When I was kid, I was really only subjected to games like Monopoly, Clue, Life, Trouble, Kerplunk, Candyland, and so forth. Most of those games are the very basic core of board gaming. Draw a card/roll a dice, move your piece, get to the end of the board. Roll the dice, buy a card, have the most money. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of game as it is friendly and playable by people of all ages. Now that I know what kinds of games exist, I genuinely wish I had been privy to some of the more complex games from an earlier age. I feel like I missed out on so much by not playing those games.
Given my proclivity for complex board games now, I decided to try and find more games like what we play that would be suitable for children. This led me to Catan Junior.
Catan Junior is for 2-4 people, takes approximately 30 minutes to play, and is for ages 6 and older.
Setting up Catan Junior is as follows. Place the board in the center of the table. Sort the resource pieces by the five types (Wood, Cutlasses, Gold, Goats, Molasses). Place them in separate piles next to the board. Take one tile from each of those resource piles and place them on the booths on the board. Shuffle the Coco tiles and put them face down next to the board. Place the Ghost Captain on the island in the middle of the board. Each player then chooses a color and takes the pirate lairs and pirate ships associated with that color. Each player should take a pirate lair and place it on one of the two circles matching your color on the board. There should be a dotted line next to the circles, so place your first pirate ship on that dotted line. Then, each player takes one wood and one molasses tile from the stockpiles. It’s time for the game to begin.
Just like regular Catan, the object of the game is to gather resources and build pirate lairs. Unlike Catan, instead of it being based on victory points, the winner is the first person to build 7 pirate lairs. Here is how the game is played.
Unlike regular Catan, players will only roll 1 die rather than 2 dice. Each of the tiles on the board have a resource on them. When it’s your turn, you roll the die. Anybody with a pirate lair adjacent (touching) one of the tiles, earns 1 of that resource type. All players with a pirate lair adjacent to the tile that was rolled will gain that resource.
After rolling, since it’s still technically your turn, you can now choose to build different things based on how many of each resource you have. You can also trade resources with another player, trade resources with the stockpiles, or buy resources from the booths on the board.
If you choose to build, you can either build a pirate lair, pirate ship, or a Coco Tile.
In order to build a pirate ship, you’ll need a goat and a wood. You can then place a new pirate ship next to any of your pirate lairs. The idea is that you want to build outward and explore the other islands so you can eventually build more pirate lairs for resource gain and to move closer to getting the 7 needed for victory.
Pirate lairs cost a cutlass, wood, molasses, and a goat. Once you build a lair, you’ll start gaining resources from all of the tiles adjacent to the lair when that specific number is rolled. Remember, you’ll need 7 of these to win.
Coco Tiles cost a cutlass, molasses, and a gold. Coco Tiles offer small bonuses or rewards when you build them. An example of a Coco Tile reward would be to build a pirate ship for free or immediately gain 3 of a certain resource.
If you don’t want to build, you can also choose to trade (you can trade AND build, but once you build you can no longer trade). Unlike regular Catan, all trades must be one resource for one resource. You can’t change it up or sweeten the pot. They do not have to accept the offer, but you are welcome to put out any offer you want.
You can also choose to trade resources from the stockpile. In order to do this, you may take one of any resource from the stockpiles, but you must return two of any one resource back. The two resources you trade in must be exactly the same. For example, you can take one goat by trading in two cutlasses. You may do this as many times as you want.
If that doesn’t work for you, you can trade from the marketplace booths on the board. You can take any one of the resources from the booths by replacing it with one resource from your own personal stockpile. You may only do this once per turn. If all five market booths have the exact same resource on them, you have to take them all off and put one of each back on the booths.
In regular Catan, a rolled 7 brings the thief into the mix. Instead, Catan Junior has the Ghost Pirate. When you roll a 6, take the Ghost Captain and move him to any tile of your choosing. You then take 2 of the resource produced by that tile. While the Ghost Pirate is on that tile, nobody can receive resources for the number rolled that is on that tile.
Another aspect of the island in the middle of the board, known as Spooky Island, offers a little bonus as well. At any point during the game, if you have the most Coco Tiles built, you can place a lair on Spooky Island. This means the first person to buy a Coco Tile gets a free lair to put on the island. This Spooky Island lair counts toward your victory point count.
As soon as a player builds that 7th pirate lair (or 6th with one on Spooky Island) he or she wins!
This game is a much simpler and reduced version of Catan that is shines with kid-friendly possibilities. The artwork is cute, the pirates are a nice touch, and the rules are easy to explain without having the rulebook in front of you. I truly do believe that games like these are great catalysts for younger kids to start thinking critically, learn the value of some kind of currency, and formulate strategy and plans for endgame outcomes.
For adults, the game isn’t as much as regular Catan, but it definitely feels wonderful when you’re playing with a young kid and he or she realizes a trade that can be made to help build a pirate lair. It’s great for kids and families. Start them young, so when they grow up, they’ll be more than ready to start playing some of the more complex board games out there.
“Land ho!” screeches Coco the parrot. He is on the lookout, circling high above your ships. In front of you lies the islands of Catan: many small islands with lush forests, golden yellow sugar cane fields, and volcanic cliffs studded with mysterious caves–an ideal home for adventurous pirates! You immediately build your first pirates’ lairs and your first ship, and since the islands are filled with goods and treasures, you soon are able to build more ships and pirates’ lairs.
As you explore the group of islands further, you discover a towering isle laden with fabulous gold treasures. And while everyone is busy trying to be the first to build a pirates’ lair on the gold island, Coco comes back from a reconnaissance flight. Agitated, he screeches, “Ghost Captain! Ghost Captain!”
What terrified Coco was the gloomy fortress on Spooky Island, built on a lonely rock surrounded by treacherous waters. Soon the Ghost Captain will notice that he is no longer the sole ruler of the islands of Catan. Then he will try to prevent you from advancing further, wherever he can. But who knows, if the Ghost Captain bothers you too much, maybe Coco, your loyal parrot, will come to the rescue…Catan Junior Rulebook