Sid Meier’s Pirates (walkthrough)

Sid Meier's Pirates


Author: Sashanan (
Date: 22 December 2004
Version: 1.0

Arr, this document be a copyright of Sashanan, 2004. All rights reserved.

Ye be allowed to do the following with this document, by thunder:

- Make copies (electronical or physical) for ye own, personal use;
- Post this FAQ on a non-commercial, freely accessible web site. Me
permission be not required, however, the FAQ must be posted in its full,
original form, including this disclaimer in full, and credited to that salty
dog Sashanan;
- Posting this FAQ up on a commercial site, or requiring payment for its
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Using this FAQ (or part of it) on a commercial site, or in a magazine,
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be violations of international copyright law and will result in keelhauling,
tarring and feathering, walking the plank and/or legal prosecution.

Use to play the game. Do not use to make a profit and do not steal or rip off.


[1] Introduction
[2] Overview
[3] New since Pirates and Pirates Gold
[4] Character creation
[5] Strategies
[5.1] Crew and recruiting
[5.2] Gold and plunder
[5.3] Ranks and promotions
[5.4] Ships to use
[6] Minigames
[6.1] Naval battles
[6.2] Fencing
[6.3] Land battles
[6.4] Dancing
[6.5] Sneaking
[7] Quests
[7.1] Criminals
[7.2] Named pirates
[7.3] Pirate treasures
[7.4] Lost family members
[7.5] Lost cities
[7.6] Marquis de la Montalban
[7.7] Romance
[8] Reference lists
[8.1] Ships
[8.2] Ship upgrades
[8.3] Crew specialists
[8.4] Special items
[8.5] Ranks and benefits
[8.6] Fame points
[8.7] Retirement jobs
[9] Frequently asked questions
[10] Revision history
[11] Final words


Arr! Only one more arr in this document, promise. After the release of Pirates!
in 1987 and the subsequent appearance of Pirates Gold, it's been very quiet for
years. November 2004, however, brought a full remake of the game to the PC, all
updated to meet modern expectations in terms of graphics, and with the gameplay
fully redone as well. The concept is still the same: sail around the Caribbean,
plunder ships and ports, and retire a wealthy and high ranking privateer who
has saved as many of his missing family members as he can. That part hasn't
changed. Everything else has, though; the game centers around a set of fully
redone minigames, and to be successful at Sid Meier's Pirates, you'll need to
master them. Additionally, an overall strategy is still required to get the
most out of your pirating career.

Sid Meier's Pirates comes with a very good manual, and the purpose of this FAQ
is not to restate what's already in there. Consider this a hint book, rather,
meant to add to the information already in the game's documentation. This FAQ
is based on my own experiences and those of others I've discussed the game with
online, and has a twofold purpose: to inform you about the game's concepts in
more detail than the manual does, and to give you the advice you need to become
a superior pirate.

As FAQs tend to be, this is a work in progress. Future updates will come as
more information is uncovered or I've devised new or updated strategies. And,
of course, if quality reader input comes in. The latest version of this guide
can always be found on GameFAQs (, so be sure to check there
if you got this guide anywhere else. Might just be an updated version waiting
for you.

So, without further ado, on to the 17th century Caribbean!


When you are still a boy, your family is enslaved by the evil Marquis de
Montalban, and only you manage to escape. Ten years later, now a lad of 18, you
decide to set sail for the Caribbean to try your luck there, and hopefully find
a trace of your family and get your revenge on the evil Marquis while you're at

Every game of Sid Meier's Pirates starts with the creation of a pirate. Except
for the very first game after installation, where you only enter a name and all
the other options are preset to the easiest available, as a tutorial of sorts.
You also choose a starting nationality by signing up with any of the four
captains. Your choice between the Dutch, English, French and Spanish has some
consequences on your starting position, but you are in no way required to stay
with the nation you decide to start with. You can work for or against anybody
you choose and change allegiances however much you want during your career.

Once you've chosen who to sign up with, a short scene describes your voyage to
the Caribbean, and how a mutiny on board eventually sees you as the ship's new
captain. As the game begins, you have one ship and a small crew under your
command, and you'll start outside a random port (usually one of some
consequence) of the nation you've chosen to start out with.

From there on, the game is completely in your hands. Where you sail and what
you do there is now up to you. Some of the activities you might engage in are:

- Buy and sell various goods in the ports of the Caribbean; preferably buying
low and selling high.
- Attack the shipping of one or more nations, plundering the gold aboard their
ships and selling off the cargo you steal from them.
- Work either as a freelance pirate or attack the enemies of a specific nation
to win their favor as a privateer, and gain rank and land grants for your
- Add ships to your fleet by stealing them from other nations, and add to your
crew by recruiting new men in taverns. Upgrade and repair your ships at various
- Get special items that help out with various parts of your career from
mysterious travellers, or gather information about poorly defended ports or
fat prizes sailing around nearby.
- Attack and plunder ports, and possibly get the chance to install a governor
of another nation if your attack is overwhelming enough; definitely getting the
favour of said nation.
- Get introduced to governor's daughters, impress them with your dancing
ability if they invite you to the ball, and eventually court and marry the one
of your choice. Or just have a girlfriend in every port if you prefer.
- Cross swords with 9 famous, historical pirates who are also active in the
Caribbean and establish yourself as the most notorious pirate of your era.
- Receive information on buried treasure, lost cities, the whereabouts of your
enslaved family members, and the hideout of Marquis Montalban himself. Then,
of course, act on that information.
- Retire a wealthy, high ranking, married and happy man when you become too old
for piracy. Or disappear in disgrace as a penniless pickpocket if you did not
do so well.

