Going Analog

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What to play after Settlers of Catan

New shores (and scores) await.

Listen, it’s not that we don’t like you visiting Catan -- tourism is a great moneymaker, sure -- but there are only so many arguments over whose road is longest that the locals can stand. We’re sorry but the island’s shutting down shop. It’s time you looked to the horizon for new board games.

What to play after Settlers of Catan

Fortunately, there are plenty of other cardboard continents for your board gaming boat to rock up at. Many of them offer far sunnier shores, too. So if you’re about ready to pack some suitcases and head to the harbor, here are the board games we’d recommend docking at after Settlers of Catan.

Clans of Caledonia

Games like Settlers of Catan - Clans of Caledonia

If you want to rule these 19th-century highlands, you’ll need to fight for them. Not with swords or guns, mind you; Scotland has moved far beyond such simple tools. No, this is a war of whiskey. In Clans of Caledonia, you’ll take up (the coat of) arms as one of Scotland’s historical families. Your aim? To conquer the land through shrewd agriculture/cattle placement and by manipulating the market. Mine for money, produce wheat, and raise cows to stock up on valuable goods you can sell when the price is right.

Why it’s like Settlers of Catan: Placement is crucial in Clans of Caledonia. Much like Settlers you’ll choose two starting points on a hex-based map that’ll quickly feel far more cramped than it first appears. The aim is to link together workers and resource production tokens to both take advantage of the terrain and ensure that you’re outputting enough goods each turn. There are even corner-based bonuses you can link up with, just like in Catan. You’ll also spend plenty of time trading in Clans, but it’s not quite so simple as pestering your friends until they give you that one wheat card you’ve been waiting on.

How it evolves the formula: Clans is a far more complex game than Settlers, but seasoned islanders will find the extra depth an improvement in almost every aspect. Instead of trading directly with one another, you’ll sell and buy goods from a shared market. Each interaction shifts a commodity’s price up and down, meaning timing is crucial. Selling early can undercut your rivals, but holding back could push the value up if others are desperate to buy.

For a cost, you can also upgrade your market, transport, and income capabilities. Which path you take is entirely up to choice, though each clan’s unique power serves as a good direction. Clans will hit many of the same notes as Catan but tests your brain a whole lot further.

Concordia

Games like Settlers of Catan - Concordia

Prefer wine to whiskey? Concordia has a marbled table to trade your sophisticated merchandise atop. Set during the height of the Roman Empire, this economic expansion game sends your traders across the length and breadth of the realm to secure the finest wine, silks, and more. 

Instead of goods, your hand holds a deck of actions like trading, moving, and establishing an outpost. You’ll only get your cards back when you spend a turn regathering them, so planning an efficient sequence to minimize wasted round is vital.

Why it’s like Settlers of Catan: Set and space collection. You’ll be tussling for room in a shared, randomized map, but in Concordia everyone starts in the same spot. As such, the game starts with players spreading outward before inevitably intercepting again. Set collection feeds expansion here, too, as establishing trading posts or buying new cards requires the right combination of money and resources, albeit in token rather than card form. Thankfully the Roman legion has kept miscreants in check, so you won’t catch any robbers at work here.  

How it evolves the formula: Concordia is one of the highest-ranked economic games and for good reason. On top of balancing your resources and the order in which you execute your moves, you need to determine which cards to purchase from the display. Each one grants a powerful new action and, crucially, an opportunity for victory points. Cards come under the banner of a Roman god, with each deity offering points through a different system. You’ll need to pick carefully based on cost, ability, and end-game reward. Give this a go if you like planning five turns ahead and aren’t big on luck.

Space Base

Games like Settlers of Catan - Space Base

Roll dice, get stuff, repeat -- it’s a winning formula, so we can see why it survived to the interstellar age. As rival galactic corporations who’ve kindly agreed not to obliterate one another with lasers, Space Base’s players are in a space race to concoct the most reliable (or downright lucky) engine from their array of ships numbered 1-12. 

