Ages 6 and Up
Playtime: Approximately 30 minutes
The game comes with a very well designed rules booklet, a stationary map on a board, cardboard ‘resource’ cards, plastic pirate lairs, plastic pirate ships, a very pretty die, a plastic ‘Ghost Captain’, and cardboard ‘Coco tiles’. It also contains cardboard ‘building cost’ tiles that will serve as cheat sheets during gameplay.
The cardboard pieces are very sturdy and will hold up well to use by little hands. The plastic pieces are fairly flimsy, and should be kept away from fidgety children who might like to bend and play with their game pieces.
The double sided map consists of series of islands where 2 to 4 players control pirate ships, build lairs, and avoid Spooky Island (where the Ghost Captain lives). Each island on the map generates a specific resource: wood, goats, molasses, swords, and gold.
Each player starts with two pirate lairs on different islands, one pirate ship, and a few resources. Players role the die on their turn to determine which islands produce resources (with a twist that enables players to move the Ghost Captain). Players can then use the resources they acquire to build additional ships, lairs, or get aid from Coco the Parrot. By building ships, they can expand their network. The more lairs they build, the more resources they can receive. The ultimate goal is to be the first player to control seven pirate lairs to win the game.
Gameplay is fairly simple. The game requires no reading, and only the barest concept of counting. It is the mechanics and strategy hidden within the game that make it a game for players 6 and up (or a 5 year old who is board game savvy). There are rules that can make the game more challenging for more advanced gamers.
We’ve played through the game many times with children of various ages. My 8 year old loves it, and likes to switch his strategy each time he plays. Sometimes he focuses on resource collection, sometimes on manipulating the marketplace, and sometimes he focuses on the Coco cards and Ghost Captain. We attempted a few adult supported playthroughs with our 5 year old and he got bored very quickly. The myriad of steps in each round frustrated him and he gave up. However, a friend’s 5 year old LOVED the game, but he is a very meticulous child. He enjoyed the resource collection and steps to build his network.
Some of the 6 and 7 year old children we played with did need adult prompting on each round, but a group of 8 yr old and up children played through successfully with no adult interaction at all. While the game is not quite as engaging to an adult as the original Settlers, it is still entirely playable and not boring.
Overall, this is a great introduction to the series and Euro style games in general. It has a high replay value and is a great game to play WITH your children (There are even some advanced rules to graduate to as they grow!). Catan: Junior is well worth the price.