The majority of the game takes place sailing on the world map of the Caribbean,
and conducting your business in ports. Apart from that, most activities are
structured as a minigame of sorts, which includes naval battles, land battles,
swordfighting, dancing, and sneaking in/out of hostile ports. All these
activities are described in detail in this FAQ.


This section is specifically aimed at veterans of either or both of the
previous versions of this game. If Sid Meier's Pirates is your first game in
this series, feel free to skip this section. If it's not, you'll probably want
to know how much is the same and how much has changed, so here's a handy

- You still sail around the Caribbean plundering ships and ports, finding
treasure and lost family members, getting wealth, acres of land and ranks,
and hoping to retire in the highest social standing possible before you grow
too old for more expeditions. You still have to strike a balance between a
crew large enough to fight your battles with and small enough to keep happy,
and you still get more ships only by capturing them.

- The 1560 era "The Silver Empire" where Spain controls 95% of the Caribbean is
no longer available. All the other eras are still there.

- A new difficulty level has been added between Adventurer and Swashbuckler,
named Rogue. Rogue captains get the 20% share of the loot that Swashbucklers
used to, while you get a whopping 50% as a Swashbuckler now. Assuming you
manage to bring any loot in at all, that is, because it's a brutal difficulty

- There are many more ships now; 9 classes which each have a small, medium and
large ship variant, for a total of 27 different ships.

- When you sail in the Caribbean, you don't run into other ships randomly
anymore; you see them sailing now, and can pick your targets with impunity.
You'll also find the world a lot more interactive now; trading vessels get
escorted by military warships and attacked by pirates and raiders of other
nations. The appearance of new governors, pirate and indian attacks and even
the outbreak of peace and war no longer happens spontaneously; they're all
triggered by ships reaching their destination. It is now perfectly possible
to foil pirate attacks by sinking the pirate before it reaches its target, or
prevent nations from making peace by capturing the ship carrying the treaty.

- Trade has become a lot more profitable, if you know where to buy low and
sell high. Cannon value has been nerfed a lot though, so no more getting rich
by stealing and selling cannons only. It's now all about Luxuries and Spices.
As a side effect, working for the Spanish is now a viable option; trading goods
in their wealthiest towns is a working alternative to plundering them.

- In addition to regular ports, there are now various settlements, missions,
indian villages and pirate havens on the map, with various functions. The
pirate havens are of particular interest if you'd like to be completely
freelance and attack everything that moves regardless of what colors they're
flying. Even if all four nations have a price on your head, pirate havens
will offer you refuge and let you repair your ships and recruit new crew.

- Naval battles are a lot like they used to be, with slight tweaks. You can now
buy various upgrades for your ships to make them faster, turn better, shoot
more quickly etc. You also have 3 different types of ammunition available for
your cannons; the regular round shot, and two special types meant specifically
to kill off enemy crew or destroy their sails and make them easier to catch.

- Swordfighting has been redone, and the overall style is now much more
defensive. Rather than going berserk on your opponent right away, you now get
the best results from dodging and then countering his attacks.

- Land battles are now turn based strategy where you move your units over a
grid, trying to outmaneuver the enemy units and either beat them all or reach
the gates of the town. Attacking a town from the sea is no longer possible; any
attack on a port is now a land battle. However, you still go straight to a
sword fight instead of a land battle if you grossly outnumber the enemy.

- You can now get special items that make certain parts of the game easier,
such as better swords that swing more quickly, or musical instruments that help
keep the crew entertained on long voyages. You can also find specialists on
board other ships that enhance your crew, such as an expert gunner that helps
your crew load cannons faster. You also get special service in ports as your
rank rises; Dukes can get their ships repaired and upgraded for free.

- Marrying a governor's daughter is a lot more work now than just proposing
if you're rich and famous enough. You will have to win their heart on the
dancefloor first, in a rhythm-style minigame. You will have to go through
several more steps before one will consider marrying you. Alternatively, you
can just dance with beautiful women all over the Caribbean and gain valuable
items and information in return.

- There's still buried treasure to go after, but each treasure now belongs to
a specific pirate, and they will not be pleased if you steal it. On the other
hand, beating the pirates themselves tends to earn you good, upgraded ships as
well as a good amount of gold from their holds.

