We were all waiting for the day Settlers of Catan would come out with a Junior version, and it is finally here. Now the kids can be included in game night, and you can still get your dose of Settlers of Catan!
I don’t have kids myself, but I often babysit for some family friends, and Catan Junior is always a hit. I’ve played it over a dozen times and have a solid scope on the gameplays and how it compares to the original game, Settlers of Catan.
In this article, I will be breaking down the history of Catan Junior, going over the general rules, talking about where it can be purchased, and answering some frequently asked questions. Let’s begin!
Catan Junior was first published in 2014 and was designed by the same man who invented the original Settlers of Catan and its expansions. The game was created to be an alternative for youngsters aged 6-9 and is an entry-level strategy game.
Catan Junior was created using similar game mechanics to Settlers of Catan, following in Eurogame style fashion. Adults will enjoy the game and will still have to use their brains to win!
A fun fact is that the game also includes Coloring Pages featuring pirates, parrots, and adventurers, which can be found here on the official Settlers of Catan website.
Let’s break down the rules for Catan Junior! Don’t worry; they’re easy to follow. If you have experience playing Settlers of Catan, you’ll recognize that the game is a little different in theme, but it follows a lot of the same mechanics. It is, however, more accessible to a younger audience, ages six and up-but I think it’s just as fun for adults.
The overall objective of Catan Junior is to be the first player to build 7 Pirates’ Lairs. The Pirate Lairs’ is similar to Settlements in the original game. Pirate Lairs’ is made by collecting resources from each dice roll. In order to move to new Pirate Lair locations, you’ll need to build Pirate Ships, which are also constructed from resources (and similar to Roads in the original game.)
The setup for Catan Junior is relatively straightforward. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare the board, and it’s players. Here are the steps:
- Determine how many players you wish to play with. If you are playing with 3-4 players, use the side of the board with more hexagons. If you are playing with 2 players, use the side of the board with less.
- Next, sort the resources. This includes molasses, wood, gold, goats, and cutlasses. Place them in piles on the side of the board.
- Fill the market. Place one of each resource on the market booths, located on the right side of the board.
- Shuffle the Coco pieces (the parrots) and place them in a pile face up on the side of the board.
- Place the dice next to the board, take a building cost reference tile for each player, and place the Ghost Captian (silver pirate piece) on Spooky Island.
- Determine what color you and each player want to be. Then take all 8 Pirate’s Lair pieces and all 7 Pirate’s Ship pieces of that color and place them in front of you.
- Next, place a Pirate’s Lair on each of the two matching colored dots on the board for each player. On the dotted line next to it, put a Pirate Ship. Each player should have four pieces on the board.
- Give each player one molasses and one wood resource to start.
- You’re ready to play Catan Junior!
On Your Turn
The game starts with the youngest player. When your turn begins, there are four steps to take. Rolling the dice is the first and mandatory step. After that, trading, buying, and building steps are optional and can be accomplished in any order.
- Start by rolling the dice. Then, according to what number they rolled, they’ll look at the gameboard and see what island(s) their number matches. Any player that has a Pirates’ Lair touching that island and its corresponding number will receive one of its resources.
For example, if you roll a 1, any player touching the Cave Island will receive a Cutlass resource, and any player touching the Forest Island will receive a Wood resource. (Both of these islands have a “1” dice displayed on it.) If you have multiple Pirates’ Lairs touching a particular island, you’ll receive numerous resources.
If you roll a six, however, something different happens. Since there is no six on the board, you move the Ghost Captain (silver piece) to an island of your choosing. You then get to take two resources of this island from the stockpile, and that island is no longer active. This means that even if that island’s number is rolled, no one can collect resources from it. (If you’ve played the original Settlers of Catan, the Ghost Caption is similar to the robber, but you don’t steal from other players.)
- Now that each player has (hopefully) received some resources from the board, the first step is to trade them. Obviously, this is entirely optional, but it can help you gain a strategic advantage to eventually buy more Pirates’ Lairs, Pirate Ships, or Coco tiles later in your turn. Keep in mind that you can only trade on your turn. There are three different ways to trade:
The first method of trade involves trading with the stockpile. The stockpile allows you to trade two of any matching resources for one of any resource. This can be repeated as many times as you like.
The second way is through the market. Remember those single resources tiles you placed on the right side of the board at the start of the game? That’s the market. You can swap any one resource you own for any resource in the market. If the market ever gets completely full of one resource, simply discard all those resources back to the stockpile, and replace the market with one of each resource.
The third method of trade is only for advanced players. This method allows trade between players. For example, if one player has a cutlass and one player has a goat, they can trade each other. However, player for player trades can only be one-for-one trades.
- The next step is to buy. Now that you’ve obtained all the resources you can for your turn, you may use those resources to purchase Pirates’ Lairs, Pirate Ships, or Coco tiles.
- Each has a respective price. Pirates’ Lairs cost 1 wood, 1 goat, 1 gold, and 1 molasses. Pirate Ships cost 1 wood and 1 goat. Coco tiles 1 gold, 1 molasses, and 1 cutlass. These prices can also be referenced on the building cost reference until each player received them at the start of the game.
- The final step of your turn is to build (or use) what you’ve purchased.
- Pirates’ Lairs can only be built (placed) on the corner of a hexagon island, and Pirate Ships can only be created (placed) on the edge of a hexagon island. A Pirate’s Lair can also only be built if a Pirate Ship is connected to it. This means that Pirates’ Lairs and Pirate Ships must be made in alternating order, all connected.
- Another rule is that Pirates’ Lairs and Pirate Ships cannot share a site with another player. Once a Pirates’ Lair or a Pirate Ship has been built, it is permanent, and the spot is occupied by the player for the rest of the game.
