I have a hard time believing that I’ve never written a blog post on Silver Tower.
Back in May of 2016, Brandon wound up buying a copy of this game and trying to drum up interest in our local gaming group.
In hindsight, I now see that’s kind of his thing. He keeps buying into new games and trying to get the group into them: Silver Tower, X-Wing, Imperial Assault, Age of Sigmar, Shadespire, Destiny, etc. Now that I think about it more, they all seem to be either fantasy or Star Wars related. Maybe that’s why our game group has fallen out of favor with him?
Anywho, he bought Silver Tower last year and tried to drum up interest in the game. Now, I’d played Warhammer Quest before, back in the 90’s, so I was immediately on board. We also got some tepid responses from others. It wound up competing against other games at the table (including eventually another campaign of Star Wars: Imperial Assault), and it eventually died outright.
Well, I do like to complete things, so this summer I made a push to finish both our Imperial Assault campaign (which was an easy sell to those involved) and also our Silver Tower game. The latter eventually wound up being just Brandon and I grinding things out at his place over a couple of sessions with his Dwarf my my Elf.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about the game itself:
The models are standard quality for GW, which means to say that they’re fantastic in the box. They’re all great looking, and I’ve heard of people buying the box just for some of the chaos models inside it (originally I think it was the only way you could purchase most of the models–though by now I’m sure they’re available seperately). The cardboard is thick and well laminated. Literally nothing about the game comes across as cheap.
Unlike the previous incarnation of the game, Silver Tower seems less random. First of all, everything is themed as chaos, so you don’t have random bats, goblins, and skaven thrown into the mix (well, technically there is a single skaven model). That makes the game a little tighter thematically, but also means that there isn’t as much variation. In the 90’s version of WQ, you could basically take any model from fantasy and translate it directly into the game without much effort. That made for more replayability.
The game now also has a point. Before it was just a seemingly endless dungeon crawl, but now you have a real mission: escape the tower. To do so, you need to pick up as many shards as you can and then challenge the boss to a final battle. As counter-intuitive as it seems, I like having an end to the game now. Back when I was young, I preferred going on forever, but I like to be able to wrap up a campaign now and just put away the game. Again, this is a knock on long-term replayability, but you’re realy going to wind up playing *at least* seven games of this before you can beat the campaign–likely more.
In the previous incarnation, you could level up characters into complete nightmares. I recall that healing (Followed closely by movement) was the most important factor in the 90’s, so characters like the Pit Fighter were complete powerhouses as they leveled up.
In this game, leveling up doesn’t actually give you stats, but rather access to abilities. Some abilities may be retained between missions, but others will need to be earned again. Since they come out randomly, it takes a while to get to an “ideal” character. Even then, they’re nowhere near as tooled out as they were back in the day.
Treasure was almost exclusively in the form of one-shot items, and I almost never used them (figuring they were better to save until needed). The thing is that treasure just disappears at the end of many missions (based upon a 50% die roll), so you might as well use them as you go, because you may never get a chance to do so. This helped to keep character power levels in check.
Between characters, balance is still a big issue. Some in the starting box seem flat better than others. They may not be ‘strictly better’ in every facet, but they don’t all seem equal in power level. This is exacerbated when it comes to some of the characters they’ve released since. The Stormcast warrior & the Knight Venator are better than virtually every other character in virtually every way. I guess they’re akin to playing the game on easy mode.
I know it’s hard to balance unique characters, but I would’ve liked to have seen more effort go into this.
I wish that the books were better designed and laid out, because it’s a nightmare to look stuff up. Most of the game is played using tables of spawns and then lists of those spawns, and all of that is great. You do also spend a bit of time in the “choose your own adventure” style tables (that are a d66, like many GW games), and those arent bad either. But when you wonder how a particular rule works, that’s where the real pain comes in. Without a real index or glossary, you can’t tell where the rule is, and there frankly isn’t a well organized section of rules. Instead, they’re scattered throughout the books in little blurbs and insets throughout. That’s some truly bad design.
The campaign plays out over the course of seven or more missions. You need to complete an adventure to have a chance to earn a shard fragment. After completing enough, you can challenge the Gaunt Summoner to a battle. If you complete them all before challenging him, then you get an advantage to fighting him in that final confrontation.
The thing is that you don’t always win the game. So, despite the fact that it’s possible to win in seven games, I don’t think it’s overly likely. First, you need to beat all of the missions, and collect the fragments (which sometime include things like riddles to win). Then, as was with our case, some players may leave the campaign–in which case we went back and beat those missions to claim the fragments again (though I suppose that wasn’t truly necessary). Lastly, the advantage for beating all of the missions is worthwhile in the final battle.
Plus, even if it wasn’t, I’m a bit of a completionist, so I wanted to see what they were all like.
Finally, one thing I didn’t mention is that sometimes rooms fall out of the game. This is generally when you travel too far from a cross roads. This means that sometimes you can find yourself in a situation where you go the wrong way at a cross-road, and it becomes impossible to end the mission successfully. We eventually wound up house-ruling this to say that if it happened to us, we could still go back and complete the mission. Nothing frustrates more than spending 45 minutes playing a game to find out that it’s not even winnable.
I won’t spoil the game for those that haven’t played it. At $150, it’s definitely on the pricey side, but since I didn’t have to buy it, the investment was well worth it.
Seriously though, my friend bought it when the game was likely priced cheaper, and he also got the standard 20% discount, so it was much more palatable. At $100, I’d say that it the quality of the models and components makes the game worth it, and I could foresee playing it again with another character or group of friends one day (well, assuming I owned it–even now, I’d be willing to trade for a copy of the game to do just that one way, but I don’t foresee me buying it–or the expansion).
If you get a chance to play it with someone who already owns it, I’d say that should be a no-brainer. If you had to buy it, I suppose it comes down to how much you like the models, and what you plan to do with them after you’re done. I mean, it’s a good game, but you can buy a ton of other things for $150 that are just as entertaining. If you have to have the models though, this could easily come down to being a snap-purchase.
Image Credit: All images copyright Games Workshop. The Mistweaver and loot images are what my character had going into the last mission.