Catan Vs Ticket To Ride: Which Game Should You Buy?

Catan Vs Ticket to Ride Comparison

Even if you are new to board games, chances are you have heard of the games (Settlers of) Catan and Ticket to Ride (TTR). If not, no biggie, we’ll enlighten you.

Both Ticket to Ride and Catan are great games. In fact, they both made our Best Board Games for Beginners list! The former is a game about travelling, where the goal is to complete destination routes between two cities by connecting them with trains. You can see a simplified How to Play Ticket to Ride: Europe here. The latter is a game about settling and growing your empire by building roads, buildings, and cites.

Right off the bat, I bet some of you are already leaning towards one game or the other!

Nothing wrong with that. Let’s see if that hold true throughout the rest of the article.

Make sure you check out our full thoughts on these games. What we liked and disliked about them:

These two board games share some commonalities, but have a bunch of differences. We will attempt to highlight them both so you can make an informed decision.

For the sake of the comparison between Ticket to Ride vs Catan, we have chosen to use the Europe version for TTR, and the base version for Catan. We did this because TTR: Europe is currently our favourite of the series, and plays really well with any group. For Catan, the versions are fairly similar, but we wanted to make sure any group could easily play it, so we chose the base game.

Note: The different versions of Catan need the base (red) box to work.

When comparing Catan vs Ticket to Ride we will look at a number of different factors from the number of players and size of the board, all the way up the mechanics of game play and replayability. Some of the factors may have no bearing on your decision, but they are worth considering. While reading through, always remember that the game isn’t just for you, but also the group of people you might be playing with.

We are assuming that you have only ever played each game a couple times, or maybe not at all. You’ll want to ask yourself questions like, “how long will it take to explain this to friends?” “How many people can each game have?” “How long do they take to play?”.

Lastly, we will try to keep the article as unbiased as possible so that you can make the decision on your own, which game you should buy. As you may or may not know, people are fanatical about these games, and once you start talking to gamers, we would wager 95%+ of them have played one or both of these games. In fact, you can see some of the fandom for Catan in our Best Custom Catan Boards article, and our Best Gifts for Lovers of Catan article.

Check out the quick comparison chart below.

Game

Catan

Ticket to Ride: Europe

Number of Players

2 - 4

2 - 5

Time to Play

60 - 120 min

30 - 60 min

Cost

$$$

$$$

Ages

8+

10+

Price

Number of Players

Since your group size might matter, let’s start there…

  • Catan: 2-4 players
  • Ticket to Ride: 2-5 players

Note: Catan has an expansion for up to 6 players.

Time of Game Play

These games seem to vary significantly in their times to play. See below:

  • Catan: 60 - 120 min
  • Ticket to Ride: 30 – 60 min

We found that both games can range dramatically. With both games players are sharing the game board so when you add more players, the board gets even more crowded and play time really extends. The more people fighting for routes, the more you will have to change your strategy and lengthen the game.

The differences here are that Catan takes a bit of time to get momentum and really start to be able to build things, there is no getting around that, even if you get lucky rolls. Whereas, in Ticket to Ride, you can easily start claiming routes, and pace can go as fast as you can grab cards.

Cost

Both of these games fluctuate in their prices, but are usually fairly even on Amazon.

Size and Space

When comparing Ticket to Ride vs Catan for the amount of table space you will need, they are somewhat equal, and both can be comfortably played on most tables, but Catan does take a bit less space. See pictures below, you can see the leaflet/sleeve in the table for reference.

Setting up the Game

While both games are easy to set up, Ticket to Ride: Europe is definitely the easier one to get going. After unfolding the TTR game board, shuffling the cards, and choosing your colors, you are ready to start.

With Catan (especially for the beginner setup) you have to organize the numbered tiles as well as the hexa land tiles. Not to mention you have to organize the resource and development cards, and set up the water tiles.

Catan doesn’t take that much longer to set up, but if you have someone with an extremely short attention span like Tito, then Ticket might be your better bet.