- You still chase evil Spanish noblemen to learn about your missing family
members. The Incan treasures that your rescued family members would point you
to have been replaced by lost cities that work much the same way. You also get
a chance now to track down and defeat the evil Marquis that enslaved your
family in the first place, and get a huge reward in the process. This can be
considered the game's main quest now, though it's as optional as everything

- The Silver Train is no longer among us, and the Treasure Fleet cannot be
caught in port anymore. It can, however, be attacked on the high seas if you
manage to find it.

- Plundered ports recover their economy much more quickly as trading vessels
go in and out, and new governors are assigned to them. The danger of ending up
with a Caribbean plundered dry, as would happen on the lower levels a lot in
the previous games, is effectively gone. There's always more loot for a daring
(and aging) pirate to go after.


Except for your very first game session, every game requires you to select
various options before you begin. Specifically, you must choose a name, a
difficulty level, a special skill, an era and a starting nationality. The last
two also determine your starting ship.

This is purely cosmetic, so pick whatever has your fancy. My only advice here
is to remember that if you name yourself Jack Sparrow, you are not the first
player to do so. You might also want to steer clear from naming yourself
Blackbeard, as there already *is* a Blackbeard among the other pirates in the
game. Otherwise, your name (obviously) has no effect on gameplay, so if you
want to go into history as Duke Bob the privateer, nobody's stopping you.

There are five difficulty levels in Sid Meier's Pirates, and they affect many
different factors. As such, the difference between the levels is quite
significant, to the point where the first one is very easy (at least once you
get used to the game), and the highest is almost sadistic. I strongly
recommend starting low (especially if this is your first Pirates game) and
going up once you grow more confident. The following aspects of the game are
affected by the difficulty level chosen:

- On Apprentice level only, you get tutorial hints during the first stages of
the game;
- On Apprentice level, you get more visual hints as to which key to press when
during sword battles and dances;
- On Journeyman level, you get these same visual hints if you start messing up
(no more hints at all on higher levels);
- The speed with which enemies strike in sword battles goes up on higher
levels, making especially the opponents that were tricky to begin with very
dangerous on higher levels;
- Dances are more complicated on higher levels, requiring you to master quicker
and more convoluted combos;
- The accuracy and damage of both sides' cannons in ship battles are directly
affected by the level. On the lower levels, even your grazing shots count as
hits and your enemies' full hits barely damage you. On the higher levels, it's
the other way around;
- Your men are more likely to take losses in naval and land battles, requiring
bigger crews to achieve the same results on higher levels;
- Your crew is harder to keep happy on higher levels, and will grow discontent
earlier if you don't keep filling up your ships with gold;
- Enemy naval AI is smarter on higher levels (didn't see much of a difference
in land battles);
- Guards are quicker and more numerous when sneaking in and out of ports on
higher levels;
- Nations are much more likely to reward your services and forgive your
trespasses on lower levels. On the lowest level, you are showered with
promotions and you can get away with betraying a country for quite some time
before they start putting a price on your head. On the highest level, you have
to work hard for every promotion and nations send pirate hunters after you at
the slightest provocation;
- The wind in the Caribbean becomes less predictable on higher levels. On
Apprentice, it *always* blows straight west, whereas on higher levels it varies
more. It will always tend toward blowing west, though, which is realistic
modelling of the weather in that area of the world;
- Your ships are affected more by wind on higher levels, making it harder to
sail against it at a reasonable speed. You also suffer more damage from sailing
through storms on higher levels.

There are also two advantages to selecting a higher level (apart from making
the game more exciting):

- Your share in the loot when you divide up the plunder is directly based on
the difficulty level, allowing you to get much richer if you're successful on
higher levels;
- If you play on Apprentice, you are not allowed to select a different era than
1660 (which is, incidentally, the easiest one).

Be aware of a "jump" in difficulty level from the fourth to the last.
Difficulty goes up gradually until Rogue level, but the difference between
Rogue and Swashbuckler is higher than usual.

You can choose one of five special skills when you start the game. Each offers
an advantage in a specific area. You can use this to tone down the difficulty
somewhat in an area you have trouble with; for instance, if you like the
Adventurer difficulty level but find that swordfighting becomes too hard for
your taste there, you can compensate that by picking the Fencing skill. Which
skill is the best to pick depends on your playing style; they're fairly well
balanced. Your options are:

Makes you quicker in sword fights, both on the attack and the defense. Also
appears to improve the chance that dodging at just the right moment makes
your character counterattack automatically. This is a solid choice because you
will probably do more swordfighting than anything else.

