Ever feel cramped on your little island of Catan? Have you found yourself wishing you could set off and find an island of your own? Settlers of Catan: Seafarers lets you do just that. Seafarers is an expansion to the classic Settlers of Catan which allows you to take to the high seas and develop multiple islands. Seafarers has been around for a while and gone through a few changes so this review will consider the latest 5th edition.
The biggest addition to Seafarers is the ships. You probably guessed that, didn’t you? Ships function like roads, building on the edge of two water hexes or one land hex and one water hex. Ships count as part of your road network, but a player cannot go straight from a road to a ship. You will need to build a settlement in between to get the bonus. This also means they count toward longest road!
The 5th edition includes nine scenarios for you to play. They each have a higher victory point goal, adjusting based on the scenario and usually include extra conditions for bonus victory points. For example, one scenario has one large island with three smaller islands surrounding it. Players all start on the big island and gain an extra two victory points for each new island they build on, incentivizing players to take to the seas and explore. Another scenario has two islands and a “fog island” in the center. On the fog island, the tiles are turned facedown and you don’t know what you’re getting until you reach it with a ship. When a ship reaches a fog tile, that player turns it over and receives one of whatever that resource is.
- Seafarers adds diversity. Between the different scenarios, the larger board, and more build options, Seafarers mixes up the Catan formula and adds some flavor, while still feeling familiar to long-time Catan fans.
- Ships put more value in sheep. I don’t know what your experience is like, but in standard Catan sheep typically feel like one of the most common yet least useful resources. Since ships cost one sheep and one wood, sheep become an important commodity. None of the resources feel wasted here.
- I like additional victory conditions. Sure, at the end of the day, it’s still Catan. Winning means building the bigger civilization. However, these additional victory conditions open up new strategy options for how to get there. More options mean a greater replay value.
- This is still a dice game. Like the base game, you can still get crippled by a run of bad luck – and there’s nothing you can do about it. In my opinion, this is the only notable weakness about this game but it can be absolutely infuriating to see an eleven pay out turn after turn and your sixes and eights yield nothing. For better or worse, you are at the mercy of the dice.
Settlers of Catan: Seafarers is exactly what expansions are supposed to do. It takes the base game and adds a new layer, feeling familiar and new at the same time. Taking what is good about the original game and adding a swashbuckling twist is a breath of fresh air. If you’re one of those players who doesn’t like Catan, Seafarers probably won’t make you like it more. It’s still the same game at its core. But if you have a warm spot in your heart for this classic game, Seafarers is a wonderful development and an absolute must-purchase.