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Catan Junior

100 out of 107 gamers thought this was helpful

Being a fan of the classic game The Settlers of Catan (SOC), I couldn’t wait to someday introduce that world to my young daughters (ages 5 & 8) and my students in my kids board gaming group. However, I didn’t think they were quite ready for the complexity of SOC and would probably get confused by the rules and strategy or fatigued by its running time. Enter CATAN JUNIOR by Mayfair Games, a Catan game designed just for younger players…OR IS IT?!?!

Let me just start off by saying that both my wife and I have played a fair share of SOC with expansions, but after playing Catan Junior (CJ), we immediately both agreed that CJ would be an excellent way to introduce ANYONE of any age (particularly casual gamers) to the world of Catan!

Since many gamers are probably already familiar with how SOC gameplay works, I’ll make lots of comparisons to CJ that way. CJ is basically a streamlined SOC. The theme of CJ is pirates! Yay! Who doesn’t love pirates? Your goal is to be the first pirate to build seven Pirate Lairs before your opponents do. Pirate Lairs are the equivalent to settlements in SOC (there are no pirate cities….). In CJ, there isn’t one large island that generates many resources, but many hex-shaped islands that each generate a single resource, with water lanes separating the islands. The placement of these islands on the board and rolled number needed to generate resources have already been preselected. This makes setup A LOT FASTER than in SOC!

Depending on which color you choose, the game board has pre-marked where your first two starting pirate lairs are placed as well as one pirate ship. The pirate ship is the equivalent to a road in SOC. Rules for building more ships and lairs in CJ is similar to SOC in that you must have a certain amount of resources to build them, and the ships must be built next to your lairs and vice versa. A difference is that you don’t have to be two intersections away from another lair to build your next one. This makes it easier for younger players. There is still strategy on choosing the direction to build your ships on the map to help you gather resources.

Another similarity to SOC is that, instead of a Robber, there is a Ghost Pirate! Ooooooo! He works basically the same the robber, but looks cooler! When a player moves the ghost pirate to an island, they collect 2 of that island’s resource from “the bank” and island now won’t generate resources for anyone until the pirate is moved again.

CJ is played with only a SINGLE six sided die. Like SOC, you roll the die at the start of your turn. There are five resources that can be collected for players who have a lair built next to the generating islands determined by the die roll. A roll of 1-5 will produce Goats, Molasses, Cutlasses, Wood, and Gold for players with Lairs in right places. (A roll of 6 allows the player to move the Ghost Pirate.)

One of the biggest differences/additions to CJ is the The Marketplace, which replaces the trading-resources-with-other-players mechanic. Printed on the side of the board (on the shore) are carts which, at the beginning of the game, will hold one of each resource. On their turn, a player may freely trade 1-for-1 with the marketplace to get a resource they need. Because of that, what the marketplace has to offer is always changing. I like the marketplace idea because it helps prevent arguments/hurt feelings with kids if no one will trade with them. (The rules state that the trading mechanic can easily be put back into the game if you’d like however!) There are no ports in CJ, but a player can always trade 2-1 with the bank to get a resource they need.

Lastly, players can opt to buy a Coco the Parrot token, which is the equivalent in SOC to a development card and doubles as the same as getting the Longest Road title. Coco tokens will net the player either additional resources, a free ship/lair, or a move of the ghost pirate. The player who has the most Coco tokens at any time also gets to build a free lair on Spooky Island (the home of the Ghost Pirate.)

So check out updated images on sites like BGG or around the net.

The components are excellent! Resources are NOT cards but thick cardboard tokens. In fact there are no cards in this game at all. Everything is either thick quality cardboard (resources, Coco tokens, building menus) or plastic (lairs, ships, ghost pirate). My only gripe is that I prefer wood to plastic, but the detail with the plastic looks cool so… All the pieces are durably made with kids in mind, but I like them as well!

The board is two sided and very colorful and exciting to look at. One side is the 2-player board and the other is the layout for 3-4 players. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to play with more than 4 players.

Catan purists may bristle at this, but I truly feel CJ is the best way to introduce both casual and family gamers to the Catan world. Explaining the gameplay and the setup of the game is much quicker than SOC. Games will last anywhere from only 30m to 1h depending on the players, which makes for a easier choice to play it when time is a factor (especially if you’re trying to squeeze a game in with the kids before bedtime.)

What I really like is all the concepts and strategies (planning your route on the board, resource management, etc) you learn in CJ will carry over to SOC. I feel confident that when I do introduce SOC to my daughters and students, they will grasp the basic gameplay quickly because of their CJ experience, allowing me to just focus on teaching them the deeper gameplay changes that SOC brings, and they won’t feel quite as lost as if I were to have started them out with SOC. That goes for adults as well! My wife said she wished she would have learned CJ first as it would have made SOC a lot easier to quickly grasp.

I rate this game a 10 for Kids and Family Gamers with kids ages say age 9 and under. For other gamer types, your milage will vary, keeping in mind it is designed for a younger audience. I do feel it really is worth considering as a better “gateway” into Catan (and designer games in general) than the full SOC game. It not only is fun to play, but fun to teach. It’s wonderful watching kids figure out the strategies that you know, as an avid gamer, will serve them well as they mature and learn more challenging, complex games.

If you have kids (or maybe even if you don’t), you will be VERY HAPPY with this purchase! It’s a quality, well designed game a family or a group of kids will really enjoy together. And it has lots of replayability, (especially if you add in house rules of your own!)

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Sleeping Queens

61 out of 68 gamers thought this was helpful

I wrote this review for SLEEPING QUEENS from the perspective of a dad with two girls ages five and eight. Sleeping Queens is a delightful card game designed for ages 8 and up and is clearly designed with kids in mind. We have weekly game nights as a family and I also run a cards and board game group for kids ages 7-8. We’ve probably played at least 20 matches so far so I feel like I know the game well and how it is received by it’s target market. This is first GameWright card game we have purchased and I hope this review helps you decide whether SQ is for you!

The goal is to wake up the queens until one player has woken 4 (or five) queens. The game ends at that point and all players count up the point values of the queens they have woken. Highest point total wins! Some queens have special attributes, for example waking the Rose Queen allows you to immediately wake another queen!

You set up the game by shuffling the 12 queen cards and placing them face down on the table. The standard size deck of cards is shuffled and 5 cards are dealt to each player. The remainder of the cards makes up the draw deck, which is placed in the center of the table. Players make one play per turn and draw back up to five cards at the end of their turn.

Kings – if you play one of the king cards, that allows you to “wake up” a queen by turning one of the 12 queen cards over and placing it on the table in front of you.
Knights – Playing a Knight card allows you to steal away a queen from another player.
Dragons – This card is the defense card against the knights. You play this in response to someone trying to steal your queen to prevent it.
Sleeping Potion – Playing this card allows you to put another players queen card back to sleep by turning it over and placing it in the middle of the table with the other queen cards.
Magic Wand – Like the dragon card, a magic wand card defensively prevents a sleeping potion card from putting one of your queens back to sleep.
Number Cards – Like regular deck of cards, SQ has 4 cards each of number 1-10. On your turn you may choose to discard a number card to draw a new card. Pairs, three and four-of-a-kind can be discarded to draw that many cards up as well. In addition (ha), you may create a fact family problem to draw three cards, i.e. 4+5=9 discard those 3 cards and draw 3 new ones.
Jesters – Playing a Jester card is a bit of a gamble and allows you to flip the top card off the draw deck. If it is a picture card (knight, wand, etc) you can immediately wake up a queen! But, if its a number card, the player counts off around the table to that number starting which themselves. Whoever he ends up (and it could be himself) gets to wake up a queen.

All of these cards are one time plays and are immediately discarded when used.

Sleeping queens is just a card game so there are no other components besides the deck of cards. The art work is colorful and fun to look at. Each queen and king has their own theme and are dressed accordingly (Pancake Queen, Moon Queen, Puzzle King, Cookie King, etc.) The box is make of quality cardboard with a plastic tray insert to store the cards. Seeing immediately that the queen cards would be subject to the most handling and may become victims to scratches, nicks and bends, I decided to put those 12 cards in plastic card sleeves to prevent them from being inadvertently marked and tipping off players where the highest valued queens were.

I’ll make no bones about it, Sleeping Queens is probably THE most requested game currently with my daughters and with the kids gaming group I run. It may be because it was the first “alternative” game I introduced to them, or it may be because of the simple but fun gameplay. Kids love choosing cards and denying other players from taking their queens! A game takes about 15 minutes to complete, which also makes it very easy to play a quick match.

As a parent and teacher, my wife and I like how there is a math component in SQ in both counting by 5s and 10s to get the total and having to create math facts to draw more cards. For my littlest one, not having to read any card text made it easy for her to learn and be competitive with the adults. You also may think this would be a game targeting to girls, but believe me the boys ask for it just as much! At this point, I still enjoy playing this game with my girls, probably more because of the enjoyment I see them getting from it. Of course, I’d rather be playing Magic:TG but I digress… 🙂

Those looking for a little more depth and strategy should probably look elsewhere. But for those with kids, I highly recommend picking this one up. Gamewright has many clever cards games designed with the kid market in mind but this one is probably the best bet for a first choice.

Lastly, you can pick this game up on Amazon FOR ONLY 10 BUCKS! This game has EASILY paid for itself 5 times over and continues to do so. So WAKE UP and order a copy!

