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[Review] Kids of Catan

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Joined: 03/23/2011

One of the all time great games for introducing people to Eurogames has been Settlers of Catan. Love it or hate it, see it as the “greatest game of all time” or a “highly overrated game”, one cannot deny that the game has been one of the most influential games in the last ten years. Thousands have enjoyed it, and I’ve met people who’ve played the game who I’d least suspect. It’s been a powerful game for me, using it as an introductory game. And even though it’s not my first choice, it’s been an excellent one. Now cross that with my goal to get my four-year old interested in gaming, and The Kids of Catan (Mayfair Games, 2003 - Klaus Teuber) looks like a superb choice. Here we are, matching what many call the most important game of the last years with a new crop of gamers - toddlers - how could it go wrong?

Well, in that respect the game succeeds. The game is almost entirely luck-based, but it provides an excellent counter to the “roll-and-move” genre, which has so heavily saturated the younger generation’s market. The components are absolutely gorgeous, and are certainly toddler-proof. The game itself is a simplified, simplified version of Settlers - but it’s an introduction to a great world of games! The high price tag notwithstanding, this game is a worthwhile addition to one’s collection - but only if they have children, as there is no redeeming value for adults.

The game board actually fits in the box, with a wooden “well” holding the board, and a “turn-table” in place, so that the turn-table rotates smoothly atop of the board. Around the outside of the turntable, on the board, there are sixteen spaces, colored in three colors: red, green, and yellow. Into each of these is placed a resource: grain, brick, and wood - each into the appropriately matching colored space. One space, however, is black - and into that one a black pawn is placed (“Erik”). A pawn is placed in the appropriately colored spot on the turnstile, each followed by three slots where resources can be placed. Players then, in turn order (youngest player first, then clockwise), choose a building from a group of red-roofed buildings. Once all twelve buildings have been chosen, a final building - the City Hall - is placed aside. The turntable is turned so that each pawn is next to a resource, and the game is ready to go.

On a player’s turn, they roll a six-sided die (with numbers 1-3 on it, twice). The turntable is moved that many spaces in a clockwise direction. Each player places the resource in the space next to their pawn in one of the three slots behind their pawn (their “cart”). However, they can only do this if they do not already have one of that particular resource type in their cart. If a player’s pawn ends up next to Erik, they must lose one of their resources (the last in the cart). The lost resource can be put onto any empty space of that color.

Once a player collects one of each of the three resources, they may build one of their buildings. They replace the resources back onto matching colored spaces, and place one of their buildings in the appropriately matching square in the middle of the table. If the player has already built all of their buildings, they can build the City Hall in the same manner. Whichever player builds City Hall first wins (it is possible that two players could build it on the same turn.)

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: Absolutely, incredibly beautiful. The game is fairly expensive, but the toy factor is huge. And when I say toy factor, the game can actually be used for toys, although I cringe at saying such things. The houses can form a little village for kids to play with, and I do allow my daughters to do such right before or after a game (while I’m watching, of course - its anathema for me to lose a game piece.) The houses and pawns are all very large wooden pieces, brightly colored, and easy for small, chubby fingers to hold and use. The board itself is beautiful, and the way it fits into the plastic insert in the box is quite ingenious. When the game is near completion, and all the pretty little houses are in the middle of the game board surrounded by large, beautiful resource - it looks pretty fantastic. Such great bits certainly excite kids, and make this a fantastic gift for those with young children.

2.) Rules: The rules for the game were not hard to understand; in fact, a four page illustrated story preceded the four pages of full-colored rules. The story, which can be read to children, helps set up the theme of the game, and is interesting in its own right (to children, of course). Kids pick up on the rules quickly, and they especially enjoy how everybody plays, even when it’s someone else’s turn.

3.) Strategy: There is almost none, except a very smidgen of strategy when placing resources back - and that is to make sure that they are close to you. Many variants could be added to the game, such as when landing on the robber, you can steal a resource from another player - or trading, etc. However, with the basic rules, the game leaves a bit to be desired - for those who are six or older. For younger tots, this game will provide all the strategy they need, and a nice intro to the “German” gaming world.

4.) Time, Players, and Fun Factor: This means that although the box says it’s for ages 4 +, we found that even two year old children could play the game, and that after the age of six, interest tapered off. Still, that’s four years of life for a game, and one that plays in less than half an hour. Very young children will have a blast playing the game, although older children and adults will find it incredibly dull. But, as a parent, I enjoyed playing it with my daughter because she was so enamored with the pieces.

If you don’t have very young children, don’t buy this game, it’s not worth your time. But if you do, then this is an excellent choice. If only American games made their children games with such excellent components - and had a ladder of games that the child could advance along with, such as the Catan family, then we might see some more quality games in the stores here. As it stands now, however, we must sadly wait for that day, and play Kids of Catan some more. (Until my daughter turns five - at which time Carcassonne hits the table - Settlers at six, etc., etc.)

Tom Vasel

Joined: 07/26/2008
[Review] Kids of Catan

Even a two year old, eh? I'm going to have to try this one. I've been trying to figure out how to start teaching my two year old. We've done some simple matching games, and she loves to play with my "bit bucket" and dominoes of course, but we haven't tried anything with any sort of "mechanics" if you will.

Thanks for the suggestion! And thanks for the great reviews, you are really setting a high expectation for quality of reviews.


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