The Best Catan Board Games

Catan board game image - box and the game on a table

by William Lobley |
Updated on

In a world of distractions, it's always impressive to see a board game breakthrough and embed itself in the zeitgeist. Catan is one such game, winning awards and worldwide acclaim for its remarkable strategy gameplay, while also wooing more casual audiences with its accessibility and joyous combat-free competition.

As with all the best board games, from Monopoly to Risk, the longstanding popularity of Catan means that it had several incarnations. These varied versions of Catan have anyone looking to purchase the game has some choices to make.

Catan has been reworked into a successful two-player variant and can extend to a six-player epic with expansion packs. There are versions set in the Game Of Thrones universe, featuring unique mechanics and characters, and others that take the pastoral fantasy off the world and into the galaxy.

Here, Empire takes you through the best versions of Catan available today, whether you’re a hardened Catan pioneer or just setting foot on its beachy shores for the first time.


The Best Catan Board Games

Catan1 of 9


The perfect choice for a newcomer or a hardcore player who has worn their copy to dust. This is the original base Catan game, which sees three to four players vying for resources on the island of Catan. The instruction booklet has all the information you need to get started, and a few bonus layouts that will help keep things fresh when you’ve mastered the basics.

Players: 3 to 4 | Playtime: 45-60 mins

Rivals For Catan Deluxe2 of 9

Rivals For Catan Deluxe

Remixed for two players, Rivals For Catan replaces the traditional hex board with square cards, which are played horizontally across the playing surface. Reducing players down to two has the game take on a more intimately hostile hue, with players attempting to build an intellectual and mightier civilisation using building types, such as Abbeys and Markets and character-based Hero cards.

The Deluxe version of Rivals adds more gameplay options into the mix, with three expansions, each exploring a different age of the settlements – for example, Enlightenment or Darkness - and adding new cards into the deck.

We don’t want to be controversial, but we’d understand if you found this version to be even better than the base game.

Players: 2 | Playtime: 45-60 mins

Catan 5-6 Player Extension3 of 9

Catan 5-6 Player Extension

This extension to the base game allows you to gather more faces around the table, bumping the total player count from four to six. This is achieved by adding more hex tiles to the board, increasing its size and the number of resources available. Naturally, by adding some more settlers into the game, playtime is also increased.

Note: 5-6 player extension packs are also available for other expansion packs and standalone titles.

Players: 3-6 | Playtime: 60-120 mins

Catan Seafarers Expansion4 of 9

Catan Seafarers Expansion

The original Catan expansion pack, first published as Seafarers of Catan, is a swashbuckling addition to the base game. Rather than adding to the Catan land mass, Seafarers takes place over a series of islands separated by an ocean. Freshly equipped with ships, players must create new shipping lanes to stake dominance over the board – but watch out for that pesky pirate.

Included in Seafarers is a scenario in which your oceanic exploration is troubled by fog – each move revealing new hex tiles, rather than being able to see the region layout all at once. This is a fine example of remixed rules and provides a charming experience of how scenarios can change the Catan gameplay in ever-fresh ways.

Players: 3-4 (5-6 expansion available) | Playtime: 60-120 mins

Catan Cities & Knights Expansion5 of 9

Catan Cities & Knights Expansion

The non-combative gameplay of the base Catan game is out of the window here – barbarians are at the gates, and the cities need defending. By introducing new commodities, city titles and the knights required to protect them, this expansion represents the stresses that successful settlements bring. As a player, you might be wealthier, but the dangers are far greater.

As well as adding to the base game, Cities & Knights is an expansion often required by further expansions.

Players: 3-4 (5-6 expansion available) | Playtime: 60 mins

Catan Starfarers 6 of 9

Catan Starfarers

While technically a standalone reimagining of the classic Catan, Starfarers has little in common with its pastoral namesake. Set in the year 2700 AD, players set out in motherships to uncover resources across the galaxy. Alongside this, players can encounter aliens, set up trading routes and upgrade their mothership. It’s nothing like the Catan that most players know and love, but it is still a worthy game for any collection, offering great replay value thanks to its variable map.

