If you play Settlers of Catan (or simply Catan) regularly, then you’ve probably wondered if buying an expansion is worth the money. The answer is… a resounding yes! Catan expansion packs are a surefire way to add a breath of fresh air to a tried and tested classic.
For those who are unfamiliar with Catan, it is a resource management game in which players have to strategically build settlements and roads using the resources they earn through the roll of the dice.
Players can earn points by building more settlements and then upgrading them into cities, as well as through other means, such as the longest road, the largest army, and so on. The first to reach 10 victory points wins! To learn more, check out our full review of Catan.
Now, Catan in itself is already a ton of fun. However, if you find that you’re looking for a way to change things up, expansions are definitely the way to go because each expansion pack introduces new pieces, new mechanics, and new rules, and even new scenarios.
To help find the best one for you and your game night buddies, here’s a list of the best Catan expansion packs according to Dicey Goblin!
4 Best Catan Expansion Packs
|Rank||Expansion Name||Review Rating||Est. Time to Play|
|1||Catan: Seafarers||4.8||60-120 min.|
|2||Catan: Cities & Knights||4.3||90-120 min.|
|3||Catan: Traders & Barbarians||4.7||60-120 min.|
|4||Catan: Oil Springs||4.5||45-90 min.|
*Ratings are from Amazon & Walmart at the time of publication and are subject to change.
Catan: Seafarers Expansion
Seafarers was the first expansion pack that Klaus Teuber, the creator of Catan, introduced to the market. The island of Catan can admittedly feel a little… small. If you’ve ever wondered what was beyond the ocean surrounding the island, then this expansion pack is for you. Catan: Seafarers introduces some new game mechanics, such as ships, pirates, and gold rivers or fields.
As far as Catan expansion rules go, the rules in Seafarers are easy to digest for the seasoned Catan player. In this expansion pack, ships act as roads between the mainland of Catan and any separate mini-islands.
Pirates are now in play, along with the infamous robber – but you may only use or chase away one or the other. Lastly, gold rivers or fields allow you to take any resource if you have a settlement built adjacent to its hex tile, and two of any different resources if you have a city!
Another exciting thing to note is that once you’ve mastered the rules and are looking for another challenge, Seafarers already offers that next step by providing scenarios for gameplay, some of which have a twist on the rules.
Each scenario will show you how to build your map and will describe the new intricacies of play. An example would be “Heading to New Shores”, which awards extra victory points as soon as you colonize untouched islands. There is also “Fog Island”which hides the new hex tiles so they remain hidden until you reach them. These scenarios are sure to add an even deeper layer of complexity to your board game night.
Why We Like It
- The new rules are easy to understand.
- The new pieces add interesting game dynamics.
- Scenarios make for high replayability.
- It’s a good introductory Catan expansion.
Catan: Seafarers is a fantastic expansion pack because it’s easy to understand and yet offers great complexity by providing scenarios for gameplay.
Catan: Cities & Knights Expansion
Cities & Knights is basically Catan on steroids. If Seafarers is all about the gentle introduction of new elements into the game, Cities & Knights almost completely overhauls the game by adding things like commodities, city improvements, barbarians, and metropolises. Even the dice rolls have changed!
Going by its name alone, Cities & Knights places a greater importance on… you guessed it: your cities and knights.
Cities now produce commodities (not just resources), which are coins, cloth, and paper. They are used to create improvements in the city for areas of science, politics, and trade. City improvements can also be attained through the new event die. Once your city has been improved to a metropolis, that’s a whopping 4 victory points for you!
Well, what about knights? Knights serve two functions in this expansion: chasing away the robber, as per usual, and defending the island of Catan from barbarians.
These barbarians will reduce cities back into settlements if there aren’t enough knights on the board, so it’s best to build up your armies quick!
Because of the new ways to earn points in this expansion, players must accrue 13 victory points to win a game with the Cities & Knights expansion.
If you’ve been a Catan player for a long time and feel like you can now play it with your eyes closed, Cities & Knights would definitely be one of the best Catan expansion packs for you because it makes the game feel like new again.
Why We Like It
- This expansion makes Catan feel completely different.
- More complex rules make the game more challenging.
- Everyone must band together to repel the barbarians.
Cities & Knights is the ideal expansion for players looking to immerse themselves in a completely new version of Catan because it adds not only new pieces but also new ways to win.
Catan: Traders & Barbarians Expansion
Torn between Seafarers and Cities & Knights? You might just want to consider Traders & Barbarians instead! Why so? Well, Traders & Barbarians is the perfect balance between both, and the best part about it is that you can customize your Catan game exactly how you want it.
Traders & Barbarians divides its added value into 2 categories: variants and scenarios.
