Board Game Resource Comprehensive Review – Catan: Explorers and Pirates

In All, Catan, Expansion, Reviews by Zach HillegasLeave a Comment

Explorers and Pirates Review

YAAARRRR, I hope ye be ready to hit the high seas, because Explorers and Pirates takes everything you love about Catan, and throws it into the untamed frontier of the unexplored ocean. (What, I already overused pirate speech in my Libertalia review? Alright fine, I’ll turn it off for now) Explorers and Pirates, designed by Klaus Teuber and released by Mayfair Games in 2012, takes the Catan formula and shakes it up significantly, adding in ships, exploration, and various other mechanics that depart in a big way from the traditional game.

Every Catan expansion that’s been released so far has been more unique than the last. Mechanically, Explorers and Pirates is arguably the biggest deviation from the base game. Depending on what you look for in an expansion, this will either make or break the game for you. We ranked Explorers and Pirates #2 when we ranked the Catan expansions, but it’s possible not everyone will feel the same. Let’s take a look in detail at how Explorers and Pirates changes the core Catan experience.


How do you play the game? Is it a fun experience? How much interaction is there between the players? Is there very much luck involved? Will it take forever to to learn and teach?



How much strategy is involved? Is there a sense of variety and balance? Does the game play well no matter how many players there are? How long does it take to play?



Look and Feel

Is the game aesthetically pleasing? Are the components made out of quality material, or do they feel cheap? Is the rulebook well-designed and easy to read? How well is theme integrated into the game?



Is it a game you can play over and over? Are there expansions available for the game, and if so, are they necessary? Does the amount of the content in the box justify the price?




Explorers and Pirates is a wonderful game, if not a little confused. Would it fare better if it stayed more true to the fundamental Catan design? Is it so different that it would have been better off as a standalone game entirely? Are the changes too strong for players who like the core Catan experience? Has E&P’s intended audience already moved on to different games? I can’t answer all of these questions, but I will say that Explorers and Pirates IS a fun game, and it feels distinctly unique, both from what we’re familiar with from Catan, and from the other games on my shelf.

E&P is a brave game that’s willing to try something new, and in most regards, it succeeds. I very much enjoyed the seafaring mechanics in this game, and although the game becomes something different from what we’re used to, whatever it becomes is something that’s still good. If you’re looking for a Catan that gives you lots of tactical decisions to make, E&P is an excellent choice.

Ultimately, E&P is my second favorite Catan expansion (Cities and Knights still in first place) precisely BECAUSE of how different it’s willing to be. Seafarers doesn’t change much enough to be very remarkable, while Traders and Barbarians is a bit cumbersome in its implementation. E&P boldly takes the game in a totally different direction, and it’s a direction that I enjoyed heading. While E&P won’t hit my table every single time I play Catan, I definitely want to see more of it.

See What Others Are Saying About Explorers and Pirates



  • You’re a die-hard Catan fan
  • You want an expansion that significantly shakes up the traditional formula
  • You’re craving more tactical decisions to be made in Catan
  • You’re good at multitasking
  • The aspect of exploring appeals to you
  • You like the idea of Seafarers but feel like it falls short
  • You feel like Catan is too dependent on dice rolls


  • You or anyone in your group suffer from analysis paralysis
  • You feel as if the main Catan formula shouldn’t be drastically changed
  • You have a small table
  • You can’t imagine playing Catan without Traders and Barbarians
  • You don’t think a radomly revealed board has a place in Catan
  • Playing a different game altogether is more appealing than playing a different Catan
About the Author

Zach Hillegas

Zach is an avid tabletop gamer, and he created Board Game Resource out of his love for the hobby, and his desire to see more people come into it. When he's not writing for or managing BGR, Zach might be hanging out with cats, hiking a mountain, spending time with his lovely wife, or writing about video game stuff for Insert Gamer. Zach has also enjoys creating digital character art. You can check out his (long neglected) gallery here, or follow him on Instagram at @artworkbyzach!

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