Catan is by far one of the best tabletop strategy/civ games out there, making players face each other in an economic rather than military context. Having been published for the first time in Germany in 1995 under the name The Settlers of Catan or simply Settlers, the franchise has grown immensely with a series of expansions over the years. Here, we will list the best Catan expansions out there.
List of Catan Expansions
- Catan Cities & Knights
- Catan Explorers & Pirates
- Catan Seafarers
- Catan Traders & Barbarians
- Rivals for Catan: Age of Enlightenment
- Catan Oil Springs
List of Catan Standalone Versions
- Catan Dawn of Humankind
- Game of Thrones
- Catan Starfarers
- Catan Rise of the Inkas
- Catan Traveler – Compact Edition
- Catan Histories: Settlers of America Trails to Rails
- Catan Junior
- Elasund – The First City of Catan
- Catan Family
1. Catan Cities & Knights
One of the oldest Catan expansion packs, Cities and Knights adds the titular units whose aim is to protect the land from invading barbarians that appear every few turns. Players are also to upgrade villages to cities, which allows them to get more benefits from said upgraded settlements. In addition, the expansion introduces three new resources – paper, cloth, and coins, which can be acquired from Forest, Meadow, and Mountain spaces, respectively.
Additionally, the development card deck is replaced by three different decks, each of which corresponds to one of the new commodities. Players have the chance to draw these cards with every roll of the dice, with these chances increasing when cities are improved.
2. Catan Explorers & Pirates
This Catan expansion changes the very well-known big island into a few smaller ones. What makes the new map even more interesting is that at the beginning of the game, only one island is explored and known to the players. Over the course of the game, they have to build ships and bring settlers into play so that they can then travel to new lands. If a ship ends its movement on unexplored territory, that hex tile is flipped and a randomly-drawn number chip is placed on it. The player, who “discovered” the new piece of land earns one resource as a reward if the new hex turns out to produce resources.
Additionally, Catan: Explorers & Pirates allows players to build ports, each costing two corn and two ore. They act like settlements and produce one resource when the adjacent number is rolled at the start of a turn while being worth two victory points like cities.
Finally, the Catan expansion pack comes with five different scenarios, each one requiring different conditions to be met in order to be won. These can range from exploring new islands to defeating pirates on the open seas and finding their secret treasures.
3. Catan Seafarers
Continuing the maritime theme, the next Catan expansion lets players build ship lanes, which act in the same way as roads, however, on water. The map itself also contains many different water-hex-heavy variant setups, making for a varied experience each time the board is set up. It’s also important to note that the American version (Mayfair) and the German one (Kosmos) cannot be interchanged because both versions have somewhat different components. That being said, there are adapter kits available so the versions can be interchanged.
4. Catan Traders & Barbarians
More of a compilation of small expansions, this one can be played easily with the previously mentioned Catan expansion packs. It includes five different scenarios such as the titular Barbarian Invasion. In it, the continent is being invaded by said barbarians and players have to stop them with new knight pieces. The expansion also comes with new hex fields – one for the castle, one to produce glass, and one to produce marble. Players are tasked with rebuilding the continent after the barbarian invasions. They get points for each task completed, but they have to travel back and forth to the castle on underdeveloped paths which are fraught with danger as some barbarians are still left and raid trade caravans.
5. Rivals for Catan: Age of Enlightenment
Do you want to have a sense of progression through different ages of humanity’s history? Then Age of Enlightenment is the Catan expansion for you. Containing three sets with a total of 125 cards, the expansion comes with three themes, or gages that players can progress through.
First is the Era of Explorers, where players set sail from the continent of Catan to explore the world and discover new lands, encountering pirates, islanders, and shipwrecks along the way, mimicking the first explorers that set out from Europe in the late Middle Ages. Next comes the Era of Sages, which allows players to influence the strength and frequency of events. Finally, players advance to the Era of Prosperity, where players have to learn to govern wisely like in the real-life age of Enlightenment by building schools and hospitals, and even promoting the arts.
6. Oil Springs
Going even further along the timeline of humanity, players can strike nothing else than black gold on the new continent in this Catan expansion pack. This brings a multitude of new opportunities for them but also poses challenges. On the one hand, players can use the new oil resource to grow their cities and increase the yield of other resources. But on the other, players have to keep in check the damage they can cause to the environment, which, if left neglected, could even lead to all players losing the game.
7. Dawn of Humankind
It should be noted that Settlers of Catan has inspired numerous standalone titles, which we will take a look at here. Taking a step back from modern times we plunge into the deep origins of our species, this standalone Catan version tasks players with guiding a small group of primitive people as they travel across the globe and settle in new areas. By doing so, players unlock new types of technology and advance their culture. The game provides a full overhaul, unlike a standard Catan expansion pack, which adds content to the vanilla title. The player who is best able to grow and develop their thriving civilization wins!
8. Game of Thrones
Speaking of cultures, human society and politics are extremely complex, and the popular fantasy series Game of Thrones encapsulates this well. Now, fans of the series who also like Settlers of Catan’s gameplay can combine both by playing as a leader of a group of Brothers of the Night’s Watch. They must protect Westeros from the wildlings beyond the wall, who frequently come to raid and plunder the rich lands of the south. In doing so, the players gain increased power and recognition through the awarding of victory points.
However, as with anything in the universe of A Song of Fire and Ice, nothing comes easy and players’ manpower is limited. Therefore, they must recruit new members for the watch from the prisoners of Westeros. But prisoners don’t usually make loyal soldiers, so if the players face a particularly large wave of wildlings, or a giant shows up, these soldiers can desert their posts.
