Settlers of Catan is a massively popular board game first released in 1995 as Die Siedler von Catan in Germany. Since then it’s gone on to garner almost universal support by board game enthusiasts and casual players alike.
Image used under Creative Commons from Tiffany LeMaistre
The game revolves around the gathering and trading of resources from a variety of different land types that make up the hexagonal based map. The players take the role of a settler on the island of Catan (unsurprisingly) and set about securing and amassing resources by building on the various land types on the board. At the start of each turn, two six-sided dice are rolled to decide which types of resources will be productive and which players can collect resource cards. The game also allows players to trade resource cards between each other and those resources are in turn are used to build on the map.
The game is won by building settlements and cities which are worth one and two victory points respectively per round and the first player to reach ten victory points wins. It’s been a fan favorite for two decades now due to it’s involved gameplay and it’s simple but effective design aesthetics. Now boasting an impressive array of expansion packs it looks set to stay at the top of many people’s board game best lists.
We’ve got a few other options for you to try out though so read on and see if there’s anything here that can tickle that Catan itch.
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Best Board Games like Settlers of Catan
When looking for a game like Settlers of Catan, I’m pretty sure you’re not looking for a game that feels like a copy of Catan but for one that’s similar in one aspect or another. All of the games described below have some similarities with Catan but none of them is a copy cat. Just go quickly through the descriptions to find a game that might be a good fit for your gaming preferences.
- Exciting game play
- Not much interaction between players
Bohnanza is a card game based on a traditional, German card game of politics and trading. As with all card games, it is played with a deck of cards, but the cards in this game feature comical illustrations of 11 types of beans in different poses. The goal of the game is to plant and harvest the beans to earn as much money as possible.But don’t think Bohnanza is your average card game. What’s unusual in a card game is that you cannot rearrange your hand, so every turn you plant the bean that’s at the front of your deck. The only way to change your deck is to trade. Literally, the whole game depends on trading so you need to trade strategically and plan ahead.
How is Bohnanza similar to Catan? Both games are suitable for those new to board gamers and avid gamers alike. Just like Catan, Bohnanza is easy to get started and each game is unique. You won’t get bored after playing a couple games in a row. Also, Bohnanza is a really social game that requires a lot of interaction through trading.
Our only gripe is that this game is best played by large groups of people. A two-player game isn’t as fun. Also, all that trading and strategizing can be boring for very young players so this is not an ideal game for small kids. Still, these Amazon reviewers loved the game! Let’s read what other players have written about it:
I have one friend who declared that if she were to be exiled to a desert island Survivor style, and allowed only one luxury item, a copy of Bohnanza would be it. What better review can a game get?
Everyone I’ve played this with agrees- This is a fun game! I was more than a little skeptical when I first discovered this game- bean planting?, come’on. But I kept reading one enthusiastic review after another, so I decided to give it a try. Turns out this is an uproariously fun game!
- Quick to learn
- Family game – get your parents or kids to play with you
- Each game is unique
- Can get monotonous
Carcassonne, named after a city in France, is a game where players place tiles that create the landscape and assign their meeples to those tiles to score victory points. That’s the gist of it. The rules are really simple so after a quick explanation, you can get started. While the rules are simple, scoring the most points is not easy. Each game starts by placing the starting tile in the center. From there on players draw random tiles and place them adjacent to tiles already played is such a way that the tile ‘fits’ tiles adjacent to it. Each tile has a piece (or a combination of pieces) of the landscape so ‘fitting’ tiles means a road is connected to a road, a part of a city to another part of a city, and so on. When placing the tile you also want to make sure it’s helping you score more points, making your opponents’ lives miserable or at the very least neutral.
For each type of terrain, there are different rules regarding scoring points and the number of meeples you have is limited, so you have to assign them carefully. That’s the trick of this game – carefully assigning your troops to get the most points and outsmarting your opponents. To win, besides smarts, you also need some luck, as the tiles, you draw make a huge difference in what you can make out of them and therefore how many points you can score.
Similarly to Catan, Carcassonne is a great strategy game for people starting out with board games. It easy to learn the mechanics, so you can teach the game to your parents or children and play with them. That said, the game is best for older kids, very young players may not find this game as exciting.
