So you played Catan once at your friends house and you finally realise that there are board games better than Monopoly out there; you’ve rushed home and immediately tried to download the app version of Catan to hone your skills ready to whoop butt at the next game night only to be faced with 2 versions of Catan, both by the same developer, one free and one that costs about £3. Which one should you get, the free one is cheaper but surely the one that costs money will be better? We’ll here’s a little comparison of Catan Classic Vs Catan Universe, which is better and which one you should download.
What is Catan Classic?
Back in 2011 Catan Classic was released (albeit under the name Settlers of Catan) it was the lone version of the Catan board game on the app store. For £3 you got access to the base game against up to 4 human/AI players, the ability to play online and a few taster rounds at 2 of the most popular Catan expansions, Seafarers and Cities & Knights. The game worked smoothly, played fast and the AI were reasonable if not a tad easy; you can play against 3 other friends via pass and play or online and it worked a treat. All in all Catan Classic was a solid game which I played a tonne and enjoyed thoroughly, in fact you can read my review of it here.
Available via in app purchase was also the full versions of both Seafarers and Cities & Knights which cost around £5 each as well as 2 scenarios, The New Scenarios and The Islands that cost £1.99 each. Therefore for about £16 you can get access to everything Catan Classic has to offer.
What is Catan Universe?
Fast forward to 2017 and the developer USM redesigned their Catan app from the ground up and released Catan Universe, a free to play version of Catan that pulled together the 2 expansions and 2 scenarios from Catan Classic along with a a new version of the game Rise of the Inka as well as the popular 2 player card variant of Catan, Rivals of Catan. Not only did this new version have a bunch of new content to unlock but it boasted 3D graphics and better animations in what was argued was going to be a slicker presented package for the cheaper price of absolutely free.
But here’s the catch, both single player offline games and online multiplayer games are free with the caveat that you have to play by certain rules and limitations. For single players the only free option is an offline game against 2 AI opponents only using the base game. There’s no 4 player option for free, no way of using the expansions for free and no scenarios for free. For online players the free version will allow you to play a 3 player game with no ability to updated the rules such as changing the timeout options for players etc or use any expansions or scenarios. This seems like you get a lot for free, which you do, but you’ll soon be hankering to add the 4th player to your games, making the map tighter and your trade partners more plentiful, not to mention adding the expansions to the game which in my opinion are necessities in order to enjoy Catan fully.
So if you want to add to your options, player counts and expansions in Catan Universe how much is it going to cost? Basically each expansion, scenario, variant and even opening up the base game to 4 players costs £5 each and so in order to unlock everything in the game the cheapest way would be to do it all at once by buying the biggest coin (in app currency) available which will set you back £25.
Which version should you get?
Well this is the million dollar question, or the £25 question at least. If you’re someone who wants to try out Catan on your phone, are happy with the base game and really doesn’t have the money to pay for anything then you’re clearly better off with Catan Universe. However, if you’re this person and you can scrape together enough to buy Catan Classic for it’s base game then you absolutely should, and that’s because it’s simply a better version of the game. While Catan Classic is slick, quick and just works, Catan Universe feels bloated, slow and full of issues that make it a far from ideal experience. There are connection issues and graphical problems that are frustrating as well as regular game freezes and slow load times and while I can forgive this for a free app, when you have to start dolling out the cash I would just much rather put it into a version that works and plays far quicker.
What you lack in Rise of the Inka and Rivals for Catan in Catan Classic you save on the overall cost of the app and thankfully if those are just going to be variants you play occasionally rather than regularly you can purchase them separately on Catan Universe for use as and when and leave the main game playing to be done on Catan Classic.
In the battle of Catan Classic vs Catan Universe the winner for me comes out time and time again to be Catan Classic, it’s worth the price of admission and for those of you who are watching those pennies buying the base game and Cities and Knights expansion alone should be enough to keep you entertained for many an hour.