Each turn, a roll of two dice turn reaps rewards from the ships matching their individual numbers or combined total. Buying new ships will manipulate your board into generating consistent payouts. Boost your money or income, then start grabbing points when the time feels right.

Why it’s like Settlers of Catan: Every single roll of the dice is a chance to earn rewards. That  means your opponents’ turns are just as engaging as your own, if not more so. You’ll barely find time to lose interest, as doing so could mean missing the chance to claim the credits required for your next purchase.

How it evolves the formula: Space Base offers far more opportunities to manipulate the rolls you make. In addition to choosing between individual dice or their total, many ships will let you shimmy results up or down a number, or even swap ships in your tray entirely. That high-reward card in your 12 slot might have a miniscule chance of being rolled, but swap it to docking bay 7 and you’ll be cackling with each interstellar paycheck.

New ships in your docks flip the previous one upside down, unlocking new but weaker rewards for rolls on other players’ turns. As a result, you need to balance the powerful gains available on your own turn with the increased chance of your numbers coming up through everyone else’s go around the table. It’s silly, chance-based stuff, but where the odds are ever in your favor.

Terraforming Mars

Games like settlers of catan - terraforming mars

It’s about time we brought hexes back -- we know those other board shapes were making you uncomfortable. There’s just one catch: They’re on an as-yet uninhabitable planet. The good news is that by drafting, purchasing, and playing scientific research cards, you can build up an engine to convert the famously barren red rock into a hexagon-lover’s paradise. You’ll be competing against rival corporations, so only the most efficient terraformer will go down in history.

Why it’s like Settlers of Catan: Watching your constructions plonk down and spread across an empty, hexagonal grid. Okay, Terraforming Mars doesn’t have much directly in common with Catan’s gameplay, but it scratches the same development itch while offering a different, far more in-depth experience. 

How it evolves the formula: Terraforming Mars is an engine builder at heart. You’ll start with minimal production in money, steel, titanium, plants, energy, and heat. But over the course of several generations these numbers will begin to rise, churning out enough juice to boost the planet’s heat, grow oxygen-generating greeneries, fill craters with lakes, and establish domed cities. Be prepared for a step up, as you’ll need far more than the longest road to impress when shaping a planet instead of an island.

Bohnanza

Games like Settlers of Catan - Bohnanza

Aha! You thought we’d spurned Catan’s trading element, but really we were just keeping out cards close to our chest. Hold on, these aren’t cards at all, and several of them are trying to jump! In Bohnanza, filling your fields with sets of matching (and mean-looking) beans will help you score big, but the legume trade is a lethally fast one. 

Each turn you’ll be forced to plant at least one bean card from your hand into the extremely limited personal field space before you. If there’s no room, that means harvesting an existing patch whether you want to or not. The challenge is that you can’t reorder your hand; you have to play the cards in the exact order they’re drawn. Unless, of course, you manage to trade them with others around the table.

Why it’s like Settlers of Catan: Mutually ruthless trading. Because of that card-order restriction, you’re forced to trade if you want to succeed in Bohnanza. That doesn’t mean everyone is happy about it, however. Each exchange will typically see both sides attempting to ensure they get the upper hand on their trading partner. All that practice you put into debating how many wood cards a single sheep is worth will be well spent here.

How it evolves the formula: Unlike Catan’s equal resources, beans in Bohnanza come in different rarities and values. That means you could screw your friend over by holding on to the one card they’re after without them knowing. Due to the fixed play order, that might come back to bite you when forced to shove it impotently into your field. A better move is to wheedle far more of the beans you’re after from them in a swap. In short, the biggest bean bastard is likely to win.


Found any other board gaming lands to welcome you after Catan? Let us know your picks on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You can also catch more of our board gaming content on the Going Analog Podcast and via the Board Game Quiz Show

Author bio: When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Gloomhaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found gobbling up all the latest and greatest party games, then wondering why he can never find the time to actually play them with friends. Share your love of deck builders with him on Twitter @Fernoface or drop an email to hstenhouse@rektglobal.com.