Best Catan Expansions: Scenarios, Extensions, and Versions

I’ve scoured the internet for the best Catan expansion packs. My top choice is Catan: Cities & Knights.

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Catan is arguably one of the best board games in the modern era. It has all the elements that make games so much fun–resource management, building cities and routes, and trading. There’s plenty of player interaction to make play fresh and entertaining.

But even the best board game can get stale after playing it over and over. That’s why expansions are great. They add flavor and new life to the game while preserving the core essentials of the original.

If you just can’t get enough of Catan, you’ve come to the right place. Find all the best expansions, what they add to the game, and how the play changes. Learn about which expansions tweak minor rules and which ones completely overhaul the focus.

Ready to get started? Keep reading to learn more.

At a Glance

If you like to play Catan, you know why this game has such a following. But choosing between expansion packs can be overwhelming. If you need a quick breakdown of the best settlers of Catan expansions, use this guide:

Playing with kids or inexperienced players? I recommend Catan Junior, Seafarers, or Starfarers.

If you want something very similar to the traditional game, you might enjoy the 5-6 Player Extension, the 25th Anniversary Edition, or 3D Catan.

If you’d prefer your expansions to work together, stick with Seafarers, Cities & Knights, and Traders & Barbarians. They can be combined for a fun, unique experience.

For fans of pirate adventures on the high seas, you should consider Seafarers, Explorers & Pirates, and Catan Junior.

Best Catan Expansion Reviews

Before I share the top expansions, I should clarify that the expansions below are not stand-alone and require you to have the base game of Catan. They are designed to work with the base game, not in place of it.

Okay, now that’s cleared up, ready to dive in? Let’s go!

Cities & Knights Expansion: Best Overall Catan Expansion

Players: 3-4

Playing Time: 90 minutes

Age: 12+

The Catan Cities and Knights Expansion adds a lot of new game mechanics to the base game. This game is designed for tried and true gamers who want a challenge. The Cities and Knights expansion makes the game more complex and difficult to master, but it’s ideal for competitive groups.

One change is the addition of a third dice, an event dice that could work to your favor or result in moving the barbarians closer. If you fail to hold off the invading barbarians, they will attack the weakest player and reduce their city to a settlement.

There are also new resources in the form of refined commodities: cloth, paper, and coin. Use these commodities to acquire city improvements. City improvements give you an advantage in trading, defense, or building.

The nice thing about this mechanic is that it allows you to build up, even if roads are blocked by opponents. Players have another path to victory, even if they must work in a smaller area.

CATAN Cities & Knights Board Game EXPANSION | Strategy Adventure Family for Adults and Kids Ages 12+ 3-4 Players Average Playtime 90 Minutes Made by Studio For 3 to 4 Players

Development Cards are replaced by Progress Cards, which help you advance along one of three tracks: science, trade, and politics. City walls increase your hand limit to help minimize the damage from the robber.

Complete one construction path to turn your city into a metropolis. A metropolis is immune to barbarian attacks and gives you two victory points.

The knights add new strategic elements. They replace the soldiers of the base game and can be recruited to block road routes or chase away the robber. They can even protect Catan from the barbarian ships or other knights. But these mercenaries don’t work for free. You must spend resources to activate their power.

The Catan Cities and Knights Expansion brings new mechanics to the regular game that adds complexity and strategic depth. It incorporates high stakes with the barbarian threat, and it intensifies the competitive elements.

However, this expansion may not appeal to everyone. Kids, less experienced players, or players with short attention spans may not enjoy the expansion. The extra time needed for a play-through might be a barrier for some.

If you want an added challenge and more complexity to the base game, Cities and Knights is perfect for you.


  • Adds strategic depth & complexity
  • City walls mitigate damage from the robber


  • Lengthier playing time

5-6 Player Extension: Best for Larger Groups

Players: 5-6

Playing Time: 60 minutes

Age: 10+

The Settlers of Catan 5-6 Player Extension is the simplest way to add to the base game. It’s the easiest option if you don’t want to learn a new set of rules. It’s also ideal for a larger group.

The Catan base game is at the top in terms of entertainment value, but it’s not designed for large or flexible groups. Just three to four players. That’s it.

With this Catan extension, you can play with 5-6 players. It comes with extended sideboards, additional development cards and resource cards, and two extra wooden player pieces.