Variants are best described as small new additions to the game – nothing too confusing for seasoned Catan players, but still enough to give the game a little something extra.
Examples of these are: the “friendly robber” (a.k.a Rob de Hood), where the robber may not steal from anyone with less than 2 victory points. Another would be the use of event cards rather than dice rolls for the entirety of the game.
Scenarios are for players who want to play an almost entirely different version of Catan, where a premise sets the events of the game in motion. There are 2 scenarios available: the first is the titular “Traders & Barbarians”, where players must shuttle cargo back and forth between locations in exchange for gold.
Gold is a precious resource because it can be used to use your opponents’ roads and to buy more resources. However, watch out – barbarians along the way will nick those coins.
The “Barbarian Attack” scenario plays like a tower defense game, in which players must race to deploy knights to defeat and capture barbarians. Barbarians can render settlements and cities useless, and captured barbarians are worth half a victory point each, so it’s best to muster the troops fast.
With all that said, it’s apparent why Traders & Barbarians has made it to the list of must-buy Catan expansions. It’s really got everything for everyone at the game night table, whether they’re a casual Catan player or a hardcore expert.
Why We Like It
- Everyone can enjoy this expansion regardless of experience.
- You can customize the difficulty level.
- You can mix and match scenarios and variants.
Traders & Barbarians is truly the “one size fits all” of Catan expansions because players can choose how slight or drastic to make the changes to the base game.
Catan: Oil Springs
Environmental issues in board gaming? Yes, you read that right. Based on its name, Oil Springs introduces oil as a resource in deserts and/or fields. Players can trade oil for resources at the very low price of 2 pieces of oil for whatever other resource they’d like.
However, the use of oil has its downsides – whenever a player uses it, they also roll an event die, where there are two possibilities: flooding or the destruction of resources.
During floods, coastal buildings are destroyed: cities are reduced to settlements, whereas settlements are completely wiped out. To counter this, you can upgrade your cities to metropolises, which are flood-proof.
What about the destruction of other resources? If the event die dictates that a resource must be destroyed, its corresponding number is removed from the board and that hex tile is no longer in play. By the time that a certain number of resources are gone, it’s Armageddon – game over.
You might be saying, “Well, that’s gloomy for a game.” The good news is that this can be prevented! Players can also choose to sequester oil, which is basically setting it aside and never using it. The person who sequesters the most oil actually gains victory points.
Oil Springs is basically an exercise in weighing the trade off when using oil. Yes, it’s cheap to use and gets you resources fast. It certainly can be instrumental in quickly building metropolises. But in the long run, it strips the island of its resources.
Now, aside imparting a timely environmental message, Oil Springs is also one of the best Catan expansion packs because you can actually download and print it yourself off of Catan’s website or buy a physical copy to match your base game.
Aside from its accessibility, this is also an awesome addition to board game night because it adds a little pizzazz to Catan without getting stuck in the quagmire of having to learn an excess of new rules.
Why We Like It
- Oil Springs imparts a timely message.
- It’s accessible to players all over the world.
- Learning the new rules is a breeze.
- The possibility of “game over” adds more tension.
If you’re concerned about the environment and love a good game of Catan, Oil Springs is an expansion pack that’s got your game night covered because it’s easy to play and teaches a good lesson about balance.
Other Expansions to Consider
Catan: Explorers & Pirates
Land ho! If games like Sid Meier’s Civilization series have whet your appetite for exploration, Explorers & Pirates will scratch that itch in board game form. In Explorers & Pirates, players are given 5 scenarios and 3 missions of varying difficulty. You can embark on exploratory missions, drive pirates away… and even deploy pirates yourself!
Why We Like It
- The fog of war adds mystery to exploration.
- Multiple pirates take the place of the robber.
- You can choose your preferred level of complexity.
If sailing the seas and discovering new land has been something you’ve wanted to integrate into your Catan game, then Explorers & Pirates is the Catan expansion for you.
Catan: Frenemies of Catan
A game of Catan can get cutthroat fast. If you want to stop jumping down each other’s throats during a Catan game, look no further because Frenemies of Catan rewards players for helping one another. The expansion adds a new element in the form of favor tokens.
Certain good deeds help players gain favor tokens, and these favor tokens can be exchanged for resources, roads, development cards, and even victory points!
Why We Like It
- It makes for a friendlier version of Catan.
- Favor tokens create many more avenues to victory.
- Deactivating the robber is actually rewarded!
If your game night has younger players or you are simply tired of fighting for victory, Frenemies of Catan offers gentler and friendlier ways to win.
Catan Historical Scenarios
Ever wondered what Catan would be like in a historical setting? Wonder no more because the Catan Historical Scenarios are here to fuel your imagination.
