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Released in 2013

CATAN® – Explorers & Pirates Expansion

CATAN – Explorers & Pirates Expansion

This CATAN® expansion is entirely dedicated to exploration!

Sent out by the Council of Catan, you set out for uncharted areas to build new outposts. The sketchy information available indicates that dangerous pirate lairs, rich fishing grounds, and helpful indigenous villages await you beyond the horizon.

About the game

To set up the game, you need the game components from the CATAN base game as well as new frame pieces and hexes from the expansion. This provides you with quite large a game board, allowing you to go on exciting journeys of exploration and discover new land.

Explores & Pirates – Game Setup

Explorers & Pirates – Harbor Settlement with Ship and Settler

The new Explorers & Pirates expansion is based on the CATAN base game rules but also contains a number of new game mechanisms. For example, ships are now equipped for expeditions and can be moved freely across the board. In the ships you transport settlers, crews, fish, or spices across the seas. Your goal is to build new outposts on the islands that are still undiscovered and to complete the Council of Catan's missions in the most skillful way possible.

Explorers & Pirates – coast with pirates

Explorers & Pirates – Pirate Lairs – Example

Your missions are varied. First, you must prevail against pirates who terrorize the coasts of Catan. Equip your ships with crews and search for the pirates' lairs. The Council of Catan rewards the bravest fighters with fame and gold.


Explorers & Pirates – a fisher boat

Explorers & Pirates – Fish for Catan – Example

On your way, you will encounter rich shoals of fish just waiting to be hauled aboard your ship. If you bring the fish back to the home island, the Council of Catan rewards you.


Explorers & Pirates – spice fields

Explorers & Pirates – Spices for Catan – Example

Finally, you will encounter peaceful and helpful villagers who trade valuable spices to you. The Council of Catan will be delighted yet again when you deliver spices to their stronghold. You also benefit from the villagers' extensive knowledge and will learn how to sail faster across the seas or how to better fight the pirate ships.

Sound like a lot of content? Right – the expansion is definitely filled to the brim with content. You don't have to worry, though, because the Explorers & Pirates expansion has a modular concept. In scenario 1, the introductory game, you are familiarized with the basic rules; then, piece by piece, you play the other scenarios containing the previously described missions. Afterwards, you can take your pick which scenario(s) you would most like to play.

After you have played the first four scenarios, in scenario 5 – which bears the name of the expansion – you can complete all 3 previously described missions at the same time. Here, on the largest possible game board, you play until one of the players reaches 17 victory points. Playing this scenario for skilled CATAN fans can easily turn the whole evening into an exciting experience.

Prof Easy’s Game Introduction

Possible Combinations

Possible Combinations of “Explorers & Pirates” with Other Expansions

In this article, I will – from my point of view and based on my experience – point out various possible combinations of “Explorers & Pirates” with other expansions. The rules suggested by me are in no way binding or official but should serve as a guide for all those players who want to venture upon a usually quite-complex combination.

1. Combination with the “Seafarers” Expansion


In the “Seafarers” expansion, you build ships adjacent to each other, thus forming shipping routes along the sea hexes that connect the islands. If your shipping route has reached a new island, you may build a settlement there. With two exceptions, the rules for ship building are the same as for road building in “Seafarers.” The first exception is that roads may not be built on sea routes and ships may not be built on paths. The second exception is that open ships may be moved.

While in “Seafarers,” the ships are strung together in a static fashion, in the “Explorers & Pirates” expansion, the ships can cross the seas like real-world ships. If your ship, which has been loaded with a settler, reaches a new island, you may build a settlement there.

In these two expansions, the ways of using ships and settling new islands are so fundamentally different from each other that it is impossible to combine the expansions. Besides, combining them doesn't make much sense anyway. If you use a settler ship, you reach a new building site for a settlement faster and more cost-effectively than when stringing together various ships.

2. Combination with the “Cities & Knights” Expansion

Cities & Knights

In “Explorers & Pirates,” building cities is not allowed; you build harbor settlements instead. This makes sense when playing “Explorers & Pirates“ independently of other expansions, because its strategic emphasis is on exploration and transporting commodities, crews, and settlers.

In ”Cities & Knights,“ the strategic emphasis is on city expansion and city defense.

Theoretically, it is possible to combine the two expansions and thus create a game that provides an even larger variety of strategies and possibilities to win.

If you want to combine these two expansions, you should be aware that the resulting game is rather complex and perhaps even a bit confusing. However, a group of players who know both expansions well may definitely give it a try. At least for the first attempt, scenario 4 with its “Fish for Catan” and “Spice for Catan” missions should be used

Rules Suggestion for Combining “Cities & Knights” with “Explorers & Pirates”

A) Building Cities

You are allowed to upgrade settlements to cities. You can choose whether to upgrade a coastal settlement to a city or to a harbor settlement. Subsequent conversion of a city into a harbor settlement or vice versa is prohibited.

B) Setting Up the Starting Island

When choosing the terrain hexes from the “Catan” base game to set up the starting island, remove 1 forest hex and add 1 fields hex instead.

C) Set-up Phase

Instead of building a settlement, each player builds a city and thus begins the game with 1 harbor settlement and 1 city.

