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Explorers & Pirates – The New Expansion for “The Settlers of Catan” – Part 7

February 20, 2013
Klaus Teuber

Part 7: Explorers & Pirates

The fifth and last scenario bears the name of the game itself. This is so because it is the game. All scenarios described before only serve to familiarize the players, step by step, with the missions and their tactical and strategic possibilities and comfortably lead them to the last scenario, that is, to the actual game.

To play “Explorers & Pirates,” you assemble the largest frame possible and include all three missions.

“Explorers & Pirates” – the identically named scenario

This results in a wide range of choices and decisions. Let's listen to the thoughts a player might have after launching a ship:

Should I use the ship to catch fish, or should I rather load it with crews to obtain the advantages bestowed by the villagers? Or maybe it is wiser to load a settler on the ship, to use him for founding a settlement in the more distant, unexplored area? If I later upgrade the settlement to a harbor settlement, I can build ships, crews, and more settlements there and thus would have to travel shorter distances. In the long run, that would be useful. But wait – Wolfgang has placed two crews on the Pirate Lair over there. I got to send a crew to that place quickly, otherwise he might take away the victory point I received for the Greatest Pirate Scourge ...


For experienced players it is certainly okay to skip the introductory scenario. However, I strongly advise against starting immediately with the final scenario, i.e., the actual game.

The first photo shows the final score of a 4-player test game of “Explorers & Pirates” that took 135 minutes and ended with 17:15:14:13 victory points. The second photo shows the final score of a 3-player test game of “Explorers & Pirates”; it took 100 minutes and ended with 17:16:13 victory points.

“Explorers & Pirates” test game 1 “Explorers & Pirates” test game 2
Prototype test games – click to enlarge

During the process of creating the expansion, I had developed further missions; however, they eventually didn't end up in the game box. The reason was that three missions already filled the box to the brim with game components, and additional missions would have made the game even more expensive.

One of the omitted missions was about protecting an island from a storm surge; in another, as many inhabitants of a volcanic island as possible had to be rescued by ship to save them from the lava flow; and the search for artifacts was the topic of a third omitted mission.

So, in the end, the three missions that were most well-received during the tests and also went best together were incorporated.

“Explorers & Pirates” also works well as a 2-player game. In this case, trading between players largely ceases to exist, but due to the varied strategic and tactical options and the competition for the three important special victory points the fun of playing the game is hardly affected.

As part of our “Explorers & Pirates” game presentation page, I address the issue of whether or not “Explorers & Pirates” can be combined with the three first expansions “Seafarers”, “Cities & Knights”, and “Traders & Barbarians” in a way that makes sense.