Additionally, each player takes control of a hero from the series to aid them in their struggle. This is decided based on the order of play, with the first player making use of the talents of the Lord Commander himself, Jeor Mormont. Then, the next players take the reins of Samwell Tarly, Bowen Marsh, and Master Builder Othell Yarwyck.
Victory occurs when a player has both improved the infrastructure of the Gift and successfully defended it or if Wildlings breach the wall three times throughout the game. In the latter variant, the player with the most guards is declared Lord Commander and wins the game. Overall, this game is just as complex as any of the main Catan expansions.
Starfarers takes our familiar settlers and launches them into the depth of the cosmos, as they venture from their home planet to colonize new worlds. In search of good ore and carbon deposits, the settlers may encounter many dangers such as space pirates or alien races. Prepare to conquer the last frontier in this cosmic version iteration of the classic Catan board game
Since the whole world for these settlers is changed, Starfarers comes with many different mechanics compared to the vanilla game. For one, there are no roads, therefore players no longer need and use ports to trade resources. Instead, you have to use the market directly, although the ratios are not too bad. Additionally, players can acquire more resources by befriending NPC alien races, but they have to get them early.
Overall, Starfarers, which went on preorder in June 2023, focuses more on the trade aspect of the game while it pushes players to explore the vast new frontier. It provides a drastic overhaul of the game, rather than add-on content that can be found in normal Catan expansions.
10. Rise of the Inkas
Flying back to Earth, Catan Histories: Rise of the Inkas tasks players to develop their own tribe based on the Incan people of South America. Although much of the core of this standalone title is the same as the vanilla game, Rise of the Inkas implements new resources and unique mechanics. This title is a part of Catan Histories – a series of games that are descendants of the original Settlers of Catan but are considered more as standalone versions.
In addition to the usual building of roads and settlements, players also gain more trade options, as fish, cocoa, and feathers enrich the barter trade. Furthermore, this game confronts players with new strategic challenges, as they must twice decline their early tribes to make way for a new tribe’s era. When a player’s tribe goes into decline, they place a new settlement on available board space and continue the game using this new settlement. Meanwhile, the old settlement can no longer be upgraded and can even be taken over by another player.
11. Traveler – Compact Edition
Playing various Catan expansion packs and other versions is great, but what if you wanted to take the game with you on a family holiday or camping trip? Well, the Traveler – Compact Edition grants just that opportunity by recreating the basic Catan experience but in a smaller package that’s more convenient to carry with a few limitations due to size.
Just like in the vanilla game, players settlements and cities in order to be the forts to achieve a certain goal of victory points. However, here the land spaces aren’t individual hexes, but ate rather six pieces of material that can be rearranged in different ways to change up the game board. This version of Settlers of Catan also features a two-player mode, where a trade can be “forced” through the use of special cards. Speaking of cards, they can be neatly arranged into drawers on the side of the game board, which folds into a trapezoid, making it a convenient package to be transported.
12. Histories: Settlers of America Trails to Rails
The 19th century was a time of rapid change for all of humanity as the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. Railways were a crucial part of the progress of the age and one of the most popular iterations of the Catan Histories line allows players to experience just that. Once again being a standalone game rather than a Catan expansion, Settlers of America – Trails to Rails was released back in 2010 and plunges participants into a hex-tile grid representation of the USA, where they are tasked with creating the infrastructure of a young nation. Players must acquire resources to build railroads and purchase locomotives as the western expansion continues and cities grow fast, requiring more supplies to be shipped in. And if that isn’t enough, the news that gold was found in the new lands adds to the depth of play and increases options for the players.
13. Catan Junior
Even vanilla Catan can be a bit complicated to play sometimes, let alone if we start including the many Catan expansion packs into the mix. So, a solution needs to be found for younger players to also enjoy the game. This is where Catan Junior comes to the rescue, a standalone version of the title that is suitable for children as young as 6.
The game comes with a lot of differences from the vanilla version. For starters, it can be played by only two players, while the standard game requires at least three. Furthermore, there are no settlers, and instead, players have to take the role of pirates who build hideouts and go around several islands to collect various resources which include: wood, goats, molasses, or swords. Using the acquired loot, players build more bases, with the winner being the one who is the first to control seven pirate hideouts.
14. Elasund – The First City of Catan
Normally, Settlers of Catan can be considered a grand strategy game where participants take control of a faction or nation and build its many cities and infrastructure to be the first one to reach a goal. However, Elasund – The First City of Catan zooms in on just one rapidly growing city of the new continent where players take the roles of officials of said city in an attempt to build it into a true metropolis.
To do so, they must hire workers and acquire building materials in order to erect the many facilities that the prospering city needs. Once a building is complete it will start producing either gold or influence for the player, and the goal is to be the most influential person in the city.
15. Catan Family Edition
Getting family members into Catan and other board games, especially younger or older ones can be somewhat difficult. Children might be overwhelmed by rules, especially if various Catan expansions are included, for example. This is why Catan Family Edition aims to combat these issues by providing a simplified version of the vanilla game to be enjoyed by young and old alike.
This standalone title features several changes compared to the base game. For example, Settlers of Catan’s familiar hex pieces that make up the map are now combined into six different jigsaw-like components that make the setting up of the board easier. It should be noted that while this makes for faster deployment of the game area, it also limits the variations that can be played. Other material features of Catan Family Edition that make for a better solution for playing with inexperienced relatives include a thicker game board to resist damage from kids accidentally dropping it. Additionally, the classic wooden pieces of the vanilla game and the Catan expansion packs have been replaced by plastic ones, which, albeit less nice to the touch, bring the overall price of the game down.