Picture this, if you will — you’re sitting on your couch on a Saturday night, drink in hand, surrounded by friends. It’s a modest gathering (remember those?), but you’re having a great time and aren’t quite ready for the night to end. You pull out a board game — something that won’t take too long but guarantees a fun time for everyone involved.
Settlers of Catan may have come to mind right away, and for good reason. Modern board games are sweeping tables across the world, and Catan has become a household name as a result. But what do you do when you’ve grown tired of trading sheep and competing for the longest road? How do you find something new that still hits the spot?
That’s what we here at High Ground Gaming are for. We’re breaking out of our video gaming shell to bring you a list of tried and true board game recommendations. For our tabletop debut, we’re rounding up the best board games like Catan.
What Kind of Game Is Catan?
Settlers of Catan belongs to a genre of board games called Eurogames, which prioritize strategy over strife. Although you are in direct competition with other players at the table, the focus is often less on eliminating the other players and more on steadily collecting points that allow you to meet the game’s win condition(s).
Eurogames are commonly characterized by some version or combination of the following mechanics:
- Tile Placement: placing physical components or resources on the board
- Area Control: using tile placement to claim strategic areas on the board
- Resource Management: claiming, spending, and/or trading in-game resources
- Worker Placement/Role Selection: choosing from a specific set of actions to complete on a given turn
Using these mechanics, players take turns until a given trigger is met, then points are tallied to determine who wins. Most Eurogames will name only one winner, but some include conditions that allow multiple players to win under different criteria.
Best Board Games Like Catan
As you can see, there are a lot of ways for a game to be “like Catan.” To help you better navigate our recommendations, we’ve dedicated the first half of this list to Eurogames that share more than a few gameplay mechanics with Catan or otherwise offer a similar gameplay experience.
Without further ado, here are our picks for the best board games if you like Settlers of Catan!
1. Ticket to Ride
The best board game like Catan overall
Designer: Alan R. Moon | Players: 2–5 | Duration: 30–60min | Difficulty: 2/5
Ticket to Ride is a game about railroad travel. The board shows a map of the United States with major cities connected by multicolored train routes — the goal is to claim these routes by turning in cards of the same color, racking up points as you go. Points are earned by claiming routes (the longer the route, the more points it’s worth) and connecting specific cities as outlined by the game’s Destination Tickets. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? It is! Ticket to Ride features the tile placement and area control mechanics of Settlers of Catan without any of that pesky, complicated resource management. There’s still strategy involved, of course — if you like the part of Catan that involves placing settlements and roads for maximum endgame profit, you’ll probably like Ticket to Ride.
The best replayable board game like Catan
Designer: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede | Players: 2–5 | Duration: 30–45min | Difficulty: 2/5
Carcassonne is a beautiful game in which you simultaneously develop and lay claim to the rapidly-expanding landscape of the French countryside. It’s exquisite in its simplicity — tiles display one or more features (fields, cities, roads, etc.) and are lined up by matching these features to an existing tile on the board (fields connect to fields, cities to cities, etc.). After laying a tile, you can claim one of its features and earn points as the landscape continues to fill out. At the end of the game, final points are tallied, and the player with the most points wins.
Carcassonne utilizes many of the same mechanics as Catan, though the interpretation is different. You claim pieces of the landscape as it unfolds (rather than forming strategies from a completed map), and the points you earn are a little more nebulous. We consider it to be the most replayable Eurogamebecause no one strategy will work the same way every time you play, and the expansions only add more features to develop and claim. Your approach, much like the game board itself, must evolve and adapt in real-time to stay ahead. If you enjoy the tile placement aspects of Catan but are looking for simpler, in-the-moment gameplay, consider checking out Carcassonne!
3. The Castles of Burgundy
The best board game like Catan for small groups
Designer: Stefan Feld | Players: 2–4 | Duration: 30–90min | Difficulty: 3/5
The Castles of Burgundy takes the “Settlers” part of Catan to its logical next step. In this game, the goal is to use strategic actions and tile placement to build the most successful estate. The exact structure of the game’s turns, rounds, and phases can seem a little intimidating at first, but the gameplay isn’t actually as complicated as it looks. In short, each tile has different effects that earn you victory points and/or resources when you place them, and careful strategy can net you a few extra victory points at the end. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
The tile placement and resource management elements feel familiar to fans of Catan, but also welcome newcomers with the gratification of well-played turns. Markers let you tally up your victory points in real time, and there’s nothing quite like racking up points with a particularly good strategy.
It might take a while to get into the game, but hitting your stride leads to rewarding turns time and time again. It’s certainly more complicated than Catan, but not in a bad way. It feels more involved, like stepping into one of your settlements and using your hard-earned resources not just for trade, but for creating a growing and prospering town.
The best board game like Catan for mid-size groups
Designer: Mac Gerdts | Players: 2–5 | Duration: 100min | Difficulty: 3/5
Concordia, like its name may suggest to you mythology buffs out there, is about settling the Roman Empire. You’ll travel by land and sea to various cities across central and southern Europe, trading resources and building homes to amass victory points. Personality Cards make the process a bit easier, giving you strategic bonuses based on the card’s role and the Roman god it’s associated with. At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points wins.