Klaus Teuber

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I'm very excited about this expansion and can't wait for the Dutch version. In the last part of the blog are more missions mentioned, but left out due expensiveness of the game. Might it be possible that those missions will be added in a separate expansion set special for this one (like the 6 special scenario's for basic game and seafarers)? It would be interesting to get a reformed version of 'the colonies'.
The omitted missions about protecting an island from a storm surge, saving the inhabitants of a volcanic island from the lava flow, and the search for artifacts sound like great ideas. Any chance we might see these in future versions? Looking at the Prototype test games I would assume its safe to say Mayfair doesn't have a Prototype yet?
Gero Zahn
@Franke The "missing missions" are on ice for now – you can be sure that we chose the best ones to be published. However, we might find use for the other ones at a later time, in one way or another. Let's first see how you all like the five scenarios that are in the box, OK? @Pirateer The photos shown above were taken at an earlier stage of development with non-final game material. During the developmemt of a game, more than one prototype is made, and everybody involved has access to one whenever it's necessary. Rest assured, including Mayfair.
What would this do to the seafarers expansion? It seems to me that you can't play both together, as you NEED the water tiles in this expansion (so it would be included with the game) and you replace the ships with the new ships. I love seafarers, but i'm afraid this will replace it.
Gero Zahn
@Atrayou You are right: “Explorers & Pirates” can not be played together with the “Seafarers” expansion, due to the totally different ship mechanism. We will elaborate about that as well next week - in short: It doesn't even make sense to build a row of “Seafarers” ships to reach another island, as the moving “Explorers & Pirates” ships will get you there much easier.
I like the use of development cards, trading harbors and the robber. Are there any combinations that allow use of these with E&P?
The thing I love about Catan is I mix all my expansion packs and senatrios together. I have come up with a way to include: Catan Oil Springs scenario Seafarers scenarios Cites and Knights Traders and Barbarian senarios I don't want to have to choose between Seafarers and the New "Explorers and Pirates".
I figured out a way to use "Explorers & Pirates" with "Seafarers". But the board would be really big and the game would probably take a long time.
Gero Zahn
@Joe Please wait until next week when we publish the current recommendation list of which combinations with other expansions make sense and which do not. @Diltarget Some scenarios or variants create specific requirements that can't be met by the E&P scenario game-play. I am sorry, but “Seafarers” and “Explores & Pirates” really don't work well together. @heroica15 We absolutely encourage you to create your own scenarios including your house-rules: If you game party is happy with playing on a big, huge table, then do so - and send us a photo that we can post on Facebook. :-) However, considering standardized game-play and playing times, we recommend to stay with the well-balanced original rules first.
This all looks very interesting, looks like a must buy for any Catan fan *Crosses finger* for 5-6 players or I would have to choose between my friends :(
I really hope that you can figure out the 5 and 6 player expansion, my group of gamers is getting quite large and I'd like to share this with them all. Thanks.
What are the chances of a 5-6 player extension? 4 players doesn't work for my gaming group, and catan is basically all we play.
Gero Zahn
@Brandon / @Antony M / @pieman2255 I'm sorry, it's still a bit early to give you a definitive answer. But it certainly wouldn't hurt to start looking for wider game tables.
More than one week passed and still no next post. I'm really getting worried about this expansion's compatibility with C&K...
Gero Zahn
We're waiting for a bit of additional image material. The page will be online really soon.
Are the interlocking hexes really necessary? They uncomfortably reduce the variability of the game. I'd prefer to see all the hexes free to move within the main frame. Thanks in advance for your response.
Gero Zahn
@TJ The “puzzle pieces” are designed in a modular fashion to meet all five scenarios. While it is generally a good idea to have maximum flexibility, one of the key elements to E&P is the distance between the initial island and the areas that need to be explored. The sturdy interlocking pieces do not only ensure that the board has support to prevent the tiles shifting, but also that the unexplored pieces have their well-defined positions after a minimum of time to set up this considerably big board.
Hello, will there also be a wooden version available which is compatible with the older wooden versions of catan? Thank you
Gero Zahn
@Alessandro The prototype pictures show the Kosmos edition plastic pieces. The Mayfair edition will feature wooden pieces that are compatible with the Mayfair base game and its extensions. - Please read the “Possible Combinations” area on the “Explorers & Pirates” game presenetation page (simply follow the link mentioned above) to find out which expansions can be combined with E&P.
Did I forget to read some part of the blog or you didn't specify the number of ships each player has in their supply? Seeing the photos I guess that's 3 ships.
Gero Zahn
@Paul We didn't mention it in the blog posts, but your observation is correct: Every player has three ships that can be built for one lumber and one wool.
Will the table of catan make an expansion piece to fit explorers and pirates?
Gero Zahn
@Heath The Catan Table is a Catan / Mayfair licensed product; for more information please visit At the moment, we have no knowledge about any plans to create a table expansion. – If you want to be sure, please contact the good guys over there at
Can you guys make your games less expensive?
Gero Zahn
I am sorry, there are a lot of factors to be taken account that will lead to a certain retail price. We put high demands on the quality of the used material, but if we'd try to save a few dollars over here, this might lead to a significantly worse product – which would lead to less sales, which would in the end lead to a higher price. … So, what I am trying to say here is: There is not really a way to make our games considerably cheaper at the moment.
I have yet to read or hear of any variants, like most Catan players I like putting a bunch of variants together and play a Catan game the way I like playing, meanin I am not a big scenarios guy. Are there any just plain variants or am I going to have to just take the elements of the new expansion that I like and mix it into an already amazing game?
Gero Zahn
@Clayton Yes, we have thought about that. Please follow the link at at the top of this comment section to the product information page about “Catan – Explorers & Pirates” -- ... Over there, please click on “Possible Combinations” in the right navigation bar.
