Ticket To Ride vs Catan (Which Game Is Better?)

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Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan are two fantastic games. In this article we look at Ticket to Ride vs Catan and compare each game’s pros and cons and then I will tell you which game is best.

Released in 2004 by Days of Wonder, Ticket to Ride is about traveling across the wide expanse of the USA. It’s railroad themed and you work to claim routes between destinations such as New York and Washington or Denver and Santa Fe.  Link them together and you may well get the longest route on the board.

Settlers of Catan on the other hand, is all about settling on the island of Catan. You must build up resources and compete against your opponents to claim victory points. There is also an element of trading so you have to be wily and make sure you come out better off from a trade than your opponent.

Looking at standings on Amazon and Board Game Geek they are similar in popularity. So which one is best for you? Let’s take a look at Ticket to Ride vs Catan and look at their themes and game play.

CatanTicket to Ride
ImageCatanTicket to Ride
Released19952004
Players3-42-5
Playtime60-12030-60
Age108
DifficultyEasy/MediumEasy
Ticket To Ride vs Catan

Table of Contents

  1. Ticket to Ride
    1. Ticket to Ride Expansions
  2. Settlers of Catan
    1. Settlers of Catan Expansions
  3. Verdict
    1. Base Game
    2. Expansions
  4. Overall

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride is about riding the railroads and claiming routes between the great cities of the USA. The game itself is fun and easy to learn. It is a great choice when you are playing with a mix of people and are introducing some to the delights of board gaming.

Each player has a hand consisting of two types of cards: Destination Tickets and Train Cards. The destination tickets display a route between two cities, usually several routes away from each other. Each of these has a score for completing that route.

Your objective is to claim routes between two adjacent cities and join those routes up to complete the destination on the ticket giving you the score. You do this by matching colored Train Cards to the route on the board.

If there are 3 red train spaces then you need 3 red Train Cards to complete that route. There are also wildcards in the Train deck that can be any color.

Each turn you get to choose what action you take from these:

  • Draw 2 Train Cards
  • Claim a Route
  • Draw 3 Destination Tickets and then discard 1 or 2. You must keep at least 1 of the 3.

Once any player has got down to 0,1 or 2 trains at the end of their turn then there is one more round. Once everyone including the player with 0, 1, or 2 trains has finished their turn the game ends and the scores are calculated.

There is a bit of strategy to the game but not so much that it prevents new players from having a chance at winning. This is a great game for when you want to have a bit of fun and not have to think too hard.

Either Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe should be your first purchase as they enable you to play any of the expansions that require a base game. I recommend Ticket to Ride Europe as it has Tunnels, Ferries and Stations which make the game a little more interesting. It is also the game I own and is a regular on my tabletop.

Pros

Easy to learn
Quick turns
Great for new players
Flexible players 2-5
Beautifully made

Cons

Low on strategy
Expansions are more of the same

Ticket to Ride Expansions

The two games that are considered the base games are Ticket to Ride and Ticket to Ride Europe. There are 10 other expansions that are standalone alone and don’t require the base games.

However, that leaves 11 Ticket to Ride games that require the base games. If you are not careful then you could end up buying a game that you need to make a further purchase to play!

To help make sure you don’t get caught out I have listed every game in the Ticket to Ride series and whether they are standalone or not.

Release DatePlayersAdditional maps playersPlaytime (m)StandaloneNotes
Ticket to Ride20042-530-60Y
Ticket to Ride Europe20052-530-60Y
Ticket to Ride USA 191020062-530-60NRequires Ticket to Ride, cards only included
Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries20072-330-60Y
Ticket to Ride Europa 191220092-530-60NRequires Ticket to Ride Europe, cards only included
Ticket to Ride Asia20114-62-530-60NRequires Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe
Ticket to Ride India + Switzerland20112-42-330-60NRequires Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe
Ticket to Ride – The Heart of Africa20122-530-60NRequires Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe
Ticket to Ride Nederland20132-530-60NRequires Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe
Ticket to Ride United Kingdom20152-42-530-75NRequires Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe
Ticket to Ride Orient Express20152-530-60NRequires Ticket to Ride Europe
Ticket to Ride Rails and Sails20162-590-120Y
Ticket to Ride First Journey20162-415-30YAge: 6+
Ticket to Ride Germany20172-530-60Y
Ticket to Ride First Journey Europe20172-415-30YAge: 6+
Ticket to Ride France20172-52-630-60NRequires Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe
Ticket to Ride New York20182-410-15Y
Ticket to Ride London20192-410-15Y
Ticket to Ride Japan20192-530-60NRequires Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe
Ticket to Ride Amsterdam20202-410-15Y
Ticket to Ride 15th Anniversary20212-530-60Y
Ticket to Ride Europe 15th Anniversary20212-530-60Y

The expansions are grouped into three main types:

  • Standalone variation of the original game with a different map and maybe some changes to the rules like tunnels or ferries.
  • City games like New York or London for 2-4 players and shorter 15-30 minute games.
  • Card expansions such as the USA 1910 which adds some different routes and other cards.

The point here is that you are unlikely to want to buy all the expansions unless you absolutely love playing Ticket to Ride.

Assuming you took my advice earlier and purchased Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe. Then going with something like USA 1910 or Ticket to Ride Europa 1912 to expand on the game would be a first good step.

If you often want to play with 2-3 players then adding the India and Switzerland or Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries would be a good addition. The smaller 2-4 player city expansions play quicker and are quite good filler games when you are having a gaming night.

After that it is purely a matter of which map you fancy playing with.

Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan is a classic board game that has lasted the test of time. It is commonly known simply as Catan. So when you hear or read someone talking about Catan this is the game.