Starting the Game

Both games start mostly equal among the players, each getting a few cards to start. There is a couple key differences here, and if you have experienced players, they can easily get the advantage, especially in Catan.

In Catan you get to choose your starting settlement and roads (other than the quick start version), and not knowing the game can cause a bad starting spot and ultimately lead to a bad experience for players. Though, this is eliminated in the quick start version and should be used.

In TTR, you choose your destination routes, and as you play the game more, you get a better feel for how many and which routes you should take, though it doesn’t have nearly as big of an impact.

Luck Involved

If you are familiar of the game play mechanics of board games, you will know that most games have some element of luck in them. For Ticket to Ride, this luck some from the train car cards that are available to you on your turn. Luckily (pun intended), there are 5 face up and 1 face down card to choose from, so you can somewhat control your destiny…..and destination (so close to having 2 puns in one sentence!!).

For Catan, there are dice rolls. That should tell you enough about the luck involved. If you have a settlement/city touch a tile with the number that gets rolled, you get that resources. You can control this somewhat with your starting position and knowing a bit about probabilities (or ability to read the dots on the number tokens we suppose). You also can control which direction to settle on the land, so as to avoid low chance rolls.

Catan Robber

If you don’t like games where your fate rests in the lie of the die, then you might want to lean toward Ticket to Ride. Whereas, if you like to have games with a bit of chance, then Catan might be your better bet.

Game Play

Length of Turns

Both games come in pretty equal in this category. Provided players are paying attention and knowing what they want to do next, turns can progress quickly.

In both games, your actions may be altered by what happens at the start of your turn (i.e. the train car cards available or the roll of the dice). Things do get trickier on both boards when things get more congested later in the game, but this is normal for most games.

Catan has the added element of being able to ‘trade resources’ on your turn, so time can be added here with all the haggling, but all in good fun.

Player Interaction

Both Catan and Ticket to Ride have similar interactions on the playing board, where players are fighting for space. The interaction more or less ends with that in TTR.

In Catan, however, you can do the aforementioned ‘trading’ to increase interaction. There are also development cards and a robber (see picture above) that can help you steal resources from other players. This really increases interaction and can created some heated…discussions… at the table, which is always fun.

Which amount of interaction would best suit the personalities at your table?

Amount of Rules to Learn

As mentioned earlier, both games are great beginner board games, so that means they lend themselves to newbies very well. Neither game has a crazy amount of rules.

Catan has a few more rules to remember in that different items cost different amounts, you can only build in certain spots, trading with the bank, moving the robber. All the rules are really easy to learn, but may need to be referenced from time to time. They do provide a very handy board with all the costs on it so players can reference that (see picture below).

Catan Player Inventory

Ticket to Ride has less rules. Some of the intricacies come in a few of the routes which contain ferries and tunnels. Again, nothing to scary or challenging here.

Both games can be learned in 10 minutes or less the first time playing them. If you think one might be too complex for your group to start on, read the next section for strategy.

Amount of Strategy Involved

In TTR, you must try to connect cities via trains, but how many destination routes you decide to go after is up to you. As you take more routes, you will need a bigger and better plan. You will need to decide when to start claiming routes, or how to change your plan if you get blocked, or maybe when to use a train station. However, that is the extent of the strategy. You must learn to react to what is happening and adapt your plan accordingly. Usually there is more than one option to accomplish the task at hand.

In Catan, you also must react to your opponents. The options available here are a bit less, but have more range. For example, if you are stuck and can’t build, you might go after development cards or find a way to get the longest route. There is a more of a planning ahead element to this one. Like Ticket to Ride, you and your opponent may be vying for the same area, though in Catan, if your opponent beats you there, you may be in some trouble if you don’t have another area available to you.

The ‘Feel’ of the Game

While both games are strategy board games, when comparing Catan vs Ticket to Ride, there is a bit of a different feel to the games.

