Quick! Grab your sheep and haul your bricks to the harbor because this Catan expansion is setting sail!
As if wood wasn’t already hard enough to come by, now you’ve got ships to build!
With this new expansion comes scenarios. Islands to trek to, resources to acquire, and the same gameplay you loved in the original Catan is all here but they’ve added a pesky pirate and new routes for resource farming.
Arrgh, mateys, raise the flags! We’ve got isles to explore!
Brief Overview of Catan Seafarers
Seafarers is essentially the same as the base Catan game, except instead of one island full of ore, brick, sheep, wheat, and wood, you’ve got several!
These sea hexes are a total game changer because you can’t just ride a sheep into the ocean, now can you? Instead, you’ll need to compile resources, build a fleet of ships, and journey out into the abyss of isles.
Resources that were previously less valuable, now hold more power as they can be used for a wider majority of builds. There’s also a new hex addition worth lusting over, with the power to produce any resource a player could ask for — gold!
Unboxing Catan Seafarers Expansion
There are differences in components between the 3rd and 4th editions. Here’s what’s included in the most recent Seafarers box:
- 6 Frame Pieces
- 19 Sea Hexes
- 11 Terrain Hexes:
- 2 Gold Fields Hexes
- 2 Desert Hexes
- 1 Fields Hex
- 1 Forest Hex
- 1 Pasture Hex
- 2 Mountains Hexes
- 2 Hills Hexes
- 50 Catan Chits
- 10 Number Tokens
- 10 Harbor Tokens
- 60 Wooden Ships
- 1 Pirate Ship
If you own any of the other expansions, you may be disappointed when unpacking Seafarers. There aren’t as many new pieces as there are in other expansion sets. Some pieces you’ll have to cut out yourself.
Just like the base set, the hexes, harbors, and tokens are durably-built from the same high-gloss cardboard material. The colors are bright and line up with the original set; although I could see some color contrast from older base sets and this expansion. However, all the imagery and hexes are identical.
“All that glitters is gold,” is true in most aspects, besides when it comes to the new gold hexes. Instead of a shimmering gold bar, the gold hexes depict a natural gold mine with a river flowing calmly nearby.
The art holds the quality that we all expect from any set in the Catan franchise. The main staple is the fully-colored, vibrant rulebook that clearly describes each and every scenario.
Not without mention- the little, wooden ship tokens are be-looty-ful!
How to Play Catan Seafarers
I doubt this is your first time playing Catan, but just in case, check out the original rules!
Long story short, there are three major changes from the base game to the Seafarers expansion set:
- Gold hexes
- The Pirate
Basically, you’re able to sail into open water, farm gold, and get robbed by the Pirate (as if the Robber wasn’t malevolent enough).
Lay out the original Catan spread, with water hexes bordering the grid. You’ll place both the Pirate and Robber, and then make your initial placements.
Players are able to place ships rather than roads if it borders a sea hex and follows a settlement. You must build a settlement between your road and shipping line before you can place a ship, and vice versa.
The quicker you build a shipping line — the better your chance at securing the gold island.
Just like Catan, you’ll choose your placements and then barter with your neighbors for ore until you give up and trade with the dock.
There are still the usual development cards like the knights, monopoly, free roads, etc.
Really, you just carry on like normal, but factor in four minor changes to gameplay:
- You can move ships that aren’t fenced in by settlements.
Ah, this is one of the best new rules in the history of Catan. There’s nothing more annoying than being fenced off from road-building goals. All those resources for nothing — should’ve bought a dev card, dammit!
Fear no more! If your shipping line gets cut off by another supplier, once per turn you can simply move the end ship to another line you’ve built. The downfall to the rule is when your shipping line ends with a settlement, then your boats must stay docked where they lie.
- Here there be Pirates!
When you roll a 7 or play a Knight development card, you may move the robber or the pirate.
The same rules apply to the pirate as they do the robber, with an additional crux. Players avoid the pirate at all costs; therefore, players are unable to place or remove ships on the hex that the pirate is occupying.
- The longest road is now the “longest trade route.”
Your shipping and road lines have blended together and now count as one continuous road.
- There are eight new scenarios.
We recommend you start with the first scenario, called “Heading for New Shores.” Scenarios 5-8 become more complex, so have a go when you’re feeling like boosting the difficulty rating.
All scenarios have their own set of placement rules, special victory points, and end-game conditions.
Pros & Cons
- Different scenarios = different difficulties
- Can upgrade to 5-6 players with extension
A board game that’s adaptable with a range of players is one that always ranks at the top of my list. Having three scenarios that are more complicated makes for a competitive evening; meanwhile, the beginner-level scenarios are lax enough that newbies can join easily.
Although my friends and I have never tired of the OG Catan set, this nautical addition was a fresh mixup. You don’t know you need it until you have it, and then you won’t want to play without your golden islands and pesky pirate. The extra element of being able to shift your ships when your route gets blocked was also a total pro for me.
Catan has a naturally long playing time as we speak, but it seems to fly by. If you’d like to include 2 more players in your bartering and shipping madness, there’s an affordably-priced Seafarers extension pack.
- You have to cut out some cards yourself. *cringe*
Nobody wants to cut into their detailed rulebook, so why make us?
This is my underlying question for Catan Studios, as I had to cut out the 5 Wonder cards myself. Granted, they’re only used in one of the scenarios, and sure, you can copy them instead of trimming them from the instruction manual — but just print out the cards, man! I didn’t appreciate the stark difference in quality from the paper cutout cards to the expansion pack cards. You can feel and see the difference.
The only way around this would be to print them on cardstock, double-sided, and sleeve them. I’m a bit OCD with my games, so I would have liked the manufacturers to spend the extra minute producing these cards.
In terms of cons, that’s really all I can think of. Everything else checks out but for the price tag, players shouldn’t have to play DIY.
Catan: Seafarers Review (TL;DR)
Pirates, gold, and shipping routes await you in this Catan expansion set. Choose from eight unique scenarios to set sail on fresh new voyages, rack up special victory points, and reign the seas.
Shipping routes bring opportunity. As you travel to new islands, perhaps you’ll strike it rich with gold- being able to produce any resource you’d like when the hex number is rolled.
Seafarers include all the original gameplay mechanics you loved about the base set, but with complexity, variety, and new components sprinkled into the mix.
You either Catan, or you Catan’t.
I personally dig the expansion; the gold, islands, scenarios, and pirates. I haven’t gotten around to playing all of the scenarios yet, but I don’t doubt they’ll rock. If you’re still wondering if Seafarers is a worthy purchase, do a quick cost-benefit analysis with the Cities and Knights expansion before you buy. Half of my gaming group loves Seafarers, and the other half is very much out to sea in their opinions.
Don’t shy away from Seafarers because of the card-cutting. You only use those cards for one scenario, and unless it becomes your favorite version, you won’t even notice your paper-printed development cards. Your rulebook might look like Edward Scissorhands got to it first, though, but alas.
In the market for a Catan expansion or extension? You’ve got options!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our Catan: Seafarers review! Have you played this Catan expansion before? Which of the expansions is your favorite? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.