I was really excited about trying out Catan Junior because I recall playing Settlers of Catan in my pre-kid days (an Age ago…). And Settlers is such a popular board game that entire board game cafes have been named after it. I never got really addicted to it, but know of people who could play it for hours on end!
So how did we enjoy this “Catan adventure for fledging swashbucklers”? The answer is – a lot!
Call me superficial, but I really loved the quality and look of the board, the turquoise jewel-like die and the well crafted picture pieces.
The game is easy to pick up – just need to take about 5 minutes to read through the instructions. The box pegs it for those aged 6 and above, but even 4 year old B was game to play along, with some guidance on what to do next. She mainly loved the parrot cards – such mystery on what would be behind the next card!
The premise of the game is for each player to build pirate hideouts, linked by ships, which you can ‘build’ from exchange resources for. The roll of the die determines which island spews resources in that turn, which could comprise wood, goats, molasses (barrels of sugar) and/or swords. Roll a 6 and you can make the Ghost Captain haunt any island you want, shutting down ‘production’ there whilst gaining you two of those resources.
At your turn, you can also exchange resources for a Coco the Parrot card, which offer random resources or a leg up! The winner is the first player to control seven pirate hideouts.
I thought it was complex enough to engage older kids, yet not too daunting a ‘strategy game’ for younger ones. The best part about the junior versions of popular adult board games is that it takes a shorter time to play, and has more appealing graphics! If you’re a huge Settlers fan, then I think you’d probably want to foist this on your kid before he can even talk. Haha!
We were interested in trying out Mermaid Beach cos it looked so very shiny. I hate to pander to gender stereotypes, and used to make my toddlers watch Bob the Builder and Postman Pat just because. But now that they have their own mind, they irretrievably gravitate towards girly, shiny, sparkly stuff (sigh).
And this game has it all.
Here’s K reading up on the instructions.
Somewhat unexpectedly, I ended up really, really enjoying this game myself! And the girls loved it so much, we played it for consecutive days. “Let’s play Mermaid Beach!” is always met with whoops of joy and enthusiasm.
We enjoyed it mostly because there are so many possibilities in one hand and one entire game. In a hand you could get sparkly mermaids or mermen (that can be played on its own with bonus rounds), beach cards that you have to match and play in a pair, mean evil mermaid twins that ‘steal’ other players’ shell card points, sneaker wave cards that remove others’ points from play, or seaweed cards that snare players into drawing another encumbering generic beach card.
There is a ‘shell card’ deck from which to collect shell points, or force starfish movements of cards to the right or left. There’s also a ‘sea monster’ card that functions somewhat like a joker. Get stuck with it as your last card and you lose the highest value shell card(s) you have! The player with the highest number of shell points wins.
In a nutshell, it’s perfect for kids aged 4-7, and every round takes about 10-15 minutes to play.
One of the main reasons why I think this game is perfect for those aged 4-8 is because it was created by an 8 year old! It is amazingly engaging, well-thought through and so super fun in its permutations.
Her story is fascinating in itself. Emily Ehlers (you can see her photo in the card above) was on a year long trip around the world with her family in a sailboat *wow*, and she designed this game en route.
As another sophisticated game reviewer puts it:
I had to remind myself several times that this game was designed by an 8-year-old named Emily. It certainly didn’t play like a game an 8-year-old would design. Mermaid Beach is well-balanced, fast, fun, and engages the players from start to finish.
This is not an easy feat to accomplish. There are game designers right now pounding their fists on table tops out of frustration because designing a game is difficult work. And yet, this 8-year-old little girl made it seem effortless.
The game feels like it was designed by a more seasoned game designer, and for that reason, I must tip my hat to this young little geek who has to be one of the youngest game designers to successfully publish a game. And a really good one at that!
K liked it so much that she pounced on the feedback form that came with the box, and insisted on filling it up.
They enjoy it so much that we’ve started bringing it almost everywhere. Here they are having a game at the hawker centre whilst waiting for food. I love how portable a small deck of cards is.
Get your hands on a deck now (just S$19.90), and hopefully your kids love it as much as mine do!
Other quality games from My First Games that we reviewed:
- “Quoridor Kid”
- “Pengoloo” and “Woolly Bully”
- “Froggy Boogie”
- “Hisss” and “Duck Duck Go!”
- “Kids of Carcassonne”
- “Citiblocs” and “More Citiblocs“
- “Viva Topo”
- “ColorPop” and “Flea Circus”
Note: We were loaned/gifted the games for the purpose of this review.