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Forbidden Island

127 out of 134 gamers thought this was helpful

I going to write this review from the eyes of a parent with two young daughters ages 5 and 8. My college aged son and I just recently got into designer board games after years for playing Magic:TG. Small World, Fluxx and Forbidden Island were our first choices of games to purchase (after playing digital versions of Catan and Ticket to Ride on Xbox) You can see from my score that we loved Forbidden Island! Here’s why…

Forbidden Island is a pretty fast setup. You mix the 24 tiles up and arrange them in a diamond-like pattern on the table. Each tile represents a location on the island and is printed on both sides, one side being a blued-out version of the same location. Players randomly choose a role card, which also determines the color of their game piece. (Red Engineer, Black Diver, Grey Messenger, etc.) There are six roles, which each has a special ability, and the game can be beat with any combination. Players put their piece on the corresponding start tile indicated by a icon. There are two decks to shuffle up: The Treasure Deck and the Flood Deck. Once both are shuffled, each player gets 2 treasure cards. Then the top 6 cards of the flood deck are turned over. Each card in the Flood deck has a corresponding tile on the island that must now be flipped over to the blue side indicating that it is flooding. My girls quickly figured out how to set the game up (but still need help with the shuffling part).

The object is to collect 4 treasures at get off the island via the helipad before key parts of the island sink or the flood meter gets to the top meaning the entire island has sunk and the game is over. I won’t go into too much detail about how all that happens here as other reviews have already done that. I will say that this is a CO-OPERATIVE GAME, which is great when you are working with young kids because they enjoy the help and working together. Everyones a winner if you beat it, and we are all in the same boat if we fail so no one person feels defeated over another. Now I can say that it took about 2-3 games for my girls to grasp what to do. My oldest one jumped in after watching my son and I play a game, then my littlest one wanted to try. Of course we coached the girls on their turn and each game they got more and more proficient at making decisions. Each game takes less than 30 mins to complete. There are also four difficulty settings, like many video games, Novice, Normal, Elite, and Legendary set by where you start the water level on the meter.

This game is solid! The tiles are thick card board, the game pieces and treasures are made of wood and thick plastic and the best part is the game comes in a TIN BOX with defined compartments in the box to organize putting it away. The most fragile part are the cards, but they are good quality as well, like a Hoyle deck of playing cards thickness and gloss.

This is an excellent game for both casual adults and of course kids the ages of mine. When I introduced it to my girls, they of course wanted to start on novice, which is almost a guaranteed win. But we quickly challenged ourselves and just yesterday they were so excited to beat it on Legendary with only 4 tiles left and one notch away from the island being sunk! Note that I play this game WITH them, they don’t/aren’t allowed to play it on their own…yet. (Daddy is a little protective of the investments he’s made in these games haha) Plus they still need advice on their turns. It’s a great way to spend time with your kids playing a game that is not *SIGH* Trouble or Candy Land. Also, my wife runs a private school and she wants me to bring FI, as well as Fluxx and a few other new ones I just ordered, to introduce her students to during her summer camp program. That’ll be fun!

Forbidden Island will be a fav with my kids for a long while and will also be a gateway game for my adult friends to get them into designer games. PLUS THE PRICE IS GREAT!!!!

Go to the The Game of Life page

The Game of Life

69 out of 86 gamers thought this was helpful

We ordered a used copy of TGOL Star Wars version and that was a more interesting than the standard version. As you play, you choose light or dark side eventually getting to the end where the strongest light Jedi battles the player who became the Sith Lord. Victory is determined be adding your attributes you’ve collected by traversing the game board to spinner results and comparing them to determine who wins the galaxy. It was fun! Unfortunately the SW version is out of print but I’d recommend it to both TGOL and Star Wars fans. The spinner is pretty lame though. We ended up just using a d10.

Go to the Small World page

Small World

55 out of 80 gamers thought this was helpful

EDITED 6/20/13 ( NOTE: Sorry all, I can tell you weren’t too fired up about my first draft. this was my first review and I’m working at getting better at it. I added more thoughts and hopefully it expresses how I felt about the game a little better.Thanks!)

My son and I had been wanting to buy a REAL board game. We researched a bunch and agreed on this one! We weren’t disappointed at all! What a wonderful, fun game! Totally worth your time and money!

One of the first things i was impressed with was the quality of the components. THICK card board and beautiful artwork. i won’t belabor how the gameplay works here since other reviews have been quite extensive with that part. i can say we have played both 2-player games and 5-player games with friends. Because Small World comes with 4 different playing boards that scale with the number of players, it made it feel fresh when we moved to the 5-player board.

Play was solid and really enjoyable. If you’ve played conquest-type board games before, you’ll get the basic premise of SW. it’s not nearly as “heavy” or long as RISK, and the whimsical race/power combinations makes it much more fun! And because those combinations change each time you play, it keeps the replayability high.

Learning the game wasn’t super quick like say Forbidden Island, but it wasn’t tedious either. The Tabletop produced video on the SW page on this site sums it up wonderfully. And the game supplies at-a-glance sheets for each player to reference what special abilities each race and power card has. That cuts down on the “what do they do again?” questions.

I really don’t have anything negative to say about Small World. It really is a solid game and pulls off well what it tried to accomplish.

We will definitely be picking up an expansion or two for this!

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