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Catan Junior from Mayfair Games

By David Popp, Model Railroader Video Plus producer
Published: February 14, 2013

Product: Ahoy Mate! Set sail for the islands of Catan. There’s pirating to be done! Catan Junior, a game designed by Klaus Teuber and offered by Mayfair Games, brings yet another variation to the well-known series of Catan board games to the marketplace. This version is designed specifically for kids ages 6 and older, but its fast play and familiar strategy make it a fun choice for adults as well. Catan Junior includes a two-sided game board, 106 resource tiles, 32 ships, 28 pirate lairs, a ghost captain figure, one die, and easy setup and play rules.

Performance: The purpose of the game is to build a network of routes that connect various islands, using your ships and pirate lairs. The winner of the game is the first player to build all of his or her pirate lairs on the game board.

The game includes an impressive number of game pieces. Not to worry, though, as the instruction booklet is set up to get you started quickly. It will probably take 10 minutes to be ready to play the first game, but after that, the board can be set up in much less time.

Catan Junior includes many of the high-quality pieces found in other Mayfair products, particularly the heavy card stock game board, resource tiles and cards. The ships and pirate lairs are made of colored plastic, but for a game targeting children, the plastic parts are molded rather thin, and I’m not sure how well they will stand up to rough handling. They are perfectly suitable for normal game play.

Like its bigger family members, including the original Settlers of Catan, Catan Junior is a resource management game. Each of the islands has a number (one through five), and players collect resources by the roll of a single die. A player can collect resources even when it’s not his turn, which is a great game feature — especially for kids — because it keeps all of the players involved in the game at all times.

There are five types of resource tiles in the game, and on a player’s turn, combinations of them are used to perform one of three actions: purchase a ship, build a pirate lair, or buy a Coco the Parrot card. Players must connect their pirate lairs by ships to expand their shipping routes.

Coco cards have a variety of functions that are useful at various times during game play. These include being able to move the ghost captain to another island, building ships or lairs for free and collecting extra resource tiles. Also, the player holding the most Coco cards at any time controls the ghost captain’s island, allowing him to place one of his pirate’s lairs there without the need of a ship to connect it to his route.

A neat feature of Catan Junior that is different from the original Settlers of Catan is the addition of a market. The market is at one end of the game board and contains five stalls. At the beginning of the game, each stall is stocked with one of the five resource tiles. On a player’s turn, a resource tile may be swapped for a tile in the market. Swapping resources in the market is done on a one-for-one basis, enabling players to more readily collect the tiles they need to build ships and pirate lairs, thus speeding up the game.

In addition to the market, players may also swap resource tiles with the bank; however, the cost to do so is two resources of one type for one resource from the bank, making the bank the least cost-effective option.

The game board is double-sided: One side is for a two-player version, the other for three or four players. The game works very well with all combinations of players. A typical game lasts 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the number of players.

Marketing: Catan Junior is a fast and fun game to play, whether you know any of the other Catan games or not. Junior is a smart addition to Mayfair’s Catan family because it’s a perfect introduction to resource management-type board games. Once a customer has learned how to play Catan Junior, he will be ready to enjoy the bigger, more complex Settlers of Catan, with all of its plug-in expansions, and similar board games. From a marketing standpoint, that’s a great thing for both Mayfair and the shop owner.

Catan Junior is a fun and easy starting point for all new board gamers, yet its fast play and strategy is appealing to experienced players as well.

Product: Catan Junior
Maker: Mayfair Games
Stock number: MFG3025
MSRP: $30.00

• Fast-paced play
• Great introduction to resource-management board games
• 2–4 players
• Good for ages 6 and older