Perhaps unsurprisingly (considering that I’m a fellow with a d20 permanently inked onto his bicep), I have a lot of dice around the house. From an early age my son has been enamored by their various shapes, sizes and hues, and at five I finally feel that he’s reached an age where I can really introduce him to dice gaming. The problem, of course, is that most dice games are a bit too complex for a kindergartner. To remedy this I created a simplified version of Steve Jackson Games’ Cthulhu Dice using our own “house rules.”
For those unfamiliar, Cthulhu Dice is a game where players take on the roles of cultists serving the Great Old One in an attempt to drive each other mad. (Y’know – like they do.) Using nothing more than flat marbles as sanity tokens and a custom D12 to handle the give and take as sanity pass between players and the titular cephalopod, it’s not particularly complex on its own. Still, I realized it could be easily streamlined for the younger set.
First off, the back story needed some clever amending. I explained to my boy that Cthulhu was a very hungry monster that liked to eat marbles. To this end I actually brought a plush Cthulhu to the table so that he could more clearly visualize who was vying for his tokens. I also eliminated the game’s original choose a target/attack/counter-attack gameplay by making it a strictly two-player experience. Further, I simplified the dice mechanic itself a bit.
As in standard Cthulhu Dice, both players begin sitting on opposite sides of the play surface with 3 marbles each. The Cthulhu plushy occupies the center of the table in an attempt to gobble up as many of both players’ marbles as possible. These players take turns rolling the die with the following effects:
Play continues until one character loses all his marbles to his opponent and/or Hungry Cthulhu, and the winner gets to roll first in the next game. The great thing about Cthulhu Dice in general is there’s practically no setup, and you can take it anywhere. Sure, you might not have a plush Elder God with you at a restaurant while you’re waiting on your appetizers, but after a couple of rounds your tyke should understand the concept even without this additional visual cue.
This game helps teach little ones about random probability (thanks to use of a die), as well as core mathematics skills like counting and the relationship between number and quantity. It also affords kids who are far too young to sit in on your regular Catan or D&D sessions a chance to get in a little play time in a real die-based game. Best of all Cthulhu Dice is an easily affordable title that many of us already have in our libraries.
But can you even put a price on introducing your kids to the Dread Sleeper?