Catan and its (main) Expansions

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There are a tonne of Catan variants, expansions and modules out there. No way I can cover them all, so I’ll just stick to the 4 main big box expansions. Bear in mind, Catan’s most popular expansion is the 5/6 player expansion, which allows you to play up to 6. Each of these big box expansions only expands the 4 player game, you need a separate 5/6 player expansion for each of them to play the expansions with 6 (i.e. 4 boxes total to play Seafarers with 6: Catan, Catan 5/6, Seafarers, Seafarers 5/6).

Cities and Knights


Complexity 5/5
Length added – 30-60 mins

What is adds?

1. Three new commodities that come from cities instead of the double production. You also start the game with a city as well.
2. Three decks of improvement cards that can be bought with the new commodities and obtained through building city improvements.
3. Knights are also built at road intersections and allow you to move the robber and defend against periodic barbarian invasions.

Its the most complex of the three by quite some distance, but also adds the most strategic possibilities through the variety of city improvements and having to deal with the communal barbarian invasion. People are often split on this expansion. For some it adds the strategic depth they felt Catan lacked, for others it just adds way too many new rules and takes away from the streamlined nature of the game.



Complexity – 2/5
Length added – 15-30 mins

What is adds?

It makes a bigger board with islands. To get to them you must build ships, which for all intensive purposes act as roads on the water. There is an extra resource, gold, that is a wild resource. That is pretty much it. The nice thing about it is that you can no longer get cut off by roads. Should it happen to you, you have the option to sail off to another island. It’s very straight forward, adds a little bit of new strategy, but only a few extra rules.

Traders and Barbarians


Complexity – 3/5
Length added – 15-30 mins

This is a compilation of 5 mini scenarios that can each be added to Catan to alter the game play. They can also be combined with C&K or Seafarers as well. They are all pretty straightforward, adding just a tweak here or there except the Traders and Barbarians scenario (yes, that is a scenario as well as the expansion name), which does change the game quite a bit. This expansion adds variety, without the complexity. The expansions aren’t compatible with each other like in Explorers and Pirates. One extra awesome thing this does add is the dice deck. Frustrated by rolls? This is a deck that simulates dice rolls, but with the exact probability that would be rolled in a perfect world (i.e. 1 card of the 36 in the deck is a 2, 2 is a 3).

Explorers and Pirates


Complexity – 3/5
Length – 15-45 mins

This is the newest of the expansions and again is 5 mini-scenarios, however these ones are interlocking and the game recommends you play them one at a time in a specific order adding the extra rules bit by bit. It has some similarities to Seafarers, but in this version tiles are revealed through boat exploration. Another nice addition is the gold pieces, they act as half a resource and are given to any player who doesn’t receive a good through a dice resource. It does get progressively more complex, but adds it in small increments. It’s also slightly more expensive than the other two as well, but is choc full of stuff. A really solid addition.

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