Catan vs. Ticket to Ride

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Today I’m comparing Ticket to Ride vs. Catan to see which one comes out on top.

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Catan (Settlers of Catan) and Ticket to Ride. They’re great games for both beginners and expert gamers.

You might be drawn to one game or the other, but they both qualify as top gateway games. If you’ve wondered which one you should get, you’ve come to the right place.

At a Glance

If you want a quick breakdown of the similarities and differences, look no further.

CatanTicket to Ride
Ages10+8+
Number of players2-4 (up to 6 with expansion)2-5
Playing time60-120 minutes30-60 minutes
Primary mechanicsRoute building, resource management, trading and negotiationRoute building, hand management, set collection

If you’re trying to choose between Ticket to Ride vs. Catan, there are several things to consider. I’ve broken down all the features of each game so you can find the one that appeals to you.

Which one fits you better? Keep reading to learn more.

Things to Consider Before Buying Euro Games

Board game pieces

While other games might have advantages, it’s important to understand what you’re getting when you play a Euro game, which is the category in which Catan & Ticket to Ride fit.

Euro games are more abstract than fantasy or RPGs, but not as much as games like Chess or Go. Euro-style games are heavy on strategic thinking and planning, and they focus on mechanic over theme. If you’re interested in learning more about Euro games, visit my complete review.

Euro games will have more complex rules than games like Monopoly or Clue, but they don’t have the weight of other games. Most are in the medium-weight category.

Board Game Overview

Catan

The original game was called Settlers of Catan, but it’s now known as simply Catan. This game has you building settlements from rock, sheep, brick, and other resources. It supports up to four players, unless you get the expansion to add more people (up to six players total).

The board is grid-style, with hexagons showing dice roll number placements. Players shuffle the resources before the game begins and place them with random dice numbers and ports. Playing Catan takes longer than Ticket to Ride. Expect games to last an hour or two.

Despite the lengthier playing time, it’s not overly complex. The rules take a little longer to learn, but it’s easy to pick up after the first few rounds of playing.

Players make decisions that influence the game throughout the duration. The token placements determine which resources you will acquire naturally and which resources you’ll have to use trading to obtain.

The objective of Settlers of Catan is to be the first player to reach 10 victory points. At that point, the game ends.

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride is a route-building game that supports up to five players. The board shows a map with various routes. The end game is to complete your routes before any of your opponents use up all their trains. At that point, the points are tallied.

The game usually lasts up to an hour, but it can go more quickly with certain gaming groups. Claiming routes is the name of the game. Deciding which routes to pursue and which routes to leave alone is key. There is a bit of luck in which train cards you draw, but wild cards help you keep building your route.

Ticket to Ride has little in the way of a learning curve. At the beginning of each turn, you decide whether to build a track, collect trains, or claim more train routes. Sometimes you pick up a destination card later in the game that has a track contained within a route you’ve already completed.

Scoring takes place at the end, and the player with the most points wins the game.

Catan vs. Ticket to Ride: Comparing the Two

Game Play (Mechanics)

Both games require managing resources, route laying, and point-based scoring systems. Catan is stacking resources for building civilization, while Ticket to Ride requires stockpiling train cards to lay tracks across the map.

In Catan, you can block roads or use trade to affect other players. In Ticket to Ride, you can prevent opponents from claiming routes by being the first to complete them. Trading is only present in Catan.

Catan has elegant game mechanics that make it a good game if you’re looking for balance and seamless game play. Ticket to Ride is what you might expect- simple, straightforward, and entertaining.

If you want a game that blends different mechanics to ultimately lead to a rich gaming experience, it’s tough to beat Catan.

Winner: Catan

Age Range

Catan can be played by anyone over the age of 10. Ticket to Ride, however, can be played by ages 8 and up. If you’re playing with your children, I would definitely grab Ticket to Ride as the first game to play between the two.

Winner: Ticket to Ride

Difficulty

Ticket to Ride is more straightforward. Collect train cards, connect two cities, and earn victory points. You can try to get the longest route or go for several smaller routes. Even though the gameplay involves decision-making and strategy, it’s easy to learn and simple to understand. This accessibility is one reason it’s so popular, but it may not be as challenging for more experienced players.

Catan requires players to manage grain, wool, ore, and other resources to buy development cards and build roads and settlements. Trade, use cards, or roll dice to acquire resources. Try to build the longest road for extra points.

To be the first player to reach 10 victory points, you have to use a combination of several skills. Catan is not as complex or heavy as some games, but it’s a good game if you want a challenge.

Both games require strategic planning, but I find Catan to strike that perfect balance between simplicity and challenging gameplay.

Winner: Catan

Replay Value

Both board games have a high level of replayability.

In Catan, you can change the board tiles and your starting positions to get a different feel each time you play. There is also a plethora of meaningful decisions to make during the game, which adds to the replay value.

In Ticket to Ride, you will end up with different destination route cards every game, allowing you to explore different areas of the map. You may also choose more or fewer train routes, so your strategy can be different each time you play.

