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Bought the six pack and started with MM1 because I fear no old school graphics. :-)

Made a party with three knights, cleric, mage and thief. Stats are OK as far as I can tell. Rolled for decent endurance in addition to the primary stat. Equipped the lousy clubs and headed out into town.

I can't win a single battle. A good 2/3 of my knight attacks miss, and do about 1 HP damage when they connect. Every character dies in 2 or 3 rounds. I have no gold for armor. Did I miss something?

I haven't been this baffled since I swung and missed at a crab in Morrowind >20 times in a row.
Are you using spells? You should have Leather Skin activated at all times. Also, the Sleep spell is extremely useful... it will knock out a few enemies for several rounds, so you don't have to deal with so many attacks. Destroy undead is great against undead too.

Sorry to ask, but are you sure you equipped the clubs? You should be doing a little more damage than that.

If you want better equipment, you can take it from the pre-made characters. Sign in at the inn, then take out some of your guys and some of the pre-made guys. Transfer all their stuff (including gold and food, if you want) to your guys, then sign back in, switch to the other pre-made guys, and repeat.

But yeah, the early part of the game is quite tough. Probably the hardest part. It's worth sticking it out, though, because the game is surprisingly immersive given how basic the technology is.

By the way, your party is totally fine, but there are advantages to taking archers and paladins too. Archers can attack with a bow even if they are in melee range of enemies, which can be cool. This means if they are in melee range, they can attack enemies outside melee range, which is otherwise impossible. Only archers can do this.

Also, at high level archers will get some sorcerer spells, and paladins will get some priest spells, which can be a benefit later on.
Yeah, they're equipped.

I'll try the spells. I was just doing attack spells.
The leather skin spell seems to have made the difference. Got to level 3. :-) Cleric's bless spell seemed to help as well. Thanks for the tip.