Catan Junior: Great gateway game for younger gamers

Catan Junior BoxWe’ve finally tried Catan Junior!  I love games, and being able to game with your child is immensely satisfying — especially when you can start playing some games that are competitive, have a little strategy, and aren’t purely based on luck.  There are obviously some childhood limitations such as reading and math skills that make games for this 5-6 age a challenge, but I was quite pleased with how Catan Junior played.  The age on the box is 6+ and my 5 year old did need some help, especially the first time we played, but by the second game she got it and we all had fun!

How to Play

The goal of the game is for a player to place all of their pirate lairs on the board.  Players each start with 2 lairs on the board and can build from there.  On a turn, a player will start by rolling the die and anyone with a pirate liar adjacent to an island that matches the number rolled will get to collect the resource shown on the island.  The resources are used to “buy” ships, lairs, and parrot tiles.  Once the die has been rolled and resources collected, the player may trade resources with the board or they can turn in 2 matching resources to get any resource they want.  Once they’ve done any trading they want to, they can finally buy as many ships, lairs, and parrot tiles as they can afford. You can see what each item “costs” in the picture below.

catan junior resource formulas

On the board players must play alternating pirate ship, pirate liar, ship, liar, etc. starting with one of their two lairs placed on the board at the start of the game.  The parrot tiles will either give you extra resources, give you a ship or liar to place, or let you move the Ghost Captain.

The Ghost Captain moves around the board when a player rolls a six or a parrot tile with the Ghost Captain on it is drawn.  The player who rolls a 6 or draws a parrot tile with him, gets to place him on any islands and place a liar of theirs on Skull Island.  While he’s on any island, he stops the adjacent players from collecting any resources from that island if its number is rolled.

My Thoughts

Like I said in my introduction, I thought Catan Junior was great!  Out of the “junior” games we’ve played, I think it’s one of my favorites so far and definitely recommend it if you’re looking for that gateway strategy game for a 5-6-7 year old.  The play time was definitely around 25-30 minutes, maybe even longer at the beginning when decisions take a little longer, so make sure your child is ready to pay attention for that long.  It does help that almost every turn you get a new resource.  We made everyone look and ask for what they should be receiving, so everyone had to pay attention. The thing I really loved, is that each turn required a decision and there were often a few you could take — what do you want to trade for? what do you want to buy? It wasn’t always obvious what the “right” answer was (if there even was one), so it really gave the kiddos a chance to think for themselves.  If you’re looking for a true start to get your kids into some more strategy games, Catan Junior is it!

Catan Junior Stats:

~$26 at Catan Junior on Amazon
2-4 players
~30 minutes
Ages 6 and up