Makes your ships move quicker both on the world map and in battle, which is
especially useful when sailing against the wind. You'll find this a good
choice if you get annoyed by the long time it takes to sail from west to east,
or if you get outmaneuvered during battle a lot. Navigation skill basically
makes the game more forgiving in these areas, allowing you to focus on the

Lets your crew load their guns more quickly and makes the game more forgiving
in terms of accuracy. Since hitting enemies on higher levels can be tricky,
Gunnery skill can make the difference there. This one's not particularly
popular since many people prefer not to fire on enemies too much to keep their
ships intact. But don't discard it too quickly; it also makes the difference
when using different types of ammo that don't harm ships so much, and having
the ability to get off good Grape Shots can be very important on higher levels.

This skill makes the dancing minigame a lot more forgiving, and since most
players consider that the hardest part of the game, that is a very inmportant
consideration. While it won't let you dance better, necessarily, it factors
into how well you have to dance to impress a governor's daughter. With Wit and
Charm, a few missteps won't put her off so quickly and a couple of flourishes
will make her heart race all the more quickly. Since dancing with governor's
daughters is a primary source of items and information, you may find Wit and
Charm every bit as useful as the more direct special skills.

If you feel you don't really need any of the skills above, Medicine will prove
useful. It basically extends the health of your pirate, allowing you longer
careers before your health gets in the way of your ability to fight properly.
Besides slowing the ravages of time, it also helps reduce the harm done by
injuries and time spent marooned or in captivity.

Except on the Apprentice level, you can pick five different eras to start
your career in. The era you choose affects the balance of power between the
nations and the relative wealth of each. Generally speaking, the effect is
like this:

- In earlier eras, Spain is much more powerful and the other nations only have
a few small colonies. In later eras, the other nations become more powerful at
the expense of Spain. In 1660, all nations have a few viable ports, and in
1680 Spain is only a little more powerful than the rest.

- The overall wealth of all ports increases in later eras. In 1680, all nations
(not just Spain) have a lot of wealthy ports and ships full of gold sailing

- In earlier eras, nations have less resources at their disposal to ward off
piracy. There's less to be plundered, but it's also not as well protected. As
time goes by, piracy is taken more seriously and nations work harder to
prevent it. In 1680, pirate hunters are as common as pirates and any attempt
to make off with the great wealth of just about any nation will result in harsh

For the most part, 1660 is the most balanced and easiest era. It's the default
era for a reason, and if you play on Apprentice you can't even choose a
different one. Picking different eras makes for a slightly different and more
challenging experience. 1680 is of special interest to players who'd like to
work *for* Spain instead of against it for a change; it's the only era in
which the other nations have almost as much to plunder. Just be aware that
you'll face a lot more resistance than usual.

What nation you work for and who you pick as your enemies can affect your game
quite a bit. However, your starting nationality has very little impact on this.
You don't have to keep working for whoever you start out with; you don't even
have to work for them at all. You can betray them right away if you so choose,
regain their trust a year later and then betray them again. In that sense, what
nationality you pick to start with is mostly a cosmetic choice. It affects the

- You always start out near a port of some significance belonging to the nation
you signed up with;
- You get a ship based on the nationality and era you chose (for instance, in
1660 you start with a Sloop with most nations, but when I chose the Spanish in
1680 I got a fast galleon);
- The nation you start out with gives you a free Letter of Marque when you
visit a governor for the first time (though on Apprentice level, they all do

Regardless of which nation you start out with, the following is of note when
working for specific nations:

Ports of call aren't very widespread if you side with the Dutch. You've got
St. Martin and St. Eustatius next to each other in the east, and Curacao as a
lone haven (quite a wealthy one, even) on the Spanish Main. If you decide to
side with the Dutch, you might find it a good idea to either stay friendly with
the English or the French as well, or capture some more home ports for when
you're a long way from both St. Eustatius and Curacao.

These guys have their ports spread out pretty well, so they're easy to work
for. The only place where you won't find any refuge is on the Spanish Main, so
if you do your plundering there, you may find it beneficial to keep the Dutch
on your good side so you can flee to Curacao when necessary. Or you could just
try to take over a few of those easier to capture ports like Rio de La Hacha
or Gibraltar. One disadvantage of the English is that Barbados, the best place
to sell goods for high prices, is very remote. But Port Royale and Antigua are
both good alternatives that are much easier to reach.

Like the English, they have a good presence in different parts of the
Caribbean. No less than four ports are available just off the east of Jamaica,
and south of the Dutch and English presence in the east you'll find three
French ports in a row. They're only absent from the Spanish Main itself, so
once again you'll find it useful to either befriend the Dutch and sail from
Curacao, or capture a smaller port or two for your own use.

Working for the Spanish appears counterintuitive at first, because that means
the best targets are not available for you. However, there are advantages: all
those wealthy ports will buy the goods you steal from the other nations off you
for very high prices, and wherever you are sailing, there's almost always a
good sized Spanish port nearby to replenish your crew and get your ships
repaired. Just how viable working for the Spanish is depends on the era you
chose; in 1600, there's not much to attack that isn't Spanish, but in 1680
there is plenty for you to prey on, and you can easily afford to be hunted by
all other nations at the same time. The one thing you might want to refrain
from is to take over other nations' ports and give them to the Spanish, lest
you run yourself out of targets.