There are actually 2 expansions within this expansion, and 2 scenarios within each expansion, so that’s a total of 4 scenarios if you choose to get both expansion packs!
Catan Historical Scenarios I: Alexander and Cheops allows players to become Alexander the Great’s advisors or Egyptian nobles who must construct a pyramid for Cheops.
In Catan Historical Scenarios II: Troy and Great Wall, players take sides during the Trojan War or endeavor to strengthen the Great Wall of China against a Hun invasion.
Why We Like It
- History buffs will enjoy the historical setting.
- Completely new rules and strategies revolutionize the game.
- Each expansion pack comes with 2 scenarios.
Catan Historical Scenarios is the best way to add allure for history lovers and for players who enjoy flights of fancy.
Can’t get enough of playing Catan in different settings? There are plenty of scenario packs to keep you satisfied! Here’s the list of the 8 scenario packs released:
- The Settlers of Catan: The Game Book – provides 20 new scenarios!
- Atlantis: Scenarios & Variants – features a flood scenario (different to that in Oil Springs) and other variants
- The Settlers of Hesse – set during the founding of Germany’s principal states
- Catan-Austria & Vienna Meets Catan – delves into tourism in Austria
- Saggsen Gaden: The Settlers of Saxony & Offensive in Chemnitz – a limited edition with only a thousand copies produced. The Settlers of Saxony is takes place during establishment of Saxony while the latter is during the establishment of Chemnitz.
- The Building of Castle Chaffenberch & Renaissance in Styria – play Catan in medieval times and during the Rennaisance
- The Gold of Ankh-Morpork & Rincewind and the Tourist – for fans of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld
- The Settlers of the North Rhine-Westphalia – also based on the founding of Germany’s principal states
Why We Like It
The Scenario Packs are a great way to shake up your game night with something that’s both familiar and new.
Catan Expansion Buyer’s Guide
If you’re a Catan lover (and why wouldn’t you be, it’s a classic for a reason!), then you might have analysis paralysis when you look at all the diverse options when it comes to expansion packs. You might even want to collect them all. (Hey, there’s no stopping you!)
However, if you’re looking to pick just one, you might want some guidelines to help you narrow down your search. Here are some things to consider when choosing the best Catan expansion packs for you!
How Experienced are the Other Players?
The experience level of your players makes a huge difference when you’re considering which expansion is best for you. If your board game group has played a lot of the game and already know the existing rules like the backs of their hands, then setting up and learning a more complex expansion will be a piece of cake.
However, if you have mostly beginners at your table, it’s best to choose simpler expansions or expansions that have varying levels of difficulty where you can select which is best for you.
Recommendations for beginners: Seafarers, Traders & Barbarians, Oil Springs, Frenemies of Catan
Recommendations for seasoned players: Cities & Knights, Explorers & Pirates, Catan Historical Scenarios, Scenario Packs
How Long is Your Game Night?
Some of the Catan expansion packs have a longer set up and game duration than others. A normal game of Catan plays from 1-2 hours depending on how many are at the table, but according to Catan players, some expansions can add an extra hour (or even more, if you’re still learning the game)! Therefore, how long you want to keep playing is definitely a consideration.
Recommendations for shorter games: Oil Springs, Frenemies of Catan
Recommendations for longer games: Explorers & Pirates (this expansion is notorious for this!), Cities & Knights
What’s Your Budget for Board Games?
Most Catan expansion packs are around $55. However, you can purchase Oil Springs for only $5 or download it for free on Catan’s website! However, if you’re going to be doing the latter, you’ll need to print and/or create your pieces yourself. This can actually be a fun activity if you have younger players at your table.
How Different do you Want Each Game Night to be?
If you’re a player that wants something “new” each game night, then you might want a Catan expansion that can deliver a new element each time you play. Some of the expansions (Cities & Knights, Oil Springs, and Frenemies of Catan,) only have one or two new setups.
However, others have something new to bring to the table for many more games than that. For example, Traders & Barbarians has a variety of different scenarios to play. You can even mix and match them to change the rules even further.
Recommendations for players always looking for something new: Seafarers, Traders & Barbarians, Explorers & Pirates, and the specific scenario pack entitled The Settlers of Catan: The Game Book
Which Expansions do you Already Have?
If you are an experienced Catan player, then you might want to consider combining the expansions into one game. The team over at Catan put together a list of expansion combinations that you should check out.
Board game nights are all about having fun at the table. It seems obvious, but Catan isn’t a game that’s plays well solo. When it comes to choosing a Catan expansion, try to look at your group members’ personalities. Are they daunted by heavy rulesets? Do they like a challenge? Do you have younger or more tenderhearted players? If you take their playstyles into consideration and align those with what you gravitate towards, you’ll definitely be able to find the best best Catan expansion pack for everybody.