Catan: Seafarers is the first big box expansion to the original Catan game.
Seafarers adds new elements to the base game, but it cannot be played on its own, and must be combined with a copy of Catan.
In order to play the Seafarers expansion you need to own a copy of the Catan base game, which will either simply be called Catan or The Settlers Of Catan.
If you have a copy of the base version of Catan you do not need anything else to play the Seafarers expansion, apart from a table and at least two other players.
Other than a copy of the original Catan, however, there is nothing that you need to provide that is not included either in Seafarers or in the base box.
In general there are two types of Catan expansion – those that can be added to the original game but still played on their own (called “standalone expansions”) and those that require a copy of the base game to play.
Seafarers is not a standalone expansion, which means that it cannot be played on its own, but needs to be added to a copy of the Catan base game.
If you do not have a copy of Catan then you will need to buy that first before you think about getting Seafarers.
It is also worth bearing in mind that Seafarers will not combine with any of the themed sets of Catan – it only works with the original version.
Catan is a self-sufficient box which contains a complete game that can be played without adding any new elements.
Catan is a great game on its own, and one of the classic designs of the hobby, and, in theory, nothing ever needs to be added to it.
However, although the hexes, number tokens and harbours on the board may be randomised in Catan, the actual layout of the board and the aim of the game remain the same in each play.
Seafarers is quite different from the main game, adding new and different elements to Catan in order to make it a richer and more complex experience.
By introducing elements such as sea hexes, gold, the pirate, Catan chits and special victory points, Seafarers expands the possibilities for strategy and exploration that were there in the base game.
Also, unlike the base game, Seafarers does not come with a single set of rules, but instead replaces these with multiple scenarios which can be played in different ways to explore the history of the magnificent island world of Catan.
Players can head out to new shores, explore entirely uncharted regions, attempt to reach a mysterious forgotten tribe, ..and build the most imposing wonders Catan has ever seen.
Seafarers therefore combines new elements with a scenario-based approach to add significantly to the experience from the base box.
There is also the possibility in Seafarers to play with a standard layout with randomised elements, just as in the base game, so there is always the option of playing without using the scenarios.
What Does The Seafarers Expansion Board Look Like?
The most obvious difference between the look of normal Catan and the Seafarers expansion is that all the maps that use the expansion are larger than those from the base box.
The scenario diagrams in the rules show how to assemble frames for each game and player count, and the extra frame pieces in Seafarers are combined with those in Catan.
The maps in the Seafarers expansion are bigger not just because of the extra sea hexes, which are accommodated by the frame pieces, but also because many of the layouts include multiple islands.
In Seafarers there may be several smaller islands on the map to expand the possibilities for play and encourage players to explore neighboring islands.
These layouts encourage players to go ship building, and to let their ships explore uncharted regions, something which is necessary because although the boards are bigger, the islands tend to be smaller, making victory points hard to come by without heading out to new shores.
Because the Seafarers Of Catan expansion was first published in 1997 there are now five editions available.
The fifth edition – called Catan: Seafarers – is now easily available and was released to match the fifth edition of the Catan game.
Ideally the editions of Seafarers and the Catan base game used should be the same as each other, but the differences between the fourth and fifth editions are relatively small.
The fourth edition has slightly thinner tiles, but in terms of gameplay it can be used with the fifth edition without any real problems.
If you have played Catan many times and enjoy it, but are beginning to grow tired of the challenges that it presents then Seafarers is definitely the first Catan expansion you should consider playing.
Because Seafarers adds so much to the original game, it essentially reinvents it and expands the possibilities for players way beyond the original.
However, Seafarers does not really change any of the rules from the first game – instead it adds extra elements to the same rules, so it is quite easy to pick up and play and feels very much like the same game.
Best of all, because the rules for Seafarers recommend playing through certain scenarios in order, the extra elements are introduced in stages and not all at once.
Players can get to grips with sea hexes, ships and the pirate, and are then introduced to gold fields, Catan chits and special victory points without necessarily feeling overwhelmed.
On the other hand, if you find Catan to be quite a complicated game and you need to keep checking the rules then Seafarers might not be a great choice.
Although the extra elements are not complicated, they are really for people who desire a deeper and richer experience, and more of a narrative through their games.
Players who are quite happy with Catan as it is might find that Seafarers adds too much to the mix and overwhelms them with choices, in which case sticking with the original box is advisable.
Another reason not to buy Seafarers is if you only play games intermittently or are rarely able to get Catan to the table.
With nine different scenarios in the box it might sound easy to be able to experience them all, but playing each of them enough times really to experience what they have to offer would require many plays.
If your plays of Catan are only infrequent then Seafarers might not represent excellent value for money, and the extra effort of having to relearn the rules every time it is put onto the table might stop it being played.
Anybody who has a copy of Catan can add Seafarers to the experience for new ways to play and new goals to achieve.
Exploring the story of the development of Catan with Seafarers is an exciting addition to the original game, and the only limit is a player’s own imagination.
As a first expansion, Seafarers is a great choice.