Catan vs. Civilization

Catan and Civilization are two very similarly themed games that are vastly different in overall complexity, technique/mechanics, playing time, and set-up.

If you are new to board games, Catan is a classic that keeps it simple but maintains an aura of strategy and versatility. Civilization would be more adaptable if you have played many area majority games and take well to lengthy instructions. Big bite or small bite, you chew-z! 

This is a versus, after all, so let’s look at the components of the two settlement-power games. 

  • How long does it take to set up, learn rules, and play to victory?
  • What is the objective?
  • What can we expect in the dynamic? Differences and Similarities?

Catan

Players: 3-4
Playing time: 60-120 minutes
Age: 10+
Difficulty: Medium

Catan

Civilization

Players: 24
Playing time: 60-120 minutes
Age: 14+
Difficulty: Hard

Set-up, Rules, Playtime

If you did not dive into the PC gaming world of Civilization back in 1991, your chance has come again in the board game adaption of Civilization: A New Dawn. Veterans of the online Civ gaming community seem pleased with the physical copy, claiming it to have equally as many components as the original video game.

The set-up has countless tokens and parts, hence unboxing it can be a tall task for any beginner. With 200 or more tokens and 100+ cards, you have all you need for your civilization to flourish or completely crumble. The board is a hexagonal grid (same as Catan) with a focus bar, focus cards, tokens for different city magnitudes, and the list continues… no doubt an extensive set up to provide a wide array of actions.

You should expect about 30 minutes to read the rules and truly understand them. Even so, you might need to practice some trial and error to figure out what works for you and your empire. Games can take two hours or more so make sure you are locked into this adventure with people you actually like. Play with up to 4 players in your quest to outbuild the other societies.

Civilization: A New Dawn 4X Board Game Box

Catan is a less absorbed, more compact, civilization-building game. It holds true with Civ in the board design shape, but relies more heavily on cards and requires fewer tokens. The set-up for Catan is quick: place hexagon tiles, assign dice numbers, choose initial settlement locations and begin!

It is considered a gateway game, easier to learn than Civ, and helps build the foundation of resource management and strategy to prepare for more challenging games in the same genre, such as Through the Ages, Peloponnes, or Archipelago.  

For set up, learning, and the first round, factor in 15-20 minutes and you’re off to the fields. Games last around 2 hours, depending on the amount of bartering, the number of players, and decisiveness. Both games allow up to 4 players, but Catan does offer expansion packs to allow up to 6 if you want more people to steal sheep from. 

Game Objectives

Civilization offers various paths to victory by completing one of the various agendas on three separate victory cards. Before the game begins, all players choose three victory cards at random and are tasked to complete 1 of the 2 items listed. Once you have a token on one agenda on each victory card, you are declared the most civilized civilization and you win! 

Catan’s success is based solely on victory points that are acquired by building settlements, using your resources wisely, building the longest road, or having the largest army. If you have a silver tongue, your chances at victory tend to be higher as trading can make or break your speed of constructing and racking up development cards.

Catan Board Game Components Descriptions

Dynamic vs. Dynamic

Time to get technical! What can we really expect when we walk like an Egyptian in Civ? Players begin by suiting up as one civilization and taking the role of their leader.

Would you like tea with that? Play as Queen Victoria.
Feeling equestrian? Climb in the saddle as Teddy Roosevelt.

Each civilization comes with a unique ability to change up strategy and playing mechanics. 

Focus on your focus board; a line made up of five action cards related to the key components of your civilization: science, military, economy, industry, and culture. When cards enter this row and advance right, they grow in power.

Each turn allows another chance to dispense one of these tools, the plan of action comes in having the knowledge to know when and where. Check out our review detailing the different roles each of these assets plays in control and movement here.

If multitasking is your strong suit, you know where to allocate resources, and you usually take over other empires, give Civ a whirl. 

Scaling it back to more basic gameplay, Catan allows players to choose which resources they will collect in bulk based on the probability of dice rolls. Positioning your first settlement in a prime location can run the rest of the supply chain either effortlessly for you or cause you a headache.

If you place your settlement on the boundary of a hexagon depicting the number 6, providing the natural resource wheat, whenever a 6 is rolled by any player, you will collect wheat. Be positive to cover your bases or you will be hustling sheep in your sleep. 

Conclusion: Verdict?

On a basic scale, Civilization provides a more laborious master plan to revel in the ultimate ruler, the last man standing status. Catan is meeker and less aggressive in the route to triumph; fewer armies, less destruction, more farming, more trading, more dice rolling.

They cater to the same number of players but appeal to various levels of difficulty. Civ and Catan offer high replayability, and once you understand the game dynamics it can be easier to throw on harder deviations of the game and play more efficiently. 

Catan is best if you have less time, more new players, less mental focus, and desire a brisk setup. Civilization offers longer game time, challenging responsibilities, assigned special abilities/roles, and offers a highly technical approach to board gaming.

If Civilization and Archipelago had a baby, it would be Catan. Civilization is like making a pizza without turning your oven on, you go crazy for a bit, but once you get it figured out, it is a tasty victory.

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