/ August 8, 2022/ Board Games/ 0 comments

Catan and Ticket To Ride are known pretty universally as gateway games. I know they were the first games I was introduced to when I ventured away from the well-known classics. And even though I generally do not bother investing in “junior” versions of games, this is one that I’m glad I did! The easier setup and quicker gameplay make it much more accessible.

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If you love Catan but have a hard time with how long the game takes to set up, then Catan Junior is for you! Even though it’s for ages 6 and up, it’s still fun for even my husband and me. Instead of all the little tiles to set up for the playing board, there’s just a rectangular board to unfold and lay out. Even though you actually start with one more resource and one more already-built road in Catan than in Catan Jr, I always feel like you start with more in Catan Jr. Maybe because the board is so small.

Catan Junior, set up on the side of the board for a 3 or 4 player game.
The starting setup. Note that the ships are on the lines in between the circles. In Catan Junior, you can place a lair on every circle. I also didn’t show your starting resources, so make sure you get your wood and molasses.

Catan Jr is pirate-themed rather than colonialism-themed

A complaint that I have heard about the regular Catan is that it is reenacting colonialism and exploitation. Catan Junior is similar to Catan, but you’re playing as a pirate, and instead of the “robber” in Catan, you have a “Ghost Captain” in Catan Jr. At least, Catan Jr doesn’t unsettle me as badly as the original Catan does. In any case, it’s something to think about and decide for yourself.

After setting up this game, the first person rolled a 4.  So white and red each get one molasses, and blue and orange each get one sword.  Make sure you pay attention to each roll, because you could get a resource at every turn.  If red had already put another lair (next to their ship, in between the molasses, goat, and gold islands), they'd get two molasses.
After setting up this game, the first person rolled a 4. So white and red each get one molasses, and blue and orange each get one sword. Make sure you pay attention to each roll, because you could get a resource at every turn. If red had already put another lair (next to their ship, in between the molasses, goat, and gold islands), they’d get two molasses.

Resource management

All that aside, Catan Junior is a good game for teaching kids resource management. You need certain resources to build new lairs and ships. The lairs are what get you more resources, but you need them to be connected by ships. You can trade, but not with other players, only with the marketplace or the stockpile. Trading with the marketplace is one-to-one, but only once per turn. If you need to trade with the stockpile, you need to give two of one resource to get one of another resource. There’s no limit on how much you can trade with the stockpile.

Most of the Coco tiles (the four stacks at the top of this picture) are either to move the Ghost Captain or build a free lair or ship. If you get a lot of gold, Coco tiles can be a cost-effective way to build.

There’s also the option to buy Coco tiles. Most of them either allow you to move the Ghost Captain or build a lair or ship for free, but there are also some that give you more resources. Either two molasses and two wood, or two sheep and two swords. Since a Coco tile is only 3 resources to buy, it can be a cost-effective way to play the game. Whoever has the most Coco tiles gets to place a lair on Spooky Island (the Ghost Captain’s “home” space), so buying Coco tiles can also help you win the game.

The game ends as soon as someone builds all 7 lairs (counting the one on Spooky Island, if they have one there).

Catan Junior's 2-player side of the board
The opposite side of the board is for a 2-player game.

Everyone gets resources every turn

One of my favorite parts of this game is that it forces everyone to pay attention. Anyone can get resources whenever the die is rolled, so if you’re not paying attention when it’s not your turn, you won’t do well playing the game I do get tired of constantly having to remind my kids to pay attention, and eventually, I stop reminding them, so my kids don’t tend to do well in this game. (But hey, I like winning games, too.)

Still not sure if Catan Junior is right for you? Head on over to our youtube channel to check out the play-through video!

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