Board game duels like Ticket to Ride vs Catan are very popular these days. Even though PC and console games have taken over the market, board games have kept their popularity, and a lot of people are comparing them to see which is best.
Ticket to Ride is a railway-themed board game that came out in 2004. The goal is to have players claim routes for their railway. The longer the route, the more points each player gets.
Catan, or Settler of Catan, is relatively older. It was first published in 1995. The goal of the game is for players to build settlements on an island called Catan. Players will build settlements, and the biggest one will be the winner.
If you are thinking about getting one of these two board games, we will outline the differences to decide which one you should get in this article.
How to Play Ticket to Ride
At first, it may seem like there are tons of rules in Ticket to Ride and that the game is complicated. In reality, it’s relatively easy to play once you get the hang of it.
The board contains multiple train routes throughout the map outlined in multiple colors. Players will get a set of train pieces, train and destination cards, and a scoring marker.
Each player gets a set of 45 train pieces and one scoring marker before the game begins. The dealer shuffles the train cards and deals four cards facing down to each player and five cards facing up. The players will need to keep their cards hidden from the opponents. Next, the dealer shuffles and deals three destination cards facing down where the players will have the option to discard one of them.
The aim is to have as many train routes connected as possible. To ensure that you claim a train route, the player will need to have as many cards in the same color as the route you are trying to claim. Partially claiming a route is not possible. Locomotive cards are multicolored and are considered Jokers, representing any color that the player needs. When a destination has two-way routes, one player can only claim one side of it. If there are less than three players, then the double routes are considered as a single. The destination cards are used to score additional points if the player manages to connect the two cities. The destinations can vary in length, so the points will depend on how far apart both cities are.
During each turn, a player can choose one out of three moves: claim a route, pick train cards, or pick destination cards. Each player has the option to pick as many cards as he or she wants and use them at the appropriate time. Picking cards or claiming routes can only be done once during a turn.
Points in Ticket to Ride are scored based on the length of the routes, and there are options for additional points. Successfully connecting two cities from the destination cards will award the player with the points outlined on the card. On the other hand, having a destination card without a completed route will cost the player the same amount of points outlined on the card so be careful.
How to Play Catan
Even though Catan is a bit different than Ticket to Ride, the end-game is almost identical. The game is played until one of the players reaches 10 points. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can take some time to get there.
The game begins by setting up the outer jigsaw-like pieces forming the outline of the island. Then the 19 terrain hexes are shuffled and set on the board, starting from the outside in setting them counterclockwise. Once the terrains in place, the player can begin putting the numbered tokens on the board. They should be placed in the same order as the hexes, and the only terrain that doesn’t get a token is the desert. The tokens have numbers on the front side and letters on the back, and they should be placed on the terrains based on the letters, starting from the letter A. Finally, there is one robber piece that should be placed in the dessert.
After the board is ready, players decide which color their settlements will be and start playing with the cards and dice. Each player gets four cities, five settlements, and fifteen roads to build their empire on the island. The next important part of the game is the cards. The game has several types of cards: resource cards (sheep, wood, wheat, and ore), development cards, and special cards that reward points.
Each player In Catan gets a building reference card that will determine how many resource cards will be required for building something or for the army’s deployment via the development cards. The special cards are the ones that will award a player extra points for either having the longest road or the largest army or both. The turn starts with a player rolling the dice which ultimately determines what resources the player can get.
At first, Catan will feel a bit more complicated based on how large the rule book is, but it’s actually fairly easy once you get started. Check out this how to video by the Rules Girl for a much shorter version of the rules.
Differences Between Ticket to Ride and Catan
Ticket to Ride and Catan are similar strategy-based board games, but there are several differences worth mentioning.
Number of Players and Play Time
Ticket to Ride and Catan can both be played with as little as two players. Catan can be played with up to five players, while Ticket to Ride can accommodate only four.
The playtime for any board game will vary depending on multiple factors, but there is an average for both. Ticket to Ride can be played from about 30 to 60 minutes, and Catan’s playtime can be anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes.
Setting Up the Game
When it comes to setting things up, both games are close match, with Ticket to Ride inching ahead a bit. Each game’s general area is almost the same – Ticket to Ride is rectangular, while Catan is like a hexagon. Both will fit nicely on a regular size table.
As for setting things up on the board like the game pieces and cards, Ticket to Ride is the winner here. There are train and destination cards only. Catan takes slightly longer to set up because there are three types of cards that need to be dealt with; plus, the hexes and tokens have to be setup at the beginning of the game.
This is where both games differ the most. In Catan, players are borderline required to trade with each other to be able to win so there is a lot of communication and discussion that happens during the game. In Ticket to Ride, the interaction is almost nonexistent in comparison to Catan.
Both have a similar age rating; the first one is for 8+, while the second one is for 10+. Regardless of that, when it comes to gameplay, Catan can be a bit trickier to play.
Ticket to Ride is slightly less complicated because there aren’t too many options for the players. They can either pick cards or claim a route. There are additional steps that follow, but it’s nothing too complicated.
Catan is a board game where the rule book will be your best friend the first time you play it. Rolling the dice kicks off everyone either gathering or losing resources. Then based on your cards, you then either have to trade or build. It requires more time to put your strategy together.
Scoring and Winning
Catan and Ticket to Ride are fairly different when it comes to scoring points. In Catan, whoever reaches 10 points first is the winner. It makes it easy to see who is winning which can make it pretty difficult for whoever is in first place early in the game.
Ticket to Ride’s scoring system is based on the length of the train routes, and that is something that all players can see and determine. The wild-cards are the destination cards that the opponents don’t see that can turn the tables. The game ends when one of the players has two or fewer trains.
Product Expansions to Consider
Ticket to Ride Expansions
Set in Great Britain in the 19th century, this Ticket to Ride expansion gives you access to the UK, Ireland, and Scotland. The rules are slightly different because you cannot start with routes longer than two carts, and also you need to play the locomotive cards to get technology cards.
France and Old West Map Collection
The France expansion is the one that people think is shorter than the others, but that’s not true. With every draw of the cards, you need to build a track that you can later claim, but there is a risk that you build a track that someone else claims.
Japan and Italy Map Collection
If bullet trains through cherry blossom fields are your thing, then the Japan expansion is for you. Unlike the other games, in this map, you can choose if you want to focus on the bullet train routes or the regular ones.
Ticket to Ride Spinoffs
There are several versions of Ticket to Ride that don’t require the original game to play. These are standalone board games.
Ticket to Ride becomes Ticket to Taxi in this spinoff that takes place in Manhattan. The board is smaller than the original, the longest route is four spaces, and each player gets only 15 pieces to play with.
Similar to New York, the London spinoff is a Ticket to Ride game with a smaller board and 15 pieces for each player. Specific sets of routes and stops will earn you additional points.
This is a time-traveling spinoff, and you will be playing in Amsterdam in the 17th century. You get a lot more action where you can get trading contracts, collect merchandise, and aim to get the best trading routes on the map.
Switzerland (Swiss Map Expansion)
Switzerland is a slightly larger map than the previous two, but it offers several single piece routes. Another difference is that you can get additional points for connecting a city with a border crossing.
Nederland Map Collection Four
The Nederland spinoff is a game that has something the others don’t – money. You will need that to build across the bridges, and you also get a map where you have lots of double routes.
As you may have guessed, getting a map from an entire continent will most likely be bigger, which is the case with the Europe version. In addition to that, you also get to play with tunnels, ferries, and stations.
Nordic Countries is a smaller map that is for 2 to 3 players. There are nine train routes, and unlike some of the others, the locomotive wild cards are not allowed to be used.
The Germany spinoff of Ticket to Ride is one of the few where things don’t change much compared to the original. The map is different, along with the routes, but the Globetrotter bonus can give you an edge even if you don’t have the longest routes.
Rails & Sails
If the original or spinoffs are small maps for you, then Rails and Snails is the one to go. You will be playing on the world map, meaning that boats are in the game as well, and there are also some fields where you will need two cards.
The original Ticket to Ride is relatively simple, but the First Journey spinoff is simpler and easier to play. You will be playing on a Europe map with shorter routes and much shorter playtime, perfect for first-time players.
Asia Map Collection One
If Europe is too small for you, then Asia is perfect. This version of the game offers train routes through the mountain tracks with some additional bonus points for the routes with X in them and the Explorer bonus for the most connected cities.
India Map Collection Two
Often considered as the smaller Asia version, India is an excellent addition to your collection. Set in the early 1900s, you get lots of routes to claim and a bonus if you create a mandala or a loop with rout destination cards.
Africa Map Collection Three
Moving away from the mountains in Asia, you reach the Hear of Africa. With routes going through the deserts or the mountains, considering the terrain, some will award you with additional points due to the difficulty.
25th Anniversary Edition
Catan is officially 25 years old and still going strong. The 25th Anniversary Edition is a standalone game with some additional wood pieces and dices and the expansion pack for 5-6 players.
Catan Extension – 5-6 Player
The Catan base game is only for 3 to 4 players; so if you want to play with more people, then you will need the 5-6 player expansion.
If the original game is not for you and want something different, then the Seafarers Expansions is an excellent addition. This pack gives you the option to work with ships, build, sail, and conquer, offering nine voyages for the Settlers of Catan.
Cities & Knights Expansion
The Cities and Knights expansion offers a few additional items to the game. You still play the standard-setting development through the game, but now you have the barbarians you need to defend from using your knights.
Traders & Barbarians Expansion
This expansion pack is fairly similar to the previous one. Barbarians still attack you, and your resources are at stake, so you will need to think ahead and form a strategy to minimize losses.
Explorers & Pirates Expansion
Even though this is an expansion, it feels like a completely different game. You are sent on an exploration mission to conquer new locations and face the dangers with minimal information on what to expect.
Which Game is Better – Catan or Ticket to Ride?
It’s a tough decision on which is actually better. Both are fun board games to play and are unique in their own ways. They are also two of the best board games for beginners, making the choice even more difficult.
My personal favorite is Catan. It feels a bit more strategic after you’ve played a few times and I really enjoy the communication aspect of the game. If you aren’t willing to trade, it will be tough to win.
Ticket to Ride is quicker to pick up and play. It has a ton of different themes to try out. I ultimately don’t think you will be disappointed with either one.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Game is Better Catan or Ticket to Ride?
It depends on your preference. Ticket to Ride is a game that is easier to understand and master in a shorter amount of time. The overall playtime is shorter too. There is a higher emphasis on the strategy in Catan and there is a lot more interaction during the game.
What age is Ticket to Ride for?
Ticket to Ride is rated for the age of 8 and older.
What is the best strategy for Ticket to Ride?
The exact strategy will depend on the cards you get. The first thing you should try to do is not to get greedy with too many destination cards because you will get penalized for not completing a route. Follow the other players and try not to get your route cut off so that you can aim for the longest routes for more points.
How many versions of Ticket to Ride are there?
At the moment, there are over 20 expansions and spinoffs available for Ticket to Ride.