The game mechanics stay pretty much the same, but the addition of extra players does change the flow of the game somewhat. For instance, you’ll have a longer wait between turns, which could be good or bad, depending on the person.

CATAN Board Game 5-6 Player EXTENSION - Expand Your CATAN Game for More Players, Strategy Game for Kids and Adults, Ages 10+, 3-6 Players, 60-90 Minute Playtime, Made by CATAN Studio

One thing to note is that when the original game “Settlers of Catan” was rebranded as simply, “Catan,” the stock art was updated. This extension is designed for the Catan Fourth Edition base game. If you just have Settlers of Catan, the graphics might not line up perfectly.

A nice feature of this extension is that you can combine it with other expansions, as well. If you want to play Catan with one or two more people, I would grab this extension. It’s affordable and easy to integrate.

Otherwise, it doesn’t add anything to the gameplay. There are no new scenarios or strategic pathways.


  • Great for a larger group
  • Easy to learn
  • Combines with other expansions


  • Doesn’t really add to the game

Explorers and Pirates Expansion: Best Unique Game Experience

Players: 3-4

Playing Time: 90 minutes

Age: 12+

If you think cities are overrated? You might enjoy exploring foreign shores in the Catan Explorers and Pirates Expansion.

It appears similar to the Seafarers Expansion on the surface, but the mechanics are quite different. Seafarers is much closer to the Catan base game, while this expansion focuses more on exploring and sailing.

In Explorers and Pirates, the ships don’t act as roadways on the sea. They actually function as ships, moving around the sea and transporting resources and crew members using cargo space. Instead of robbers, each player also has access to their own pirate ship, which is a fun way to throw a wrench into your opponent’s plans.

This expansion comes with five scenarios which progress from simple to more difficult. They culminate in the “Explorers and Pirates” scenario which incorporates all the new strategies, themes, and rules.

Building trade routes is not central to the game in this expansion. You can still build settlements, but they don’t upgrade to cities. After all, there are still more lands to explore!

CATAN Explorers and Pirates Board Game Expansion | Board Game for Adults and Family | Adventure Board Game | Ages 12+ | for 3 to 4 Players | Average Playtime 90 Minutes | Made by Catan Studio

You might be wondering how to get victory points in this expansion. You have several ways of acquiring points and winning the game. Build port settlements, capture pirate lairs, find gold, catch and unload hauls of fish, or enter the spice trade.

Gold can be traded for resources, opening up new possibilities and trading strategies.

The new rules are introduced through each scenario, so it’s not difficult to learn. However, it does change the feel of the game. This Catan Expansion adds linear missions with a focus on sailing and exploration.

If you want Catan with a seafaring twist, you should play Seafarers. If you want an original take on Catan with a completely different focus, you should try Explorers and Pirates.


  • Plenty of new elements
  • High replay value
  • Lots of new elements


  • Completely changes the focus

Seafarers Expansion: Best First Expansion

Players: 3-4

Playing Time: 60-90 minutes

Age: 10+

Get ready to set sail! In Catan Seafarers, players control a group of seafaring settlers looking to explore the untamed isles of Catan. This expansion was released in 1997, the first expansion to the original game, Settlers of Catan.

The Catan Seafarers Expansion doesn’t mess with the core focus or mechanics, but it does drastically change how your board looks and expands the size of the game. The goal, however, is the same–score 10 victory points before the other players and build cities and settlements to gain resources.

The Seafarers Expansion includes nine scenarios to get you started. You can build roads to expand settlements, like in the Catan base game, or you can expand over the waterways. Start on a coastal hex and build ships to cross the sea hexes (water tiles) to reach new islands.

The ships act like roads, connecting islands. The nice thing is that you can move ships after they’ve been placed, allowing you to adapt your plans if someone swoops in and steals and island from you.

One exciting addition is the golden hex. Gold field tiles allow players to take the resource of their choosing, making it a rare but highly valuable resource. Just like gold mines.

But with new routes and the chance of gold also come new dangers. That’s right, I’m talking about pirates. Pirates essentially act as sea robbers, and they can steal resources, block ships, and prevent other ships from being built on nearby water tiles.