D) Knights

Knights cannot be transported by ship. Therefore, they stay on the island where they were built. Unlike crews, knights you have built on an island occupied by a pirate lair are not allowed to participate in the battle for the pirate lair. You are not allowed to use them as merchants in the villages of the spice hexes either.

Knights may neither be built on intersections nor be moved onto intersections adjacent to an undiscovered hex.

E) Barbarian Attack

When determining the strength of the barbarians, all cities are considered – that is, the cities on the starting island as well as the cities in the discovered areas. Harbor settlements are not included in the count.

The strength points of all knights are also taken into account.

F) Crews

Crews are not counted for the defense of the cities against the barbarians.

G) Commodities

You are not allowed to buy commodities from the supply by paying gold.

If you have the “Fast Gold” advantage, instead of a resource you may also sell a commodity for 1 gold.

H) Progress Cards
  • Medicine: By paying 1 ore and 1 grain, you can convert a settlement into a harbor settlement. Converting a settlement into a city costs you 2 ore and 1 grain.

  • Bishop: Instead of moving the robber – who doesn't exist in the “Explorers & Pirates” expansion – you may place or move your pirate ship. If you place the pirate ship, the owner of the pirate ship that previously occupied the sea hex must return it to his supply.

  • Mining/Irrigation: For a harbor settlement adjacent to a mountains/fields hex you also collect ore/grain.

  • Deserter: The card only applies to knights. Crews are not allowed to desert.

  • Inventor: Except for the 6, 8, 12, and 2 number tokens, you may swap all number tokens – that is, you may also swap number tokens from the starting island with number tokens from the discovered areas and number tokens from defeated pirate lairs.

  • Road Building: You may only build roads – not ships.

I) Aqueduct

If you have built the Aqueduct, and the production roll (except for the “7”) results in you receiving no resources, you may take – according to the “Cities & Knights” rules – any 1 resource of your choice. In addition, under the “Explorers & Pirates” rules, you receive 1 gold.

J) End of the Game

I recommend to calculate the victory points required to win the game as follows:

  • Victory points of the “Explorers & Pirates” scenario + 5 (for cities, metropolis, and Defender of Catan)

When combining scenario 4 of the “Explorers & Pirates” with “Cities & Knights,” this would result in 20 victory points.

3. Combination with the “Traders & Barbarians” expansion

Traders & Barbarians

a. Friendly Robber

Since there is no robber in “Explorers & Pirates,” a combination is not possible.

b. Catan Event Cards

Many cards refer to game components such as the robber, knight cards, or harbors, which do not exist in “Explorers & Pirates.” Even so, you can use the cards if you ignore the events and only consider the depicted numbers.

c. Harbormaster

Since there are no harbors in “Explorers & Pirates,” this variant makes no sense.

d. The Fishermen of Catan

This scenario combines well with “Explorers & Pirates” if the following modifications are made:

Combination of “Explorers & Pirates” with “The Fishermen of Catan” from “Traders & Barbarians”

  • The 6 fishing grounds are placed at the locations marked with arrows. If you also want to include the lake, place it on the space marked with the “12” and remove a mountains hex from the terrain hexes designated for the starting island instead.

  • Changes in the actions performed with fish tokens:

    • For 2 fish, you may ignore the pirate ship, meaning that all your ships may move past the pirate hex without having to pay gold.
    • For 5 fish, you may build a road instead of a ship.
    • For 7 fish, you may move one of your ships a second time.
  • Since fish do not count as resources, you also receive gold if you have caught a fish but didn't receive resources.

e. The Rivers of Catan

In theory, this scenario can be combined with “Explorers & Pirates.” The same rules that apply to the gold you receive in “Explorers & Pirates” when you don't obtain resources via the production roll also apply to the gold you receive via the rivers.

However, because of the 2 swamplands forming part of the 2 rivers, 2 terrain hexes would have to be removed, that is, 2 terrain hexes on the starting island would not produce. In addition, the swampland of the longer river would occupy an area where a harbor settlement could be built, which, in a 4-player game, would put one of the players at a disadvantage. Therefore, I'd advise against combining this scenario with “Explorers & Pirates.” If nevertheless you want to try this combination in a 2- or 3-player game, you should place the rivers so that the swampland of the shorter river occupies the upper hex space marked with an “11” and the swampland of the longer river occupies the hex space marked with a “5” (see illustration above). In this case, remove the terrain hexes of the type depicted on the rivers as well as 1 mountains hex and 1 pasture hex from the terrain hexes designated for the starting island.

f. The Caravans

In theory, this scenario can be combined with “Explorers & Pirates.” However, I'd advise against it, because the starting island in “Explorers & Pirates” is smaller than the starting island in “The Caravans.” But if you still want to give it a try, place the oasis hex on the space marked with the “12” and remove a mountains hex from the terrain hexes designated for the starting island instead. Since there is no Longest Road in “Explorers & Pirates,” the camels have no effect on roads.

g. Barbarian Attack and Traders & Barbarians

These two scenarios can only be played in a balanced fashion in combination with the “Catan” base game. I see no possibility of combining them with “Explorers & Pirates.”

Klaus Teuber, February 2013