Catan: Seafarers (1997) is the first big box expansion for the board game Catan (1995), designed by Klaus Teuber
Seafarers adds individual scenarios to the original game of Catan.
The rules of Settlers Of Catan: Seafarers are identical to those in the base game, but with additional features – gold, the pirate, ships, Catan chits and scenarios.
The core rules for Catan: Seafarers are very similar to those for the base game.
Before the beginning of the game, the frame pieces are slotted together and the board is set up with hexes, number tokens and harbours.
Here are the Catan: Seafarers rules:
- Once the board is set up, players take turns to place their first settlement, and a linked road or ship.
- In reverse order, the players then take turns to place a second settlement and a road or a ship.
- In each turn of the game players roll two dice which indicate which hex or hexes produce resources that round.
- Any hex whose number token matches the results of the dice roll grants a resource to any player who has a settlement built on that hex, while cities produce two resources.
- The active player then has the opportunity to trade resources with the other players.
- Once they have finished trading the active player may build and buy cards.
- While the standard turn structure for Catan is Roll – Trade – Build, there is also an option for a combined Trade/Build phase which allows players to do these in any order.
- The combined Trade/Build version is recommended for players who are experienced at playing Catan as it allows for greater flexibility of play.
Seafarers introduces new victory conditions for each of its nine scenarios. These victory conditions define how players can gather special points and how many points they need to gain in order to win.
Seafarers scenarios use Catan chits, which are introduced in this expansion.
Catan chits most often represent special Victory Points.
Special Victory Points tend to be gained by building a settlement on a new island, but can also be gained by trade or exploration.
Catan: Seafarers introduces a new type of hex which produces different resources from those in the base game.
There are two gold field hexes included in Seafarers, and these produce the gold resource.
Any gold resource that a player gains is immediately exchanged for any type of resource that the player wants.
A player who has a settlement on a gold hex when it produces a resource can pick one of any resource they like. A player with a city on a gold hex can choose any two resources, which can be the same or different.
Seafarers also contains nineteen sea hexes which are used to build the board for the various scenarios.
Although sea hexes do not produce anything, they divide different land areas on the map into islands. Sea hexes can be crossed by using ships.
Seafarers also introduces one extra hex for fields, forests and pastures, and two extra hexes for mountains and hills.
These extra hexes are used to build the bigger maps for the various Seafarers scenarios.
Seafarers adds ten extra number tokens to those that are supplied with the base game, but these look the same as the original tokens.
Each of the number tokens has two elements, which are:
- the number
- up to five pips
The number shows which dice roll result will cause this particular hex to produce a resource on a turn.
The pips on the hex show the likelihood of that particular result occurring as the result of a roll.
The least likely results from a two-dice roll are ‘2’ and ‘12’ while the most common are ‘6’ and ‘8’.
In order to make the most likely dice roll results immediately visible, they are printed in red on their tokens.
The most likely result of a two-dice roll is a ‘7’, but this does not match any of the number tokens and instead allows the active player to move the robber or the pirate.
The resources in Catan: Seafarers are the same as those in the original game.
These resources are brick, wood, ore, grain and lumber, which are produced by hills, pasture, mountains, fields, and forests respectively.
Gold is also available, and this acts as a wild resource – when it is produced by a hex players may choose any of the standard resources instead.
The official manual for Catan: Seafarers is split into two parts.
The first part of the Seafarers manual details the additional rules introduced by the expansions and the alterations to those from the base game.
The additional rules and changes for Seafarers include:
- Assembling the frame and arranging the tokens
- Ship building
- The purpose of ships
- Shipping routes
- Moving ships
- Catan chits and special Victory Points
- The Longest Trade Route
- The Road Building Development Card
- Gold Fields
- Starting with a ship
- The Pirate
The second part of the Seafarers manual includes rules for the various scenarios:
- Heading For New Shores
- The Four Islands
- The Fog Island
- Through The Desert
- The Forgotten Tribe
- Cloth For Catan
- The Pirate Islands
- The Wonders Of Catan
- New World
The manual also explains how players can link the scenarios together, to play a linked campaign of games of Seafarers.
This video by Games Made Easy runs through the scenarios and also offers some tips:
The online rules for Catan: Seafarers can be found at the official Catan homepage.
The rules for Seafarers may also be downloaded directly here.
Online rules for Seafarers updates will be added to the downloads available from the official site.
Ships in Seafarers are used to travel to new islands and set up trade routes.
To build a ship, a player needs to spend two resources, one wool and one lumber.
The first ship a player builds must be linked to one of their settlements or cities that is built on the coast.
