My First Adventure: Finding the Dragon
Publisher: Game Flow / Blackrock ‘ Hachette Board Games UK
Designer: Romeo Hennion
Artist: Arnaud Boutle, Jade Mosch
Release date: 2018 (UK release 2021)
Favouritefoe #favouritefoefunlearning score: 9/10
Choose your own adventure………
Whilst that seems to be an average day in the life of 6 year old Mini-meeple, there is something new and exciting nestled on the shelves at our house.
Not on one of the board game Kallax, however. No, this particular treasure is sitting proudly on a bookshelf. And I think I am safe in saying that it is unlike anything else in Mini-meeple’s ever expanding library. Why? Well, mainly because it is not simply a book. It is an experience.
You see, Mini-meeple has just explored his first narrative driven role-player gaming experience. He has effectively dipped a toe into the imagination infinity pool that is the world of dungeons and dragons, and he loves it!
In an exciting collaboration with French publisher, Game Flow, and distributer, Blackrock, Hachette Board Games UK have brought Romeo Hennion’s adventure stories “My First Adventure” to our shores for the first time. And not just that, but “Finding the Dragon” is only the first instalment in what promises to be a fun, colourful, interactive, and engaging series (comprising 3 current tales and counting!).
Choosing a voice!
So, how does it work? Well, in Finding the Dragon, your littlest adventurer will adopt one of three roles; Lena the Strong, Sachat the Sneaky, or Timon the Magical, each with their own imagined strengths. Once happy with their choice, the three cardboard wheels (located on the inside of the front and back covers) containing a number of “tools” are set to blank, and the epic quest to find that dragon can begin.
Now, the beginning is like many other stories. Reading down the first few pages, your avid adventurer become familiar with the book’s setting, gets drawn into the illustrations, and learns a little more about the character they have adopted.
But then, they come across a question. Something that is going to allow them to have agency over the story. Something where their decision impacts directly upon what happens to their character next. And not just in their head, either. Suddenly the story becomes their story.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!
Having committed to an action, the next page then divides into three, and their choice becomes real. Cause and effect in operation, their decision results in a specific instruction to turn a certain number of pages, and perhaps collect tools (including “boo-boos”) by spinning the wheels. And the story carries on until the next fork in the fairytale!
With their bags full of collected treasures (or injuries depending on how well they have been at locating that dragon!), the story weaves by reference to not only where your ready reader wants to explore, but also by what they are carrying, wearing, or have in their arsenal.
And this interaction continues right until the last page, whereupon they discover whether their choices led them to the dragon, or back to the beginning, ready to try and different track.
And I can tell you that Mini-meeple loves finding out to where his decisions have led him. Whether it be nose-to-nose with that dastardly dragon, or running back to the start, he exclaims, laughs, and most importantly, wants to go again!
Being in control of a story, beyond merely the speed at which it is read, or where it stops, is very exciting for him. Some decisions he whizzes through – he already has favourite paths to tread! – but others he thinks harder about. And seeing him make different choices based on the character he has adopted on a given read is insightful. As a parent and former educator, seeing Mini-meeple engage with the characters, making logical choices based on open information, as well as informed guesses when logical leaps are needed, is fantastic.
It is also something we can enjoy together. Like a game, with each confident turn of the pages and spin of the wheel, he is showing me his “moves”. Whether he knows it or not, he is also developing his deduction skills. You see, whilst the characters each have names indicating their strengths, he has also begun to work out their weaknesses, or rather, which strengths are better in specific scenarios.
I have no doubt that as he gets older, he will need our bedtime (and anytime) stories less and less. His desire for deeper adventures will also no doubt develop. But, for now, this is a way we can up-the-ante on his usual 8pm entertainment – letting him create a story for us both before the lights go out (although I know for a fact the light comes on again pretty sharpish as I hear him reading Finding the Dragon to all the toys on his bed!).
Bumps and Boo-Boos!
As well as being a fan of anything that encourages him to read, I am pleased that this story isn’t all sugary sweet. Nothing scary I might add, but collecting a few “boo-boos” along the way, and choices leading to less than perfect outcomes, are realistic but remain relative and always audience appropriate. The reading level is also pitched well for the target age range. At 6 he struggles with a few words when reading alone (perhaps more to do with the cursive font which some young readers may find a little tricky), but overall, he loves to go through each page, reading aloud and asking me to guess where or what I think he is going to do next!
Being fantasy based, and an experience aimed at the little gamers amongst us, it is difficult to critique it on a diversity basis – indeed, one of the characters is an anthropomorphic rodent! I am hopeful, however, that the other books in the series will continue to feature characters from a number of different backgrounds.
As someone with zero dungeons and dragons role player experience, I was very impressed with the level of engagement achieved by this book. And I am not the only one as it has been nominated for a UKGE 2021 innovation award! I think the physicality of it – spinning the wheels and flipping divided sections of pages – really helps with the sense of immersion. Having 21 choices to make in every iteration, as well as 2000 possible combinations of narrative story line over just 56 pages, Finding the Dragon is going to be a firm favourite for many bedtimes to come!
[please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review but any opinions expressed are my own]