The Enchanted Tower: Find the Key and Save the Princess
Like many kids, our son loves to play “good guys vs bad guys” in the backyard. The battle of good vs evil has fueled little imaginations for many generations - and the exploration of that theme has given us some of the best fantasy books, movies, and games of all time. And since one of my most important jobs is promoting creativity and imagination - I get very excited about new fantasy board games with good stories and engaging gameplay like The Enchanted Tower.
Before we got The Enchanted Tower (Der Verzauberte Turm in German) I had my eye on it for many months. Sometimes it’s obvious that my family is going to love a game - and this was definitely one of those times. After all, it did win the prestigious Children’s Game of the Year prize. Its reputation and its theme had me sold before we ever got our hands on it.
The problem was, I had trouble finding a copy of the U.S. printing. So we ordered the original German version. I knew we’d like it, and I thought it would be a good chance to practice my German. This just so happened to be the first time we’ve ordered a board game from another country - but it turned out to be no issue at all. This particular game doesn’t have any components with writing on them - and the instruction booklet even has multiple languages to choose from.
In the game, the sinister sorcerer Ravenhorst has captured the princess and locked her away in an enchanted tower. Afterwards, he hides the magical key in the forest - and he’s the only one who knows where it is. The brave hero Robin is on a mission to find the key first and rescue the princess, but the evil sorcerer is on his way back and Robin needs to hurry.
But, even if our hero finds the key first, there’s still one last surprise. The padlocks on the tower are enchanted - and the princess will only be released and jump joyously into the air if you use the right lock. But if the sorcerer gets to the key first, he gets to try a lock too. So, who’s going to get to the princess first?
The theme is fantastic, and you know by now that I’m a sucker for a good theme. Fantasy with swords and sorcerers has always been right up my alley - and we even recently added The Enchanted Tower to a list of our favorite fantasy-themed family board games. But the really big selling point for The Enchanted Tower in our family is that the mechanics are so original and so much fun.
The game is split into two teams. One person is supposed to play the evil sorcerer, while everyone else works together as the hero Robin. This turns out to be a great setup for our family. We’re accustomed to playing lots of cooperative games in our house, so having the ability to have the bulk of the family still working together is great for us - while having just one person split off to be the bad guy really spices things up.
To begin the game, all of the good guys have to close their eyes while the sorcerer places the key in one of the many hiding places on the game board. I love playing the evil sorcerer Ravenhorst, because I think it’s really fun to hide the key. Our son, on the other hand, never chooses to role play as any bad guys, and this game is no exception. He just loves being the hero no matter what game we’re playing, so so far he only plays on Team Robin.
Robin gets a significant head start, but he doesn’t know where the key is, and both teams get to move each turn. The dice that you roll tell you who gets to move first on that turn, and how many spaces they get to move. All you have to do is wander around the board searching for the key.
When I was reading the rule book for the first time - I didn’t quite understand when I read this line for the first time:
If there is a “clack!” during your turn, you have found the key.
I honestly couldn’t figure it out. Were the writers just being cute? Maybe that’s the noise a key would make if you stumbled over it in a forest. But I still wasn’t sure how I was supposed to know if I stepped on the key. Is the sorcerer supposed to let you know if you walk over the key? But, as it turns out, the “clack!” is real - this game uses magnets.
There’s a little magnet on the bottom of each character, and if you step over the metal key in its hiding place, you will hear and feel how it jumps up to grab onto your character. We literally discovered this during our first play through - which was a really cool surprise. So, sorry to spoil that for you, but I’m pretty sure I’m just a dope for getting all the way to playing the game without realizing that was going to happen.
The other incredibly creative mechanic is the magic padlocks and the jumping princess. If you find the key you only get to try one of the six padlocks. If it doesn’t work you have to start everything over - and remember which locks you’ve tried before. And one helpful thing is that the evil sorcerer can never use the same hiding place for the key twice.
If you’re lucky enough to stick the key into the right lock - the princess, who was locked into place at the top of the tower, literally springs into the air in celebration. It’s a very exciting way to end the game, which certainly makes it hard to stop after playing just once.
Our 6-year-old really loves this game, even if he hasn’t been the evil sorcerer yet. And our 3-year-old loves it too, but she’s not entirely ready for it. She definitely benefits from being on someone’s team, and she’ll also happily just play with it like it’s a princess and a castle playset. But she’ll still grab my hand and point it out on the shelf and tell me she wants to play - and that’s really the whole point, isn’t it?