Looking to expand on your next game night by introducing some new rules and scenarios to the game of Catan? The Settlers of Catan has four major expansions that each add unique rules, mechanics and game pieces. (As well as a hundred spin-offs, add-ons and other goodies, but we won’t get into that). But where should you start and what’s the best Settlers of Catan expansion?
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How Many Catan Expansions Are There?
The Settlers of Catan has 4 main expansions that can be added to the base game; Seafarers, Cities & Knights, Traders & Barbarians, and Explorers & Pirates. Beyond the major expansions there’s also a slew of smaller add-ons and alternate scenarios. As of the writing of this article, BGG lists 87 add-ons, expansions and alternate scenarios, and that’s without even including all the spin-offs. We’re going to be sticking to the 4 major expansions, but if there’s interest, we’ll continue to document and rank the rest of them – just let us know in the comments below.
What’s The Best Settlers of Catan Expansion? (Ranked)
Before we dive in, we should mention that our ranking might not match up with what your group likes the most. Some of these expansions are very different and might appeal to different people.
#1) Cities & Knights (The Best Catan Expansion)
What does Cities & Knights add to Catan?
- 36 commodity cards (coin, paper, and cloth)
- 54 progress cards (trade, politics, and science)
- 6 victory point cards
- 3 wooden metropolis pieces
- 3 metropolis tokens
- 1 wooden merchant figure
- 1 custom event die
- 1 wooden barbarian ship
- 24 wooden knights
- 12 city walls
- 4 development flip-charts (to track city improvements)
- 1 tile to track barbarian fleet
The Cities & Knights expansion brings Catan into a new era. The prosperity of the island begins to expand the cities, but not without consequence. Wild Barbarians begin to plan attacks on the wealthy cities and it’s up to the players to work together to fend off the hordes. The reason we places this as the best Catan expansion is that it adds a lot of new layers of gameplay to Catan without over-complicating it. A great next-step for players who are getting a little board of the base game.
The core mechanics of the game remain the same. Players are still battling to see who can settle the land of Catan and working to earn Victory Points. At the same time, players must move their knight tokens around the board and try to keep the Barbarians at bay. If they fail their cities might soon crumble and revert back to settlements. Cities can be upgraded with new commodities like coins and cloth, in order to further advance their civilization. Cities & Knights is a careful balance of defense and economic gains.
- Knights addition adds a fun defense aspect to the game
- Game is lengthened to 13 victory points
- New commodities and upgrades mean more strategic decisions
- Can be tough to keep track of everything going on
- Tougher to learn for new players
#2) Seafarers Expansion for Catan
What does Seafarers add?
- 60 wooden ships
- 1 pirate ship
- 50 Catan chits
- 10 number tokens
- 10 harbor tokens
- Color rules & scenarios
- 6 frame pieces
- 19 sea hexes
- 11 unique terrain tiles
Next on our list is the Seafarers expansion. Out of all the expansions, this one adds the least in terms of new gameplay and objectives. Which isn’t always a bad thing if you’re just looking to expand on Catans base gameplay.
Seafarers takes the island of catan out to sea with the introduction of water tiles and boats. Players can embark on a journey to new islands through shipping routes and claim islands before their opponents. Also included are Gold rivers and fields, which are highly valuable as they can grants resources of the players choosing. Seafarers also comes with a number of scenarios for unique map layouts, rule, and play restrictions. Overall this expansion really improves Catan’s replay value.
- Simple addition that doesn’t complicate the game
- Scenarios add replay value
- Larger maps often lead to longer games
- Doesn’t add a whole lot of new depth to the game
- Smallest expansion on the list
#3) Explorers & Pirates
What does Explorers & Pirates add?
- 16 harbor settlements
- 36 crews
- 12 ships
- 8 settlers
- 4 pirate ships
- 6 pirate lair tokens
- 6 fish hauls
- 24 spice sacks
- 76 gold coins
- 6 gold fields
- 6 fish shoal hexes
- 6 spice hexes.
- 12 terrain hexes
- 15 frame pieces
- 12 markers
- 3 mission cards
- 3 victory point cards
- 4 new building costs cards
Next up is one of biggest expansions that Catan has to offer, Explorers & Pirates. This expansion adds a touch of danger to the settling exhibition. As the game progresses you will quickly run out of resource spaces and need to embark on a journey to new lands.
Pirate lairs are scattered about the board that can be pillaged for valuable resources. Fishing spots are also places at sea, which offer unique rewards if you can bring your catch back to the main island. This expansion also comes with 5 scenarios, so player’s can choose what type of game they want to play.
- One of the largest Catan expansions
- Adds multiple ways to gain resources
- Scenarios allow players to pick their favorite game mode
- Can take multiple play sessions to grasp the different concepts
- Games tend to take a lot longer than desired
#4) Catan: Traders & Barbarians Expansion
What does Traders and Barbarians add?
- 24 knights
- 12 bridges
- 4 wagons
- 36 barbarians
- 22 camels
- 120 cards
- 17 terrain tiles, fishing ground tiles, and sea frame pieces
- 40 gold coin counters
- 1 special victory point card ‘Harbormaster’
- 4 special tiles ‘Wealthiest Settler’ and ‘Poor Settler’
- 21 trade tokens
- 36 commodity tokens
- 30 fish tokens
Last but not least is the Traders & Barbarians expansion. This expansion tells the story of Catan, taking players through 5 scenarios from early fishing villages to bustling trade metropolises. It takes the classic game of Catan and take adds a lot of variation.
If you’re looking for try out new game mechanics and rules, then this expansion might be the one you’re looking for. Each scenario offers a completely different experience.
- Scenario 1: The Fishermen Of Catan. In this scenario players race to gain resources through catching and selling their fish.
- Scenario 2: Rivers of Catan. Players fight for key spots near rivers to best suit their cities and settlements.
- Scenario 3: Caravans of Catan. In this scenario nomads are found throughout catan looking to trade valuable resources.
- Scenario 4: Barbarian attacks. As Catan’s prosperity grows it becomes the target of ruthless barbarians. Players train their knights to defend their cities.
- Scenario 5: Traders & Barbarians. The barbarian attacks have left Catan broken. Players must rebuild their settlements and roads and restore prosperity to Catan.
- Adds 5 completely different game modes
- Allows players to experience the story of Catan
- Rebuilds the game more than it expands it
- Doesn’t mesh well with other Catan expansions
Disagree with our list of the best Settlers of Catan expansions? Let us know in the comments below what your list would look like, and feel free to share your thoughts about any of the smaller add-ons for Settlers of Catan, too.