Krosmaster Arena Junior is a simplified version of a standard grid based miniatures game. The underlying point of the game is to teach young children the basics of miniatures combat games. The game teaches children concepts such as health points, attacks, blocks, critical hits, movement points, attacks of opportunity, dodges, terrain use, resource gathering, commanders and units, and range vs. melee attacks. When you consider that miniatures games are an evolution of chess it's quite an impressive list of additional things for a child to manage mentally in a game beyond what is already in chess. Non-tabletop gamers often view chess as an example of a very complicated game. But if you take chess and give each of the pieces multiple attack types (melee and ranged), terrain to use as cover, different levels of health, possibilities of critical hits, reflex attack possibilities on units close by, and resource gathering to purchase additional units, the additional complexity sounds mind numbing to an inexperienced person. Now along comes Krosmaster Arena Junior with the mission of teaching this complexity to 7 year olds who may have never played any tabletop game with complexity beyond Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. Put within that context it is quite a lofty goal for a young children's game.
In order to accomplish that goal the game is made up of a series of 7 short scenarios that last on average about 10 minutes each. The scenarios are meant to be played in order because they slowly build on each other. Each subsequent scenario adds in one additional concept to the game. Sometimes in order to help the acquisition of a new concept the scenario will leave out a formerly covered concept before bringing it back in on the following scenario combined with the new concept. The game does a very good job of slowly building up to the complete game. The last scenario combines everything learned into a full battle. The game has a score pad which allows players to progress through each scenario one after the other as a single long game and add up points earned through each scenario for a final game score. Doing it all at once runs about an hour and a half in that format. It is perfectly possible to do just one scenario as a short game that lasts 10 minutes as well. So once the children have all the concepts mastered they could just play the final battle scenario as a game.
The game simplifies the tactical options compared with a full grid based miniatures game like regular Krosmaster Arena for older children or Warhammer Shadespire for adults. Each character has the exact same abilities as the other characters. The characters have only one melee attack and one ranged attack. Each character has 3 pets that go from 2 through 4 health points. Thus the customization options that happen when a game allows you to build squads containing units of varying abilities and strengths is not here. However, each of the characters in the game comes with a character card for the full Krosmaster Arena game so that the characters can be used in that game. With this character card the characters each become unique in their strengths and abilities. So once the children playing the game feel comfortable with the game concepts it is a short step up to the full Krosmaster Arena game and they can take their now unique characters with them.
The miniatures in this game are cute, sturdy, and pre-painted. You don't have to worry that a 7 year old is going to accidentally break the miniatures like you would with the miniatures from many other miniatures games. This is the case for the full Krosmaster Arena game as well. The fact that the miniatures are pre-painted could be a positive or negative depending on what you are looking for. In my case it's a negative because my children and I do enjoy painting miniatures. Also I would like to introduce miniature painting to my after school strategy gaming club. Granted the miniatures could be painted over easily enough, but the miniatures look so good already you'd probably be worried as a beginning painter child that you would end up with something that looked worse than the original. It would not be an inspiring thing for a beginner to start with something that looks good and make it look worse. On the other hand starting with grey unpainted miniatures and adding color to them can pretty much only result in them looking better if you have a teacher guiding you, and that is inspiring. On the other hand, there is a market for miniatures games with prepainted miniatures because many people just don't want to spend the time painting things.
The board and cardboard bushes are nicely done and look attractive on the table. The game actually has two boards that are double-sided for a total of 4 boards in all. It also comes with cardboard tokens for money, called "kama", and damage. So the end result is a very attractive game between the miniatures and the cardboard components.
Teacher/ Parent Recommendations:
As far as achieving its goal of teaching young children miniatures gaming I think it is probably as effective as it is possible to be. I am a second grade teacher (which is exactly the seven year olds this game is aimed at) and I think this game does an excellent job at accounting for that age group in terms of average cognition and interest in order to achieve its goals. That does not mean however that older children won't enjoy it. My own gamer children (age 9 and 12) who are perfectly comfortable playing a full miniatures game like Star Wars Legion, due to having years of tabletop gaming experience, still love this simple little game. My daughter's favorite show is Wakfu, which this game is based on, and my son also likes Wakfu a lot. So the theme definitely has a great deal to do with their buy in, but they also just simply find the game fun. Personally, I would not play it myself unless I am playing with them, as the theme of this cartoon show for kids simply doesn't capture me. But I have seen episodes of the show when they watch it and it is a well done cartoon. I've used X-Wing in the club in the past but it is not as easy to teach to the younger children as this game will be. I know I could easily bring this game into the classroom on our end of the year board gaming celebration day, and start cranking out little miniatures gamers (and hopefully pull them into the gaming club the following year). And if the children happened to be fans of the Wakfu cartoon on Netflix so much the easier.