review by Alapai
Catan Starfarers is a resource management based area control game for 3-4 players from Catan Studios. In it, you play humans exploring the galaxy and settling colonies on unexplored, new worlds. Various actions will give you victory points and the first to a certain number of victory points is the winner.
To start the game, each person sets up by placing colonies, a spaceport and a colony ship at specified locations in the Catanian Colonies at one end of the board. On your turn, you roll the two dice and the sum of those dice determines which planets produce resources. Each player then takes resources for each colony or spaceport adjacent to a planet that produces them that turn, then you get extra resources based on how many victory points you have (more resources are granted the fewer points). After receiving resources on your turn, you can choose to trade or build as often as you'd like. Trading can be between players, where the person whose turn it is makes offers (although people can counteroffer, ultimately the person whose turn it is has last say), or can be trading three resources of a kind (or two goods resources) for a single resource from the supply. Building can be upgrading a colony to a spaceport, building a trade ship or colony ship adjacent to one of your spaceports or upgrading your mothership to make all of your ships faster, more powerful or able to carry more goods. Then, you have the flight phase where you can fly your ships out into the galaxy. Using your mothership, you determine a base speed for your ships, then move your ships according to the base speed plus boosters on your mothership. By flying to a spot in an unexplored planetary system, you can flip the number discs, showing what values the planets in the system will produce resources on. By flying a colony ship to an intersection between two planets, you can establish a colony there. By flying a trade ship to an alien outpost, you can create a trade station, granting advantages from making friends with the aliens. Colonies, spaceports, friendship markers and fame medals grant you victory points and once you've gotten to 15 victory points on your turn, you win the game.
People familiar with Catan (formerly Setters of Catan) will immediately notice some similarities as well as some differences. While it does keep some elements from the original Catan, it adds more content into the game that ultimately makes the game more interesting to me. Like in the original, you place pieces at key locations in order to get resources from tiles your piece is adjacent to. Like in the original, you need different types of resources that you will likely have to trade for with other players. Like in the original, you are building new pieces from resources, trying to get to a number of victory points before the other players. Starfarers does some things pretty differently though as well. While a turn will mostly work the same way, starting with rolling dice and producing resources, then trading and building, Starfarers adds in the flight phase where you move your ships around the galaxy. While in Catan, roads are how you expand out and build new settlements, in Starfarers, your ships are how you get new colonies and so you don't need roads. It also requires you to determine what ships you want to build at any point (as you can only have three ships out at once) and where from (as you build adjacent to a spaceport), which also requires figuring out where you want to upgrade a colony to a spaceport, as that will let you build ships from there, although will not grant you more resources like Cities in Catan. With the mothership, you also have more options for spending resources, as the upgrades to the mothership could be useful, letting you move ships faster, defeat pirates or terraform ice planets and get more victory points and places to establish colonies. Ultimately, Starfarers takes the original Catan format and adds more to the game that makes it a bit longer, but makes it more interesting by adding uncertainty to the board and making it so that anybody can place colonies anywhere on the board and didn't have to be lucky by being placed near the location at the start.
I'd say that Catan Starfarers is a great game if you already play a bunch games, but want a Catan-like experience. While the original is great for new people and introduced a lot of people to the larger world of board gaming, as well as started a board game renaissance, it ultimately ends up falling a little flat for some people today after all the games that have come out since. Starfarers still offers the experience of Catan, with the dice rolls that produce resources and figuring out the best locations to place pieces, while offering more options like upgrading the mothership and the trade stations.
If you want a Catan-like experience, but want something more than the original Catan, Starfarers is a great experience that has enough Catan to scratch that itch, but enough extra for those that want more.
Catan Starfarers is available now from our webstore.