Seafarers Adventure Board Game Expansion for Adults and Family | Ages 10+ | for 3 to 4 Players | Average Playtime 60 Minutes | Made by Catan Studio

Seafarers takes the essential parts of Catan and just adds layers in the form of ships, waterways, pirates, and gold. It’s easy to learn and offers multiple paths to victory, which makes the game experience fun for everyone.

If you’re after Catan, but just bigger and better, I highly recommend the Seafarers Expansion.


  • Easy to learn
  • Multiple paths to victory
  • Still feels like Catan
  • Adds ocean navigation


  • Lengthy playing time

Traders and Barbarians Expansion: Best Expansion for Catan Veterans

Players: 2-4

Playing Time: 90 minutes

Age: 12+

Traders and Barbarians is the most comprehensive expansion. It could accurately be described as an array of mini expansions that can be combined for a different experience each time. It adds several new game-variant rules and scenarios that you can use to randomize your games.

Catan: Traders & Barbarians introduces five scenarios for you to play through. These include The Fishermen of Catan, The Rivers of Catan, The Caravans, Barbarian Invasion, and Traders & Barbarians.

The Fisherman of Catan adds some balance by allowing you to fish on Catan, making the edge of the island a more desirable location.

The Rivers of Catan introduces river tiles that weave through the island. You must build a bridge to cross the river tiles and receive gold coins as a reward. Accrue enough wealth to earn bonus victory points.

Hold your camels! The Caravans adds camel-shaped meeples and an oasis hex to the game. The camels increase the point value of any neighboring cities and contribute to the longest toad. But you must spend resources to gain favor with the caravan to place the camels.

Barbarian Invasion adds knights and combat to the mix. In this scenario, Catan is under barbarian attack. You must defeat them using knights that you move around the island. Resource management takes a back seat to combat in this scenario.

Finally, there’s the traders & barbarians scenario. This one is all about protecting trade routes. Move your baggage train between trade hexes, delivering commodities to gain victory points. Build roads for safe passage to transport marble, glass, sand, and tools. But beware! The next barbarian attack could be just around the corner.

There are also some new features, like the friendly robber mechanic. If you are under a certain number of Victory points, you can ignore the robber. Way to watch out for the little guy. The poor-settler mechanic is a great catch-up mechanism for the poorest players to make some headway.

Catan Traders and Barbarians Board Game Expansion | Board Game for Adults and Family | Adventure Board Game | Ages 12+ | for 3 to 4 Players | Average Playtime 90 Minutes | Made by Catan Studio

This Catan expansion also adds new event cards to spice up the game play. Events like earthquakes, robber attacks, robber flees, and a year of plenty. Some are good, while others are devastating.

This is the best Catan expansion for those who want a myriad of options, minor mechanical changes, and new challenges, all while still preserving the essence of the game. The basic experience is the same, but it exponentially multiplies the replay value and randomness.

I highly recommend the Catan Traders & Barbarians Expansion.


  • High replay value
  • Five exciting scenarios
  • Loads of new depth


  • More complex

Legend of the Conquerors Expansion: Best Mini Expansion

Players: 3-4

Playing Time: 90-120 minutes

Age: 14+

Legend of the Conquerors is part of a Catan Expansion Pack. It requires BOTH the regular Catan game and the Cities & Knights Expansion in order to play.

This mini expansion offers a campaign of three linked Catan scenarios which send you 670 years into the future after the arrival of the first settlers of Catan. Knights from every region must come together and protect the island from an invading enemy.

This narrative-driven play extends the gameplay of Cities & Knights, requiring new strategies to overcome the battle.

This Catan expansion is semi-cooperative. You must work with your fellow players and use your knights to defend Catan from barbarian attack, but the ultimate goal is to score the most victory points and defeat your opponents.

CATAN Legend of The Conquerors Scenario for CATAN Cities and Knights Board Game Expansion | Family Board Game | Adventure Board Game | Ages 12+ | for 3 to 4 Players | Made by Catan Studio

Although this Catan expansion provides a unique semi-coop twist and challenging gameplay, it doesn’t have anything that you can sink your teeth into. It’s basically for those who love Cities & Knights expansion and want to extend that with another expansion pack.

It’s also super long. Expect this version to take several hours to play from start to finish.


