Of the many board games out there, Settlers of Catan is one of the most popular, thanks to its strategic (and competitive) city building, trading, and resource management elements. But did you know about these fun alternatives to Catan?
I know, it’s hard to think about setting down Catan and trying something new if you already love that game, but we promise—these alternatives are more than capable of bringing the same type of feel to the game table. They make perfect additions to your board game collection and are fun enough for the whole family to play on game night.
Update, 3/15/22: Verified links and content up to date.
Carcassonne is named after a medieval fortified town in southern France, renowned for its city walls. Likewise, in the game, you’ll compete against up to four other players to build upon these very walls and work to claim connecting fields and roads. Well, you won’t actually be in France, but still.
To start the game, a single tile in the center will be face up. Every turn, players will draw a brand-new tile and choose where to play it. Any new tiles must be adjoined to in-play tiles, and they must also extend the type of tile it touches; cities touch cities, fields connect to fields, etc.
At this point, players must place one of their meeples on that new tile and lay claim to its corresponding features and work to complete said feature (such as a city or a road). The catch is that you’re competing against other players and you only have a limited number of meeples to work with, so you’ll need to plan conservatively.
The game ends once there are no more tiles to draw, and the winner is whoever has the highest number of points. Scoring, likewise, is determined by completed features. For example, cloisters earn you a point when they are surrounded by eight tiles. Don’t let Carcassonne‘s simple mechanics fool you, however—its fast play speed and strategic choices make it a fun and perfectly challenging game for newbies and seasoned board game enthusiasts alike.
Build up your city and claim the land and resources around it before your opponents do.
Feeling a little more adventurous? How about embarking on a cross-country ride on a wondrous railway? Well then hop aboard Ticket to Ride. The game will have you (and up to four other players) competing to build the longest railway across the map in order to claim victory.
Throughout the game, players will be working to collect and play train car cards. These, in turn, allow players to claim specific routes on the map and earn points. There’s more to points than just claimed railway bits, however; points are also awarded to whoever has the longest continuous railway and whether or not players can connect cities.
Beyond scoring points, players also get to conspire against one another and disrupt each other’s railways. It might sound complex, but it’s really not. You’ll get the hang of things after a few rounds, and it makes for a great choice for kids and adults alike. The average playtime is anywhere from 30-60 minutes, so it’s great for game nights or even a standalone game.
Ticket to Ride
Build the longest railway on the map, and sabotage your opponents' railways.
City building is fun, but so is defeating dangerous monsters, and Sorcerer City brings that excitement straight to your game table. The fantasy-themed game is built on the same principle as other tile games, but unlike these other games, you get to play as a wizard trying to gain control of the city you’re building each turn tile by tile with up to three other players.
While each player works to build the city, they’ll also have to reckon with monsters that can sneak into your deck, score sweet loot, and face off in other scenarios and adventures. Turns only last two minutes, so you’ll need to work fast, and after five rounds, the game ends and points are added up. The game’s colorful vibes and fun art style makes it super immersive, and hopefully, you emerge as the master sorcerer builder!
You're a wizard ... who's trying to control a city and square off against terrifying monsters.
Board games are cool and all, but have you ever played one … in space? Terraforming Mars is set in the 2400s, and
mankind corporations are working to—you guessed it—terraform The Red Planet. Players will work on large projects like raising the temperature, generating oxygen, and building ocean coverage to create an environment that’s habitable for humankind.
But as you’d expect, it’s not all collaboration; players will still be competing with each other for victory points. The points are awarded for individual contributions, for advancing various galactic infrastructures, and for other actions. Along the way, players will purchase project cards that offer up bonuses and increase resource production; some also have requirements that’ll need to be met before becoming eligible to play.
Cards each have a cost to buy, so plan carefully, but you can also earn money (called “megacredits”) for playing them at just the right time. You’ll also earn a basic income that, along with your basic score, is dependent on your Terraform Rating. Terraforming is complete once all three main global parameters (ocean, oxygen, and temperature) are satisfied. The game does a great job balancing fierce competition and collaborative efforts and is fun for one to five players.
You'll work against other corporations to create oxygen, raise the temperature, and otherwise make Mars hospitable.
If you’re looking for something that provides an experience a little closer to home, Surbubia has what you need. The tile-laying game has major Sim City vibes and puts you in charge of turning your small town into a booming metropolis. In it, one to four players will work to build their city by adding buildings, creating a healthy income, having a high population, and maintaining a shining reputation.
Each turn, you’ll take actions to build up these elements. The larger your town grows, the more you’re potentially able to increase your income and reputation. And as you take in more income, you’ll be able to spend it on better, more valuable properties. Then, the more you succeed at these, the higher your reputation will be. But watch out for buildings that can potentially be detrimental to your city’s growth, like factories. See? It’s just like real life. Oh! There’s also a super-fancy special edition you can opt for instead, with updated artwork and components and all of the previous expansions.
Sim City meets Civilization in this game, where you'll work to make the best city possible.
7 Wonders is another stellar choice, and it kind of gets back to the root of Catan with its strategic trading element. Similar to Catan, you’ll also need to keep an eye on what the other players are doing so they don’t beat you to the finishing line. You’ll need to trade cards to get the resources you need or, alternatively, hoard cards you don’t need just to spite your opponents.
In the game itself, you’ll be playing as the leader of one of the seven greatest cities of the Ancient World. It’s also similar to Sid Meier’s Civilization games, as you can build architectural wonders, strengthen your mighty military, trade with other civs, and work to gather resources. Final scoring is determined by card points and military conflicts. The game is for three to seven players and lasts for about 30 minutes a pop.
You're the ruler of an ancient civilization, and you've got to ensure yours rises to the top and that the others crumble.