Whether you are new to tabletop games or have been in the hobby for a while, you are probably familiar with the ubiquitous Settlers of Catan. If you fell in love with the classic game but you're looking to try something new, we have a few recommendations for board games like Catan. There’s sure to be one that’s just right. (Still enjoying Catan? Check out some of the best Catan expansions to mix things up just a little bit.)
Usually, lists that liken board games to Catan are simply lists of “gateway” games - games that are considered to cater to people who are new to board games. This list will be a bit different in that we will zoom in on different elements that you may love about Catan and give you recommendations for games with similar mechanics. In particular, we’ll be focusing on trading, dice rolling and resource collection.
Board games like Catan
The number of games available out there can be overwhelming, and it’s hard to know where to start if you’re new to the world of board games. The last thing you need is a huge list of game recommendations, so we’ve curated this short and specific list of board games like Catan to give you clear guidance on the path to the next game you’ll love.
For those looking to make a trade (and have a healthy of love of beans)
If your favourite part of Catan is desperately trying to dump your sheep on your friends for a bit of wood, then you’ll have a great time with Bohnanza. Trading is the core of this game created by the great Uwe Rosenberg, who brought us the likes of Patchwork and Agricola. You are a trader of beans, and it’s up to you to swindle the best beans from your buddies by making wily trades.
In Bohnanza, you have a hand of bean cards that must stay in order. On your turn, you must plant the first bean in your hand in front of you in one of your fields. If you already have that type of bean in a field, you’re in luck; you get to add that bean to the existing field and now you might have enough to sell them for some cash. You only have two fields, which means you can only ever have two types of beans in front of you. Because you have to play the first bean in your hand every turn, you’ll often find yourself forced to replace your valuable beans with garbage beans you don’t want.
The bulk of the game revolves around avoiding this exact situation. In addition to planting the cards from your hand, you’ll reveal two random bean cards from the deck each turn. These cards are yours and you’ll have to plant them at the end of your turn. However, this is also the phase of your turn where you get to make trades. You can trade the beans in your hand or the newly revealed beans, but not the ones already in your field. It’s up to you to bargain for the beans you want and clear the unwanted beans from your hand.
Bohnanza takes the flexible trading rules of Catan and focuses an entire card game around them. There’s a bit of scheming, a bit of screaming, but mostly tons of fun to be had. Control your hand carefully and secure the choicest beans through favourable trades to prove how profitable being full of beans can be.
For those who just wanna roll some dice
If nothing about Catan fills you with more glee than placing three cities around one number and waiting for it to get rolled, allow us to introduce you to Space Base. This sci-fi board game is all about the euphoria of rolling the perfect number at the perfect time. It gives you just enough control that it doesn’t feel totally random, but it’s still random enough to keep you on your toes and provide some fun surprises.
In Space Base, you have a board with a dozen cards numbered from 1 to 12. Each card has an ability that is triggered if you roll its number. On your turn, you roll two dice and can trigger any cards that match the numbers you rolled. You can use each die individually or combine them to trigger a card with a higher number. At the end of each turn, you can purchase a new card from the centre of the table. These cards are also numbered 1 to 12 and will replace the corresponding card on your board. When a card is replaced, rather than being discarded it goes under your board and has a new power that is triggered when other players roll that number.
Flipping cards under your board to be triggered by other players is the secret sauce of Space Base. There’s a careful balance you have to maintain between having good cards to trigger on your own turn and increasing the chances of wonderful things happening on your opponents’ turns. You can diversify your portfolio of cards by having a broad spectrum of numbers to get a little something from most any roll, but daring players will purchase a handful of cards with the same number which makes rewards rarer, but oh-so-satisfying when the roll goes your way. What’s better than rolling the perfect number multiple times in a row as a wave of groans ripples across the table from your opponents? Nothing - that’s what.
There is a satisfying variety in the card abilities available to experiment with. Many cards will simply give you money for future purchases or points, but some let you move your cards around to different slots making it so that card that usually only triggers on a 12 now triggers on a 5. There is even one card that triggers every time a 12 is rolled, and if it’s triggered a certain number of times throughout the game you win immediately.
There’s a lot to explore in Space Base and it’s quite accessible to newcomers. The more you play, the more you’ll recognise the clever engines you can build. It’s everything you love about the dice rolling in Catan streamlined into a delightful board game that’s all about the dice.
For anyone looking to put down little wooden houses and collect resources
Perhaps your tastes are more refined than a simple love of dice or arguing over the best beans. Maybe you take your role as an effective settler seriously and revel in building up an efficient network of resource acquisition, looking for every opportunity to monopolise the most lucrative spaces. My friend, look no further than Concordia.
There’s a little more to wrap your head around in this game than our previous recommendations, but it’s nothing you can’t handle if you’re familiar with Catan. In broad strokes, you’ll be carefully managing a hand of cards that will allow you to collect resources, sell resources, settle new areas of the board and acquire new cards. On your turn, you will play a single card from your hand and do as it instructs. The trick is once you’ve played a card, you don’t have access to use it again until you use an entire turn to pick up all the cards you’ve played. Careful planning and timing are crucial for success in Concordia.
At the end of the game, the cards you acquired serve as multipliers for different scoring opportunities. This aspect of the game makes scoring a little difficult to grasp at first, but once you understand it the puzzle of getting the right cards for both their abilities and end-game scoring is immensely satisfying. All scoring happens at the end of the game, so you can never quite tell who is winning until the game reaches its conclusion, making the end of each game an edge-of-your-seat affair.
This board game scratches a lot of the itches that Catan does in terms of laying out a carefully planned network to gather resources efficiently and expand your network further - all while keeping an eye on what your opponents are doing. There are many opportunities to block your opponents from cheap access to resources and to capitalise on the networks they’ve built up. It also doesn’t hurt that the houses used in Concordia are just like the wooden components used in Catan.