In Ticket to Ride, it is more relaxed feeling. You get a sense of seeing what’s available to you on your turn and then reacting appropriately. Knowing all the while that you’ll more than likely be able to achieve what you want to do in one way or another… the ‘another’ may take more effort and might be the difference between winning or losing, but you won’t know who won until the end (more on this in the next section).

In Catan, things feel a little tighter. As your opponents get the favorable rolls of the dice, you will feel a bit frustrated and trapped. It may sound like a bad thing, but this feeling of having an obstacle to overcome in order to win is a good thing in board games. You will somewhat be able to tell who is winning in this game, so you can change your strategy (read: desperation level) accordingly. It feels as though there is more planning needed in this one.

Scoring and Winning the Game

These games have very different scoring and different end game triggers. We will explain what these differences are, and you can decide which sounds more appealing. We can say that both are great scoring systems. Both are very balanced, and suit the game appropriately.

In Catan, there is a hard cap on points. First person to 10 Victory Points is the winner. Game over. You are collecting VPs along the way (there is some fluctuation with largest army and longest road cards), but the only thing that matters is getting to 10 first.

In Ticket to Ride, however, there is no cap to the amount of points you can get. You get some points along the way for the amount of trains you use to complete routes, and then extra points for your completed routes at the end. You really don’t know who is going to win until the routes are reveled and points are tallied, especially because you can get negative points for not finishing a route!

Also, in TTR, the end of game is triggered when someone has 2 trains left in their supply. THEN, everyone gets one more turn, so it is not as cut and dry ‘winner/loser’ when compared to Catan.

Expansions

One of the considerations for which game you should buy, or why game is better Ticket to Ride vs Catan, might be the ability to expand on the game if you like it. Both games do have expansions but they vary in how they work.

With TTR, you can buy the 1912 Expansion, which will give you new destination route cards. The game comes with more than enough, but if you play this game a bunch, new routes is always handy. The expansion, however, doesn’t increase the number of players.

There are also a number of other games in this series. They have maps for a bunch of different areas from the Nordic Countries to America. Most games play fairly similarly, so you might be inclined to pick your favorite spot to play.

In Catan, there is an expansion which allows you to make a bigger board and thus allow you to play with 2 extra people (up to 6). Like TTR, there are more games in this series. There is everything from Seafarers to Traders and Barbarians. Again, each game has a very similar game play style, with slight variations on the rules. Be aware here that you need the base game before venturing into any of the expansions. Be sure to check out our Which Catan Expansion is the Best article coming soon!

Note: Some of the expansions for Catan can play well together if combined. They have even created a handy guide on their site which can be found here: Catan expansions combined.

Replayability

Both games have a high level of replayability.

In Catan, you can change the board tiles and your starting positions to get different feels for the same game.

In Ticket to Ride, you will end up with different destination route cards every game, allowing you to explore different area of the map. You may also choose more or less destination route cards which could change your strategy every time.

Conclusion

Well, that is all the comparison points we thought we valuable to make your decision on which game is better, (Settlers of) Catan or Ticket to Ride. If you feel we missed something important, let us know in the comments.

They are very unique and distinct games, and you really can’t go wrong with either one. In fact, we think there is room for both games on your shelf. We understand that these games can get costly, so start with the one that sounded a bit more appealing to you. You will probably end up with both anyways! Maybe you can convince someone in your circle to get the other game to satisfy all your needs!

It is important to consider who you will be playing these board games with since the styles of the games are different. Who you play a game with can ultimately make or break the enjoyment of the night. That being said though, trust your gut and it’s totally OK to pick the game that you think you will enjoy the most personally.

Good luck, and let us know in the comments which game you bought first, and which game you prefer. Some people gain more from the comments than from the actual article itself. And, as always, if there is something we missed or you have any questions, hit the comment section and we’ll help you out.

About the author

HexaGamers

We are the HexaGamers. Six good friends that love all things game related that gets us together to enjoy each other's company.

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