The game’s tile placement and resource management elements will look familiar to fans of Catan, but even newbies are bound to enjoy the variety introduced by the Personality Cards. Their dedicated roles streamline gameplay strategy in a way that gives players more control — it feels like you earn the benefits you gain from playing a given card, rather than simply catching a lucky break from a helpful dice roll.
The best board game like Catan for large groups
Designer: Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone | Players: 2–6 | Duration: 90min | Difficulty: 3/5
If you love wine and growing a small business into a flourishing venture, then Viticulture is the game for you. The last entry on our list involves building a successful winery from the ground up. Use your workers and resources carefully to plant, harvest, and produce different types of wine, earning victory points by fulfilling wine orders. The player who has fulfilled the most orders (thereby earning the most points) by the end wins the game.
Viticulture differs from our other recommendations in that it utilizes the role selection mechanic. There’s more of an emphasis on the management aspects of the game — not only will you need to find ways of earning resources, you’ll also need to use those resources carefully to balance your planting, harvesting, and production throughout the game. If you enjoy resource management and had a good experience with other titles on this list, Viticulture is well worth trying out.
Board Games With Mechanics Like Catan
Now, this second list is a little different. Rather than recommending games that remind us of Catan, we’ve collected titles that share one or two mechanics but offer a completely different gameplay experience. Catan does many things well, but sometimes you just want to take a cool mechanic and run with it. We hope this list will help you branch out and try new types of games, especially if there’s a specific part of Catan you’d like to explore in more depth!
The best board game like Catan for beginners
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg | Players: 2–7 | Duration: 45min | Difficulty: 1/5
Bohnanza is a simple game about planting and harvesting beans. That description makes it seem like a bean version of Viticulture, but that’s not the case. It’s a card game, and trading is a big part of gameplay. You want to profit as much as possible off your beans, but there are limits to planting and harvesting that require careful strategy. Trading beans with other players is a great way of getting the most out of your turn and gives everyone a chance to find an advantage.
Bohnanza is a great game for beginners who like competitive but fair gameplay. It incorporates the resource trading element of Catan without the need for detailed resource management, and keeps its other mechanics simple. It’s also much faster to set up and play, so if you’re looking for a game that’s quick to learn and easy to play, consider giving Bohnanza a shot!
2. Dominant Species
The best board game like Catan for advanced players
Designer: Chad Jensen | Players: 2–6 | Duration: 120–240min | Difficulty: 4/5
Maybe you’re a seasoned veteran of Eurogames and are looking for something a little more complicated than planting crops and building houses. If you don’t mind a challenge (and a hefty time investment), Dominant Species is worth checking out. You control a species of animal in the years before Earth is consumed by an ice age, and must fight for dominance in order to survive. Through the game’s planning and execution phases, you’ll claim territory across the board and do what you can to improve your species’ chances. At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points wins.
It bears repeating that this game is not for the faint of heart — you’re sitting down for a good 2–4 hours of focused strategy. It’s no quick and simple party game, but it promises intrigue and intricate fun for experienced board game aficionados.
The best tile-placing game like Catan
Designer: Ted Alspach | Players: 1–4 | Duration: 90min | Difficulty: 3/5
If you like the part of Catan that involves laying claim to environment tiles and collecting their respective resources, you might consider giving Suburbia a try. As its name suggests, the goal is to build a flourishing suburb by laying out a steadily-sprawling array of tiles representing different features (factories, parks, etc.). Tile placement is important, as it helps manage your income and reputation — income is used to purchase new tiles, and reputation increases your population. At the end of the game, the player with the highest population wins.
The game also includes additional bonus cards that you can use to guide your strategy. Achieving the goals outlined by your cards can give you extra points at the end, so keep an eye on your setup!
The best worker placement game like Catan
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg | Players: 1–5 | Duration: 30–150min | Difficulty: 5/5
Have you ever wanted to be a 15th-century peasant carving out a humble living in rural Europe? Agricola’s got you covered — no time machine required. In this game, you’ll collect resources to build yourself a little farm, working hard to keep up with the demands of your ever-growing family.
Agricola features a lot of things to do and very few actions in which to do them. You’ll need to collect resources for construction, build fences, grow crops, raise animals, cook food, etc., all with the minimal actions available to you and your in-game spouse. Expanding your family is a good way to get more work done, but you have to expand your house before you can start having kids. You’re also limited by the Action Cards you have available, which means that following a clear strategy is a must if you want to stay ahead.
Who knew that the 9–5 grind could be so hard even in a board game?
5. Terraforming Mars
The best resource management game like Catan
Designer: Jacob Fryxelius | Players: 1–5 | Duration: 120min | Difficulty: 3/5
Terraforming Mars is a game for space geeks and board game geeks alike. The goal is to terraform Mars (obviously) and ensure that your corporation is top dog when the planet becomes habitable. Spend resources to steadily expand the planet’s viable terrain, fulfilling the global parameters and racking up your points until the game’s over. The player with the highest Terraform Rating and the greatest number of victory points wins!
The game utilizes both tile placement and resource management, but more emphasis is placed on the latter mechanic. There are six different resources to track, all of which go toward terraforming and putting your corporation in the lead.
Board Games Like Catan: Can You Do the Catan-Can?
Thanks for checking out our list of the best board games like Settlers of Catan! We hope you’ve found a few recommendations that you’d like to try out. If you have other suggestions to share with us, please feel free to drop them in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe for more roundups like this!