- If you wish to purchase a Coco tile, take one from the pile and flip the parrot over. Each Coco tile is a random bonus. Look at the picture on the back and follow its description. There are three different types of Coco tiles, and once all the Coco tiles are gone, they are gone.
- The first type of Coco tile allows you to move the Ghost Captian to an island as if you had rolled at 6. The second type of Coco tile enables you to build a Pirates’ Lair or Pirate Ship for free. The final type of Coco tile lets you receive four resources from the stockpile. The specific resources you get are listed on the Coco tile.
- The player with the most Coco tiles at any given time gets to keep a Pirates’ Lair on Spooky Island. And yes, this Pirates’ Lair counts towards your final count! But keep in mind if another player takes the lead in having the most Coco tiles, they get to immediately switch Spooky Island to one of their Pirates’ Lairs.
- If you played the original Settlers of Catan, Coco tiles act similar to Development Cards but are a little easier to understand.
End of Game
The game ends when any one player has 7 Pirates’ Lairs on the board. This player wins the game. Keep in mind that if you have a Pirates’ Lair on Spooky Island (from having the most amount of Coco tiles), this also counts as a Lair!
Catan Junior Strategy
If you’re a parent reading this to discover better ways to beat your kid, your kid must be a genius. Either way, I wanted to include in this section some general strategy tips you can provide to kids that may be struggling, or maybe even to yourself.
Prioritize Coco Tiles
Coco tiles provide a massive advantage in Catan Junior, even more than the Development Cards in the original Settlers of Catan. They’ll allow you to build and collect resources faster, which is a fast track to winning the game. The advantage of having Spooky Island can make a big difference at the end of the game as well. Get the Coco tiles before others do!
Trade from the Marketplace
If you must make a trade, I’d recommend utilizing the marketplace if at all possible. It’s one tile cheaper than trading from the stockpile (which requires trading two resources for one,) and it doesn’t involve trading with another player. Only trade with other players if you think it will give you a significant advantage because often, players only trade if they’re trying to get ahead quickly. Sometimes it can be challenging to say no to trades, but it will help you win in the long run!
One quick and dirty trick is to flood the marketplace with one resource you see another player has an abundance of. According to the rules, if the whole marketplace is full of one resource, all players must return all of their resource chips from that resource back to the stockpile. This is a fast way to bankrupt a player who maybe has too many of one resource!
Don’t Get Distracted!
Catan Junior can move reasonably fast, and kids will be quick to take their turn and resources before you even know what’s happening! One important rule to remember with Catan Junior is that if you forget to collect resources on every turn when the dice is rolled, you miss out on those resources! This can add up quickly if you’re spending too much time distracted!
Where Can I Purchase Catan Junior?
Catan Junior can be a little difficult to find in mainstream department stores such as Target and Walmart, but it is at some of the more significant locations. However, if you’re looking for a guarantee, Catan Junior can be found on Amazon or on the official Catan website.
Catan Junior can also usually be found in brick-and-mortar board game stores, which are typically located in malls or smaller strip malls. The good thing about these stores is that you can often get good advice surrounding similar games and/or find friends to play games with on board game nights. Parents who play board games usually have kids who play board games as well, so sometimes it’s fun to find others to have a joint parents/kids board game night with!
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: How is Catan Junior Different than Settlers of Catan?
Answer: Catan Junior is similar to Settlers of Catan but is geared towards a younger audience. Players of Settlers of Catan will recognize similar gameplay mechanics such as resource management, road building, robbers, and development cards, but they are all made simpler. Catan Junior also differs in theme from Settlers of Catan, as the game revolves around pirates searching and building lairs across different islands.
Question: Is Catan Junior Good for Kids?
Answer: Catan Junior is great for kids in that it is easy to learn and takes some critical thinking skills to master. Kids will love the Pirate theme, which involves ships, lairs, treasure, and helpful parrots. I would say Catan Junior is appropriate for kids ages 6 and up.
Question: How Many Players Can Play Catan Junior?
Answer: Catan Junior can be played with 2-4 players, and there are currently no expansion packs to involved more players. This game does play well with two players; however, unlike the original Settlers of Catan, which is better played with the separate game, Rivals for Catan. Catan Junior solves this problem by having two individual boards- one for 3-4 players and one for two players. The board flips over to reveal the different games.
Question: What Happens in Catan Junior if the Resource Supply Runs Out?
Answer: If the resource supply runs out for a particular resource, all players must return all of their tiles of that resource back to the stockpile! These tiles will then be available on the next player’s turn.
Question: What Ages Can Play Catan Junior?
Answer: Catan Junior is designed for kids ages 6 and up, but if your kid is particularly keen, they may be able to play it at age 5. If you have a kid that’s a bit older, I sometimes find it easier to have them play along to guide the rules. Once they are learned, it is easy, but it can sometimes take a little time for everyone to feel comfortable with all the rules. A practice run game can help!
Question: Does Catan Junior Have Any Expansions?
Answer: At the moment, Catan Junior does not have any expansion packs. Catan Junior also does not support expansion packs from the original game. However, Catan Junior still has more than enough versatile gameplay elements to keep you coming back for more!
Catan Junior is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a great game to play with your kids. The game isn’t entirely based on luck and is an excellent introduction to strategy games that is relatively basic to learn and understand. The game is also entertaining for adults and isn’t too “dumbed down” that it’s unplayable. I’ve even had game nights where I’ve played Catan Junior with older friends!
However, be warned, once your kids grow out of Catan Junior, they’re going to be asking to play the original Settlers of Catan and all its expansions. This is a gateway game!