If you love the base game, adding Catan expansions to your collection is essential. With new resources, hexes, and tokens, the best Catan expansions each offer a fresh update to the standard gameplay.
I find that each expansion takes the game in a different direction. Some are more suited for players that like the competitive aspects while others appeal to players who just enjoy expanding their settlements.
Given that the expansions are often double the price of the base game, it might feel difficult to decide which one to buy first. In my list below, I have some of the most popular Catan expansions ranked according to which ones I think are the best starting points for all players.
As the first of the Catan expansions, Seafarers might just be the best one. Compared to some of the following expansions, I find this one easiest to learn if you already know the base game.
Basically, the focus of Seafarers is the addition of ships to cross seas and new islands for settlements. If you find the base game has become a bit stale, this is the perfect expansion to keep things familiar but new. With nine new scenarios, I always find a fresh configuration when I sit down to play.
I like that this one doesn’t over-complicate the traditional Catan gameplay. If you’re curious about expansions, this is the perfect one to ease into some new elements without losing track of what you already enjoy about Catan.
With Catan, all expansions are intended to increase your play time with new features and additions to the base game. So if you really want to spend a whole evening exploring an expansion, this is the one for you. With new mechanics like spices and fish, and scenarios that build on each other, I found this one takes a lot of time to set up and figure out. But if you’re willing to spend the time with this one, you will be rewarded greatly with all the new strategy additions.
I find the focus on pirates and islands makes it a natural next step from Seafarers, but with more of a twist on gameplay. Don’t feel like you have to dive into all the new stuff at once either. You can introduce new elements one at a time and still have a blast!
If you want something that takes the game further than traditional settlement building, this is one of the best Catan expansions to check out. Altogether, I find this expansion is like a huge group of mini-expansions in one box. There’s a lot of new elements here and they each add a ton of strategy.
The most exciting thing for me is the addition of trade routes, which can make you really race against your opponents to achieve victory. Try playing it once with a focus on hoarding gold and becoming rich and then try to win with barbarians. And if you don’t have a large group to play with, there’s even a two player mode!
With so many new gameplay experiences, Traders & Barbarians offers the most new content in one expansion. This will keep the die-hards busy for a while!
As someone who appreciates the civilization-building aspect of this game, I love Cities & Knights. I have it near the bottom of my list, but that’s not because it’s not fun. On the contrary, this is a great one to play if you like to build and defend your cities.
Using commodities, new victories can be achieved by expanding your city into a metropolis. Sometimes I get so lost in building up my cities and roads, I get caught off guard by attacking barbarians or even spiteful opponents. While it might feel overwhelming for new players, seasoned Catan players will appreciate the wide range of options each turn can provide.
Although this isn’t technically a full expansion, this is an essential addition to have for anybody who wants to play Catan with a large group. Instead of the typical 4 players, this extension enables groups of 5-6 people to play.
Unlike the other Catan expansions listed here, this one doesn’t have any new content. Simply, it just adds enough pieces to accommodate for more players. But since I find Catan gets really fun with larger groups, I always have this extension ready. I’ve seen a lot of games where curious onlookers want to get in on the action and play too.
While I put the Catan expansions ranked in a list, I could really strongly recommend each one of them thanks to all the variety and depth. It depends what gameplay you’re looking for. If you’re feeling like using your brain, pick one of the expansions with more advanced strategy elements. If you feel like a casual game of traditional settlement building, then an expansion like Seafarers will offer lots of new material for you.
For bonus fun, you can even try combining expansions with each other. You might end up playing a version of Catan that’s never been played before! I encourage you to try to make something new.