Ahoy mateys! This week, John and Stevie are sailing the high seas with Catan Junior. As a junior version of the original, Catan Junior features a simplified rule system and a new theme - Pirates! Who doesn't love a good pirate adventure?

See podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/20mintabletop for listening options.


Important Timestamps

01:08 - First Impressions
02:11 - Getting Started
03:27 - Play Mechanics
08:53 - Enjoyment of the Game
11:27 - Length of Play
12:33 - Real Live Kid Opinion
15:33 - Final Impression


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John Welcome to 20 Minute Tabletop, a podcast sharing the love of all things tabletop gaming, in bite size pieces. I'm your host, John Wickee, here today with my cohost Stevie.

Stevie It's time to take on a new classic. Instead of bite size this week, we're tackling our first junior game to talk about Catan Junior.

John So the tag of Catan Junior is "A Catan adventure for fledgling swashbucklers".
If we look at the back of the box as my favorite thing is to do: to flip the box over without spilling it.
"Catan: Junior lets younger players experience the world of Catan by introducing a simpler playing style. Designed for 2-4 players as young as 6, it is a perfect introduction to the Catan series of games for kids and families."


John So let's start with our first impressions.
What I find interesting about this, I think is we played this before I ever played the full version of Catan. Not that I've never heard of it, or seen it, but I hadn't really fully played a game of that. And I felt this was a fun resource building game perfect for the whole family.

Stevie I got this for our son when he was around 4. Uh he wasn't yet a fluent reader. And he wanted to pay board games but most of the ones we owned at the time required you to be able to read.
I love that it was a strategy game that we could play together where he wasn't required to read in order to be able to play independently.

John Yeah that is great. Everything kinda comes with little pictures and is very easy to show you what you need to do as reference.

Stevie I definitely thinks this was also like a gateway game for us. It helped the kids learn the mechanics of Catan and I think a year later we were playing the full adult version because they were already familiar with the mechanics from Catan Junior.


Stevie So let's talk about how easy it is to setup and get started with a game of Catan Junior.

John The game says kids can learn it in about 10 to 15 minutes which really tracks from teaching our two children to play.
The first part is it comes with a dual sided game board. One side is for using two players and the other side is for when you're playing 3 to 4 players. So there's no setup, no putting all the pieces together. You just flip the board onto whatever side you need to start playing with.

Stevie Right. And for the 3 player game it actually tells you exactly which colors to use. Uh which is great because it makes sure that you're going to have a little bit of competition to the game.

John Then you take and sort your resource tiles. The resources for Catan Junor are cutlasses, goats, wood, gold, and molasses. And then you take one of each type and you put it in the market, which we'll talk more about in the mechanics section.

Stevie You wanna shuffle the Coco tiles. Put the Ghost Captain on Spooky Island.

John And then everyone choose their color and then you have two starting spots to choose from. And you put your lair on one of the colors that matches and a ship piece with that lair.

Stevie And you're gonna want to give everyone a building cost tile, and one wood and one molasses.

John And then you're ready to start rolling dice.


Stevie So let's talk mechanics.
On your turn, you're gonna roll, then build, buy, and trade in any order. There's a series of islands and you're gonna roll the dice, based on the number the islands generate various resources. Either wood, goats, molasses, cutlasses, or gold if you have a lair on that island.

John And then you're gonna use those resources to build. You can build your ships to expand your network and then when you build a ship to a new area you can build your lair. And that's really the goal of the game. The goal is to control 7 pirate lairs and you win by placing all 7 of your lairs.

Stevie Right. I wanna note that when you are building you do need to build in an alternating lair ship lair ship, unlike Settlers where there's slightly different mechanics. This is just a simple pattern of you have a lair then you build a ship to get to the next one. And then you build a lair and then you build a ship to get to the next section.
Speaking of, ships cost one goat and one wood. A pirate lair costs a cutlass, molasses, a goat, and a wood. Or if you opt to do so, a Coco tile can be purchased for a cutlass, a molasses, and a gold.

John As we mentioned there is a market on the board. And this is a set of items that you can trade one of yours for one of those on your turn, once per turn. In addition you can also two resources for any one resource with the stockpile. So the market starts with one of each resource type, as we did in the setup. And then as you trade with it, it will obviously change what it has there. If all five become the same item it will then refresh to one of each item. It gives a fun way to get what you need. You can only trade with the market once but you can trade as much as you want with the stockpile. And as I said the stockpile is a two for one trade but this is honestly great if you have maybe a couple of lairs on one resource and that resource number gets rolled a lot by luck, well then you might have a ton of goats stocked up that you need those cutlasses / molasses where you don't have the resource there. And that two for one trade can become really easy to do when you have a lot of resources.

Stevie You can also trade with your opponents. It's always one to one. You can trade as many times as you want. But the trade does need to be agreed upon by both players.