This is not something you get to choose directly. However, what ship you start
with is determined by the era and nationality you chose. In 1660, the default
era, you get a Sloop no matter who you sail for, but in the other eras there's
quite a different selection. This alone may be a reason for you to pick a
nationality that starts with a proper ship. For instance, if you decide to play
a 1600 game, you probably don't want to be Dutch, unless the idea of capturing
a proper ship with only a lousy Fluyt at your disposal sounds like a fun

Starting ships based on era and nationality are as follows:

1600 Dutch Fluyt
1600 English Merchantman
1600 French Sloop
1600 Spanish Pinnace
1620 Dutch Brig
1620 English Brigantine
1620 French Barque
1620 Spanish Pinnace
1640 Dutch Brigantine
1640 English Sloop
1640 French Pinnace
1640 Spanish Mail Runner
1660 Dutch Sloop
1660 English Sloop
1660 French Sloop
1660 Spanish Sloop
1680 Dutch Sloop of War
1680 English Sloop of War
1680 French Brigantine
1680 Spanish Fast Galleon


This section describes overall gameplay strategies, not specifically related
to any of the minigames. For those, refer to section 6.


Your crew is central to all your pirating efforts. They sail your ships and
fight your battles. The more crew you have under your command, the bigger the
targets you can face, and the more you can afford to lose.

This doesn't mean, though, that a bigger crew is always better. The more men
you have, the more food you need to stock to keep them fed, and the harder it
is to keep them happy. Unhappy crews perform much worse in combat, and may even
become mutinous if you don't tend to them soon. Keeping your crew happy is
mostly a matter of satisfying their greed, but there are a couple of factors.

You start each game with 40 men, and the first thing you'll want to do is
recruit more. Since you always start just outside a friendly port, the best
thing to do is visit it and go to the tavern to pick up a few more men. After
that, for the rest of the game, your options are as follows:

- Recruiting from taverns. Can be done at any town and pirate haven; not at
settlements. When you've just done this at a specific town you can't do it
again for a while. How many men you can recruit is affected by rank (Captain
and Baron rank give bonuses), the wealth of the town (poorer towns have more
unemployed men happy to sign up with you), the population (big towns obviously
have more sailors available) and if you've been in recently (it takes time
for new recruits to amass). Another major factor is your reputation in terms of
how profitable it is to work for you. If this isn't your first expedition, the
results of previous voyages (as in, how much gold each survivor got at the end)
is a *major* factor in recruiting for future expeditions. Finally, the
happiness of your current crew is a factor. Few men are willing to join a crew
that is already large and unhappy, but everybody is happy to sign up for an
expedition where there's already a lot of gold to be divided up.

- Recruit from other ships. If you defeat an enemy ship and a lot of its
sailors survive, some of them might be willing to join you instead. The size
of your current crew and their happiness are also a factor in this. For the
most part, this method is less reliable; it's good to replace losses taken in
a specific battle, but if you need to get more men you're generally better off
finding them on shore.

You have a maximum crew size determined by what ships you have. For instance,
say you have one Royal Sloop (max 125) and one Barque with the Triple Hammocks
upgrade (max 100, increased by 50% for Triple Hammocks, so 150). This lets you
have a maximum crew of 275. Contrary to what the manual states, you cannot go
over this. Excess crew is lost as you lose/sell ships, and any excess you
recruit is ignored. Losing crew this way is, by the way, painless. They do not
take any gold along.

Your crew is automatically divided among all your ships. Each ship has a
minimum crew requirement, which is higher for bigger ships and also goes up a
lot if a ship is damaged. After each ship you have has been assigned the
minimum number of men, the remainder fill up your flagship; these are the men
you'll use in ship battles. If you change your flagship, your crew is
immediately and automatically rearranged. If you capture extra ships, always
make sure to check how many men remain for your flagship. If you're in the
habit of badly damaging ships before you capture them, you may be surprised by
how many men have to be relegated to keeping them afloat. You do *not* want
to accidentally enter a difficult ship battle and then notice there's only 20
men on your flagship.

Crew are lost in ship and land battles. However, not all the crew that goes
down in either battle is necessarily dead (or at least too injured to continue
sailing); some of them are only down for the duration of the battle. You may
notice, for instance, that if you go into a battle with 100 men and come out
with 60, your crew count is back up to 75 when you're back on the world map.
Just how many men recover from their injuries is random, but having a Surgeon
specialist on your crew is a major factor in keeping your men in good shape.

Crew happiness is a different story entirely. Happiness is basically a factor
of three things: the size of your crew, the size of the loot in your holds,
ready to be divided up among them, and how long your current expedition has
lasted. Basically, your crew wants to have the impression that the expedition
will be worth their while, and the longer you stretch it, the bigger their
demands become. Having the Cook and/or the Quartermaster specialist helps delay
unhappiness on long voyages, as does having the 3-Stringed Fiddle or even the
Concertina. But in the end it comes down to keeping your loot growing, and the
larger your crew, the more loot it takes. This is the primary reason why you
should not keep a bigger crew around than you need. If you're only hitting
small ships, don't take 500 men with you. That kind of crew is only needed if
you intend to attack large cities.