We have the the old version of Settlers of Catan and the new expansions don't fit on it. Why would you publish a new version- just so we have to buy the basic game again? Or do I have it wrong? Will Traders and Barbarians and Explorers and Pirates fit on to the old version? What about Seafarers? I'm kind of disgusted about it!
which expansion is better traders and barbarians or explorers and pirates?
Gero Zahn
@Whokey15 This is hard to tell, as they are so totally different. — “Explorers & Pirates”, our latest expansion, adds a lot of game mechanism, as the exploration factor by sailing around the seas with movable ships is unlike pretty much any other expansion before. You can familiarize yourself with the different game mechanics step by step, as the missions grow more complex along the line. — On the other hand, “Traders & Barbarians” will give you a great variety of different variants and expansions. It's not “one expansion” but pretty much a collection of various different ones. As a matter of fact, some of the smaller expansions that you will find in the box had been published before, however, they have been revised and improved for the publication in the T&B box. This is true for most of the smaller variants that will give your basic game-play a twist into one or another direction. On the other hand, there are also “big” scenarios in the box that will add modified game-play and additional game material, similar to “Cities & Knights”. … Long story short: I can't really recommend one expansion over the other. E&P changes the original game-play more profoundly, while T&B delivers many different variants and scenarios.
Gero Zahn
@Shelley I would like to advise you to contact Mayfair Customer service at It is true that over time, there have been different editions of the game which improved over time. Depending on the manufacturing date of your base game, it might or might not be compatible with the latest expansions. Mayfair Customer Service will be able to tell you everything you need to know about it.
I can understand the concept of the whole Scenarios thing, but I just find it to be a really big let-down that some of Catan's expansions aren't easily compatible with the others. Lots of ideas have probably been tossed around on various subjects, but why choose to opt out of making expansions easily compatible with each other? It can hurt business, and makes the game less of an attraction to newer players who want to jump right into everything. Just curious as to why expansions aren't made easily compatible with each other.
Gero Zahn
@SirtyStan These are all valid objections. However, at some point when creating new game elements and new challenges, it becomes hard if not impossible to make it compatible with everything that had been there before. You see, when you use the “Cities & Knights” expansion, you take out the “Knight” development cards from the base game, as you now really “build” knights on the board. Seen from your perspective, one could ask: “Why not keep the ‘Knight’ cards in the game?” The answer is: “Because they don't make too much sense inside the modified game scenario.” In this way, the “Explorers & Pirates” gameplay with the moving ships is incompatible with the (mostly) fixed ships from the “Seafarers” expansion. … I hope this answers your question at least to a certain extent.
I'm a bit confused about how the victory points are earned through missions. it looks like when you advance on the mission cards where your markers go: 1-2spaces (+1vp), 3-4spaces(+2vp), 5-6spaces(+3vp), and whoever is leading each mission gets +1vp for earning the greatest at mission card. Is this correct?
Dr. Reiner Düren
@Dannyboy: The victorypoints you earn for missions are shown on the mission cards. The first mission gives always one victory point, the second none, the third gives again one victory point, the fourth (and the fifth when defeating pirates) only lets you step forward to the next victory point which is given with the fifth or sixth mission. The sixth or seventh will give no additional but ensure that you can none can take away the greatest mission card from you when you are the first who makes the 6th or 7th mission. So, each player can make 3 victory points with each kind of mission and in each kind of mission one player can make an additional victory point
Hi Catan Team, I just spent the weekend playing at the E & P new extension and it´s really great! :) I have two questions though: 1) is it possible to play it together with C & K? 2) why are there so many golden coins included in the extension whereas each player can only use 4 coins to buy resources per turn? Have we missed something about the use of gold (apart from trading between players which represents a minor part of the use of gold)? Thanks in advance for your reply and good luck for all your future developments!
Dr. Reiner Düren
´@Luce: The rules for the combinations with other Catan-expansions can be found here: Of course there are a lot of coins and in most games not all are used, but some players collect their coins and when there are more collectors lesser coins would not be enough. So it's better to have too much than too few.
I had a question regarding spice sack delivery. The rule book states to move the mission marker one space for both spice sacks. The video on the catan website states move the marker for each spice sack. Which method is correct? Also, the rule book state tribute to the pirate is to go to the supply. The catan website video sates tribute is to go to the player of that pirate piece. What method is correct here? Thank you for your help and thank you for the great game!
Hi, how is the 5-6 player expansion coming along for this game? Will there be one and do you have a more specific dates range than Fall of 2013 that you can share? Thanks!
Dr. Reiner Düren
@Vince: The rule book says: "If one of the ends of one of your spice sack-loaded ships points toward either of the docks (anchor icons) on the Council of Catan hex, you may unload that ship. Once you deliver a spice sack, remove it from the game, and move your marker forward 1 space on the “Spices for Catan” mission card." That's the same as the video states. Regarding the Pirate ship, the video is wrong. The tribute goes to the supply.
Gero Zahn
@JAG Yes, the 5-6 player Extension of the “Explorers & Pirates” Expansion (we use the word “Expansion” for adding new features to the game, and the word “Extension” for adding more players) will come! It will probably be out in the first week of December, but please don't pin us down to that.
Quick question, how do I combine the variants from 'traders and barbarians' with the 'explorers and pirated' scenarios? Harbormaster could be adapted to count the number of harbor settlements, I guess. Friendly robber could negate the pirate tribute. 2-player is already included, so no worries there, but I can't figure out how to fit in the event cards. There are too many conflicting effects. Are there any official rules for these? or do I have to make some up? :P
Gero Zahn
@Vonflare Quick answer: Please have a look at :-)

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