Comparing Eurogames: Ticket to Ride, Catan, Agricola, and Carcassonne
And so, as we work on finding the best objective way of comparing games we end up looking at four big players in the Eurogames sector of the market. Unlike the American Style Board Game, which focuses on conflict (think Blood Rage), Eurogames focus around building something up. They are about creation, and this is where this article comes in.
There are, in the realm of Eurogames, four that stand out on a pedestal of their own. They are considered great Entry Level games, and are held high as pinnacles in the gaming world.
So What Are The Eurogames?
The four Eurogames we will be looking at today are Ticket to Ride, Catan, Carcassonne, and Agricola. These are all great games in their own rights, with this blog being particularly enamoured to the game Carcassonne for having come up with the term “meeple”. There are very few tabletop gamers out there who will say they don’t like at least one of those games. Well, today is not about LIKE. Today we are going to try and objectively prove which game is the best once and for all.
Yep, good luck to that.
Before we begin, this is a screenshot of the research for this article. If you just want a comparison then you can stop here. If you want more of a breakdown of some of these aspects (we won’t explore all in this article) then continue down below.
As we explore the games we’ll be looking at two things in particular. These Eurogames are well known for being Entry Level or Gateway games, so, we will be looking at how accessible they are. Secondly, we will be looking at their rating. So, with that in mind, let’s have a look at the games. What are they about:
- Ticket to Ride – You run a train line and are aiming to create the best journey you possibly can. The longer the journey, the more points it tends to be worth. At its heart, Ticket to Ride is a set collecting game.
- Catan – You run a small clan who have settled on the island of Catan. You must negotiate, trade, and build your way to success. Catan is a building and negotiation game.
- Carcassonne – You are building the castles of Carcassonne whilst trying to get as many points from your meeples as possible. Carcassonne is a tile placement game.
- Agricola – In Agricola you are aiming to build the best and most profitable farm you can. At its heart, Agricola is a building and economics game.
So, they are four very different games, and each uses different mechanics.
As we move onto the graphs we are going to group these a little more logically than we have done in the past. First, we will look at the core statistics, followed by the subjective statistics, followed by the ratings.
The Core Statistics of Ticket to Ride, Catan, Agricola, and Carcassonne
Number of Players
First, one of the core things to consider before investing in a game is how many players it is for. There is nothing worse than buying a game and realising that you either need one more or one less than the people you game with allows. With that in mind, we have the following graph. The blue bar (left) is the minimum number of players. The orange bar (right) is the maximum.
As it can be seen, three of the games (Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, and Agricola) go up to five players. Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne have a minimum of two players each. Agricola can go as low as one player.
Catan is the most restrictive of the four games, needing at least three players for the trade mechanic to work. It also tops out at four players due to the limited size of the map. This makes it perfect for small groups of 3-4 players, but a pain for 5-6 without the expansion.
Cost of the Game
Of course, real life economics also plays a part in whether a game is accessible or not, so let’s have a look at how much the games cost. How much will each game leave you out of pocket? For this, the blue bar (left) is the US dollar cost on Amazon.com. The orange bar (right) is the UK cost in GBP.
As we look at those bars it is important to point out that I based these off the base game and the base game alone. It would be unfair to include versions that include expansions. With that in mind, the Carcassonne dollar price is incredible at the moment, and I believe this is to promote a version of the game that does come with expansions.
That being said, in the UK, the cheapest game is Carcassonne, with the cheapest US game being the base version of Catan. The most expensive UK game is Agricola, which isn’t hugely surprising seeing the intricacy of the components. There are meeple sheep. There are sheeple. Enough said.
Maximum Playing Time
Finally, when looking at the core statistics, we are looking at the maximum length a game could be. This is because game length does denote some form of accessibility. One of the reasons so many people hate Monopoly is because it doesn’t seem to have an endpoint and can go on for well over four hours a game. Knowing when a game will end is important, especially for new players.
The shortest game is Carcassonne, having a playing time of only 45 mins, followed by an hour for Ticket to Ride. Catan then comes in at two hours as a maximum time (in theory, but we have all had those games). Agricola comes in with the longest time at two and a half hours. We once played a game though that lasted four hours. As I said, we’ve all had those games.
The Subjective Statistics of Ticket to Ride, Catan, Agricola, and Carcassonne
When discussing these with a fellow blogger (David from Roll to Review) it was suggested a few metrics got looked at. These comparisons already included Complexity Rating, but it was also recommended also looking at the number of posts and questions about each game to give an idea about how much people engage with the game. You can read the whole conversation here.
