Catan Junior

  • Designer: Klaus Teuber
  • Publisher: Mayfair Games
  • Plays 2–4
  • Ages: 5+
  • Playing Time: ~30 minutes (2-player game); slightly more with more players
  • Initial Release: 2012
  • Elevator Pitch: Theoretically a modified version of Settlers of Catan for kids. Place pirate hideouts and pirate ships to gather resources. First to 7 hideouts wins.
  • Roar Score: 4/5

This was the first game with any sort of real strategy that Zoey took to. It’s ostensibly a scaled-down kids version of Settlers of Catan, but it shares little with that game, except for the inclusion of various resources. I understand how it’s considered to be in the “Catan world,” but calling this Catan Junior is a little misleading. We also have The Kids of Catan, which is an entirely different game (and one which we’ll post about in the near future).

I’ll let Zoey take first stab at explaining the game…

First off, the game board is two-sided. One side is for 2-player games, and the other is for 3- or 4-player games. It’s a fairly simple and straightforward layout, without a lot of unnecessary art and design that might distract young players. However, the pirate/nautical theming is great and really appeals to Zoey.

Gameplay is also fairly simple. Each player starts out with two resources and two hideouts already on the board. Each hex is assigned a number, and with every roll of the die, resources are distributed based on how many hideouts are bordering that hex. Since everyone starts out with two hideouts in play, that means that everyone will be gathering resources from the very first turn.

What’s nice about this is that every player has an opportunity to gather resources on every turn, regardless of whether you rolled the die. In other words, it’s my turn, and I roll a 3. I get a wood, and Zoey gets molasses. She’s earning stuff when it’s not even her turn, so she’s fully invested in every roll, even if it’s not her turn to do anything. Therefore, there’s no “down time” when other players are playing, and she also gets that little kick of positive reinforcement. She’s growing her stash of resources on everyone’s turn.

Every new hideout equals more resources, since you gain a number of resources equivalent to the number of hideouts you have bordering that hex. Resources are then used to either (1) place a new hideout, (2) place a new pirate ship, or (3) buy a “bird card.” Hideouts and ships need to be placed on the board in an alternating pattern. Bird cards give special rewards, such as several resources, a bonus hideout, or an opportunity to move the Ghost Captain.

Ah, the Ghost Captain. He’s Zoey’s favorite part of the game. Roll a 6, and you can move him to any hex on the board. While he’s on a hex, that space is “shut down.” No resources are distributed if that number is rolled. It’s the only real “gotcha” element of the game (and Zoey relishes it).

There are some other rules—such as trading resources and placing a bonus hideout for having the most bird cards—that can be used or adapted, based on the age of the player.

She won! Showing off her favorite part of the game.

She won! Showing off her favorite part of the game.

 

 

Verdict? This is a fantastic game for little ones. It took Zoey a few games to fully grasp the strategy, but she really gets it now and needs very little prompting or “reminders” from dear ol’ dad. She wins regularly, which means this is a game she very much enjoys. Obviously.

Game end

Game end

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