Catan vs. Ticket to Ride

Two board games that gamers from beginners to experts love, there is no doubt that these are excellent places to start for a game night warm-up or cool down. If you are new to the gaming community, these are likely in the top five gateway games you have been recommended in starting out.

Catan and Ticket to Ride have some similar building mechanics but overall they are two very different games in playtime and overall game-play experience. For the bare rules and board components, be sure to check out our reviews to get a more thorough overview:

I’m sure you have some questions: How long does it take to learn? How long should I expect to be playing for? Do I have a chance at winning the first time I play without knowing some sort of strategy?

Catan

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

Catan

Ticket to Ride

Players: 2-5
Playing time: 30-60 minutes
Age: 8+
Difficulty: Easy

Ticket to Ride Overview

Ticket to Ride: Anniversary Edition Board Game Box and Trains

Let us jump right on the train, shall we? Our first stop is Ticket to Ride, an old favorite that works for up to 5 players. This game board depicts a map with various routes to build all around the world, with an objective to build your chosen tracks before any player runs out of trains. Usually, you can expect to play for up to an hour, although if you have some steam engines for co-players, it could speed things up. 

Learning Ticket to Ride can seem a bit daunting at first, though, once you realize it is all luck-based, you start to realize things are not as hard as it steams. It is luck of the draw to see which color train cards are available for pickup if you are able to snag a wild card in deck drawing, and how accessible it is to easily build tracks.

It offers a quick learning curve as you really only have a few choices: build a track, stockpile trains, or pick up more train routes (this is a huge strategy depending on how well you believe you can build the extra roads — it is possible to get extra lucky if you pick up later in the game and have a route that is based in your original train missions). Yay, we love easy points!

Catan Overview

Catan Board Game

Catan takes players back in time to the bare bones: building your settlements from rock, sheep, brick, and other resources. The gameplay is more limited than Ticket to Ride, allowing up to 4 players without an expansion (pick up an expansion pack to allow up to 6 players).

The board is a grid style, with dice roll number placements stacked on the hexagons. Resources are shuffled pre-game and placed with random dice numbers and port locations. Since building an entire settlement naturally takes longer than railroad work, the gameplay is longer and you should expect to be playing for up to 2 hours. 

Don’t let the lengthy playtime dissuade you from playing this classic. It is a bit more technical to begin, slightly longer to teach, but easy to pick up after the first two or three rounds.

Contrasting Ticket to Ride, the first choices you will make in this game carry more weight; your token placements distinguish what resources you will procure naturally and which you will be lacking in and have to trade other players for. Keep your eyes open for the high probability dice numbers and most economical-resourced port for your strategy!

Now that you are leaning towards a decision, let’s make it final with the similarities and differences between these games. 

Similarities Between Catan & Ticket to Ride

Both games enact card resource building, route laying, and point stacking systems. Catan is building the civilization and stacking resources for constructing settlements, whilst Ticket to Ride compiles train cards to lay tracks across the map.

One aspect of the strategy is related; blocking co-players can completely change the game dynamic. Positioning your roads in Catan can choke off others from valuable resources and slow down construction, giving you a chance to catch up. Being the first to take cheap and high-traveled tracks in Ticket to Ride can force others to have to prolong their route. However, the longest route, in the end, gives bonus points in both of these games. It pays to suffer sometimes. 

Differences Between Catan & Ticket to Ride

As similar in makeup these games might seem, the differences come in the independence factor of your choices. Although both games are fairly luck-based, Ticket to Ride allows more self-management choices, whereas advancement in Catan requires a strong level of persuasive bartering for needed assets.

Catan is trade-based with supply and demand with ports and dice rolling, so you will be chatting amongst opponents much more. The act of trading is the main reason Catan’s turn lengths get more extensive, pushing toward the 120 minutes game time. 

While Ticket to Ride is less stressful overall with not much player-to-player interaction needed, Catan will increase tension when resources begin to run out and building accelerates.

Catan also provides more moving parts and rules; offering another element with a “robber” who appears from a dice roll of 7 and gives the ability to block a resource from multiple players. This can force more trades for you and have others shouting across the table to surrender one brick for 3 sheep. Man, sheep inflation has gotten baaaa-d!

If your group is one who prefers a quick setup and get-to-playing transition — TTR is more speedy to begin and start constructing routes within the first two rounds, if you are super lucky! Just as building a home, Catan is ground-up and takes more time to interact with the board, resources, and start taking some actions. 

Catan Memes

Conclusion: Verdict?

So there we have it, folks, the choice is yours. Building a settlement, farming sheep, and rolling dice? Or getting right on track with Ticket to Ride and racing fellow conductors across the world.

Do you want to haggle or keep to yourself? Quick game or longer table-topper? Either way, if you go off the rails in TTR or put your sheep out to pasture in Catan, you are guaranteed a rowdy time!

Disclaimer: Catan has been known to ruin friendships, take this into consideration (or don’t) when you pick your poison.

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