It was released in 1995 it is one of the most popular games around. The game is all about settling on the island of Catan. Which in this game is an island made up of 19 hex tiles.

For beginners the board has a set pattern that is ideal and will ensure a good game. Once you become more experienced then there is a method to create the island by placing the tiles in a random way. This adds a lot to the game as you need to think about where to place your initial settlements and roads at the beginning.

Each tile has a specific resource which can be either lumber, brock, wool or wheat. Some tiles will be mountainous and won’t provide any resources. One tile is the desert and this is where the pesky robber starts.

You can create settlements and cities by placing them onto the corners of tiles and this will provide you with resources from those tiles you are next to. Along the edges you can place roads.

So, the objective of the game is to win victory points (VP) and this is done largely by placing settlements (1 VP per settlement) and cities (2 VP’s per city). There are also objectives that grant victory points such as having the largest army, longest road or holding a Victory Point card.

Each turn a player’s first action is to generate resources and this is done by rolling a double dice. Each island tile has a number on it and when that number comes up then that tile dishes out resources to anyone who has a settlement on one of its corners.

As you gather resources you can then purchase and place settlements. If you need additional resources then you can trade something you don’t want for something you need.

This is a great aspect of the game. The interactions with other players can be both fun and painful when you realize you have been duped!

This game is a little more complex than Ticket to Ride but one or two playthroughs should be enough to get the hang of the game and really get into trading. There is also a bit more strategy available in Catan.

Pros

Beautifully made
More strategy
Trading is fun
Expansions and Scenarios

Cons

Takes time to learng

Settlers of Catan Expansions

As you would expect from a game that is over 25 years old, it has matured and there are several expansions available. There are also standalone variations on themes such as Game of Thrones and even a space variant.

There are also games such as the Catan Card Game but I am going to stick to the standalone variations, scenarios and expansions based on the original base game.

Along with expansions there are several scenarios that will add to Catan such as Oil Springs that add an oil resource that allows you to create Metropolis. Let’s take a look at each different type in the tables below:

VariantsRelease DatePlayersPlaytime (m)Age5-6 Extension
Settlers of Catan19953-460-12010Y
Catan Junior20112-4306
Catan Game of Thrones20173-460-7514Y
Catan Starfarers19993-412014Y
Catan Rise of the Inkas20183-49012
Catan Family Edition20123-460-9010
Catan Settlers of America20103-490-15014
Catan Traveler20152-445-9010
Catan 3D20213-445-9010
Catan Game Variants
ExpansionRelease DatePlayersPlaytime (m)AgeExtension
Seafarers19973-460-12010Y
Cities & Knights19983-490-12012Y
Traders & Barbarians20072-460-12010Y
Explorers & Pirates20132-490-12012Y
Catan Expansions

There are also 5-6 player extensions available for some of the games which I have marked on the table. If you want to play with more than 4 players then you can easily see which versions you need to get.

Additionally, there are a number of scenarios you can add to Catan and some of the expansions. These add something to the game, such as Oil Springs adds oil as a resource. This enables you to use these resources to further gain other resources or build metropolis.

Frenemies encourage you to do good deeds to your opponents and be rewarded and Helpers of Catan add helpers that will help you along your way.

Verdict

So, Ticket to Ride vs Catan which one is best for you? Let’s have a look at the base games and the expansions and then the overall winner. Let’s take a look at the base game, expansions and finally overall.

Base Game

For me Ticket to Ride is a great game to dive into when you just want to relax and have some fun. It is much more accessible than Catan and so visitors and new players will have an easier time playing the game.

The fact that it is a quicker game also means you can play multiple games in one session. Combined with the fact that you can play it with 2 players up to 5 players gives it more flexibility for larger numbers.

Catan on the other hand is a bit more difficult to learn. It is not really hard like some more in depth games but there is more to it. This adds depth and more strategy to the game.

The interaction between players when trading is a great part of this game and in my mind really adds to the social aspect.

Catan has more longevity in my view. However, Ticket to ride beats it on flexibility of players and fun factor. It’s an easy light game you can pull out and play with 2 or 5 players.

Winner:
Ticket to Ride

Expansions

Ticket to Ride has a lot of expansions. However, they are of a very common theme and it is likely that you may want to buy some but not all of them.

With Ticket to Ride I would recommend Ticket to Ride Europe, Perhaps, India as it comes with Switzerland so you get a better 2 player game and then possibly a city game as it is quick and fun. You can read How to Play Ticket to Ride India to find out if this would be a good game for you. However, these don’t add that much to the first game.

Catan has expansions that add to the base game in various different ways. It also has scenarios that will also add something that will make it much more interesting.

This to me adds much more longevity to the game. Once you want a little more to add to the base game there are quite a few choices for you to choose from.

I think Catan hands down has better expansions and scenarios that will add more interest over time as you play it.

Winner:
Settlers of Catan

Overall

Whilst these games are both great games I think it will depend on what you are looking for in your next game. If you are looking for a fun game that is not too taxing and it doesn’t last too long. Then Ticket to Ride is a good choice.

Once you have played it for a while though, I am not sure you will want to play it more than once during a session.

For me, Catan is the better game as it requires a little more thought, a little more interaction with your opponents and you can develop cunning strategies to defeat them. It lasts twice as long so you still are likely to only play one game but that game will have more depth.

You can even play a 2 player variation of Catan. I explain how in Can you Play Settlers of Catan with 2 players.

If I had to grab a game from a sinking ship and swim to a deserted island then Catan would be the one I grabbed – hopefully with the odd expansion and scenario too.

Winner:
Settlers of Catan

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