Settlers of Catan is a tabletop classic and a staple at many game nights. It elegantly combines elements of trading, resource management, and city building games and blends them into a fun strategy game that's easy to pick up. Catan served as the gateway game to many people's board game addiction.
However, Catan was published in 1995 and, though it's staying power is unmistakable, there are a lot of other board games out there worth your time. If you're looking to expand your horizons or bring some new experiences to your game nights, here are some games you might way to take a look at.
10 Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride hardly needs an introduction. Unless you've just started out on your personal board game adventure, you've certainly at least heard of the game. Widely considered another great "gateway" game for newcomers to the hobby, the rules to Ticket to Ride are delightfully simple. Collect cards, build trains, connect cities on the map. Once you and your friends have mastered the basics, however, it quickly becomes a tense strategy game of trying to figure out the best way to connect your routes without running afoul of everyone else. You can even sabotage players by stealing tracks out from under them.
9 7 Wonders
If you're a fan of strategic trading, 7 Wonders might be the way to go. You receive a hand of seven cards, pick one of them, and then you pass the rest on to your neighbor. All players reveal their chosen cards at the same time and then have to go about choosing their next move. It's a very social city-building game, because you'll always need to keep one eye on what all the other players are planning, lest you hand them the key to their victory. Sometimes it might be more beneficial to keep a card you don't need, just to keep it out of your opponents' hands.
8 Artifacts, Inc.
This Kickstarted board game is set in 1929 New York, where a explosion of interest in antique artifacts has inspired players to start their own small archaeology companies. It's an economy-based game, where the primary goal is to sell artifacts and acquire money so you can grow your archaeology empire. You roll dice to take certain actions, which get you resources, and you have to strategize about what actions will be best for your goals. Perhaps the most unique mechanic is that players have the ability to unlock more actions as their reputation grows, offering more opportunities to seize the advantage.
7 Small World
Small World is a territory control game with a fantastical twist. Players can choose certain fantasy races and establish them in areas of the game map, using their unique powers to fortify their positions or exploit the land for more resources. But the world is—ahem—too small for everyone to just get along.
Players can attack areas controlled by their opponents in order to expand their own territory. There are a lot of interesting race and trait combinations for players to try out, and the game has a great mechanic that ensures you're not stuck with one bad set for the whole game. If your civilization just isn't producing like it used to, you can put them into decline and start a brand new race's reign of terror.
6 Sheriff of Nottingham
If your favorite part of Catan is the cutthroat negotiation over resources, Sheriff of Nottingham could be a good alternative. Players take on the role of merchants trying to enter town to sell their goods. Unfortunately, not all the goods are legal and you have to slip them by the keen nose of the Sheriff. Everyone takes turns being the Sheriff, who can be bribed to look the other way or even tricked, but who also has the power to confiscate contraband for themselves. You'll want to practice your innocent face beforehand.
5 Century: Spice Road
This is a fairly recent game that establishes players as caravan masters in the lucrative spice trade. You can trade in spices, represented by different color cubes of varying value, for Point Cards. The person with the highest number of points at the end of the game is the winner.
It's not quite as simple as gathering up some yellow spice and calling it a day. You need to build a hand of Merchant Cards to efficiently turn your spice store into cold hard points, and to adapt as new Point Card objectives are cycled into play.
Suburbia is a city management game where the end goal is to have the highest population out of your opponents. To do this, you need to maximize your economy, first by becoming a self-sufficient village and then growing into a profitable and desirable place to live. You can use your money to buy better and more valuable structures, like airports or high rises, which in turn gives you a population boost. There's also a high level of replayability, because you never know what building cards will turn up and your city will never look the same twice.
Set in an alternate history style 1920s, players are commanders of a faction in a great mech war trying to gain control of "The Factory". It's an engine-building strategy game, which means you're always trying to refine and streamline your actions to get the most bang for you buck. You're tasked with conquering territory, acquiring resources, and establishing yourself as the most powerful nation on the board. What makes Scythe a great strategy game is that there's very little randomness. Everything is guided almost exclusively by player choice, so you'll never be at the mercy of a few bad dice rolls.
Viticulture has the same rustic feel as Catan, but focuses it down to just one enterprise: wine-making. Players are just beginning winemakers who are trying to expand their empire and become a true success. The game runs through different seasons that affect the vineyard's growth, and your limited number of workers take different actions during winter than they do during spring.
You can also recruit visitors coming to tour your winery to perform some tasks and maximize your profits. You'll need to make smart decisions about how to place your workers and visitors in order to keep your little business afloat.
If you want to step up your game nights, look no further than Archipelago. Players are colonial European powers looking to get the most profit out their trading empire as possible. Not only do they need to establish their domestic and overseas trade markets, but all players receive a secret objective at the start of the game. The author of the game took issue with the lack of interaction in a lot of German-style strategy games, so Archipelago is full of opportunities for negotiation and, even better, backstabbing!