Catan vs. Risk: Which Board Game to Get?

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If you are looking for some great board games to play, due to the massive selection of them, you might not know where to start. Well, two very popular games out there, alternatives to the popular Monopoly in a way, are Catan and Risk.

Both of these games have been around for many years, and both have remained hugely popular with both children and adults alike, two great strategy games. That said, Catan and Risk, while they share similarities, are also quite different. So, which of the two is right for you?

Catan vs. Risk

Catan vs. Risk: A Detailed Comparison

What we want to do right now is to compare Catan and Risk based on a few important factors including their theme, difficulty, the objective, how many people can play, and more. With these factors in mind, you should then be able to make a choice in terms of which one is best for you, your friends, and your family.

1. Theme

In theory, the themes of both Catan and Risk are actually very similar, at least in their most basic forms. Although the gameplay is different, and the board looks different, the theme in both games is world domination.

Ok, so Catan features a smaller scale than Risk, or in other words, in Catan, the aim is to colonize the island of Catan (hence the name, Settlers of Catan), whereas Risk is about total world domination, not just an island. That said, in essence, the theme is to own the most and to be the biggest power.

The themes do differ more if we dig deeper into it, with Risk being more of a war-based game with armies doing “battle” with each other, whereas in Catan, superiority is achieved through colonization and the building of city infrastructure.

2. Objective of the Game

The objective of Catan is fairly simple. Players must purchase or win pieces of land on the Island of Catan, and must then build infrastructure. Players must construct roads, buildings, and a variety of other amenities which cities need. Each time a player makes a new settlement or creates new constructions, that player gets a so-called victory point. This is a first-past-the-post game, or in other words, a player wins the game when he or she accumulates ten victory points.

Risk on the other hand features a last-man-standing approach to victory. The objective of Risk is to use your armies to battle the armies of the opposing players, and when your army wins a battle, you get the disputed piece of land. The objective here is for one player to conquer and control all of the land on the board. Now, while the objective of Risk is actually quite simple and straightforward, the game itself does involve a good deal of strategy.

3. Difficulty

When it comes down to it, which of these games is harder than the other is fairly difficult to judge. In essence, both games are very heavy on strategy. If we are to refer to the packaging of both games, they’re both rated for ages 10+.

We think that it’s hard to compare the difficulty here, because on one hand, Risk does not involve many actions, but it does require strategy so that your armies don’t get wiped out. Yes, there are two dice involved, so there is a certain element of luck, but players do need to be careful to not get wiped out.

On the other hand, Catan involves less luck than Risk, plus there are also more actions that players can take. Based on this description alone, it would seem that Catan is a bit harder and more strategic in nature, but at the end of the day, both games are strategy-heavy and not really suited for young children. You do have to know what you are doing.

CATAN Board Game (Base Game) | Family Board Game | Board Game for Adults and Family | Adventure Board Game | Ages 10+ | For 3 to 4 players | Average Playtime 60 minutes | Made by Catan Studio

4. Number of Players

In terms of the number of players needed, Risk can be played by four to six people, making it ideal for families and groups of friends. Catan is a little more restrictive in this sense, because you need either three or four people to play, but no more and no less.

That said, there are some specialty versions of Catan that can be played by as few as two or as many as six people.

5. Average Play Time

Many people tend to like Settlers of Catan due to it being a fairly fast-paced game. On average, for people who are experienced, expect to take around 30 minutes per game. For new players, a single game could take 40 minutes, and for a group of avid players, it can be done in as little as 15 or 20 minutes.

Risk on the other hand is a much longer and drawn-out game, with one reason being that due to the last-man-standing nature of it, a player can own 99% of the territories, and then it can all go the other way. This back-and-forth nature of Risk means that it can take a long time to play.

On average, you can expect a game of Risk to take around two if not three hours depending on the number of players. Risk is not a quick game. It’s the kind of game you play once in an afternoon, then you’ll probably want to do something else.

Hasbro Risk Game

6. Variations

At this time, including the various versions and expansions, there are just over 30 different variations of Catan.

What’s nice about Risk is that there are dozens of variations to choose from, if not hundreds (although many are discontinued). Remember that this game has been around since 1957, thus making it one of the oldest board games that people still play.

Just some of the modern versions of Risk, all of which are based on pop culture, include StarCraft, Doctor Who, Halo, Mass Effect, Star Wars (several versions), Lord of the Rings, Captain America, The Walking Dead, Rick and Morty, and so much more.

Which of the Two Games Should You Get?

If you really have to choose one over the other, in terms of difficulty, both games are fairly even, although Risk may be just a bit more strategic in nature, and it takes much longer to play. Simply put, Risk, a game that can take countless hours to play, is designed for hardcore board game enthusiasts, whereas Catan is a bit more laid back, and more importantly, it takes a fraction of the time to complete a game.

If you want to play Age of Empires as a board game, then Catan is great, and if you want to play at being a warlord with the aim of total world domination, then Risk is the way to go.


What can be said is that both of these games are great fun, but do keep in mind that neither of them is ideal for young children.

Yes, they are family-friendly, technically speaking, so long as no one in the family is under ten years of age.