Seafarers of Catan is an expansion pack for the award-winning Settlers of Catan boardgame.
Seafarers adds some fun new elements to basic Settlers. Principally:
- A larger playfield; instead of a single large island, there are now several islands.
- Ships! These actually represent shipping routes and work almost the same as roads, except, of course, you can use them to expand onto other islands.
- Gold! Gold hex tiles are like wildcards; they produce whatever resource you feel like.
- Pirates! The pirate ship works a bit like the robber, but instead of stopping resource production, it stops ship building.
Seafarers is notably closer in rules and play-style to original Settlers than the other major expansion, Cities and Knights. Cities and Knights is much more complex, almost a different game, whereas Seafarers just feels like a few very deft tweaks to expand the original. Indeed, Klaus Teuber, the games' creator, is said to have come up with the Seafarers rules as part of his original game design.
And now, some more detail...
You get a load of extra tiles; some ordinary resource hexes, some sea hexes, and a couple of gold hexes. There are also some extra frame pieces which combine with the frames from Settlers to build the huge perimeter frame.
Each player gets a load of adorable little ships. I love the ships! They're so cute! There's also a pirate ship; the same, but in black. My friends deemed the tiny pirate ship insufficiently threatening, so we use the much larger barbarian ship from Cities and Knights.
Apart from the above, you're using the original development cards and so on.
The setup differs markedly from Settlers. Instead of drawing tiles randomly, the game comes with a set of different scenarios. Each scenario has a map layout, usually specifying the whole board layout (the resource tiles, the number tokens, and the ports). It can be a little time-consuming to build the board, but nothing on the epic scale of e.g. Heroscape.
In essence, this is still the same great game that Settlers ever was. Players familiar with Settlers can learn the new rules in two minutes.
The gold is fun, but, obviously, a magnet for the robber.
The main difference is the ships, and, related to that, the amount of extra space there is on the board. In the original game, particularly with four players, the available building places get used up quite rapidly. Not so, Seafarers! Glorious winding trade routes appear, linking distant islands to the homeland. It's marvellous.
Another important difference with Seafarers is the inclusion of a series of scenarios, each with its own special rules. For example, the first two missions award extra victory points for settling on a foreign island. The third mission keeps some of the resource hexes hidden until the players "discover" them. A later mission has an elaborate victory condition requiring the players to destroy a pirate fortress! These variations keeps the game fresh and interesting.
This is an absolutely worthy bearer of the Catan brand. I personally prefer it over the more complicated Cities and Knights. It genuinely adds to the game, whilst remaining very true to the style and beautiful simplicity of the original. Recommended!