The Settlers of Catan: Explorers & Pirates
While games these days seem to come out with expansions every year, Settlers of Catan, with its rich 20 year history, only needs an expansion every 5 or 6 years it seems. Mind you, it has lots of spin-offs and the like, but the last proper expansion to the same was back in 2007. Then all of the sudden, we get the 4th major expansion, Explorers and Pirates.
The original two add-ons to Settlers were Seafarers, which expanded the game spatially, and Cities and Knights, which expanded the game with depth. Traders and Barbarians came along and went the route of C&K, adding more complexity to the game we all know, through a number of different scenarios. Now with Explorers and Pirates, it feels like Seafarers is being revisited, with an expanding board once more, and new things to do as you venture out.
Ships and Harbours – Similar to Seafarers, you are now able to set sail and explore smaller islands. But the ships here are different in that you actually move the ships rather than making a line of ships. You build harbours on the coast and sail from these harbours, carrying a settler piece who automatically makes a settlement once you find land. It’s pretty neat, and a core mechanic for this whole expansion.
Pirates – One of the scenarios incudes gold hexes which pop up which are controlled by pirates. The hexes cannot be used until the pirates are chased off by adding 3 crewmen to the hex. Also, players score points depending on how many pirates they fight off.
Fish – The fish scenario has sea hexes which fish shoals. Players can collect the fish from these hexes and take them back to the harbour tile to score points. Pretty basic, but adds to the theme, and the fish meeples are awesome.
Spices – The spices are the best scenario for this expansion as it adds spice hexes which give you bonus actions if you drop off a crew member on these hexes. You also get points for delivering the spices back to the harbour.
Best Feature: Personally, I like the spice scenario. But actually, my favourite feature is probably the same as my special feature in Seafarers: exploring the sea hexes. The new islands are not set until you explore and discover them. What will you find? Love that unknown aspect.
When to use: You can use it to switch up your Catan experience. I would say do not play it with people who are only moderately familiar with Catan. But if you have lots of experienced Settlers players, this is a good way to switch things up!
Does it fit?: No, there are a lot of components. It needs to stay in its own box.
What type: This is a different scenario expansion. There are three scenarios to play with, or you can mix and match them.
Overall: This is a very cool addition to Settlers of Catan. It takes the idea from Seafarers and gives it a boost. If you want a simpler expansion, stick with Seafarers, but if you want to up the complexity and variety of what you can do, go with Explorers and Pirates. The sea exploration is exciting, and t while you don’t need to try the new adventures and could stick to regular Catan strategy (albeit with less room on the island), they are fun.