuring it out how to distribute it (as I obviously don’t hold the rights to any of this, I plan to make it available for free, as something that anyone can download, print, and play.

Eventually though, I will need help. If you have expertise relevant to any aspect of game production and you want to donate man-hours to making it a reality, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Maybe with the right Ka-Tet we could actually make a halfway decent game.

Long days and pleasant nights.

Published by Joe Rechtman

Screenwriter/watcher. Constant Reader & Dark Tower Junkie.

2 thoughts on “The Unofficial (and Unfinished) Dark Tower Board Game

  1. My husband and I are reading through this series again but together this time! I was hoping to find a board game for him for his bday but yours is the closest I’ve found! Keep at it, it looks great so far! 🙂


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