Recommend
8 
 Thumb up
 Hide
6 Posts

Catan: Explorers & Pirates» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A new groove for Catan rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Phil Hendrickson
United States
Seward
Nebraska
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Most BGGers have played Catan at least once. For many, Catan brought us into this hobby of modern board games. It has achieved classic status with tens of millions of fans around the globe. But after many, many plays, some people have moved on – feeling that other games have more to offer than Catan’s fairly simple mechanisms and dependence on the fickle fortune of dice rolls. The game is nearly 20 years old, after all. However, if you have fond memories of Catan, the Explorers and Pirates expansion offers several features that might just draw you back to the island for some new adventures.

Basic overview
As with previous Catan expansions, Explorers and Pirates (EAP) uses the base game of Catan and adds new mechanisms and actions. The same resource cards are used, but not development cards. Settlements and roads are used, but not cities. Instead, harbor settlements are introduced, along with many other new player pieces: boats, crew members, “settlers” and a pirate ship in each player color. EAP uses a smaller base island, forcing players to discover new lands in two large regions of face-down hex tiles. In fact, sea-based exploring is so important that a player could easily win the game without ever building a road.

Each player has three ships, which must be built with wood and sheep. These ships are designed to hold things: one settler (basically a settlement waiting to be placed), two crew members, two spice bags or one large haul of fish. A player’s turn consists of phases: first the typical dice roll and payment of resources, then trading and building, and finally shipping actions. Each ship that a player has on the board can move up to four spaces, explore undiscovered tiles, pick up and deliver things. Keeping all three ships in the water allows a player the maximum actions each turn.

Unexplored tiles can be the five basic resource land types, but also plain water, water with a fishing hole, a pirate lair or a spice island. Each spice island offers a special ability, such as extra ship movements, but players must leave a crew member on the island to gain the ability. Crew members can also be used to defeat pirate lairs, which then begin producing gold. As players defeat pirate lairs, or deliver fish or spice bags back to the main island, they move up on point tracks for those three actions. These point tracks replace the longest road and largest army cards, which are no longer used. While the leader on each track gets a bonus point, all players gain points by advancing on the tracks. This helps reduce the runaway leader problem that can occur in Catan when certain numbers roll (or don’t roll) repeatedly.

EAP does not use the robber from the base game. Instead, when a 7 is rolled, the current player places his or her pirate ship somewhere at sea. Other players must pay gold tribute (to the bank) to move near the pirate ship, but they can also roll a die to attempt to chase it away. Pirate ships add competition between players, while not completely blocking resources like the robber did.

As in the Settlers of America or Settlers of Europe, players receive gold when the dice roll gives them no resource card. This helps avoid stagnating due to bad dice rolls. And even without resources, a player can still take actions with his or her ships.

Playing impressions
The pickup and deliver functions and extra abilities from the spice islands give players several interesting strategies to try out. Compared to the base Catan game, EAP seems to offer more paths for players to try to catch up after a slow start. The spice islands offer helpful abilities, but players must decide whether to commit crew members to that purpose or use them to defeat pirate lairs. Ships have a limited capacity, so players must decide whether to go fishing or save room for settlers, crew members or spice bags. Competition in the shipping lanes provides tense moments and tough decisions.

On a pre-release blog, Klaus Teuber indicated that EAP does things he had hoped to do with Seafarers of Catan but was unable to accomplish at that time. I was never fond of the clunky shipping route mechanism of Seafarers. The shipping actions of EAP are much better and feel true to the theme. A player who gets less than optimal building locations on the home island can improve their situation by swiftly exploring new lands and building a remote harbor settlement near strategic shipping lanes.

Pacing
Some games seem to end just when a player’s strategy begins to bear fruit. In EAP, players have time to develop strategies, build remote outposts, and enjoy sailing the seas to collect bounty. Yet the game does not drag on too long. In the games we played, the last unexplored lands were just being discovered at the end of the game, and players were actively vying for the three point tracks. Catan Explorers and Pirates seems to be just the right length.