You'll also need to make sure you keep your crew fed. If it's large, you will
need to take a lot of food along, which can get expensive and takes up a lot of
cargo space. A Cooper specialist helps keep food from spoiling, effectively
reducing the rate at which it is consumed; thus you can get away with buying
less. Running out of food is no fun - your crew can go from full happiness to
full mutiny very quickly if you starve them. Don't let it happen. If you're
going on a long voyage with little food, restock at settlements and villages
along the way. If you are really running low on food, attack any ship you see
to plunder their food stores. If it actually belongs to a nation you are trying
to win the favour of, too bad. You can make it up with them later when your
men aren't hungry.

In the end, you'll find it harder and harder to keep your crew satisfied as
your expedition goes on. Eventually you will *have* to divide up the plunder
and start with a fresh crew if you intend to ever see them happy again rather
than bordering on mutiny. Dividing up the plunder has two disadvantages:

- You get to keep only one ship (so you'll have to sell off the rest, like it
or not);
- You lose roughly 6-7 months starting your new expedition.

You also start with a smaller crew again, but if your last expedition was
profitable, you'll be able to recruit new men very quickly, so that's usually
not a big concern. The real pain is if you used to rely on several ships -
perhaps you used both a Royal Sloop and a Ship of the Line and switched
depending on what you were attacking. In that case, you'll now have to make a

Most players prefer to stretch their expeditions for as long as possible to
minimize the downtown between expeditions. How far you can stretch is mostly
dependent on the difficulty level. On Apprentice, I've done 5-6 year
expeditions without too much trouble. On Swashbuckler, you'll be hard pressed
to keep your crew happy for 2 years under the best of circumstances.


Although wealth only makes up a fifth of your final fame score, you'll likely
be pursuing gold as your main objective throughout the game anyway. If only
because that is what your crew is after, and if you don't keep gold pouring
into your holds, they will soon become unhappy. Some good ways to make gold

This is the most obvious one and probably what you'll spend most of your time
doing. Any ship you capture is likely to at least carry some gold which goes
directly into your hold, and possibly valuable cargo as well which you can sell
for gold later. How profitable this is depends a lot on the targets you are
striking. Bear the following mind:

- Indian War Canoes bear either no or very little gold. Not worth it; only
attack these to win the approval of European nations.

- Warships of most kinds tend to have little in the way of gold and goods.
- Smugglers tend to have nice cargo and a little gold as well.

- Unnamed pirates are sometimes down on their luck and sometimes they had a
good run before you catch them. You can never be sure, but it's usually worth
it to go after them.

- Merchant ships tend to have a decent amount of gold and high value cargo,
especially the bigger ones. Much of their value comes from the luxuries and
spices they tend to carry, but obviously you do need to find a place to unload
those, first.

- Escorted merchant ships are escorted for a reason. They tend to have more
gold and cargo than unescorted ones. Rarely, the escort ship itself has been
loaded with gold as well.

- Ships carrying immigrants or transporting new governors tend to have a good
amount of gold; presumably the personal fortune of their passengers.

- Military payroll and treasure ships have good amounts of gold on board, easy
profit which doesn't require you to sell cargo first. The Treasure Fleet, if
you can find it, usually consists of several treasure ships with a better
amount of gold than normal.

- Named villains tend to be rich. You can get an easy 3000 gold off Raymondo
and even more off Montalban.

- Named pirates have the best loot of all, especially the most famous ones.
Furthermore, their loot increases over the course of the game. I've heard of
one lucky player who got no less than 70000 off Henry Morgan's ship. More
realistically, you can expect to get at least 12000 off him.

- If you frequently talk to barmaids, you will be dropped hints about nearby
ships with a lot of gold on board. This can be any ship that carries at least
700 gold; I've once been pointed to Raymondo's ship this way. If you get a hint
about a fat target, check its route and see if you can easily go after it. It
is almost always worth doing.

While it takes bigger crews to pull off than plundering ships, you can earn
yourself some serious money by sacking the various towns in the Caribbean. The
best targets are Wealthy ones, followed by Prosperous; Modest isn't really
worth doing and if you raid Poor towns for the money, you need to rethink your
priorities. (It *is* a sound tactic if you intend to capture the town, though.)

Wealth and strength of defenses in a town are not necessarily balanced. Poor
towns might have a surprisingly strong garrison and it's possible that a
wealthy town - especially one that became wealthy only recently - is poorly
defended. You don't need me to tell you which of these two examples would be
the better target to go after.

Here are a few tips on plundering towns:

- Be sure to talk to mysterious travellers at all times, and to stop in ports
whenever you have the time, to keep your information on as many towns as
possible up to date. Visiting a port will update your information on it, and
travellers can give you free information on a random other town. You can
review this information when you click on a town on the world map.

