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Catan: Seafarers» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Some good, some bad rss

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Billy McBoatface
United States
Lexington
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I'm a pretty big Settlers fan, but in a strange way. I've played it so much that I feel like I've really exhaused the strategy of the game, so it's rarely my top pick for a game to play. But at the same time, I've had fun almost every single time I've played it, so given how much fun I've had with it, it has to be called one of my favorite games. If you're in a similar category, then I hope that this review can help you decide whether or not Seafarers is the right game for you.

Seafarers changes the map, making it into multiple islands separated by sea. To cross the sea you build shipping lines, which are just like roads, except that they go between ocean hexes, and the cost wood+wool instead of wood+brick. In addition, instead of having one way to build the map, there are a bunch of scenarious in the rulebook, each with a different layout (or in some cases a different way to build the layout). Also, the different scenarious need different numbers of victory points to win, and most also have special victory point prizes (e.g., build a settlement on a certain island for a bonus victory point.)

Seafarers seems like exactly what is needed to add some more variety to a game that's good but has been played enough to take some of the enthusiasm away. It makes very few changes to the rules of the base game, but adds more variety in the maps.

The good: For adding some variety, it works well. After playing on the same round map a few hundred times, playing on an archipelago is pretty exciting. The races to reach bonus points with shipping lines can add some interesting competition. The "explore as you go" maps are also pretty interesting.

The bad: After playing through every scenario at least once, I have to say that seafarers just isn't as well balanced as base Catan. One thing I love about base Catan is that it seems to ends at exactly the right time almost every game; which is, after you've had a chance to try out your strategy, but before the game becomes dull. In any game you can get into a situation where you're so far behind that you don't think that you can win, but 90% of the time when that happens in base Catan, the game is almost over, so it's no problem to play another turn or two. But in Seafarers, the game often takes longer, and it also seems that often one player will get screwed at or before the midpoint of the game, with no real hope of winning, and they have to sit there for the last half of the game and watch everybody else build fancy shipping lines and cities. Why does this happen so much on Seafarers? Maybe it's because the smaller islands mean you have to spend more on your shipping lines, less on building cities and towns, which slows the game down overall. Maybe the shipping line competition is harsher than the competition for space in the base game, making it more likely that somebody will get screwed early on. Probably it's a combination of the two. But I can definitely say that Seafarers gets into a drag much more often that Settlers.

Summary: I rate base Settlers a 9. I give Seafarers an 8. That might seem high after the problem I cite, but the reason is that when seafarers works, and when everybody is making good progress through the whole game, it's a lot of fun. It probably "works" in this way more often than not, but I still usually prefer to play base Settlers, because I'd rather have a 90% chance of a fun time than a 60% chance of a slightly-more-fun time.

Should you get Seafarers? It's up to you. If you really like Settlers, I'd say give it a try for sure, but be prepared to have a few tedious games mixed in with the fun ones.
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Al
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Yes, I really agree your points. The basic catan game is a fantastic game, and that alone is totally enough. The seafarers expansion adds something to it, but to me it's not a must have expansion.
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