The Ultimate Catan Explorers and Pirates Guide

Catan (Formerly known as The Settlers of Catan) is one of the most popular games at a board game night. I’ve been a part of board game nights for a while and have enjoyed playing Catan.

All thanks to the popularity of this game, several expansions have come out. One of the more popular expansions is the Catan Explorers and Pirates.

I’ve created this guide for you to understand the ins and outs of this game—from how to play to tips to succeed. Read the Ultimate Catan Explorers and Pirates guide today!

What Is Catan Explorers and Pirates?

If you’re considering Catan Explorers and Pirates, you’ll first want to know the differences compared to the classic Catan game. For example, instead of having one island, you have three.

You’ll have five building scenarios (Pirate Lairs, Fish for Catan, Spices for Catan, Explorers, and Pirates, and Land Ho). While some would compare it to Catan: Seafarers, there are still differences.

The good news is that you can play it with five to six players! Catan Explorers and Pirates includes crew members, pirate lairs, and more. Keep in mind that you need the base game of Catan before you can play with this.

The game comes with:

  • Six goldfields
  • Six spice hexes
  • Fifteen frame pieces
  • Eight settlers
  • 36 crew
  • Sixteen harbor settlements
  • Six fish hauls
  • 76 gold coins
  • Six fish shoal hexes
  • Twelve standard terrain hexes
  • Twelve number markers
  • Three mission cards
  • Four new building cost cards
  • Three victory point cards

Where To Buy It

You can either buy it on or offline. However, if you try to find it from a smaller retailer, it might be much more expensive.

Standard retailers who carry it include Walmart, Target, and Amazon. I love ordering board games on Amazon because I use Amazon Prime.

Instead of adding it to your cart, they even have the buy now button instead of adding it to your cart, going to your cart, etc. Also, I like Target’s app since you can earn points.

Target will have you earn gift cards to use at their store, depending on what you buy. Our local Target has a nice assortment of games.

Walmart has an online and, of course, in-person option. They have some excellent games available. The winner for me is Amazon since you can find various games!

Required Parts of Catan

Catan Explorers and Pirates

Before you begin, you’ll need some parts of the base game of Catan.

These include the number tokens:

  • Three (2x)
  • Four (2x)
  • Five (1x)
  • Six (2x)
  • Eight (2x)
  • Nine (1x)
  • Ten (2x)
  • Eleven (2x)
  • Twelve (1x)

As far as hexes, you’ll need:

  • 2x hills
  • 3x pasture
  • 4x forest
  • 2x fields
  • 3x mountains

You don’t need the cities, but you need the settlements and roads. You’ll need the six-frame pieces and two dice.

Don’t worry about the development cards, but you’ll need resource cards.

The Basic Game Setup

Catan Explorers and Pirates

Put the 24 spice sacks and six fish hauls next to the game board. Place the pirate lair tokens with the number side down. Put them next t the game board.

Follow the instructions because the setup can vary depending on the scenario.

When you’re ready to begin, each player will choose a color.

Everyone will receive:

  • Two gold
  • Three markers
  • One pirate ship
  • Nine crew
  • Two settlers
  • Three ships
  • Fifteen roads
  • Four harbor settlements
  • Five settlements

Two-Player Setup

Each player will still choose a color. Any colors not picked will be an obstacle. You’ll want to remove the settler ships of the colors that aren’t being played.


There are different phases, and the production phase comes first. You roll for production.

If you don’t receive any resources, you’ll receive one gold from the supply.

After the production phase, you have the trade and build phase. You can choose to build, trade, etc., in any order.

Keep in mind that there are no harbors in Explorers and Pirates.

When it’s your turn, you can pay two gold for any resource from the supply. You can also trade gold with the other players.

Once the trade and build phase is over, it becomes the movement phase. You can’t build or trade during or after this phase. It’s only allowed if you’re making a settlement with a settler ship.

You can perform an action as you move all of your ships.

After the movement phase, your turn is over.

Loading Ships

You can place two small game pieces onto a ship or one large game piece. However, you can’t use spice, crew, and fish hauls in this scenario.

No movement points are wasted when you unload and load a ship. If you have movement points, you can continue to move a boat.

Discovery Time

To find new land, your ship needs to head toward the unexplored parts of the board. When a ship’s end faces a corner of an undiscovered hex, you have to discover it.

Once this is complete, you need to turn the hex over. You’ll need to take a number token from the stack whose icon/color matches it for terrain hexes. You’ll then place it on the hex with the number side down.

Placing Pirate Ships

Don’t place pirate ships outside of the frame of the board or on a sea hex that’s adjacent to the starting island.

When you roll a seven, specific gameplay scenarios take place. If another player’s pirate ship is on the game board, you’ll need to place the pirate ship back into that player’s supply.

Your pirate ship will instead go on a sea hex. If your pirate ship is already on the board, you’ll need to move it to another sea hex.

When someone rolls a seven and has more than seven resource cards, you have to get rid of half of your cards.

The Five Scenarios

In Fish for Catan! the people of the area don’t have enough food. To fish, you’ll need to keep in mind that these are deep-water fish.

To catch them, you’ll need to find their shoals. Then, when you return with fish to the island, you’ll receive victory points from The Council of Catan.

When you catch pirate lairs, you’ll also receive victory points. Watch out for pirates since they could demand gold.

Spices for Catan!

You need to find spices and fish for the island. When you bring these back, you’ll receive victory points.

Get to know the people who live on the Spice Islands to learn about pirate fighting and receive spices.

Explorers and Pirates

All of the previous scenarios are brought together for this expansion. Find fish, catch pirates, check out new lands, and more.

Pirate Lairs

Pirates can be found along the sea. You can either scare them off or pay them tribute. Receive victory points and gold when you take over their lair.

