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If you are looking to have some fun with your family or friends and are looking for something else than Monopoly, then both Catan and Carcassonne are great options. Which of those is better, though, depends on your situation and preferences.
In this article, I’ll compare the two board games to help you make the right decision.
Catan vs. Carcassonne: A Detailed Comparison
Let’s start by comparing Catan and Carcassonne based on six points, these being the theme, objective, difficulty, number of players, required time to play, and the number of variations of the original game there are.
What is interesting to note is that the themes of both of these games are quite similar, but that said, the way the games are played is very different. First off, we have Catan (also known as Settlers of Catan).
Catan is all about empire building and world domination, or island domination to be precise, as the game focuses on a group of settlers (you), who are aiming to build a civilization on the island of Catan. The game is all about building roads, structures, and other such amenities and services that cities have, with the aim being to build and own the most roads, buildings, and more. Catan is about dominating a space.
In terms of the theme, Carcassonne can be seen as being similar in the sense that the point of it is also to build and connect roads, and to build various things like churches, farms, walls, and more. In this sense, both games are quite similar, as they focus on building a settlement or city.
Both games are about dominating a space. However, where they differ is that whereas Catan is about settling an island, Carcassonne is about building a medieval city in the French countryside.
Objective of the Game
The end goal of Catan is to end up being the player with the most so-called victory points. The game of Catan involves players winning or buying pieces of land on the island of Catan. Once players own land, they can then begin to build roads, structures, and other amenities on that land. The point is to build a variety of things that cities need to be real cities.
Every time a player finishes constructing one of these things, they are awarded one of these victory points. The winner of Settlers of Catan is the first player to accumulate ten victory points. In other words, this is a first-past-the-post kind of game, with the first player to reach that ten-point mark being declared the winner.
The gameplay in Carcassonne is a bit odd, and it is hard to compare to Catan, because in a way it is very similar, but also quite different. Let us explain. In Carcassonne, the aim is for players to build a variety of things (this can be a road, city, wall, farm, or cloister), and to then put a so-called Meeple on each of these constructions.
However, the tricky part is that unlike in Catan where players have to purchase the land first, in Carcassonne, players have game board tiles in their hands, or in other words, the game board is created or built as the game goes on. Players must lay down the game board tiles in such a way that roads are always connected. The edges of the tiles must match the edges of the surrounding tiles. Therefore, while Carcassonne is also played by building various things (and then putting your Meeple on those things), the players must first also literally build the map/board.
The way in which the game of Carcassonne is won is different from Catan. Carcassonne is won by the player who has the most strategic placements and Meeples is the winner. When the game ends, it is the player with the most Meeples or points who is declared the winner.
Catan is rated for ages ten and up, whereas Carcassonne is rated for ages seven and up. So, in theory, neither of these games is super difficult, but that said, they do both involve a good bit of strategy. However, according to these guidelines, Catan is the more difficult of the two.
Now, we have to say that we do not quite agree with the age assessment of Carcassonne. Due to the fact that it is like a strategy game combined with a puzzle game (you have to build the game board in a strategic manner on a turn-by-turn basis), it can be quite hard to play, not to mention that the scoring system is pretty confusing. It’s not like it is an overly difficult game to play, but it does take some time to learn.
When it comes down to it, Catan may be harder to play if you are playing against experienced adults, but in theory, we think that the gameplay and the scoring system are a bit simpler than those of Carcassonne. Catan is definitely not hard to learn. So, we think that Catan is the easier game to play, although the gameplay is quite different, and who knows, some people might be able to pick one up faster than the other.
Number of Players
One of the downfalls of Settlers of Catan is that unless you have one of the specialized versions or expansions, the game has to be played by either three or four people, no more and no less.
Carcassonne is much more versatile in this sense, as it can be played by as few as two and by as many as five players, thus making it better for pairs or families of five.
Average Play Time
What is nice about both of these games is that unlike a game like Monopoly that can take up to three hours to play, both Catan and Carcassone take less than an hour to complete.
You can expect an average game of Catan to take about 30 minutes, give or take depending on the experience level of the players. With Carcassonne, you can expect a single game to take around 45 minutes, give or take depending on the experience level of the players.
Including variations and expansions, there are just over 30 versions of Catan. There 18 primary versions of Carcassonne available, with six small expansions, ten large expansions, and a pair of other specialty expansions.
Which of the Two Games Should You Get?
At the end of the day, both Catan and Carcassonne are family-friendly game. We think that Catan might be just a tad more child-friendly than Carcassonne, but that said, it really depends on who is playing. If we are talking about playtime, both games take about the same amount of time to complete, so that’s not a deciding factor.
Now, if you like puzzle and strategy games, then Carcassonne is probably the better one, as it has more of a puzzle element to it. Of course, you do also need to consider that Catan is limited due to the three- or four-player requirement, whereas Carcassonne can be played by two to five people.
We think that both Catan and Carcassonne are awesome games to consider, and honestly, both are ideal for friends and family alike.
They’re both good combinations of action and strategy.
Alternatively, you can also consider other board games like Catan of which there are many.