John For that reason we often leave that one out because when some people don't accept trades we're not always accepting of that.

Stevie Just like in real life.

John And then, there's the Ghost Captain. We place him on Spooky Island to start. When he gets moved around he will block that isle from earning. So when you roll a six you get to move the Ghost Captain wherever you want to. When you place him on that island you actually get two of that resource. A rule that we have forgotten on many an occassion. But you also then block that from earning resources so any lairs on there won't get the resource if the number comes up. So it's very valuable in stopping people from getting what they need and getting a little bit for yourself.

Stevie And we've mentioned the Coco tiles. They are a card with a parrot on one side and on the other side it will either give you free resources, a free ship or lair, you could move the Ghost Captain, uh and things like that. When you have the most Coco tiles, you get to place a lair on Spooky Island. And as soon as someone else catches up to you and you have the same amount of Coco tiles, uh, you can remove it. So, that could be part of your strategy to gain the most Coco tiles so that you can have that extra lair on Spooky Island because you don't have to pay to build it, and that can fill one of your seven spots that you need in order to win. Or if you're one of our kids, you just like to stockpile them because they have parrots on them.

John It's an alternative way, like normally, you know, all your thinking about is build a ship, build a lair, build a ship, build a lair. That's the strategy I go on, I often forget about this, that yeah having the most of these will get you to there. And in addition they give you resource, they can give you a free ship or lair. So they do pay off when you get those but you need that gold resource to, in order to buy the tile. It's not always easy but it's definitely another vector to victory to remember that, that can get you one of your lairs out there easily.

Stevie I really like that. "Vector to victory."
Uh, you can obviously block other players like you can in, um, Settlers. But the nice thing about these maps is you do have the option to kinda build around the back of your starting point. You don't just have to go forward. You can choose to build around the back of the island.
And then we've also talked about the reference cards. The reference cards that are made available to each player just liek the ones in Settlers, are images only with no text. As are the parrot cards. This is what makes the game accessible for those kiddos who may not be independently reading yet. And that's why it's worked so well us when we started playing many years ago, when our son was only 4 years old. They're also color coded so the red player's card shows red lairs and ships, the blue player's card shows blue lairs and ships and so on.

John Exactly. It just shows you that if you want to get a ship that equals a goat plus a wood with the picures. And so you know, I need to match these up and I can get what I want. It's exact match to what you have on your tiles that you collect your resources.

Stevie Right.


Stevie So let's talk enjoyment, John.

John Sure, I find this surprisingly fun to play as an adult. It really has that perfect balance between easy rules for the kids but making it fun enough for the adults to try and play some strategy. So it still has those strategy elements in there like you get in these kinda games and you can kinda still play some of the same ways but it's very accessible for the kids.

Stevie Right. I found that I like the simplier rules because learning Settlers of Catan right off the bat can be a little overwhelming so this simplier rule set was nice. But the two player board vs the three to four player board definitely makes you need to strategize, right? The two player board has fewer islands and spaces to make sure that, that strategy component is part of your gameplay. And the same thing with the three to four player board, like we said, on the three player it says "use these three colors". And the reason is because those ones are kind of closest together. And so you really need to strategize and I mean if you're like us once the kids learn the rules and learn the goal you probably need to pay attention to make sure they're not trying to block you or outwit you. Uh, throughout the game whether you're playing the two or three or four player version.

John I really like the two player version because it really balances out that. And I've seen you play a lot of it with TJ and sometimes when you have these strategy games and you can do two players it loses some of that element when it's just you versus them. It's like playing Uno with two players, sure it works but then you're just reversing back to yourself, you're skipping back to yourself. It's not the same when there are more players there. It takes a little bit away which I think this does a nice way of balancing it even though it is just two players one v one to try and get your lairs out there, it does a better job of balancing it in the mechanics, for that two player version.

Stevie I agree. And given the difficulty in creating two player version of a lot of board games I think that this does really set a good example of how you can have a two player version of a game but also be able to expand it to multiple players where you're not losing anything both strategically or competitively. Because it adapts to those situations nicely by having that two sided board. I think this sets a really good example for how you could scale the game up or down in a sustainable way.


John Let's talk about that length of play.

John As we mentioned, you can learn in 10 to 15 minutes, which I think really lines up with our experience with teaching the kids and honestly teaching ourselves. Gameplay was probably about 30 minutes or so I think for us to play a game. You can get really close at the end, to get that last lair so there's many times where it's, you know, a lot of people will have that 6th lair and you just need that one more to go and you're trying to get those resources to get there. Trying to figure out if you can trade, what do you need to get there and then somebody goes collects the Coco tiles and boom they get their 7th lair on the island.