Also, some players say Carcassonne can get repetitive at some point in the game. It’s not the kind of game that will excite very young children but Carcassonne will definitely be fun for older kids. Despite its shortcomings, this game is one of the most reviewed and raved board game on Amazon, with these users leaving glowing reviews and five-star ratings:
My favorite games are Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Dominion. I wanted to try a new game and this one had great reviews. IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT! First I played with my Boyfriend, then we got my roommates to play the next 15 rounds. Every free moment I have now I beg someone to play with me! It seriously doesn’t matter if all 5 people are playing or if just 2 play, it is just as fun!
A wonderfully playable, and replayable game. Suitable for family and avid board gamers alike. It’s by far one of my favorites.
This game simply amazes me. Everyone loves it. My 7 and 9 year old kids. 20-something Younger brother. 30-something friends. 50-60-something parents. Even 80-something grandparents. Literally everyone I’ve ever shown this game loves it.
- Easy to learn, quick and fun deck building game
- Almost endless variation with 500 cards
- Cards can be easily damaged (use card sleeves) or lost
Dominion is a deck-building game. Each player starts with an identical deck of 10 cards and goes from there. There’s also a pile of 10 special cards selected from 25 categories that players can buy to build their deck. All players have access to that pile. Each turn players can buy new cards (to build their deck) or buy victory points (which don’t do anything until the points are counted). The game is all about finding a balance between both to get the most points in the end.Similarly to Settlers of Catan, it’s an easy to learn game great for people just dipping their toes in card games. Rules are clear and take no time to learn. Ideal for introducing someone to the world of card games. It’s deceptively simple but it’s a very addicting game!
As for the negatives, the quality of the cards leaves a lot to be desired. Also, some users claim their sets have missing components. While there are issues with the quality of Dominion, these happy customers say it is a winner:
Simply put, this is the best interactive casual game I’ve played in 32 years.
Overall this game is very addicting and short, which is a good thing. You can play multiple rounds of this game in an evening as opposed to one game of another typical Euro.
In the days of technology and scheduled events we struggle to find times to connect with our children. Dominion has helped us renew that connection. My wife and I plus both our sons (age 17 & 11) LOVE playing this game together. Whether you go in with a fine tuned strategy or just “make it up as you go along” the opportunity to enjoy the game and win is presented.
Ticket To Ride
- Easy to get started
- Fun to both gamers and beginners
- Might become a bit repetitive
Ticket to Ride is one of the most popular cross-country board games out there. Your goal, as in pretty much every other board game is to score the most points. You do that by claiming railway roads in North America (or Europe if you choose the other version) and fulfilling Destination Tickets (claiming routes that connect distant cities that are on those tickets).The mechanics of the game are quite simple – each turn you can do one of the actions:
- Draw train cards that are needed to claim routes
- Claim a route
- Draw another Destination Ticket
The game requires you to strategically choose what you’re going to do next. Getting train cards is required to claim routes, but focusing on only drawing train cards doesn’t work, as someone else might claim one of the routes you’re after.Additional Destination Tickets allow you to earn more points, but if you won’t fulfill them, you lose some of your points, so you need to carefully choose when it’s the right time to get another one of those. Overall, this game is all about keeping balance to score the most points.Similarly to Catan Ticket to Ride is easy to learn and a great choice for beginners. Just like in Catan, there’s a bit of negative interaction between players when one claims a route another player was after or takes a train card another was waiting for, but it’s not a cut-throat game by any means (unless you play with hardcore gamers). We think this is a great alternative to Settlers of Catan but some players say the game can get monotonous at times. Also, the instruction can be confusing for those who are unfamiliar with Europe.
It’s also worth noting that the instructions might be too complex for younger children so it’s not the best choice for young gamers. Older kids won’t have a problem with this game, though! We can definitely understand the appeal of this game, especially for true blue adventurers out there. It’s no surprise that Ticket To Ride got rave reviews from satisfied gamers:
Ticket To Ride is, in my opinion, the best light strategy (or “gateway”) game on the market to bring family and friends together.
And is the game any good? The short answer is that once you play this game, you’ll never play TransAmerica again. It’s a fantastic medium-weight game – one that plays equally well with two to five players. The components are superb, the artwork is great, the game is downright fun (and nasty sometimes)..
- Resource-based game with more complexity than Catan Addicting
- Issues with quality
Much like Settlers of Catan, this three to five player game has the players take on the role of builders and resource gatherers. It boasts an impressive array of resources and a multitude of ways to gather them.
