When I started playing 20 odd years ago, the only commercially available set of rules in my country (Portugal) was the D&D red box set. The economy was different and the Internet was not available so the process of importing products was excruciatingly painful. I started playing D&D, gleefully unaware of the immense universe of games available out there. I did not get very far. My gaming options eventually drifted from D&D, though I always tried to keep in touch with anything D&D-related. None of adventures, all using the Gygar dungeon, got any far. I don't think any of my groups passed through the first level. That carrion crawler with 8 paralyzing attacks and having only 3 players didn’t help either. But that didn’t diminished the fun we had, even going so far as rolling 2-3 characters per session just to get into the castle.
When I returned to D&D on a whim last week, I re-read the whole thing again. So far, my contact with D&D had been the old AD&D 2nd edition with the Jeff Easley cover and a lot of modules, mostly Forgotten Realms. I'd never run any D&D adventures, except twenty years ago, and a few one-shots here and there. As I re-acquainted myself with the rules, something struck me. I couldn't put my finger on it at first, but as we played, it suddenly struck me.
The red box rules were written to introduce new people to the game, holding your hand with a long introductory story and then a Be Your Own Her adventure, explaining all the concepts necessary to play the game, before explaining how to play in a group. This isn't necessarily bad, as I still believe it was one of the best intro games to the hobby. However, there was already a disconnect between my already extensive experience running games, and the way the red box explained things. Plus, there were times when we couldn't find were a certain rule was as quickly as we wanted. Make no mistake, we had a lot of fun. Fortunately, I got my hands on the Moldvay basic version.
This prior version of the rules, printed in 1981, is not necessarily better organized than the Mentzer version from an introductory point of view, but it is better organized for my tastes. It cuts the number of pages in about 2/3 (from approximately 98 to 68) as it isn't encumbered with a small tale designed to introduce gradually all the concepts necessary to play the game. In this regard, I consider the Moldvay edition superior because it aims at a more adult audience, whereas the Mentzer edition focus on younger readers. The Moldvay edition open with a small explanation on how to use the dice and what is a role-playing game, and skips directly to how to create a character. This appeals to me more as I don't need to be held by the hand any longer and need to be able to look up a rule quickly (if at all). Given that both sets are virtually identical, with some minor but important differences, it shouldn't be hard to adapt later modules (those written post-Mentzer) to the Moldvay edition.