Players: 3-4 (5-6 expansion available) | Playtime: 60 mins

A Game Of Thrones Catan Standalone7 of 9

A Game Of Thrones Catan Standalone

A standalone in which Catan's gameplay meets the world of George R.R. Martin’s A Game Of Thrones. Taking inspiration from Martin’s fantasy novels, this standalone board game casts the players as members of the Night’s Watch as they work to expand their infrastructure and hold over the north. Recruit guards, build keeps and be alert for attacks from the Wildlings. Where’s the competition, you ask, between fellow members of the Watch? Well, the winner of this game takes the mantle of Lord Commander – Jeor Mormont is watching.  

Players: 3-4 (5-6 expansion available) | Playtime: 60-90 mins

Catan: The Dawn Of Humankind Standalone8 of 9

Catan: The Dawn Of Humankind Standalone

Classic Catan has you striving for new lands as a settler, already blessed with the means to produce food, build roads and create cities. The Dawn Of Humankind takes it further than this – about 30,000 years further. In this standalone game, Catan’s gameplay rules are put to task by the player as they strive to have their branch of the human species branch out from their ancestral home. Gathering food is only part of the equation – migrating to new lands, developing new technologies and striving for the first civilisation are the aims of the game.

Players: 3-4 (5-6 expansion available) | Playtime: 90 mins

Catan 3D Edition9 of 9

Catan 3D Edition

This edition of one is for the Catan elite. It’s the base game of Catan plus the Cities & Knights expansion, albeit with a new dimension – the third dimension. The edition features painting resin hex titles to represent resources, in addition to enhanced settlement pieces. A characterful choice for any Catan collector.

Players: 3 to 4 | Playtime: 45-60 mins

About Catan

In Catan, players race to settle a resource-rich island faster than their opponents to claim the win. Echoing this in-game goal, the board game has spread its influence throughout the world, dominating store shelves and topping bestseller lists. Over 32 million Catan games have sold over its near-30-year existence, and this fervour shows no sign of dwindling.

Designed by Klaus Teuber and first published in 1995 as Settlers Of Catan, the board game follows a straightforward premise based on strategic gameplay. Throughout the game, three to four players manage their resources to build an interconnected grip of roadways, settlements, ports and cities. In exchange for establishing new communities and infrastructure, players are rewarded with points – typically, the first to 10 wins the game.

If you think that sounds simple, that’s because it is. The rules of Catan are easy to pick up, meaning that, unlike other strategy board games, newcomers can start laying claim to territory quickly. However, like all good board games, simplicity belies the potential for mastery and complexity.

Once you’re an experienced Catan player, games pass by at pace, twisting and turning as all involved attempt to see their best-laid plans through to the end. While some strategy games, like Risk, Scythe or Terraforming Mars, can take anywhere from two to five hours to complete, games of Catan can be wrapped up in 30 to 45 minutes, meaning you can fit a few games in an evening, or just have a quick session.


When you open the Catan instruction manual for the first time, you are guided through the setup and rules. This is the basic Catan game which can be replayed time and time again without issue. However, once you’ve mastered the game, you might want to add some spice to the experience. This is where scenarios come in.

Scenarios are twists on the basic gameplay and can be minor or significant. Some pre-built examples are provided in the original instruction booklet to give you a flavour of what they offer. Paid-for official scenarios are available too - for a small fee, they provide you with additional pieces and new rules, for example adding oil springs to the island. Fan-made options are also available on any number of internet forums.


Catan is a fully self-contained experience – if you want it to be. There are many expansions, from those that bump up the player limit from four to six to others that add more islands, land masses and player pieces to extend and diversify the gameplay.

Note that a few expansions require stacking. For example, Catan: Treasures, Dragons & Adventurers requires you to have the base game and both the Seafarers and Cities & Knights expansions. A little complicated, maybe, but worth it.

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