  • Good player interaction
  • Semi-cooperative
  • Challenging gameplay


  • Lengthier playing time
  • Requires Catan and Cities & Knights expansion

Treasures, Dragons, and Adventures Expansion: Best for Veteran Catan Expansion Players

Players: 3-4

Playing Time: 60-180 minutes

Age: 12+

Treasures, Dragons, and Adventures is really a mini expansion pack designed to work with Settlers of Catan (Catan), Cities & Knights, and Seafarers. It requires both Catan expansions plus the original game to work.

Treasures, Dragons, and Adventures is a set of six scenarios taken from the Catan digital platforms and transformed into a board game format. The scenarios include The Desert Dragons, The Great Canal, The Enchanted Land, The Treasure Islands, Greater Catan, and Departure into the Unknown.

You’ll have dragons, special tokens, and new hexes included in the box. Even though this expansion includes new scenarios and rules, it’s easy to learn. The rulebook walks you through the robber mechanic, the set up, and how to use the dragons. Because let’s face it, most of us are just here for the dragons.

CATAN Treasures, Dragons and Adventurers Scenario Expansion | Strategy Board Game | Family Game for Adults and Kids | Ages 12+ | 3-4 Players | Average Playtime 60-180 Minutes | Made by CATAN Studio

These Treasures, Dragons, and Adventures scenarios are compatible with Catan games published after 2003. If you have the original 1995 Settlers of Catan, this expansion requires additional materials to play.

This “expansion to the expansions” is best if you already own other Catan expansions, specifically Seafarers and Cities & Knights. Otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot of dough acquiring everything you need to play.


  • Based on popular digital scenarios
  • Fun new scenarios and elements


  • Requires three games to play
  • Lengthier playing times

Crop Trust Expansion: Best Dystopian Expansion

Players: 3-4

Playing Time: 90 minutes

Age: 12+

In Catan Crop Trust, we are introduced to a dystopian version of Catan, where food shortages abound. Players must balance the need to preserve seed diversity with their individual need to harvest crops.

This game tackles the themes of the individual vs. the group, managing resources, and the problem of food security. The semi-cooperative format requires players to work together while maintain the competitive elements.

Collect and preserve seeds for beans, maize, quinoa, rice, and wheat. Store them in the vault to ensure seed diversity on Catan. Growth of settlements and cities puts a strain on the island’s resources. New Catan event cards simulate the effects of growth on the food supply.

This Catan expansion was developed in cooperation with the Global Crop Diversity Trust, a global organization whose goal is to preserve crop diversity and protect global food security.

CATAN Crop Trust Scenario for CATAN Board Game (Base Game) | Family Board Game | Adventure Board Game | Ages 10+ | for 3 to 4 Players | Average Playtime 60 Minutes | Made by Catan Studio

The concept is interesting, and the extra tiles and resource card additions are solid. When it comes to Catan scenarios, this one definitely feels high-stake. The semi-cooperative play is also unique.

But that’s where the fault lies. You could hypothetically burn food resources and purposefully try to make crops extinct to bring about the game end in order to “win.” This makes the game easy to rig.

Despite the hole in the winning conditions, however, the game takes a neat idea and turns it into this neat mini expansion.


  • Semi-cooperative
  • Easy to learn


  • Winning conditions can be manipulated

The Helpers: Best Card Extention

Players: 3-6

Playing Time: 45-90 minutes

Age: 12+

Unlike other Catan expansions, the Helpers does not include hex tiles, ships, or even tokens. The Helpers is strictly a card-based expansion that aims to help you succeed in playing Catan.

The Helpers are exactly what they sound like. The cards are helpers designed to give you special powers or advantages. Twelve new characters are eager to help you. These characters add new layers to the game.

For instance, Stina makes it easier for you to trade cards. Hogni allows you to move a road, and Digur sends the robber back to the desert. Helping minimize the damage by the robber is something The Helpers shares in common with Cities & Knights.

CATAN The Helpers SCENARIO EXPANSION | Strategy Board Game | Adventure Game | Family Game for Adults and Kids | Ages 12+ | 3-6 Players | Average Playtime 45-90 Minutes | Made by CATAN Studio

Helpers is a great Catan expansion for adding some fun twists to the basic game, but it doesn’t have as much substance as the best Catan expansions. This is a great add-on for your next Catan game night.


