I've played both regular Settlers of Catan and the Seafarers of Catan Expansion, but I haven't yet played Cities & Knights and I’m curious about how it plays. I've noticed a lot of people speak very favorably of Cities & Knights, some even claim it’s the only way to play Catan. I've read about how the game works, but I'm skeptical about the changes made in the expansion. How does the expansion improve gameplay in Catan?
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I often describe Cities and Knights as "the version of Catan where every limitation has a way around it." You can only hold seven cards… unless you build these walls. You only get cards when your numbers roll… unless you have an aqueduct. Etc.
Cities and Knights takes Catan and adds a layer of interesting shortcuts, passthroughs, special cases and escape hatches on top. There's slightly more to learn, but it's still a simple game. But the increase in complexity is outweighed by the vast increase in interesting mechanics between players and events in the gameworld.
All in all, there are just many more possibilities which makes gameplay much more unique from each game.
I can highly recommend that you try it. I have a hard time playing the original version, with this expansion available.