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It would be good if we really had a parrot called Coco

October 1, 2012

Catan Junior is pretty much what you’d imagine from the title: a version of Settlers of Catan, reworked with a younger audience in mind. I was a little wary of this, having heard less than stellar reports of an earlier attempt to shift the Catan franchise towards a younger audience (Kids of Catan), but over the last few months a steadily expanding body of positive reviews have built up. Then, while I was off at the highly enjoyable TringCon, I stumbled across a copy at a very reasonably price, so I laid my cash down…

Pirates everywhere! (Though here we’re forgetting to keep hold of our parrots.)

I mean, there are pirates in this version of the game. Surely that’s enough?

Actually, my early impressions of the game are great. The basic mechanics of the game are almost identical to the original Settlers, but trading has been tweaked (so you trade with a non-player market or the bank), resource cards have been replaced by gorgeous tokens (though the design of the gold counters leaves something to be desired) and the development cards are now “Coco the parrot” tiles which do something good for you when you buy them.

We’ve played this a couple of times so far, with three and two players, and both worked well. Actually, during our first play I rushed reading the rules and we ended up playing with unlimited trading and no bonus for collecting parrots. This actually worked out quite fun, mind, but we have shifted to the proper rules now. The game zips along quite quickly, even with Miss B getting distracted and singing a song or chatting about the fact she doesn’t think there should be as much wood as it isn’t as interesting as goats.

In some ways I think this is actually better than the original Settlers. It is certainly less likely that someone makes a poor or unlucky start and never recovers. This could really turn into a very good gateway game which I’d be more than happy to play with an adult group. I think the “Junior” label is a bit unfortunate as it makes the game sound like more of a kids’ game rather than the great little family game it actually is.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 5¾): “Catan junior was 10 out of 10 when you could get a lair onto Spooky Island because you had the most Cocos. I liked it because it was still part of the points because lairs score points when they’re on the board.”

The game: Catan Junior (Mayfair Games), 2 to 4 players, aged 6+.

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