Settlers of Catan Versus Ticket to Ride: Comparison / Review

Are you new to the current generation of strategy board games?  Do you want to know which board game you should add to your collection?  Or do you have an opinion as to which board game is better between Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan?  We’re going to take a deep dive into the Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan comparisons to determine which game is the better of the two.

The Metrics

The metrics that we’ll include in this comparison are theme and game objective, complexity of rules, maximum number of players, randomizers, re-playability, player engagement, ways to win, and player enjoyment.

Theme and Game Objective

Settlers of Catan is a game premised around the idea of building a colony in Catan.  Each player is building their own colony of settlements and cities while interacting with other players colonies to do so.  The objective is to be the first colony to reach 10 points.

Ticket to Ride’s theme is based on making train connections throughout the United States of America.  Each player collects tickets that have assigned connections.  Connections can be made in a number of different ways.  The objective is to make the connections while competing with others for the most valuable routes.  High score wins.

Both Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride have a well thought out theme that defines their games.  The themes contribute to the games overall experience.

Theme and Game Objective Scores:

Settlers of Catan   –  GREAT    Ticket To Ride  –  GOOD

Complexity of Rules

Settlers of Catan rules are more complex than Ticket to Ride.

Ticket to Ride game play requires the ability to make a decision of three choices every round.  You can take cards, build trains, or take tickets.  Building trains on longer routes are worth more points than smaller routes.  Ticket connections successfully made are worth positive points and they are worth negative points if connections are unsuccessful.  Finally bonus points are provided to the player with the longest train and to the player with the most completed tickets.  Put it all together and high score wins.

Settlers of Catan requires players to understand the proper way to build in Catan; how to count points, how to barter; and the effects of the Robber, the 7, and the development cards.

After playing one game of Ticket to Ride you will be able to completely understand the strategy and you will be competitive in the next game.  Settlers of Catan will require you to play a few more games before you are ready to strategize. 

Although Settlers of Catan’s rules are more complex they are not too difficult to comprehend.  Settlers of Catan brings the right amount of complexity to provide a great deal of competitive satisfaction.

Complexity of Rules Scores:

Settlers of Catan   –  GREAT    Ticket To Ride  –  GOOD


Ticket to Ride’s randomizers consists of two decks of cards.  The first deck of cards is the “Tickets” and they are dealt to all players.  The second deck of cards represents the train cars that are needed to build trains onto the Ticket to Ride game board.

Settlers of Catan uses dice to randomize the elements that are distributed to the players throughout the games.            

Both Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan provide just the right amount of randomizer to allow players some control of their overall strategy.

Randomizer Scores:

Settlers of Catan   –  GREAT    Ticket To Ride  –  GREAT


Now that we examined the randomizers we can determine how the randomizers play a role in the games re-playability.

The Settlers of Catan game board consists of many different hexagonal tiles.  These tiles can be reorganized into different combinations forming a different board every time.  These tiles are then labeled with a numeric value that corresponds to a number on the dice.  So, because Settlers of Catan can have thousands of different boards all of which will be randomized by the dice differently there is an infinite amount of re-playability.

Ticket to Ride, on the other hand, has a fixed board with two randomizers that moderately change each game.  These moderate changes do make each game different so that your train connection patterns will have to change from game to game in order to develop a winning strategy.

Settlers of Catan mastery is much harder to attain that that of Ticket to Ride, thereby creating a higher level of re-playability for Settler of Catan.

Re-playability Scores:

Settlers of Catan   –  GREAT    Ticket To Ride  –  FAIR

Maximum Number of Players

Settlers of Catan can accommodate 2-4 players during one game.  Although the Settlers of Catan expansion set does allow for up to 2 additional players.

The only downside about the expansion set is that some of the base rules are changed.  There is a building phase introduced which allows every player to build, or purchase development cards, during every turn.

NOTE:  Port exchanges are not permitted during the building phase unless the building phase is during your turn.  This is important because the building phase lessens the overall effect of the “7”, but limiting port exchanges is the compromise to maintain this effect.

Ticket to Ride can be played by 2-5 players.  Playing Ticket to Ride with 5 players creates a crowded game board and creates an urgency to make your train connections before someone else claims the routes.  Playing Ticket to Ride with 5 players creates the best overall, and intended, game experience.

Although both Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan can be played with 2 players neither game should be played with less than 3 players.

Maximum Number of Player Scores:

Settlers of Catan   –  GOOD    Ticket To Ride  –  GREAT

Player Engagement

All players are consistently engaged throughout the Settlers of Catan game.  All players can potentially claim elements during the turns of all players.  Additionally the process of bartering allows players to engage with each other during every turn throughout the entire game.

Ticket to Ride does not have the same level of player engagement as Settlers of Catan.  You can only play, and affect your game, during your turn. 

However, there are things that advanced players can do implement during other players turns that can affect their game.  These things include counting cards (the colored train cards have a maximum of 13 per deck), determine which color cards your opponents are collecting, and observe/plan for secondary options when your opponents force you to detour around your primary connections.

Player Engagement Scores:

Settlers of Catan   –  GREAT    Ticket To Ride  –  FAIR

Multiple Ways to Win

One of the things I find most enjoyable in a strategy game is having multiple ways to win.  These games allow players to choose a different strategy from their opponents and still pursue a win.

Settlers of Catan does allow for multiple ways to win each game.  A primary strategy that all players must pursue is to build their colony with settlements and cities.  However, there are a number of secondary strategies that provide each player with choices on how to quickly reach 10 points.  These different point opportunities include longest road, largest army, and development card victory points.

Ticket to Ride also provides different opportunities to score point like the longest train and the most completed tickets.  However, these are more like bonus points to that player and usually don’t serve in an overall strategy.  Ticket to Ride provides one basic way to win – get the most points by completing the most connections.

Multiple Ways to Win Scores:

Settlers of Catan   –  GREAT    Ticket To Ride  –  FAIR

Player Enjoyment

On occasion you can play a game of Settlers of Catan and a game of Ticket to Ride where nothing is going your way.  The randomizers just aren’t going your way and your opponents are getting everything they need.  The only thing you can do is play out the game honorably and wait for the next game.  Of course this isn’t enjoyable for you but your opponents are having a great time.

So we cannot base player enjoyment on the worst possible scenario.  Most games allow all players to remain competitive to the end.  Because there are more ways to win, and a bartering component, individuals who like playing strategy board games will find greater satisfaction in Settlers of Catan.

However, it is important to know that Ticket to Ride does provide a lot of player satisfaction to board game players who are less strategic.  This is why I play Settlers of Catan with my Game Night Bros and I play Ticket to Ride with my family.

 Player Enjoyment Scores:

Settlers of Catan   –  GREAT    Ticket To Ride  –  GOOD

Expansions or Other Versions

Once you master each of these games, or you are just looking for something different you will find that each of these games has multiple versions.  My favorite Settlers of Catan extension is Cities and Knights.  Ticket to Ride Europe is my favorite variation of the train games.


Ticket to Ride is a great board game choice for family board game night.  It is also an excellent entry level game for people who want to play some friendly board games on Sunday afternoon or during the holiday.

Settlers of Catan is our choice as the better of these two games.  Settlers of Catan is more competitive, requires strategic planning, offers multiple ways to win, and provides greater enjoyment to the highly strategic board game players.

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