Seafarers Of Catan Expansions review

seafarers_of_catan_board_game_expansion_relaunch_detail[1]By Chris Bowler

So, as promised, every other week here at Unboxed will now be Expansion Week. I like my expansions, I know that not everybody does, but as I tend to end up playing the same games time and again, I like to have a large number of options and variants so that I can change the game up and make it feel fresh and interesting and
generally without having to spend a lot of money.

Today I’m going to talk about two scenarios for Seafarers of Catan. A friend of mine who owns the 3rd of edition of Seafarers claims that there are no scenarios included in that set, I can neither confirm or deny this but for the purposes of this review I’m referencing the 4th edition rules. Best of all the rules are a free pdf so you can use these scenarios as long as you have enough hex tiles to make up the standard Seafarers board, regardless of your edition.

If you have never played Seafarers, why not check out my review of the expansion and rules explanation.

Heading for New Shores

After a long voyage, the settlers have reached Catan and built their first settlements. Harbours are built and new, seaworthy ships are being developed. Daring Catanians sail across the ocean. Before long, rumours appear that many smaller islands are out there at sea, not too far away—it is even said that gold has been found on some of them. Gold is highly appreciated in Catan. Ships are fitted out, and soon Catanian ships set sail to find the gold of the islands

image%5B4%5D[1]Set Up

For this scenario you will need all the components from the base game, plus 15 ships for each player, 15 sea tiles, 2 Gold Fields, 2 mountains and 1 field, hill pasture and forest. You will also need one additional 2,3,4,5,8,9,10,11 number chit.

The main island is assembled as in the base game of Catan, the additional hexes are then used to create four smaller islands separated from the mainland by 1 sea hex.

You will need both the Pirate Ship and Robber, plus 1 special victory point chit for each player in the game.


This is the tutorial scenario for Seafarers. The game play follows the same rules as basic Settlers but using the following additional rules:

  • Players may build boats at a cost of 1 Sheep and 1 Wood. Boats may only built on water and adjacent to either a settlement or another boat.
  • A player may move up to one boat built on a previous turn to any other legal space following the rules above. Only a boat that is only connected at one end may be moved.
  • Gold Fields generate resources exactly like other hexes, except the player may choose which resource is created.
  • The Pirate Ship can be moved instead of the robber. No ships may be built on or moved from the hex containing the Pirate Ship. In addition when you move the Pirate Ship to a new hex you may steal 1 resource from a player with at least 1 ship on the new hex.
  • Players may only build their starting Settlements on the main island.
  • The game is played to 13 Victory Points
  • Each player may score 1 additional point by building a settlement on one of the smaller islands.


This is a great introductory scenario for seafarers, it has the main island that all players will recognise and be confortable with. The restriction on building your starting settlements only on the main island eliminates any fears players may have about placing settlements on islands.

The fact that you only need to build 2 ships to reach any of the smaller islands from the mainland means that players are not going to waste time on a massive fleet of ships only to find themselves cut off by another player (as can happen in later scenarios).

As well as introducing ships the scenario also introduces the gold fields, which coupled with the bonus victory point for settling a foreign island, add a great incentive for players to explore and use their ships.

All that said, it is exactly what it’s supposed to be, an introduction. It just feels like a tweaked version of the base game, rather than a fresh experience. So while it’s a good way to get started with Seafarers you’ll find yourself wanting to move on quickly and I doubt you’ll ever return to this scenario.

image%5B10%5D[1]The Four Islands

The tribes of Catan quickly develop into experienced seafarers. One day they reach the islands to the west, the “Four Islands” group. Here too, fertile fields, lush pastures, and productive mines lure the intrepid Catanians. New  settlements are quickly built. But soon the Catanians’ curiosity spurs them on: what will they find on the other islands? Since every tribe wants to see all four islands, an exciting race for the few settlement sites begins!

Set Up

For this scenario you will need 15 Ships for each player, 19 Sea Hexes, 2 deserts, 5 pastures and 4 of each mountains, hills, woods and fields. In addition you will need the following number chits, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10, 11, 11, 12 and all 10 harbours. You’ll also need the Robber and Pirate Ship.

The four islands are always set up in the same shapes, however the terrain and numbers can be distributed randomly.


The Four Islands plays exactly like the base settlers game including all the Seafarers rules outlined in the scenario above with the following important differences.

  • During Setup players may choose to start on any of the four island and may choose to build on separate islands or place both settlements on the same island.
  • When you settle your first foreign island (i.e. an island you did not settle on during setup) you earn 1 special victory point. For each additional Foreign Island you settle you earn 2 additional Victory Points.
  • The Scenario is played to 12 Victory Points


This scenario, although still simple, showcases some of what can be achieved with the Seafarers expansion. The lower victory point total makes settling Foreign Islands very profitable and the additional VP’s scored for the 2nd (and possibly 3rd) Foreign Islands is great way to motivate players to continue to build ships and settle foreign islands.

Despite the fact there are more land tiles than in the base game the map still feels tight as you need to build in good costal spots in order to island hop and score fast victory points. The fact that at least two of the islands will have a desert on them adds to this sense of tight spaces.

Of all the scenarios in the book, the Four Islands is possibly the one that most rewards you for expanding and exploring. In a 3 player game it’s a good fun map, with four players it becomes very tight for space and can get quite cutthroat.

If Heading For New Shores wasn’t a big enough game changer for you, then I would recommend this scenario as it definitely feels very different from the base game without adding in any additional Scenario rules. The scenario forces you to build ships and expand, the tight space and low victory point scores make it feel more like a race to victory and it really explores the theme of Seafarers.

If you do use the Variable Setup rules I would caution against changing the number positions unless you enjoy a bit more randomness in your game (as I do), because you could end up with good numbers isolated behind deserts or worse still clumped together. Personally I don;t mind this but for people who enjoy a less luck based game, sticking to the number distribution in the book might be the way to go.

The New Format

So there you have it, the first post in the new format. Let me know if you like it. The reasoning behind the new format is to allow me to continue to explore these interesting scenarios/variants without taking up the space of the basic reviews. This means you now get twice as much content as before! Yay!

If you have a particular expansion, scenario or variant you would like me to take a look at then let me know. You can find my list of games here. Although I will tend to focus on published expansions, if you have a particularly good home spun one you think I should try, just let me know.

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Seafarers Of Catan Expansions review

One thought on “Seafarers Of Catan Expansions review

  1. Once I learned Seafarers, there was no going back to Settlers Basic. As you show in this great review, Seafarers really adds only a few new rules. Yet it extends the game play greatly. When setting up I place all land tiles and number chits randomly. This produces some real challenges at time, but the people I play with agree it’s more fun that way.

    I would like to see a review of Cities and Knights of Catan. I had some issues with the game play on that expansion.

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