The world of Catan is filled with various expansion packs that add new elements and challenges to the base game. While some players may have their personal favorites, the popularity of each expansion can vary among the player base. In this article, I seek to identify the most popular/most played expansions today.
1. Cities and Knights
Cities & Knights drastically changes the dynamics of Catan, with the introduction of city upgrades, progress cards, and commodities. Cities are given much more power in C&K compared to the base game, which creates an emphasis on building "up" rather than expanding around the board. The Barbarian attack also creates a looming threat that impacts strategy decisions.
All in all, Cities & Knights is an extremely complex and fun expansion to Catan, and the numbers show that it is far and away the most popular. Cities & Knights is available to play on Colonist!
A clear second, Seafarers was consistently right behind Cities & Knights in polling. Interestingly though, while it received around 80% of the vote C&K did for the Reddit polls, it got only 16% of the total vote in mine, or just over 25% of C&K. It is possible that Seafarers has gotten less popular over the last few years, or that my poll was a biased sample of more hardcore players.
Seafarers is the easiest Catan expansion to learn, which may explain its popularity. However, a common complaint is its simplicity relative to Cities & Knights, which is why most players prefer the latter.
In Seafarers, players can build ships to explore an expanded map with islands separate from the starting board. Some tiles are covered in "fog" which hides their resource type and number until a player places a ship/road adjascent to the tile. Additionally, Seafarers introduces gold tiles which produce a resource of players choice.
Seafarers is a slightly more advanced version of Catan for players trying to spice up weekly game night, and I encourage everyone to give it a try! You can play Seafarers with a membership on Colonist.
3. Traders and Barbarians
Coming in tied for 3rd place is Traders and Barbarians. This expansion pack was released in 2008 and contains five special scenarios which build on Catan.
Traders and Barbains was the most surprising result of the poll. In both Reddit polls that included Traders & Barbarians as well as Explorers & Pirates, Explorers & Pirates received at least double the votes. However, in the poll I conducted Traders beat out Explorers, albeit merely 2 votes.
Overall, my perception of this expansion is that it offers an array of fun variations to base Catan, and its rising popularity over time tells me that while it may be complicated to learn, it is worth the wait!
3. 5-6 Player Extension
Tied for 3rd with Traders and Barbarians is the 5-6 player extension. You can probably guess what this extension does - allows you to expand Catan to play with even more friends!
5-6 Player mode was one of the first extensions added to Colonist and it's incredibly popular. The addition of the special build phase and other subtle differences make it an interesting change of pace for when your weekly Catan group wants to bring a plus one! The 5-6 player expansion, as well as an option for 7-8 players, is available on Colonist.
5. Explorers and Pirates
Coming in last place is Explorers and Pirates. While Explorers has lots of positive reviews, it is the most drastic change to base Catan of all the expansions listed, which may explain its lack of popularity. It is also the most recent release.
The biggest mystery of my poll is Explorers and Pirates' lack of popularity relative to Traders and Barbarians, and my best guess is that it has to do with the recent rise in popularity of Traders and Barbarians, and not any issue with explorers and pirates.
In conclusion, Catan is a game that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. It has numerous expansions, each with their own unique elements and challenges. Cities & Knights and Seafarers are the most popular expansions, followed by Traders & Barbarians and the 5-6 Player Extension, with Explorers and Pirates coming in last place. Ultimately, all of these expansions provide an additional level of complexity that makes Catan even more enjoyable!
Currently, Colonist offers only the top three of these expansions, but in the future we hope to add more depending on what our users would like to see! You can show support on our feature upvote page for Traders & Barbarians or Explorers & Pirates. This page is how we decide our future features, so vote wisely! You can also submit ideas for new expansions, or add existing ones to the feature upvote page if you do not see them. Thank you for reading!