Stevie Yeah. I could say that the two player game may actually run a little shorter. Maybe closer to 20-ish minutes. But again, kinda depends on how much time you're spending thinking about your moves. Which I mean there's not a ton to think about but when it comes to trading and paying attention to what the other players doing, you know, trying to make sure that you're gonna get that 7th lair before they do. But yeah in general I would say the three to four person runs about 30 minutes assuming everyone stays at the table and stays focused... ish.


Stevie And now, here's a real live kid to tell you what they think about Catan Junior.

John So TJ. You're familiar with our format. You've listened to all the episodes. So why don't you give us your first impressions.

TJ I think it's really fun. And I like when you can block people.

John So you really like it as a game to compete with each other?

TJ Yeah.

John So this game is marketed to be an easy version for kids to learn how to play Catan. How easy did you think it was to learn?

TJ I mean I can't remember much but I think it was pretty easy.

John Yeah. Does the pictures on the cards and resources make it easy to understand what you're doing?

TJ Yeah. But also don't get confused. Like, your card if you don't remember what you're playing you can just look down at your card and then you remember what ships you're playing.

John So let's hear TJ's tips to success. What is your favorite strategy to the game? Can you help our listeners learn how to win?

TJ You should really get the materials for the Coco cards so that you can really really, cause it could be like you could get resources, the pirate ghost, and you can also get a free ship or castle.

John That is really good. It's a quick way to get your building, buildings built.

TJ Yeah.

John So what else do you enjoy about the game? What is your enjoyment of Catan Junior?

TJ I really like when you're like least expecting it and you roll a 6. And you get to move the ghost guy. But, this is hard to choose if you wanna like block these people and not block yourself or block yourself so that you can block somebody else from getting to build like in front of you.

John So there's a lot of strategy on where you're gonna put that Ghost Captain?

TJ Yeah.

John That is pretty fun and it's always kinda like who are you gonna make made at yourself or who are gonna block. And who can you do the most damage on blocking what resource.

TJ Right.

John That's very cool. Anything else you enjoy about the game?

TJ So I really think after you get the Coco cards you should start heading for gold cause the gold you can always get which is good.

John Which do you enjoy more? Do you enjoy more when you play the two player game with mom when it's just the two of you going head to head or do you like when it's all four of us playing together?

TJ I mean I like when it's two player cause. Also sometimes if you want you can use four player board. And it gets more strategy-ish. I like both two player and four player.

John That's good to know.
Now it's time for your final impression. What are your final thoughts about the game?

TJ It's really fun. And I think after you learn how to play it and play it a couple of times it becomes really fun.

John That's great. Anything else you want to say to our listeners, TJ?

TJ No, except... roll for fortune.

John Thank you, TJ.


John I guess it's time for our overall feelings and that final impression.

Stevie I obviously love this game. I've spent a lot playing this when first got it. And when I say a lot of time I'm talking 3 to 4 rounds a day for months. So I'm highly familiar with this game. But I have found that it is a really good way to be able to transition to Settlers of Catan. Like I said we got this and played it a lot initially and within a year or so the kids were able to take what they knew about Catan Junior, we could add the extra rules for Settlers and a year later we were playing full Settlers games.

John I think this is one of the games at the beginning of covid when we bought this really cause an explosion in our board game hoard and really started stacking a lot more games. Like you said it was a very good transition game into these strategies and the kids wanting more. But yeah you played this a lot. But we've transitioned onto a lot of other games because of this game which is really nice.
I think my final impression is that this is a great game for younger players with a good balance in the rules and enjoyment for all ages.

Stevie Yeah I definitely agree. I think that, and again this is coming from someone that played this over a hundred times when we initially bought it, it's definitely one that runs quickly enough that you're not completely bored out of your mind. There's enough variety to it that your strategy is gonna change slightly each time because it's literally based on the roll of a dice. And kids enjoy it because like who doesn't love pirates?

John I'm your host, John Wickee and you can find me on Twitter as john_wickee that's W I C K E E.

Stevie And I'm Stevie. And you can find me on Instagram as stevies_games.

TJ And I'm TJ!

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John 20 Minute Tabletop is a Morkor Studios production.
Theme song by Arthur Rowan. Morkor art by Sita Duncan.
Do you want more tabletop gaming fun? Subscribe to 20 Minute Tabletop on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Find more at our website 20mintabletop.com, that is the numbers 2 0 m i n tabletop.com or connect with us on twitter and instagram @20mintabletop, thats at 2 0 m i n tabletop.
Thank you and...

TJ roll with fortune!

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John Uh, go ahead.

Stevie Nope. Go ahead.

John You looked like you were going to talk.

Stevie I was, but it's ok.

John Go ahead and say what you were gonna say.

Stevie No. Go ahead.
Say the thing!

John whispers Do it.

Stevie demon voice Say the thing!

John I'll... laughter

Stevie I broke the John.

TJ Byeeeeee!