Settlers of Catan Seafarers expansion adds elements such as sea hexes, gold, ships, and pirates to the Catan world. Compared to the standard version of Settlers of Catan it opens up the map and provides a few more things for players to build and play for without making the game overly complicated to pick up for new players. If you have not read the Settlers of Catan New Player Guide on here I would recommend doing so as this guide will expect that you know the base game and the terminology attached to it.
This Settlers of Catan Seafarers new player guide will go over keywords for you to learn and also the additions this expansion adds to Settlers of Catan.
Settlers of Catan Seafarers Keywords
Ships cost one wood, one sheep, and function almost the same way as a road except it is built on the water. Ships are only used if you are playing with the Settlers of Catan Seafarers expansion. To build a ship you must have a settlement or city adjacent to a water tile and then you can build out onto a water hex. Without a settlement or city you cannot build a ship and cannot simply build a ship off of a road. Unlike roads, ships can be moved under certain circumstances and if you did not build that ship on that turn. If a ship is in an “open trade route” meaning you do not have ships going from one settlement/city to another you may move that ship elsewhere. That ship must also not be touching any settlement/city even if the trade route does not touch a second city. When moving a ship you may place it anywhere touching another settlement/city of yours or another ship.
The pirate ship is only available when you are playing with the Settlers of Catan Seafarers expansion and functions similarly to the robber. The pirate ship is used on sea hexes instead of land hexes like the robber and prevent players from building ships on any section that the pirate ship touches. The pirate ship also prevents players from moving a ship and placing it elsewhere. Players can steal a card of their choosing from another player with a ship or settlement adjacent to the pirate ship.
A chit is a special circular token that is used when playing with the Seafarers expansion and is optional whether or not you want to use them. Chits can be placed on the board in specific areas and can be counted as a victory point or multiple chits could equal one victory point. Chis can also be a reward for fulfilling certain tasks if you play a scenario. In the end chits simply provide more options for you to add additional elements to the game and to create your own Settlers boards.
Seafarers adds sea/water hexes to the board and unlike land hexes they have no resources associated with them and require ships to be built for you to cross. Sea hexes are used to create islands, place gold hexes across the main area of the board, or to place chits on the edge of the map on sea hexes to lure players to sail to to gain victory points. Sea hexes provide a large amount of options for you to experiment with and to create unique boards.
A new resource hex is added with the Seafarers expansion for Settlers of Catan and it shakes up the balance of a match in a significant way. When a player builds a settlement or city on a gold hex they are able to choose which resource they wish to receive when the number they are on is rolled. This can provide a huge boost later on in the game since usually gold ought to be placed across from where players are allowed to place their initial settlements by sea hexes or deserts.
Setting up the Board
The Seafarers expansion does come with pre-made board setups like the standard Settlers of Catan version but Seafarers provides a vast amount of options for you to toy with on your own. With sea/water hexes you can create islands, vast seas, rivers, or small lakes to shake up the standard Settlers of Catan board that you have grown used to. Placing number tokens should not be done according to the standard game since if you follow the letters on them you will end up with an unbalanced board. Place numbers according to your own choices and make sure that 6’s and 8’s are not next to each other.
Another option is to go with a completely random board with Seafarers. Place a “main island” somewhere on the board where players will place their starting settlements and roads. You then have the option of randomly placing hexes flipped over so that you cannot see whether it is a resource hex or a sea hex. You also have the option of leaving the remaining spaced empty and placing the other hexes in a pile at random face down to be chosen from when needed. Number tokens should be shuffled and placed faced down or in a bag for the hexes reserved for later. In this scenario when a player places a settlement, road, or ship that touches an empty hex they will draw(or flip over) a hex to uncover what it will be. A number token is then drawn at random and placed on the board. If the hex is a resource hex then that player receives one resource of that hex, but if it is a sea hex they receive nothing.
Starting the Match
The game starts the same way as the standard Settlers of Catan version expect for you need to determine which areas of the map a player can and cannot place their first settlements. It wouldn’t be fare for someone to place their settlements on gold hexes to begin the game for example, so determine where you are allowed to place settlements before beginning. After this the game proceeds as according to the standard version rules.
The Settlers of Catan Seafarers expansions shakes up the game and provides many more board setups and a few more things to build. In general it does not shake up strategies or which resources are most important early on in the game. Wood and brick are still the important resources to have early on for building roads and settlements. Sheep does become more important since ships require wood and sheep to build. Depending on the scenario you are playing it is either wise or stupid to build many ships to reach other islands or gold hexes. Seafarers is about weighing risk and reward for spending resources to cross sea hexes. Often times unless you are blocked in where you start it is better to stay in your area and let other players build ships to get to gold hexes later.
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