First though, let’s have a look at Complexity. This is a score out of five, where board game players rate how complex they believe a game to be.
As it can be seen, Ticket to Ride is apparently the simplest game, with Agricola scoring a whopping 3.63/5. This is not only the highest out of the Eurogames we are comparing, but it is also higher than Terraforming Mars (3.25) and Scythe (3.35), whilst being only slightly below Gloomhaven (3.78). Agricola is one complicated game.
Board Game Geek Forum Posts
Now the first Board Game Geek specific comparison, and in taking the suggestions of other bloggers, this is the number of BGG Forum topics for each game.
There is actually a correlation with complexity rating. The more complex a game is, the more there is to talk about. Agricola has the most forum conversations about it, with Ticket to Ride having the fewest.
A similar question can be asked about Amazon Questions, at the bottom of each product page. How do they differ? Well, the average person who has a Board Game Geek account is likely to be well versed in games, and so is looking at each game with an experienced view. On Amazon, on the other hand, the audience is different. It is more likely to be an audience of people who are new to the game, asking basic questions.
When looking at the US (blue bar – left) and the UK (orange bar – right) we can see that the UK generally asks fewer questions, but then again we do only have 1/5 the number of people. What we do see fairly solidly, however, is almost the exact opposite to BGG. There are lots of questions about Ticket to Ride and in the US about Catan. There are fewer about Carcassonne, and the least talked about game on Amazon is Agricola.
What does this mean? Well, the more complex a game is the fewer people ask questions about it on Amazon.
The Ratings of Ticket to Ride, Catan, Agricola, and Carcassonne
Overall Board Game Geek Ranking
Finally, we come down to the ratings of each game. For this we are going to look at four different categories, starting off with the overall BGG ranking. This shows where, in the list of all the games on BGG, a game sits.
The good news is that all the four Eurogames are in the top 300 on BGG. Catan is lowest in the rankings (the higher the bar, the lower the rankings) scoring 275. Meanwhile, both Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne are scored around the late 100s. Finally, Agricola comes in the highest in the rankings, with #15 in total. That is pretty freaking high. It is worth noting that I have not put a graph together to show the mode of each of the game reviews this time. This is because they all had a mode of 8/10.
Board Game Geek Rating
It comes as no surprise then that Agricola is the highest rated game, with 8/10.
This is not hugely surprising. Catan scores the lowest with 7.2, followed by Carcassonne with 7.4. Next is Ticket to Ride with 7.5, and then finally Agricola. That seems expected, although it is worth noting that, when it comes down to actual scores, there is only 0.8 between the last and the first.
Amazon US and UK Ratings
Since we don’t want to just take BGG as an example for ratings (due to the aforementioned “more experienced players” point), these are the Amazon ratings. Once again, the US is the blue bar (left) with the UK being the orange bar (right).
Now, this is really interesting from a cultural perspective. Needless to say, looking at the graph, that the US values Catan more than the UK and the UK values Agricola more than the US. I think we might revisit this graph in another article, but for now, let’s just make two more observations. Carcassonne is liked about the same by both countries. Both countries rate Carcassonne very highly.
So, this is the tricky one. For this, I have had to create a formula to aggregate the results of the different reviews. This isn’t perfect, and I am still working on the formula, but it gives some idea –
What this means is we have doubled the Amazon UK rating, doubled the Amazon US rating and added both to the Board Game Geek rating. This was then divided by 3 to give an average. The results are thus:
Through writing this article, and through all the research, I did not expect that result. Carcassonne is the highest rated, followed by Ticket to Ride and THEN Agricola. Catan, meanwhile, is way down the list. That is really interesting.
Conclusion: So, is that it?
The final question – is that it? Is Carcassonne the best game? Should we leave it there? Well, yes and no.
We started this article, near the top, by saying we will be looking for two things in particular. The first is how accessible a game is. The second is how highly rated it is. Well, these graphs both answer and don’t answer those questions.
Carcassonne is the simplest, the shortest, and the highest rated if we aggregate the results; however, this may be an area where comparing these games just because they are Eurogames is not enough. These are not just Eurogames, after all, but these are instead widely considered four of the best Eurogames of all time.
So, if you are brand new to gaming then Carcassonne is a good place to start – however, it should be considered just that – a starting point. These are four very different games, and four games that everyone should try playing.
Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. This should not be seen as an either/or, but rather the start of a journey. It is a journey, if you are like me (which, if you are reading this blog and have made it this far, you must be to some extent), you will thoroughly enjoy.
So, what do you think? Do you agree with the assessment or disagree? What is your favourite Eurogame? Let me know in the comments below.
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