- When you attack a town, try to have at least as many pirates as there are
soldiers defending it. You *can* beat greater numbers, especially on lower
levels, but it's risky. If your numbers are as good as theirs, you can be
pretty sure you'll win it if you don't make a lot of mistakes.

- A town's defenses can be softened up by going to a nearby pirate haven or
indian village and convincing them to attack it. Note that each haven/village
can only be set on whatever town belonging to a nation is closest to them, but
you can usually find one (especially if you have the Rutter items). Inciting
Indians to attack is always safe, they will attack the soldiers and the
population but leave the gold. Pirates *will* plunder the town if they manage
it and leave you with nothing to steal, so employ them only if you're pretty
sure they can't win it. In other words, let them suicide themselves against
a particularly well defended town to soften it up for your attack.

- If a town is particularly big and rich and poorly defended, you may
sometimes find it worth it to plunder it twice in a row. If your first
attack went well, you will hopefully still have most of your pirates whereas
the garrison is battered and bruised. The second attack will be a piece of
cake and you can milk that much more gold from the town. As an added bonus,
the second attack will often let you capture the city for another nation if
the first did not.

- It may be worth it not to always intercept governors of enemy nations if you
see them sailing. You can chase them until they enter their destination port
and upgrade its economy, then sail in right after them and plunder the town's
newfound wealth before it has a chance to strengthen its garrison.

- If you are serious about robbing a specific nation's towns, aggressively
attack its troop ships and military payrolls to keep it from strengthening
its garrisons. Payroll ships are a good idea anyway; they tend to have a lot of
gold on board.

Goods of all kinds can be obtained in two ways: they can be purchased from
merchants in towns (and in the various types of smaller settlements), or they
can be stolen off ships you capture. Unlike in the previous Pirates games, you
don't get any goods when plundering towns anymore; only gold. No matter how you
obtain your goods, you can then sell them in any town you desire, and if you
pick the right place for the right commodity, you can make a hefty profit. It's
even possible to have a moderately successful game as a peaceful trader by
buying low and selling high. Some tips for getting a profit off selling goods:

- You have better results selling in the towns of a nation you are a Colonel
in, or better yet, a Marquis. These two ranks give you trading bonuses: the
town will have more goods for sale and also have more gold in reserve to buy
your goods with.

- Wealthy towns pay better and also have a better gold reserve. If you don't
sell in the right towns, you might find they run out of money before you've
unloaded more than a fraction of your cargo. The best towns to sell in are,
unfortunately, Spanish. Since you won't find yourself on Spain's side in most
games (presumably because you're plundering all those wealthy towns), you'll
need to know the good places that other nations have to unload your goods.
Which towns are rich varies a bit from game to game, but safe bets are
Curacao (Dutch), Guadeloupe and Martinique (French) and Barbados (English).
Otherwise, any port that happens to be Prosperous or Wealthy at the time is
typically a good place.

- If you do keep Spain on your side, you will find you can make almost as much
profit selling stuff to their richest ports than stealing from them. This is
particularly true in 1680 when the other nations are rich enough for a Spanish
privateer to succeed. Cartagena, Havana and Santiago are all very good places
to trade. Vera Cruz as well, but it's really out of the way. Panama tends to be
the single richest Spanish town there is, but it's not a port, so you'd need
to walk there every time you want to visit it. Panama's the kind of place that
easily pays 40-50 gold for 1 ton of Spice and has enough gold to buy it in

- The False Mustache and Theatrical Disguise items let you trade in Spanish
ports even if Spain is hostile to you. Regrettably, they don't help you
actually get into the ports, making them fairly pointless as far as I can see.
They only help if Spain is so hostile that they won't trade with you, but not
so hostile that they'll open fire on you if you try to enter one of their
towns. That's a pretty narrow window especially on the higher levels.

- Goods and Sugar sell well in large ports. Spice and Luxuries fetch the best
prices in smaller ports. Both fetch better prices in rich ports than poor ones.
For the most part, Spice and Luxuries are more profitable; give these priority
if you need to choose what to steal off a captured ship.

- Settlements often pay very well for goods and missions pay well for food,
but both always have very small supplies of gold. Barely worth it.

- Cannons aren't worth it in terms of selling. This is new to Sid Meier's
Pirates, as they fetched a good and consistent price in the previous games.
Never take cannons along instead of any other kind of cargo; just the max you
need for your flagship.

If you capture a ship at sea, it's not just its gold and cargo that is of
value to you. The ship itself can be quite valuable as well. You can actually
make a decent profit off nabbing and selling ships, if you know what you're
doing. Here's what you want to keep in mind:

- Try not to damage your prizes. The repair cost of a damaged ship goes off its
selling price, and if the ship is heavily damaged it may well exceed the prize,
leaving the ship at the minimum value of 10 gold - for firewood, probably. Even
if you have a Sailmaker and a Carpenter working for you, the repairs they can
do to ships are only minor. Try to board ships without shooting too much at
them, and rely mostly on Grape Shot and a little on Chain Shot if you do need
to fire a few broadsides. Round Shot is devastating, especially in numbers, and
you can forget about getting much of a profit if you shoot a lot of holes in
the enemy's hull.