Although both games can be played repeatedly, Ticket to Ride hits a ceiling more quickly for me. I enjoy playing a few times through, and then it’s going to sit on the shelf a while after that. Catan, however, I will more consistently get to the table. This can vary by person, but I’m giving Catan the edge in this category.

Winner: Catan

Thematic Elements

Like other Euro-style games, both Catan and Ticket to Ride are more abstract. They focus on mechanics first, while the theme is secondary. However, they both employ thematic elements in original ways. In Catan, players focus on trading to gain resources and build settlements. The hex board is colorful and consists of land and water tiles. The wooden game pieces represent settlements, and the resource cards are in color.

Ticket to Ride has colored train cards, colorful train cars, a neat old-fashioned map with train routes, and destination tickets. It has a more immersive feel to it.

You won’t find either game to feature heavily thematic game play, but Ticket to Ride has a more dynamic theme. It gets the win in this category.

Winner: Ticket to Ride

“Feel”

Catan and Ticket to Ride are both strategy Euro games, but they do have a different feel to them.

Ticket to Ride has a more laid-back feel to it. You don’t have to wait a long time between turns, but you can see what’s available to you more easily. That’s part of the reason this game appeals to younger players as well as adults.

Catan has more tension. You’ll need to be more careful in your strategy. This board game requires more bartering and player interaction, and it has more moving parts and rules that can thwart your best-laid plans. You’ll have a feel for who is winning, so you can change course and adapt your strategy in realtime.

Even though Catan and Ticket to Ride differ in the feel, one is not necessarily better than the other. It depends on your personal preference.

Winner: Draw

Expansions

An expansion pack can keep a game fresh and add fun variations to the base game. Both Catan and Ticket to Ride offer expansions and different versions.

There are several Ticket to Ride games in the series. Some are standalone games, like the Europe version, Rails and Sails, or Ticket to Ride: Germany. Others are expansions and require the base game to play. These include Japan and Italy, UK & Pennsylvania, and France & The Old West. There are even small expansions that just add Destination Tickets and Spin-Off games.

Catan expansions include Seafarers, Traders & Barbarians, Cities & Knights, Legend of the Conquerors, Crop Trust, and Explorers & Pirates. In addition, there’s an extension that allows you to make a bigger game board and play with up to six players. All of these require the base game to play.

Read more about the best Catan expansions.

The best expansion pack ultimately comes down to personal preference, but both games have plenty of expansion opportunities.

Winner: Draw

Game Board & Setup

Neither game is a beast to set up, but Ticket to Ride is easier to get going. It’s as simple as unfolding the board, shuffling the cards, choosing your colors, and you’re ready to go.

Catan, on the other hand, requires you to organize the numbered tiles and the hexa land tiles. You also have to organize the resource and development cards and set up the water tiles. We’re not talking hours, just a matter of minutes. Still, if you want something easy to set up and begin, Ticket to Ride is your best bet.

To top it off, Ticket to Ride’s map board and scoring border is just neat.

Winner: Ticket to Ride

Cost

These two board games cost pretty much the same. You won’t find a significant difference. The nice thing is that since both games have good replay value, you’ll get your money’s worth either way.

Winner: Draw

Alternative Board Games

Carcassonne

Carcassonne is the award-winning tile-placement game that has players vying for control of territory. Carcassonne has a fairly similar feel to Ticket to Ride. It’s lightweight but strategic, easy to learn, and fun to play with the whole family.

In this game, players attempt to complete the landscape around the medieval southern French city. They lay tiles, then start to build fortresses, cities, and other game features. The tiles depict roads, cities, knights, monasteries, or farmers. Each player controls one to five farmers, represented with meeples. The players draw and place the tile to build an area. 

Players earn points as they complete features. It can be a more merciless game, depending on who you play with, but it’s a lot of fun. It also has extremely high replayability.

Pros

  • Easy to learn, simple rules
  • Tile-placement
  • Quick gameplay

Cons

  • Could be more intensely competitive

Power Grid

Power Grid is another Eurogame that’s short on luck and long on strategy and economic planning. I find it more closely aligned with Catan in gameplay, although it shares similarities with both games.

In Power Grid, players seek to earn income by establishing a power grid across multiple cities in post-war Germany or the U.S. Build the largest power network and keep it running to win the game.

This game is rich in decisions. You must decide which type of energy to use, whether it be nuclear, coal, or even burning garbage. You bid for power plants, buy fuel to run them, and plan to connect cities.

Pros

  • Requires planning and strategic thinking
  • Great medium-weight game

Cons

  • Learning curve

Ticket to Ride or Catan? Final Thoughts

Well, there you go. If you prefer a lighter game with a faster setup and cool theme, I’d go with Ticket to Ride. If you like strategic planning with slightly more tension and complexity, I’d snag a copy of Catan.Either way, though, you’re in for a fun gaming experience. If you already own these titles, check out my top picks for similar games to Ticket to Ride and Catan.