One of the big differences to Catan would be the much more varied roles that the player can take on. Whilst in Catan everyone is aiming for the same resources for the same goals, Puerto Rico gives each player the option to diversify their strategy and focus on building specific buildings with specific challenges and specific rewards.
Whilst the slightly more complex role-playing may not be to everyone’s taste, we think Puerto Rico is great for anyone looking to add a bit of variety to their resource based board gaming experience. There are hundreds of positive feedbacks on this game. The only downside is that the quality of the printing isn’t the best. For a game worth almost 30 bucks, we expect the quality to be better. Quality issues aside, this gamer claim it is one of the best games he ever played:
THIS GAME ROCKS!!! I am a game collector and have played them all. Honestly this game is by far the best game I have ever played. My friends and I are literally addicted to it. Having NO DICE at all means 100% strategy and ZERO LUCK.
- In-depth planning required to win
- Satisfying when your plans work out
- Not that much interaction between players
Agricola is a farming themed board game for up to five players. The game has each player start out as a lowly farmer with nothing but a shack and a dream.From here, each player takes it in turns to take two actions each, one for the husband and one for the wife. These actions are based on everything you can expect from a traditional farmers life, from gathering resources to even starting a family to help with work around the farm.
It is a very in-depth and involved game and whilst the rules are easy to pick up, it rewards players for thinking ahead and planning out the life of their farmer to maximize their gains. The game last for fourteen turns including four harvest phases and the winner is the player with the most resources at the end of the fourteen-turn cycle.
If you’re into some real in-depth planning and involved gameplay then Agricola is for you. We did find that it lacked some of the interplays that Settlers of Catan has but it more than made up for it with its engagingly complex play style.
At 60 bucks +++, Agricola is not the most affordable of board games on this list but the quality is there. The wooden tiles add to its old school appeal, which is a nice touch!
Our only gripe is that there is very little interaction between players. A typical playtime lasts about 120 minutes so if you prefer quicker gameplay, this might not be the best choice. But, if you’re looking for a game that offers hours of fun, you’ll love Agricola. As this satisfied customer puts it, Agricola is worth the $$$:
This game is worth far more than 5 stars! I believe that this game will remain a favorite of mine for many years to come.
- Rewards proper resource allocation
- Less based on luck than Catan
Another game on our list is Stone Age, a two to four player game that takes the players back to the primitive age and pits them against each other in the race from stone axes right through the discovery of fire.By the end of the game, each player is scored on their ability to gather resources and tend to their tribe and you progress towards this by ensuring the safety and growth of your tribe long enough to up your technology to bigger and better means. As with Settlers of Catan, Stone Age is a resource management game and players are rewarded for proper allocation of their resources, including the members of their tribe.
We found the interplay and interaction in Stone Age to be really fun. It’s quite a quick game once you get the hang of it and when you get a handle on the scoring system it’s a really engaging way to play. Much like Settlers of Catan, it’s about finding your own strategy both on and off the board.
While Stone Age is a fun game, it’s not for everyone. Some users say that it’s not really the first board game they’d grab on a game night. Also, this board game is expensive at almost 70 bucks. The quality, however, is there and if you’re a true blue Settlers of Catan fan, give this game a whirl! One user says the game is perfect for the whole family and it’s quite addicting too:
This is a very fun, light worker placement game. The whole theme is fun and humorous, a good family game. Introduces euro-game concepts but is easy to learn.
What Makes Settlers for Catan so Popular?
Unlike mainstream classics like Monopoly or Life, Settlers of Catan is a hit because it’s accessible, family-friendly, and never intimidating. The rules are easy for the uninitiated to understand and the niche itself is relatable without being boring. The variety reels in players, making every game different.
Part of the game’s appeal is that it came out at a time when tabletop board games were a craze. The popularity of this game among Gen X and Yers is one of the reasons for its lasting appeal. It’s incredible that despite being a non-mainstream game, Settlers for Catan remains as one of the top selling board games in the market.
Unlike mainstream classics like Monopoly or Life, Settlers of Catan is a hit because it’s accessible, family-friendly, and never intimidating. The rules are easy for the uninitiated to understand and the niche itself is relatable without being boring. The variety reels players in, making every game different.
The card games on this list make a great alternative for the 1995 classic because they require careful strategizing, the niches are just as engaging and the variety is downright addicting.