  • Adds flavor while not changing the game significantly
  • Easy to use


  • Just character cards

New Game Alternatives (No Base Game Required)

The following options do not need the base game to play them. If you want a different Catan experience, these alternatives can provide a nice break from the classic board game.

CATAN Starfarers Board Game: Best Standalone Catan Game

Players: 3-4

Playing Time: 120 minutes

Age: 14+

Catan Starfarers is a separate board game. This version is the second edition of the standalone Catan variation, meaning you don’t need the original Catan to play this version.

You’ll see a lot of the same elements as the original, but there are several new twists to the game. The first edition had quality control issues with the game pieces, but the second edition seems to have solved these problems.

The first and most obvious difference is the setting. Catan Starfarers sends you into space! It’s the year 2700 and you’ve been selected to compete for the title of Ambassador to the Galactic Council.

You must earn fame by discovering new Solar systems, meeting aliens, and using diplomacy so they will help you with their powers. As you explore space, you’ll encounter various traps and dangers, but you can beat back these obstacles with the right upgrades to your ship.

You have different strategies that offer a pathway to victory. You could add engines to your ships and focus on exploration, meeting multiple alien races. You could stay close to home and build multiple colonies and spaceports. Or, you could combine the two strategies and use a mixture of exploration and colonization.

CATAN Starfarers Board Game 2nd Ed. (Base Game) | Family Adventure Board Game for Adults and Kids | Ages 14+ | 3 to 4 players | Average Playtime 120 minutes | Made by Catan Studio

This version of Catan includes negotiating and trading like the original Settlers of Catan, but the emphasis isn’t as strong on those elements. This lends itself to a slightly less competitive game with a more laid-back feel.

Catan Seafarers also has a great catch-up mechanism. That makes this version fun to play for everyone, even if you get off to a rocky start.

That’s a good thing, too, because this game can last for two hours! No one wants to sit through two hours of gameplay knowing you have no change of winning. Catan Starfarers deals with that.


  • Great catch-up mechanism
  • High replay value
  • Fun space-themed play


  • Lengthy playing time

CATAN Junior: Best for Kids

Players: 2-4

Playing Time: 30 minutes

Age: 6+

Catan Junior lets younger players experience the Catan world by introducing a simple standalone game designed with kids in mind. This is perfect for a family game night.

Catan Junior takes place on a ring of tropical isles, including Spooky Island, home of the Ghost Captain. Each island produces a specific resource–wood, goats, molasses, cutlasses, or gold. But beware of the Ghost Captain!

Players start with two pirate lairs and build ships to expand their own territory. More lairs help you gather more resources, which you use to build ships and lairs or get help from the wise Coco the Parrot. You can trade freely in the nearby market. The first player to control seven pirate lairs wins!

CATAN Junior | Board Game for Kids | Strategy | Family | Adventure | Ages 6+ | For 2 to 4 players | Average Playtime 30 minutes

The game board is colorful and inviting, and the game pieces are of good quality. I particularly enjoy the blue die included. Those simple touches make the game even more fun. This does not include the tile placement like the older game, but that means fewer pieces to set out or lose.

This board game is quick to play. A full game only takes half an hour, which is perfect for younger kids. Catan Junior is family-friendly without losing the essence of the original board game.


  • Kid-friendly theme
  • Quick game time
  • Easy to learn


  • Too easy for teens/adults

CATAN 3D: Best Collector’s Item

Players: 3-4

Playing Time: 60 minutes

Age: 10+

If you’re a fan of Settlers of Catan, you can bring it to life with this 3D version. This game is aimed at those collectors who just can’t get enough of Catan. It’s a standalone and doesn’t require the base game to play.

This edition is just like the original Catan (Settlers of Catan) in terms of game mechanics. But this version has highly-detailed 3D tiles based on the hand-sculpted originals by Klaus Teuber, the game’s creator.

CATAN 3D EDITION Board Strategy Game with Immersive 3D Tiles | Adventure Game | Family Game for Adults and Kids | Ages 12+ | 3-4 Players | Average Playtime 60-90 Minutes

All of the terrain is hand-painted with brilliants colors. The player pieces are intricately designed and antiqued for a look that is full of history, character, and fun.

Unlike other expansion packs and spin-offs, Catan 3D is more than just a board game. It’s a work of art and collector’s item. Unfortunately for buyers, it’s priced like one, too.

