We have enjoyed Catan for many years so when I am asked by players ‘What expansion should I get?’
Ok… so I am not going to tell you quite yet, first some context.
It has been 25 years since Settlers of Catan, now Catan Board Game transformed the board gaming world. Some of the reasons for its success are down to the rules being simple to explain. Also, the theme is not about waging war on other players. Instead, it is about settling the island of Catan and developing it.
There have been over 31 expansions, editions, and extensions created for the game.
The best way to think about these is that expansions add new rules or game elements to the original Catan game. These create a new game experience yet keep most of the original game. So, these will need you to own the original Catan game to play.
But Editions only change the setting or theme of Catan for example Catan Star Trek Edition . The changes are to the way it looks, not how it plays. When you have played Catan, Catan Star Trek Edition will feel remarkably familiar.
Editions are complete games in themselves and do not need the original game to play.
Catan Star Trek Edition even has its own expansion Catan Star Trek Federation Space Expansion
Other Catan editions include Catan Board Game Starfarers Edition which creates star faring races that explore a Catan galaxy.
Then there is Catan A Game of Thrones Edition which focuses on the Nights Watch and their struggle to keep the North safe.
Another Catan Edition is Catan Junior Edition which is for kids as young as six.
Other types of expansions are more like extensions of the game. Because they either replace a single game element or enlarge a specific game component of Catan. So, allowing even more variety in the original Catan game play.
Catan and a lot of its editions are for up to 4 players. One of the most useful extensions to Catan in recent years has been the
Catan 5 & 6 Expansion player’s sets you can get. So, allowing more of your friends and family to play.
These are not only for the original Catan base game. But also, for the expansions and editions.
Some not only need you to own the original game, but also you need to own the expansion too.
Examples of these extensions are Catan Cities & Knights Expansion extra cards accessories or Catan Traders and Barbarian extra cards accessories which replace only the development cards used in Catan Cities & Knights Expansion and Catan Traders & Barbarians Expansion games.
So, let us look at the Catan expansions.
There are currently four main expansions to the Catan base board game.
CATAN SEAFARES Expansion
In Catan Seafarers Expansion , when setting up the board you create many islands. So Catan becomes part of an archipelago for you to explore. You can have several small islands or choose to have one big island with a few smaller ones too. It is up to you and part of the fun is to create an interesting board.
Then in Seafarers of Catan the race is on to construct ships with wool and wood! Once you have them, then you create sea lanes to the other islands, much like the roads on land.
You will score extra points for building settlements on new islands. So, there is a real incentive to explore. Also, some of the new islands may have the resources you need to develop too.
One of the fun new elements to this expansion is the introduction of the pirate ship. When you roll a seven, now you may either move the robber or the pirate ship. The pirate ship allows you to block sea lanes and steal cards from other players.
Seafarers of Catan takes everything you already love about Catan and enlarges it. Now you have a bigger board and more routes to victory.
What makes Catan Seafarers Expansion so good and so popular?
It is that the sea voyages element of Seafarers is much like building roads in the original game. So, there is no significant new rules or changes which means it is quick to learn. You can still out manoeuvre each other while sailing to new resources as with roads on Catan. This is one to buy when you get a chance.
EXPLORERS & PIRATES Catan Expansion
In Catan Explorers & Pirates you have the option to choose from five new setups or scenarios. These new game elements were created with the original Catan base game in mind. But some of these elements can also play well with the other expansions. Making this Catan Explorers & Pirates a great addition to your Catan library.
Like with Seafarers, there are many islands. But some of these are hidden from you at the start. Therefore, you must explore them to find out what riches they contain. You might even discover a pirate’s lair or native settlement. If you do you may can get exotic spices to bring back. Explorers and Pirates also substitutes cities with ports which provide points. This adds to the nautical theme of this expansion and focuses your development on the coast.
Depending on the set up and scenario, you might find yourself fighting pirates or travelling to the spice islands. Or you could even turn to fishing to make your fortune with this Catan Expansion. If you are looking for more than the Seafarers theme, then this is a great Catan expansion for you.
Catan Explorers & Pirates compliments all the other expansions and gives you more game options. If you want a general upgrade to your Catan game experience. Then this is an ideal addition to your board game library.
CITIES AND KNIGHTS Expansion
The Catan Cities & Knights Expansion again builds on the original game by introducing a great deal of new things. This includes new rules and resources. You are now able to develop your cities and produce Coin, Cloth, and Paper within their walls. Those new goods can then speed up your progress which gives you better access to other cards.
But this newfound wealth does not go unnoticed. Barbarians see the opportunity that your rich land offers. They are intent on raiding your settlements and cities for your resources. If you do not drive them from your land. Then you will find your cities in ruins, reduced to no more than settlements.
In Catan Cities & Knights Expansion you can raise an army of knights. So, with their help you will be able to push back the barbarian horde and you will be able to secure victory.
As you can tell, this expansion builds on the idea of the development cards Knights in the original game. In the first game Knights could drive away the robber from your land. Here they are much more active in protecting your resources.
Although this Catan expansion does introduce a military theme. It is against a third party and not the other players. As an expansion it brings a mundane element of the original game to life in a great way.
This is a great Catan expansion to enhance the strategic elements of the original game. A must buy.
TRADERS & BARBARIANS Expansion
Catan Traders & Barbarians Expansion turns inland with five new game elements. It includes creating trade routes for glass and other new trade goods.
In this expansion the Barbarians are no longer content to plunder like in Cities & Knights. Now they come to colonize the island for themselves. So, not only do they want to steal the crops but now they can take over your land too.
If you ever want to move on from Cities and Knights with something new, then you should look at this one.
Another option for this is Catan Legend to the Conquerors an extension to the Catan City & Knights expansion.
This is a new type of larger extension which in effect is an expansion of an expansion, you must smile at this!
It again adds to the military theme of Catan Cities & Knights expansion. It is set at a time when the settlers of Catan are in imminent danger of invasion from a foreign power.
You must together defend Catan against the foreign invaders. It will take real strategic thinking as the new game mechanics challenge you more than ever.
In the defence of Catan, you now have artillery and other cavalry units. So, your knights are not alone in their desperate attempt to push back the invaders. The only way to win is to work with the other players. So, introducing a cooperative element to the game for the first time.
This then offers Catan enthusiasts many new and exciting game elements. It is the most intense challenge for the designers of Settlers of Catan so far.
So back to the original question ‘What Catan expansion should I get?’
I say... “Catan Seafarers Expansion to start with”.
Well for three good reasons.
1) It is a complete expansion rather than an extension of game.
2) It introduces shipbuilding and sea voyages. Which is simple to learn even if you are new to the game. The sea voyages element of Seafarers is much like building roads in the original game.
3) It is great value for money, it will keeping you having fun for hours and hours.
After you have added Seafarers, then the next purchase you make should depend on what elements you like about the original game.
If you like the trading and sea voyages, then I would suggest Catan Explorers & Pirates expansion.
But if you wish to use those large armies, you have been building but never taken into battle, then Catan Cities & Knights Expansion is the one for you followed on by the Catan Legend to the Conquerors.
But if you want the bit of everything then Catan Traders & Barbarians Expansion is the one to get.
Check out some of our other blogs on Catan below