The question is about the base game. I'm interested in whether any of the expansions affect this rule in any way.
My family recently bought Catan, and we're having a dispute over how the maritime trade rule is supposed to be interpreted. We went through the relevant rule:
b) Maritime Trade
You can also trade without the other players! During your turn, you can always trade at 4:1 by putting 4 identical resource cards back in their stack and taking any 1 resource card of your choice for it. If you have a settlement or city on a harbor Y, you can trade with the bank more favorably: at either a 3:1 ratio or, in certain harbors, at 2:1 (trading the resource type shown). Important: The 4:1 trade is always possible, even if you do not have a settlement on a harbor.
The disupute is over the "settlement on a harbor" part. The two interpretations are as follows:
- You can 4:1 trade with the bank if you have a settlement on the shore, but it doesn't have to be on one of the harbors.
The reasoning behind this is that the bank is not on the island of Catan, so the trade happens by ship - that's why it's called the maritime trade. You need to have a settlement on the shore so the ship has a place to go to make the exchange of resources.
- You can always 4:1 trade with the bank, period. The shoreside settlements are, in this regard, no different from those not on the shore.
The above reasoning is nice, but it's just fluff - the rules-as-written say "always", not "if you have an exit to the sea".
Which interpretation is the correct one?