Catan: Starfarers 5-6 Player Extension Review – We’ve Gone to Plaid
Catan: Starfarers adds support for up to six players with the 5-6 Player Extension. It also does quite a bit to cut down on time between turns.
Catan: Starfarers released back in 2019 and is a gorgeous-looking reimplementation of the 1999 classic The Starfarers of Catan (itself a reimaging of Settlers of Catan). The game takes the seminal trading game to space, adding a few extra bits and bobs to spice up the experience. However, the player count was originally capped at four. Fortunately, for players looking to accommodate larger groups, the team at Catan Studio released the 5-6 Player Extension.
Now, before we get started, I have to admit something. I’ve been playing board games since I was a child. My shelves are stacked to the brim with all kinds of modern hits. That said, until I was sent this copy for review, I’d never played Catan, let alone Starfarers. I know. It’s basically sacrilege. For whatever reason, I had skipped essentially every modern gateway game and just jumped straight to playing A Game of Thrones: The Board Game and Descent.
That being said, I’ve known what Catan is. While never feeling the need to experience it for myself, I’m well aware of how it plays. And my playgroup is slowly growing thanks to friends’ significant others joining the group. So, when Catan Studios reached out and asked me to give the Starfarers 5-6 Player Extension a whirl, I was more than willing to try it out.
It was important that we checked out the base game before playing with the extension. After all, part of the appeal of the extension is that it trims the downtime in between your turns. Almost immediately, we could tell that change was going to be an important one.
If you’ve never played Starfarers or even the base Catan before, it’s relatively simple. Each player has a few outposts on different planets. Those planets have a number on them. At the start of each turn, a player rolls a dice and whichever number comes up tells you which planets produce goods. So, say you have a spaceport on a red planet with an “8” on it, and the player on your right rolls that number. You’ll grab a card from that resource before that player takes their turn.
As you collect cards, you’ll build up different units to extend your empire and try to be the first player to get 15 victory points. Of course, the game is heavily focused on trading with the players around you. Cutting deals to get the cards you need is key to victory.
There are, of course, a few other rules you’d need to know to actually have a good strategy; however, those are the basics. We played with three players and turns weren’t unbearably long, but I did find myself looking at my phone from time-to-time. That’s never a good sign for adding extra players.
Fortunately, as mentioned above, the 5-6 Player Extension takes steps to remedy that problem. In the base game, you can only trade with the person who is taking their turn. So, even if you and another player know you have a deal you want to complete, you have to wait until one of your turns to make it happen. That leads to that downtime I mentioned above.
With the extension, both the player taking their turn and the player two spots to their left can make trades and fly their ships around the galaxy. You’re not allowed to build anything new, but you still have several ways to interact when it’s not your turn.
Now, it’s important to note that this doesn’t make downtime a thing of the past. You’re still going to be waiting around at times. This is still a two-hour game that you need to carve out a chunk of your evening for.
However, what it does do is make the action feel more alive. With two people open to trade every turn, things can fly at a quicker pace. So, while the games are still long, they feel more jam-packed with fun.
It also doesn’t hurt that this game just looks phenomenal. I briefly mentioned flying around space but didn’t go into detail about how that’s done. Essentially, each player gets their own massive space shuttle that serves as a quasi-dice tower and determines movement. It’s silly, even a bit ridiculous, but I love it. The whole thing just looks great when it’s all set up on your table.
I don’t think Catan: Starfarers or its extension breaks new ground in the board game space. And, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t seem a little weird to drop a five-six player add-on in the middle of a pandemic. In fact, it’s worth noting that, due to local restrictions, I haven’t gotten to play nearly as much of Starfarers as I’d like.
That said, if you have a group who isn’t going to take the trading side of things too seriously, this is a game you can have a ton of fun with. It doesn’t need to be a super-serious strategy game even if its length might lead you to think it is. Instead, it’s a great game to sit down with a few friends and a few beers to have a laugh.