Giant snake? Ha! They’re easy!
Back in days of yore, TSR’s The New Dungeon! Game came out on a pretty regular basis as a fun, fairly sociable game for us hardcore gamers. For an hour or so you trundle around on a dungeon crawl, beating on innocent monsters and stealing their stuff. Sometimes you help other players, sometimes you ambush and mug them. It don’t get much better than that. This is a 1980’s upgrade to a 1970’s game and is pretty dated (though who cares much about that if it’s fun?), but has the advantage of having basic and advanced rules. It also has a large board, which meant that we had to play on the dining table instead of the coffee table, which we usually use.
So we went for the basic rules, which means no magic, no ambushing other players or helping them with big monsters, and simplified combat (though it’s pretty simple anyway). It didn’t take long for Miss B to get the hang of moving and fighting monsters, and she was positively delighted to get hold of the magic amulet that gets you through secret doors (plus a spare, which she was even more pleased with). The victory conditions require amassing (for the warrior characters in the basic game) 20,000 gold pieces worth of treasure, and this is a bit of a big ask for a 5-year-old to keep track of, so after we had collected a few treasures, I did a regular tot-up so we both knew how things stood.
As is often the case, it is the details that attract Miss B the most. The variety of treasures we found were of great interest and she spent some time coveting the gold ring I found and hunting for one for herself. The illustrations and labels on the board were also the subject of much discussion as Miss B wanted to know more about the King’s Private Chamber and other such locations, wondering what had happened to the King and Queen. We could well have a roleplaying adventure based on this one day.
I have to confess to one little cheat: Miss B got beaten in a fight for the last piece of treasure she needed to win the game and the damage roll would have made her lose half of her treasure. This would have been distinctly un-fun for everyone given the stage of the game, so I let her re-roll on this occasion. This goes against my general approach of “tough luck, kid, that’s the game”, so we’ll have to see if there are any repercussions from this later.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 5¼): “I liked the special treasure that gave you +1 and the special treasure that allows you to go through the secret doors. I also liked that my warrior only got wounded a bit.”
The Game: The New Dungeon! Game (TSR), 1 to 6 players, aged 8+.