Of all the Catan variations, which is the best? A brief search in Amazon's Toys section for the word Catan gives:
Settlers of Catan
Catan: Seafarers
Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights Expansion
Catan: Barbarians and Traders
Catan Histories: Settlers of America
Catan Histories: Struggle for Rome
Catan: The first settlers
Starfarers of Catan

Which is the best among all these?
asked by Coconut on February 12, 2011
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I love Catan and play it alot! So you have your basic Settlers of Catan, you have to have this to play some of the expansion . . . then the main expansions for that are seafarers, barbarians/traders, and cities/knights. The other boards are stand-alone games that have spun off the original. Seafarers is my favorite of the full expansion allowing you to incorporate the water tiles and bring in pirates. . . Barbarians/traders is actually a group of mini expansions, within it you have the mini expansion Fisherman of Catan, I love playing with the fish and tend to do it almost at all times, and you can morph the fish to adapt it playing with seafarers as well . . . have yet had the money to try out cities and knights. Catan: the First Settlers isn't bad to play either, but all in all I prefer going to the main game
Kitty answered on January 25, 2012
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My favorite is Settlers of America, though I like them all. I am not a big fan of Seafarers.
Roger Tolley answered on May 10, 2011
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I like Cities and Knights the best. But I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who has played less than 20 games of regular catan. If you're still needing to look at a building cost card (at all), then you need not be playing C
J. Daniel Server answered on July 3, 2012
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Hi Tony,
While I'm not an expert only playing about 25 games of catan (some 5-6 player but no expansions yet) , I'm surprised you are saying "Brick" dominates!! I would have picked Wheat as it is used by 3 of the 4 builds and then Ore because it is necessary for DCs and City upgrades and there are only 3 (4) mountains on the board. can you explain you reasoning behind brick being #1?
Ralph A. Famiglietti answered on July 30, 2011
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brick is important because placing early roads and settlements is key to staking a territorial claim. If you fail to do this, you can be trapped in a small area, only able to upgrade your cities, build on second tier spots around deserts, and hope for victory points from development cards and largest army.

These arguments would hold for wood as well but there are more wood than brick tiles.
Lucas M Sherry answered on October 10, 2011
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Our group likes Seafarers,5-6 players, with the fishermen option added in best.
Second would be Settlers of America: Trail to Rails.
We just got but haven't opened it yet, Catan: Struggle for Rome. Very very difficult to find. So we also ordered, while the price is low, Settlers of the Stone Age mainly because we want to have access to all the Catans. And we ordered several Catan: Oil Springs scenarios too. We're covered.

Ralph
Ralph A. Famiglietti answered on July 3, 2012
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Having played all of the major expansions my personal favorite is cities and knights. It adds the most strategy and allows you to win even if you don't expand right away. The city upgrades are also a nice addition. This expansion really balances out the game.
J. Solomon answered on February 13, 2012
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Seafarers is a really good version because it balances the sheep and opens up much more strategy in a very simple manner. C&K is too wheat heavy and a bit overwhelming for newbies. Regular Catan is too simplistic, predictable, and is dominiated by brick.
Anthony J. Freund answered on June 1, 2011
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It's impossible to say which is best, because every game/expansion appeals to a different type of game player.

Seafarers is for people that want variety without adding too many new rules or complexity...something that still feels mostly like vanilla Catan, but with more variable set-up, a new way to spend the over-abundance of wool, and a booklet of scenarios. The three new mechanics are basically twists on already existing mechanics: ships (roads on sea), pirates (robber on sea), and gold mines (wild card hexes).

Cities & Knights adds complexity, decks, rules and a generally more cutthroat and strategic experience. I'd recommend it only for true board gamers, not casual or gateway gamers. It's split into two main parts: city development and barbarian attack. Knights become physical pieces that are placed on your roads and help fend off barbarians that attack, hexes now produce commodoties that can be used to purchase city upgrades which give you access to 3 new decks that replace the development deck.

Traders & Barbarians is just a collection of mini expansions from simple to complex that you can mix and match and experiment with: Fisherman of Catan and the Event Cards deck seem to be the most popular components. It might cause a fragmented and confusing experience for some groups since each variant had different rules and mechanics to teach.

Explorers & Pirates comes with a massive board and turns it into a game of discovery and exploration and less about expansion and trade. It's introduced in 3 different modules: fish, pirates/pirate lairs, and spices/villages. Ships physically move across the board to discover new hexes and ship items back and forth. The board, despite looking similar to Seafarers has a pretty fixed layout. It adds a lot of new mechanics but simplifies, replaces, or removes quite a few mechanics from base Catan. The learning curve is a bit steep but after that gameplay is is not complex by any means, unlike Cities & Knights. It feels like a mashup of some of the stronger elements from Seafarers and Traders & Barbarians.

The general consensus is the 5-6 player extensions drag the game out way too long. Cities & Knights and Explorers & Pirates make the game about twice as long as well, it's worth noting. As for the other games, such as Catan Histories...I'd only recommend those games if you're a really huge fan of Catan and have bought all of the main expansions first. I can only really speak for Settlers of American which attempts to mash-up Catan with a train game. And the Starfarers/Starship games have been out of print for quite a while which is why they are so expensive on here.
KiWiSouP answered on March 17, 2015
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