Land Ho

Two new islands will be a part of this scenario. So you need to have ships bring the settlers from one island to another.

How To Play Traditional Catan?


This expansion allows you to play up to six players, which the classic Catan doesn’t allow you to. The object of the game is to receive ten victory points. You can obtain these by buying development cards or building board items.

Catan Expansion Packs

We have a pretty cool article that focuses on the different Catan expansion packs. I’ll provide a quick rundown of the expansions.

The expansions include:

  • Catan Cities and Knights
  • Catan Explorers and Pirates
  • Catan Treatures, Dragons, and Adventurers
  • Rivals for Catan Age of Enlightenment Expansion
  • Catan Traders and Barbarians
  • Catan Seafarers Game Expansion
  • Rivals for Catan Age of Darkness

My Top Picks at a Glance

  1. Castles of Burgundy-Head to Medieval France and build up your civilization.
  2. Terra Mystica-You have the settlement building but with magic in a fantasy world.
  3. Mission: Red Planet- Mine and enjoy the planetary exploration.
  4. Mysterium- Instead of being on land or water, you’ll need to find your way through a haunted mansion. You’re trying to solve a murder which gives it hints of Clue.
  5. Betrayal At House On The Hill- Another fun game that can be complete chaos. This is a great option when you’re looking for a new game.
  6. Ticket to Ride- You’re in the railroad tycoon revolution and want to build up your train routes to win.

Games Similar to Catan

I created this list in case you’re looking for a new game similar to Catan. From strategic playing to resource collecting, there are various games out there. You might be surprised by some of them, but they have a reason for being here!

Castles of Burgundy

Castles of Burgundy

This is a favorite among many. It has a similar feel to both Catan and Ticket to Ride.

You’re an aristocrat during Medieval France. During play, you’re trying to build up your land.

The Castles of Burgundy is still about strategizing but gives you more variety.

Every play has a certain amount of pawns to move to collect resources and build up their land.

Have one of each resource card when all of the tiles on the field have been used up by other players, and you win.


  • Escape to medieval France
  • Plenty of strategies involved


  • It can last over an hour, not the best on a time crunch
  • A more challenging game for family game night, you must be twelve or older to play.

Terra Mystica

Terra Mystica

Enter the magical world of Terra Mystica! You’ll get to use magic to build up your land.

It’s similar to Catan since you’re building up your settlements and factions. There are no cards or dice, though.

This is a more challenging game, so it’s not great for family game night. It’s best for the experienced gamer.

Perfect for two to five players.


  • A two to five-player game
  • Fantasy
  • Magic
  • Civilization building


  • It’s not ideal for a family game night since it’s a more complex game
  • Have to be twelve or older

Mission: Red Planet

Mission Red Planet

Planetary exploration and mining occur in this fun SCI-FI game. It’s easy to learn, which makes it perfect for game nights.

What I like most about it is that the players can range from two to six players. You’re a colonist who needs to check out Mars to earn money.

Money is earned by selling your resources or completing missions. Just like space, you’ll need fuel tanks and equipment to perform a task.


  • A game that gives you your money’s worth since it takes a while
  • Two to six players
  • Exploration of Mars


  • Need to be at least thirteen years old to play
  • Not great for a family game night since you have to be a teenager



One of my favorite games since it’s a co-op where you incorporate aspects of strategy and Clue.

The cool part is that a ghost will be giving you clues to figure out who the murderer is. Whoever plays the spirit will hide behind a board with all the information. The information includes the murder weapon, location, and the killer.

It’s similar to Catan since you build up the mansion along the way. Each player will figure out who they are, the weapon, and their location.

You also only have so many rounds to figure out these different aspects. Whoever makes it to the end within a specific timeframe will get to guess the ghost. So it’s best to have the entire team there to figure out who the killer is.


  • An exciting game since you’re trying to solve a crime
  • Plenty of strategy
  • A cooperative game


  • It’s very different from Catan
  • It feels very similar to Clue

Betrayal at House on the Hill

Betrayal at House on the Hill

Another fun one since gameplay can change each time you play. There may or may not be a betrayer amongst you.

The exciting part is that you don’t find out you’re the betrayer until the middle of the game. Then you head away from the others with the instructions to figure out what you can and can’t do.

I love how it’s exploring this house and building it as you go. In each game, the path that a player takes can change.


  • The gameplay changes each time
  • Explore a mansion that changes


  • The fact that you don’t know you’re a betrayer until later is kind of odd
  • Some scenarios make it nearly impossible to win

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride

One of the more popular games out there is Ticket to Ride. Be sure to include this in your game nights since many enjoy it.

Head back to the railroad tycoon era in North America. You’re trying to build routes to gain the most amount of points.

Some routes are worth more than others and are longer. The longer the routes, the more they tend to give you.

There’s also the fact that specific routes will have other cities that it passes through. This allows you to branch off with more routes.

The object of the game is to gain the most points, and you must complete all of your destination cards. If you don’t, then you’ll lose points.


  • A great game for family game night
  • Plenty of strategies involved
  • Easy to learn


  • Other players can block you from finishing your route
  • You have to be at least eight years old to enjoy this


Question: What is the Best Catan Expansion?

Answer: Catan: Explorers and Pirates, Catan: Traders and Barbarians, and Catan: Seafarers are some of the favorites.

Question: Where Can I Buy Catan?

Answer: Target, Walmart, Amazon, and other locations.

Question: How Big is the Catan Board?

Answer: If you only have the original Catan board, it’s for four players. You’ll need an expansion pack to make it five to six players.

The Catan Explorers and Pirates Guide

I hope that you enjoyed this Catan Explorers and Pirates guide. Catan has various expansions to choose from, and this is definitely one of the best!

Be sure to read the complete instructions and have the base game before beginning.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out our other articles today!

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