This article is the review of Settlers of Catan: Seafarers expansion. What does it bring to Catan, how does it play, and is it worth it?
Introduction to Settlers of Catan: Seafarers – Expansion Review
Seafarers were released in 1997 and are the first official expansion for Settlers Of Catan. The expansion was originally designed together with the base game, but it was later decided to separate the two in order to keep the base game more accessible. History has proven this to be the right decision. But, after you’ve played the base game a dozen times, eventually a desire for something more will emerge. That’s when Seafarers step in.
Settlers of Catan: Seafarers expansion revolves around sea travel, exploring new islands and ship routes. It achieves this by adding new terrain tiles and ships. Special scenarios are provided and explained in the rule book.
The box contains 30 new terrain tiles (19 of those sea tiles) with accompanying number chits, 15 ships per player, 50 victory chits, 10 harbors, 6 frame pieces, and the rule book.
New Game Mechanics
Using one wood and one wool to build (thus making wool much more valuable than in base game), ships act as roads, only that they are built on the sea: between two sea tiles or between one sea and one land tile (coast). Sea routes must start and end with a settlement – you can’t build from the sea route to the road directly. A sea route that is not yet completed, can have its last ship moved once a turn, thus giving more flexibility and more options to react to other players’ moves.
The concept of sea routes also renames “The Longest Road” into “Longest Trade Route”. This works similarly to before, but now roads and ships can both be counted together to form a trade route.
When a seven is thrown, the player has the option to move the robber or the pirate. Buccaneer works similarly to a robber, but he can only move on sea tiles (I’m stating the obvious here). It steals resources from nearby ships and prevents more ships from being built.
If you’re into pirates, check out the 10 Best Pirate Board Games.
Exploration and Victory Chits
In certain scenarios, tiles are turned upside down and are only revealed when they are reached by a road or a ship. This is combined with a rule of getting extra victory points for a settlement on a new island(s). These extra victory points depend on the scenario and you get victory chits which you put underneath a settlement to score them. Chits can also be placed on islands or tiles and when they are reached, the player claims that chit and takes it down, earning a victory point.
A special terrain tile is introduced in Seafarers which yields a resource of a player’s choice. If you have a village on this tile and the tile’s number is rolled, you can pick any one resource card available in the bank. In the case of a city, you pick any two (can be the same or different). Gold River tiles are very valuable and are usually placed on the edges of maps.
Eight unique scenarios are provided in the rule book. Each has a special base tile arrangement (tile and numbers shuffles still apply of course) with corresponding rules. Usually, both the pirate and the robber are used. Victory conditions for scenarios tend to be higher than in base game – usually, 12 or 13 victory points are needed.
You can find a detailed description of the Seafarers’ scenarios on CatanGuild, below is just an overview.
Heading for New Shores
This is the Seafarers’ basic scenario. It consists of a main island surrounded by a small island. Players start on the main island, but if they expand on any of the surrounding islands, they get extra victory points (you place a victory chit under a settlement which now grants you one more victory point as usual).
The Four Islands
In this scenario, the board is made of four islands, roughly the same in size. You can start anywhere – you will have 1 or 2 “home” islands. Expanding to other islands gets you extra victory points: one for the first “foreign”, island, and two for the second and third.
The Fog Island
One medium-sized island forms a starting point for players. The other half of the map starts empty and shuffled tiles are drawn from a stack and placed on the board when that spot is discovered by a ship or road. They can be either sea or land tiles – if a land tile is discovered, the finder receives that resource card as a reward and a random number token is assigned to that tile.
Through the Desert
This scenario consists of one larger and several smaller islands. On the edge of the larger island are, behind a wall of desert tiles, a few more tiles. Expanding to these tiles (often a gold river tile is also here) grants extra victory points.
The Forgotten Tribe
Consisting of a larger main island and smaller surrounding islands, this scenario brings “tribes” – they live on outer islands (victory chits, development cards, and harbors are put there) which you can not inhabit, but connect them with ships, and you get rewards from the tribes: victory points, development cards, and harbors.
Cloth for Catan
Similar to the previous scenario, but this time tribe’s villages are in the middle. They are now depicted with a numbered chit. Connect that chit with a ship and when that number is thrown, you get cloth (victory chit for one point).
The Pirate Islands
This one introduces a special game mechanic: a pirate that moves in a predetermined circle depending on the (lower) dice throw. Board is divided by the mainland on the east and pirate island on the west with two desert islands in the middle (which the pirate sails around). On the pirate island, there are fortresses, which players try to conquest to win.
For battles against pirate ships and fortresses, a comparison between human strength (amount of warships in a fleet) and pirate strength (dice roll) is used.
The Wonders of Catan
Players attempt to build special expensive buildings called wonders. Moreover, these can only be built if special prerequisites are fulfilled, like having a city in specific locations, having enough victory points plus a city, etc. The player with the first wonder completed wins. Wonders are built in 4 stages.
A completely blank map, players explore it similarly to The Fog island scenario.
5-6 Player Extension
To accommodate more players, a separate extension is available. Keep in mind though, that you need the base game, base game 5-6 Player Extension, and Seafarers to play this. For 3-4 players, of course, you only need the base game and the Seafarers expansion.
Is Seafarers expansion worth it?
Definitely. Although not cheap, it brings a lot of fresh elements to the table. New game mechanics are easy to understand and exploring new lands is fun and exciting. Old strategies are still valid, but more are now available, bringing a lot of variety into gameplay.
With Seafarers, Settlers of Catan feels well-rounded and complete. If you’re looking to broaden your Catan experience, Seafarers is definitely the way to go.