Starship Catan or Starfarers Duel... which to play?

I am a huge fan of the original Starship Catan. For this reason it was one of the very first sets of Catan I collected the game in every language it was released in. I even have the German computer version.

 And here is the rub I have actually played Starship far less than I would have liked. Sadly it rarely makes the table as game nights are family nights and so 3-6 player games have been the norm for 20+ years. For this reason Starship missed out to Catan with C&K (and many more extras), which we all enjoy playing and sometimes even missed out to it's bigger brother Starfarers of Catan.

So now we have the revamped Starfarers Duel and I am determined to make time to play either the new version or the old version ... but which to play?


Well, at first glance the differences appear almost completely cosmetic. I cannot see any major variations in gameplay after my first quick look. Of course, I will play both again to compare actual game play and can report back on that at a later date. Simply put the one I play is likely to boil down to which I think looks best. For now then this is a quick look at the artwork and components and which is better.

twoshipsThe core of both boards is still very similar. The new version does not radically alter the game layout. Noticeably the new version does take up much more table space than the old version. And even the older set was not small. I have a photo of the two boards side by side here. Click the image to see a larger version in a new window. Images of both new boards with the components around them are below this article.

The new version does use square cards which is cool. Square cards just feels more like a Catan card game should. Size wise they do not really reduce table space as the are wider than the older rectangular cards. The new game also comes with a few more extras too. Most noticeably the central sector board is a good addition, although I might have made it a bit smaller personally. Again I admit this is my fixation on trying to make the game area as small as possible so it can be played in more places. I also like the small storage boxes too. These simple cardboard boxes have made their appearance in recent Catan sets and are a great idea and genuinely useful.

A downside for the new game is that to me it feels more commercial and looks more sterile than the older version. The redesign has lost that steam punk look of the original game that I thought made it unique. I think this change is more noticeable when you look at the games side by side. I suppose most new players will never have heard of the original Starship so this loss of quirky design will not be a concern for them.

Finally I have to mention the issue with the incorrect die in the English version. Sadly this fault will impact many new players. The error has been well publicised and I do wonder if this will impact sales. I hope not as the game can still be played using the free errata sheet and as Catan have been quick to respond to the issue with a solution where people can get the new dice for free when available. I am keen to get the replacement when available, but in the meantime I have simply grabbed the die from a spare older set.


Which game I play will be impacted by how the game can grow and be varied to maintain interest.

There were three additional scenarios released for the original Starship Catan.

These were downloadable scenarios giving you a set of rules and also copies of the new cards needed that you could print and add to your game. All three scenarios were really good additions to the game.

Will these be updated and released again? I would be very surprised if they are not. Certainly if Catan do not then it would be a relatively simple task to make these myself for my own game. I am tempted to do this any way simply for the enjoyment of doing so.

The new Starfarers Duel also has its own new mini-expansion... but only for the German version at the time of writing this article. At Spiel in Germany they released the Glücksspielplanet (Gambling Planet) promo card. I was fortunate my friend attended the event and grabbed me a copy, although the card is now for sale in the German Catan shop. (On a side note I really appreciate how Catan Germany makes promos like this available to those who cannot attend events. As a collector stuck at the bottom of the world and unable to attend these overseas events, this is REALLY helpful)

Any way back to the promo card.

laswegaThe gambling planet promo is a special card only for Catan Starfarers The Duel. The pack you get contains 1 Gambling Planet card and 1 instruction card. The rules for the new card are as follows:

Replace an asteroid card from reserve deck 1, with the planet Las Wega promo card.
The asteroid card is no longer needed for the game. Then prepare the game as usual.

How to play:
If you reach Las Wega on your flight, you can try a little game of chance for 1 action. You can bet between 2-5 Astro coins. Once decided roll the blue die.

  • If the result in an even number. you win and double your money.
  • If the result is an odd number you lose. Your bet goes into the general supply.


I love the Steam Punk feel of the original board. It was a truly great piece of design work and even now remains an unusual board design by any game standard.

However I think I can already see I will be playing the newer version more. Yes it takes more space, yes it may not be quite as quirky, but I do like the square cards and I do like the sector board. I also like that a new card is already available and my hope is this is a sign of things to come in the future.

Just as the new 2021 3D Catan offers more expandability than the original 2005 3D set, then my hope is that the new 2023 Duel, will offer more expandability than the original 2001 Starship.

Finally though, remember that whichever version of this game you have - you still have a great game that is fun to play!!

Click on an image to see a larger version in a new window.
starship board
starfarers duel