If you love Catan and want an expensive novelty, then I say go for it. Otherwise, just get classic Catan and add expansions if you want something extra.


  • Impressive 3D game board
  • Hand-painted 3D minis
  • Just like classic Catan
  • Collector’s item


  • Very pricey, luxury item

CATAN 25th Anniversary Edition: Unique Game+Extension Combo

Players: 3-6

Playing Time: 60 minutes

Age: 10+

This game is a celebration of 25 years of exploration and discovery on the island of Catan. This version includes the Settlers of Catan game along with the 5- player extension.

This 25th Anniversary Edition is just like the original–same scenarios, same premise, and same elements. You’re on a quest to settle the island of Catan, and you must build settlements, build roads, and trade resources to do so.

The robber mechanic is also the same in this version. There are a few minor cosmetic upgrades, however. The game includes two custom Catan dice, glitter-painted wooden pieces, and two card sorting trays.

I don’t see how glittered pieces fits with the Catan theme, but it would make it easier to distinguish this version’s pieces from the original game’s pieces.

CATAN Board Game 25th Anniversary Edition | Includes The Base Game and The 5-6 Player Extension | Family Board Game | Board Game for Adults and Family | for 3 to 6 Players | Made by Catan Studio

This 25th Anniversary Edition is quite nice, and it basically combines the classic game and 5-6 player extension, so you’re getting a lot for your money. But it is more expensive than other Catan expansions or variations. It’s also more limited in availability, so it could be tricky to find.


  • Includes classic game + 5-6 player extension
  • Cosmetic upgrades
  • Easy to learn


  • Expensive

CATAN Expansion Pack FAQs & Buying Guide

Which Expansion of Catan is the Best?

While there is no objectively superior expansion pack, Cities & Knights is widely considered one of the best Catan expansions. It adds new commodities, new cards, and a ton of strategic depth, but it’s still feels like Settlers of Catan.

Which Catan Expansion to Get First?

New to Catan expansions? I would start with Catan Seafarers. It’s a lot like the original Catan with some added flair. You won’t have to pour over the rulebook learning new rules. You can begin playing almost immediately, and it has pirates. ‘Nuff said.

How Do Catan Expansion Packs Work?

There are numerous expansions in the Settlers of Catan universe. Not only that, but there are also several spin offs and standalone variations under the Catan umbrella. If you’re unsure how the expansion packs work, here’s a basic breakdown:

  • You must purchase the base game of Catan (Settlers of Catan) to use any expansion pack. Catan expansions are not complete games; they are designed to work with the original. The expansions might include new scenarios, extra resources, new event dice, or other additions.
  • The four major expansions are Seafarers, Traders & Barbarians, Cities and Knights, and Explorers and Pirates. There is also a 5-6 player Extension that allows you to play with more players.
  • Of the main Catan expansions, you can combine Seafarers, Traders and Barbarians, and Cities & Knights. Explorers and Pirates is best played independently from the other Catan expansions.
  • To play Catan with an expansion pack, use the tiles, cards, and other game materials included in the regular game. Add the expansion elements according to the instruction manual. Use the additional elements to follow the scenarios given in the Catan expansion pack.
  • There are certain board games under the Settlers of Catan brand that are not Catan expansions but are standalone board games. These games include Catan Junior, Catan Starfarers, 3D Catan, and others.

Which Catan Game Should I Buy First?

You should start with the standalone Catan game first. The game was formerly called Settlers of Catan, but in 2015 the game was rebranded as simply “Catan.” There are over 30 expansion packs, variations, and spin-offs of the game. Don’t know where to start? I recommend beginning with Catan: Seafarers.

Which Catan Expansions Work Together?

The Seafarers, Cities & Knights, and Traders & Barbarians are major expansions that can all be combined. Of course, the original Catan game is necessary to play any and all of these expansions.

The Explorers & Pirates expansion works best as an independent extension. I don’t recommend trying to combine it with other Catan expansions.

Best Catan Expansion: Last Word

What’s the best Catan Expansion? My top recommendation is the Cities & Knights Expansion. It adds Catan event cards, more resources, and city walls. It’s challenging and refreshing, while keeping the core of Catan in tact. It’s sure to be a hit at your next game night.

Looking for a similar board game to Catan? Check out my list of the best games like Catan