Once the first ship has been built, any further ships can be linked to those that are already on the board.
Ships may only be placed on the borders of hexes, and must either go between two sea hexes or between a sea and a land hex.
If a ship is built between two sea hexes then it represents an aquatic route, while a ship built between a sea and land hex represents a coastal route.
Two ships can also branch out in different directions from a single ship, in the same way as roads.
Once a shipping route connects to another coastline, a new settlement can be built.
Ships can connect to roads, only if there is a settlement or a city providing an intersection, and this must be on the coast.
Once a shipping route is connected to a settlement or city at both ends, it is considered closed and cannot be moved any more.
A shipping route which does not connect two settlements or cities is considered open, and the unconnected end can be moved.
Once per turn, the ship at the end of an open shipping route can be moved to any other allowed position.
At the start of the game, players have the option of building ships from their starting settlements instead of roads.
If players choose to build ships as part of their opening set up, they must build one or more of their settlements on the coast to be able to do this.
If the pirate is on one of the sea hexes, new ships cannot be built on that hex and no ships may be moved away from that hex either.
Shipping routes are valid for the Longest Road card, which is called the Longest Route in Seafarers.
Combined road and ship routes which are linked by a settlement or city intersection are also valid for the Longest Route.
A sound strategy in the original Catan (1995) game involves the following:
- Plan from the very start of the game and ensure that opening placements are chosen either to maximise certain resources or to gain a spread of them.
- Trading should be done with the aim of helping weaker players who are less of a threat.
- All information gained during trading tells a player what their opponent holds and also what they need.
- Building consistently ensures that your hand size is small enough not to be caught by the robber or by the pirate when a ‘7’ is rolled.
- When the dice rolls are not producing the required resources you should instead turn to trading to ensure that you can keep building.
Catan: Seafarers introduces many new elements to the game which open up strategic and tactical options.
The additional options make a single strong strategy more difficult to execute in Catan: Seafarers than in the original Catan game.
Before the game begins players should assess:
- (i) the positions of the resource hexes and number tokens
- (ii) the viability of building a settlement on the coast, to start a shipping route.
The value of building on the coast changes from scenario to scenario, and from map to map.
Placing an initial settlement on the coast provides an advantage if it can be combined with a harbour placement.
If this harbour’s resource matches a productive hex on which you already have a placement then this provides an advantage.
- Never forget the option to move a ship once per turn
It is easy to forget that you can move a ship at the end of an open shipping route, but this can be a powerful choice.
This rule allows a player to remove the ship at the end of the route and place it in any other allowed position on the board.
- Play to the scenario
Catan: Seafarers rules provide different ways to gain Victory Points.
In all games players should work out the easiest methods to obtain Victory Points,and plan towards them from the beginning.
- Gold is always valuable but not always worth the effort
Gold is a highly valuable resource as it allows players to take any other resource of their choice when it is produced.
A city on a gold hex will allow a player to take any two resources of their own choice.
While this makes gold very valuable, players also need to balance this with the effort of building on that hex.
If the effort of building on a gold hex is going to detract from the primary objective, then they should probably rely on trading and harbours instead to get the required resources instead.
However, if a gold hex is not too far away from what you are already building towards then it should always be considered.
Even if you do not need the resources from a gold hex, if you have been listening to what other people require from their trades then you can pick up those resources instead and ask a high price for them.
- Think carefully about whether to move the pirate or the robber
When a ‘7’ is rolled the active player has the choice of moving either the pirate or the robber.
You should always consider which of the pirate and the robber will be most obstructive for your opponents and, when there is a choice, you should always target your strongest opponent.
The robber will get in the way of resource production but the pirate immediately stops sea exploration.
The relative values of the pirate and robber will change as the positions on the board develop, so weigh up all the available options before making a choice.
The box for Seafarers has compartments for all the components of the expansion.
To put away Catan: Seafarers, first separate the components for the expansion from those for the base game.
The number tokens, Catan chits, harbours, pirate and new hexes all fit into the various slots in the Seafarers insert.
The border pieces need to be laid on top of the insert.
The base game components, including the robber, development cards, player pieces, reference cards, dice and original hexes, fit into the insert for Catan.
Players who play Seafarers often might want to keep all the components for Catan and the expansion in a single box for convenience.
If keeping all the components in a single box, the insert would need to be discarded and the various items bagged separately.
The most important advice when playing Seafarers is to always be flexible.
React to your opponents, and plan ahead to maximise your chances of victory.
Watch a complete playthrough by Goober Gamerz and see how you might have played differently: