Carcassonne vs Catan: Which One Is Better?

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Trying to decide between getting Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan can be tough. Both of these games have had a significant impact on modern board gaming. Carcassonne, which came out in 2000, is the more recent game of the two. It is also credited with giving rise to the meeple which is used in a ton of popular games today. 

Catan was released in 1995 but ushered in a wave of modern board games. It was also one of the first Eurogames to gain popularity outside of Europe. It sold over 22 million copies and has been translated into 30 languages. 

Catan
Carcassonne
Preview
Catan Board Game (Base Game) | Family Board Game | Board Game for Adults and Family | Adventure...
Carcassonne Board Game (BASE GAME) | Family Board Game | Board Game for Adults and Family | Strategy...
Player Count
3-4 Players
2-5 Players
Play Time
60-120 Minutes
30-45 Minutes
Age Group
10+
7+
Difficulty
Medium
Easy
Prime Benefits
Catan
Preview
Catan Board Game (Base Game) | Family Board Game | Board Game for Adults and Family | Adventure...
Player Count
3-4 Players
Play Time
60-120 Minutes
Age Group
10+
Difficulty
Medium
Prime Benefits
Amazon Button
Carcassonne
Preview
Carcassonne Board Game (BASE GAME) | Family Board Game | Board Game for Adults and Family | Strategy...
Player Count
2-5 Players
Play Time
30-45 Minutes
Age Group
7+
Difficulty
Easy
Prime Benefits
Amazon Button
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Which Should You Buy?

Either of these games would be considered staples of a board game collection. Figuring out which one to get first comes down to which one seems like it would be more fun with the people you’re going to play it with.

Before we get into what makes these games different, let’s go over what they have in common and why you would want to get either of them.

How are they similar?

Both of these games are Eurogames that have achieved a spectacular amount of popularity and widespread appeal. Being classified as a euro-game means they have a few things in common:

  • They don’t have player elimination
  • There is no words or verbal communication involved
  • Low amount of luck involved

The games are also both very easy to learn, teaching a new player is pretty quick and easy compared to heavier games. Along with that, these games also both have expansions that allow for more players. We’ll get into that in the expansions section below.

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How is the gameplay different?

With all of the similarities that these games have, there are still a litany of differences between the two. For instance, Carcassonne plays really well with 2-3 people whereas Catan can’t be played with 2 players and really needs 4 for the best experience.

Another big divergence between these games is in the mechanics they use during the game. Here are the mechanics for each of the games:

Carcassonne MechanicsCatan Mechanics
Area Control
Map Building
Tile Placement
Dice Rolling
Trading
Random Production
Network and Route Building
Player Negotiation

So these games don’t really share any mechanics at all. Catan focuses on building settlements up while acquiring resources. On the other hand, Carcassonne’s base mechanic is building a map while deciding what parts to control.

As for simplicity, I think Carcassonne wins that battle. The rules are so simple that they can be taught in under 5 minutes. However, Catan isn’t exactly a complex game. It has a little more complexity with how turns are played but is extremely simple as well.

The strategy is a key part of both of these games, although I would give the strategic edge to Catan. There are player negotiation and trading in the game that can make strategy key. Carcassonne requires some amount of strategy to play but there is much less player interaction.

It’s also nice to see the game played to get an idea of which would be better for your group.  Tabletop series with Wil Wheaton has some great videos of both of these games. Check it out:

Replayability

There’s no shortage of replayability with both of these games. The amount of strategy that is involved in each of them keeps them fresh even after playing them a ton.

Carcassonne even comes with a couple of mini-expansions that can be added on after the you’ve got the base game down. The first is “the river” which changes the starting layout of the game. The second is “the bishop” which adds a different type of meeple which can be used in the game. These are small expansions that don’t add much to the game but it’s neat that they

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Expansions

There are plenty of expansions for each of these games. Carcassonne has 10 full expansions and another 12 mini expansions. With a total of 22 expansions for Carcassonne, this game can stay fresh for a very long time. This is good news if you plan on getting hooked on a single board game and playing it often.

Unfortunately, some of these expansions are pretty low quality and have horrendous reviews from the board game community. Check out this article if you want to know which expansions are worth getting.

Catan, on the other hand, has 6 main expansions. They expansions mostly add new mechanics and one even increases the maximum player count to 6 players. Of course, adding more players can make a big difference but the new mechanics added really freshen the game up.

Although there are less expansions for Catan, the expansions are high quality and will add a lot of replayability to the game.

Carcassonne vs. Catan: Conclusion

Either of these games will be a great start or addition to your collection. In my opinion, Carcassonne is the clear winner since it is a simpler game to teach and plays better with fewer people (since I usually only play with 2-3 people).

If you play with a larger group or are fine teaching a game to your group, go with Catan. It’s a fantastic game and a staple of board game history.

CatanCarcassonne
Pro’s• Player Interaction
• Lots of Strategy
• Less Luck Involved
• Very Simple
• Great Replayability
• Quick Games
Con’s• More Complex
• Longer Games
• Best with 2-3 Players
• Little Player Interaction

You absolutely can’t go wrong with either of these great games. Picking the one that sounded the most fun is definitely the way to go!

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