I should mention that the expansion claims to include five scenarios. This is technically true, but the first four are basically training modes that isolate each new feature of EAP. Players can add just the pirate lairs or just the spice islands, for example, which makes the game shorter. The EAP experience is best, though, when all the new features are in play. The first “full” game of EAP for new players may take two hours, but with experienced Catan players our games last around ninety minutes.

Summary
Our family still enjoys playing the Settlers of Catan or Catan: Cities & Knights in rotation with other favorite games. Explorers and Pirates adds fresh depth and breadth to Catan. If you formerly enjoyed Catan but have moved on to heavier euros or more complex designs, look for a chance to play Explorers and Pirates. With pickup and delivery, “spiced-up” actions and pirates, you might enjoy returning to the island.
14 
 Thumb up
5.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ray O'Russa
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
Great review! Well organized and thoughtful. I have only the base game at this time, but thought I would start picking up expansions. Would it be worth getting all four of the major expansions?

1) Seafarers---Should I even bother with it if Klaus Teuber himself is essentially saying EAP is such a good improvement over Seafarers?
2) Cities and Knights---any thoughts?
3) Traders and Barbarians---I've seen reviews of this one, and it looks pretty good. Is it?

Is it best to just stick with one expansion along with the base game each time you play, therefore employing a rotation system?

Thanks for any sage advice, and thanks again for your EAP review.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kevin Nicol
Canada
Fredericton
NB
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I'd say get them all. Especially if your group has an apetite for long games. Mixing several variants (or all if you are particularly ambitious) can make for some fun games with massive boards.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Phil Hendrickson
United States
Seward
Nebraska
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Elf,
Thanks for the kind words. We had to replace our worn-out 3rd edition Catan sets, so we bought 4th edition sets to work with EAP. When we did that, we didn't bother replacing Seafarers because EAP does everything Seafarers tries to do, only better.

If you really love Catan and want to have lots of options for how to play it, there's nothing wrong with getting all the expansions. But in my opinion, EAP and Cities & Knights provide plenty of variation. We have even joined them together for a very long game. You can also add small expansions like the oil springs or frenemies. We do not have Traders & Barbarians, because we had already bought several parts of it as mini expansions. T&B is basically a bunch of mini expansions put together into one large box. If it looks good to you, that's fine.

You can also consider Catan Histories: Settlers of America – Trails to Rails or Catan Histories: Merchants of Europe, which are very smiliar to each other. They use the basic Catan format, but change the game play in ways that make it more thematic. We like Settlers of America quite a bit.

If I had to start over, I'd buy the base game, EAP, C&K and maybe Settlers of America. That provides plenty of ways to play Catan until you're sick of it and are ready to switch to Stefan Feld games! Do whatever looks good to you.

Have fun with it!
Phil

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ray O'Russa
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
Thanks, Kevin and Phil. I appreciate your input and advice. I can see why players like to have some or all of the expansions. I've read some good reviews of them here on BGG, and they all sound so good, though opinions do vary. Phil, I can see your point of getting EAP and not worrying about Seafarers, but I wouldn't mind having Seafarers just to know what it's like. Even if I end up liking EAP better (It does sound pretty good), I guess it would be fun to have some variety. In any event, I really look forward to getting started on the expansions. We also like to play with friends in Oregon when we visit them and then we all go to the Oregon Coast and hole up in a rental house overlooking the ocean. Cool! Thanks again!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
While I am an eager user of mobile ship variants (E&P or the ones from Die Siedler von Catan: Das Buch zum Spielen), in my experience Seafarers integrates so well into C&K that I rarely even consider a game of C&K without ships. The absence of the robber in E&P as written (or in The Colonies or Transport Settlers) devalues the knights in C&K, so I usually keep it in any C&K combined game, regardless of any other variant's instructions.

Seafarers alone doesn't offer much new to the basic game, despite the fair collection of scenarios. However, if you want to use some of the fan created scenarios from the files section here, Seafarers is a requirement, or at least takes a lot of rebalancing to replace with E&P. In the long run, having both will enable you to explore a whole lot more.

E&P does change the game, and it is a change away from C&K and older scenarios. Given the wealth of such scenarios, Seafarers still is worth having.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.