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Subject: Seafarers of Catan Review rss

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Joseph Bryant
United Kingdom
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Introduction

Seafarers of Catan is an expansion pack for the award-winning Settlers of Catan boardgame.

In brief

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 & 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...

The Stuff

Board sections
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.

Ships
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.

Other
Apart from the above, you're using the original development cards and so on.

The setup

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.

The game
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.

Conclusion
This is an absolutely worthy bearer of the Catan brand. I personally prefer it over the more complicated Cities & Knights. It genuinely adds to the game, whilst remaining very true to the style and beautiful simplicity of the original. Recommended!
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Brian Gee
Canada
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Good review. I've been thinking about getting this but sometimes I don't like the way that expansions over-complicate a game. Your review makes it clear that you can add this expansion to give more variety to settlers, without losing the beauty of its simplicity. Thanks!
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Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
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For me, Seafarers is more negative than positive. And thus I won't play with it. While building routes is nice, what it takes away is the jostling for position that you mention. Racing to build on open free spots, and build roads to block the path; these are key aspects to Settlers which are wiped away in Seafarers.

I much prefer C&K, although that admittedly is a much longer game. And I don't play that anymore either, but it's because I played it to death. Unlike Seafarers, which no one I played with liked at all.

Different strokes I guess.
 
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John H
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Nice review and I agree with you on your point regarding C&K. That expansion makes Catan a totally different game. When we play Catan, we always play with Seafarers. C&K...not so much. To each his/her own.
 
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Evan Parker
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This changed my opinion of the expansion. I had mistakenly really hated the game due to the completely screwed up maps it created, and it turns out that the player who had the game was just doing it wrong (playing random terrain and water tiles... well... randomly).

The idea of scenarios actually make a lot more sense... I guess I'll have to try them before I disparage the expansion further.

Thanks.
 
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Joseph Bryant
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Thanks to everyone for their feedback! It's really nice to hear back; I originally posted this on another website (everything2.org) where you can write about anything; there isn't a big interest in board games there, so I didn't really get any comments.

To curtc - you're right, different strokes and all that. I do enjoy Cities & Knights as well; I just prefer Seafarers. I would say though, in response to your specific point: there's been a lot of jostling for position when I've played! We are all very keen to get the bonus points for settling on other islands (or whatever the scenario offers), and the pirate ship gets used a great deal to block people's expansion, which is a fun new element.
 
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Matthew Cordeiro
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There's certainly some jostling for position in Seafarers. It's just a different variety than in a land-only game. The bonus points for reaching new islands can be huge, especially if you're trying to get to a 2nd new island. Getting there yourself or blocking another player can make or break the game.
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