- A Major gets cheaper repairs in port, and can thus get away better with
damaging his prizes a little. If you're a Count, repairs are free, and at that
point it doesn't matter anymore if you bring half-destroyed ships in. But they
will still slow you down while you've got them in your fleet, and tie up a lot
of your crew.

- A Duke gets to upgrade ships for free. If you're lucky enough to be a Duke
with any nation, bring your ships there to sell, and upgrade them before
selling to increase the value of the ship.

- You can only have a maximum of 8 ships in your fleet. Plan a return to a
friendly port (preferably one where you have a high rank) as you get close to
that maximum. And keep an eye on your crew, so you don't end up short as it
is divided over the ships. If you have little crew left on your flagship you
will find it hard to win any more battles. Even worse, if you don't have
enough crew to meet the minimum requirements of all your ships, you will slow
down a lot.

The most important source of money in the game is undertaking quests. There are
a bunch of different ones, some random and recurring, some set. And some are
worth a lot more than others. The following quests will bring in money for you:

- Capturing a fugitive criminal: a reward between 1000 and 5000 gold, and easy
to get. Get these quests by dancing with governor's daughters. You get them
with a moderate dance from a plain looking daughter already, and as a
substitute for various other (better) rewards if they no longer apply. See
paragraph 7.1 for more information.

- Finding a buried pirate treasure: between 2000 and 10000 gold. Talk to
travellers in taverns to get map pieces for this. See paragraph 7.3. for more

- Finding a lost city: this brings in a whopping 50000 gold, but it's hard to
do. Get map pieces by rescuing family members or kidnapped governor's
daughters, or by dancing perfectly with a beautiful daughter. See paragraph
7.5. for more information.

- Vanquishing Marquis de la Montalban: the main quest of the game; it's
complicated, takes a lot of preparation, and ends with a fairly tough battle
(depending on level, though). But for 100000 gold it's hard to say no. See
paragraph 7.6. for the whole story.


One of the most important aspects of your final fame score is the rank you
achieve with each of the four nations. Furthermore, getting rank with any
nation gives you certain benefits in their ports which are worth having.
Getting promoted by any nation is a matter of making them happy with you. The
following things help to achieve that:

- Attack a ship belonging to a nation they are at war with; especially a
warship. It doesn't matter if you only damage it, capture it or sink it.

- Plunder a town belonging to a nation they are at war with; the attack must
succeed for it to count.

- Capture a town for a nation. It doesn't matter if they're at war with the
one you captured it from or not.

- Damage, capture or sink any indian or pirate vessel. All four nations are
happy if you do this. Named pirates are worth even more points.

- Stop (= capture or sink) a special ship belonging to an enemy of the nation;
like a governor or an invasion force. You get extra points for this in addition
to the ones you already get for capturing an enemy ship in the first place.

- Escort a special ship belonging to that nation to its destination - e.g. help
a governor reach his destination. For this purpose, it doesn't matter if you
were actually assigned to protect this ship, or even if you're near it when it
reaches its destination. If you've just spotted the ship once and it reaches
its destination safely later, you're considered to have helped protect it.

Obviously, while attacking a nation's enemies will make that nation happy, the
enemies will become unhappy with you at the same time. The impact of attacking
a nation's towns or shipping depends on the difficulty level. At Apprentice,
you can often get away with helping both sides in a war at once, making a
profit off the shipping off both, and having both nations forgive you because
you are also fighting their enemy. On higher levels, the penalties for preying
on a nation are much higher, and the same approach would soon make both of
them mad with you. Note that if two nations have a peace treaty - not nearly
as common as war, but it happens - they consider an attack on their ally to
be equivalent to an attack on themselves. However, they do not care about you
helping their ally in any way; you still need to make them happy by attacking
individual enemies.

If you score enough points with a nation, they may decide to promote you. How
many points it takes is dependent on the difficulty level; you also need more
for higher ranks, so that going from Captain to Major is easier than going from
Marquis to Duke. The ranks and their benefits are listen in paragraph 8.5.

Here are some tips to get promotions the easiest:

- Check who is at war with whom, and pick your allegiances early on. Stick
with at least one nation, or better yet, two. For instance, if England and
France are both at war with Spain, fighting Spain early will win you the
support of both of them.

- When you become a Duke with a certain nation, there are no more promotions to
earn. This is the time to backstab them and work for their enemy if you want to
become a Duke with them as well.

- To win a former enemy's trust, attack whoever they are at war with. Also,
you can convince Jesuit missionaries close to that enemy's ports to speak to
them on your behalf to help lower whatever price they have on your head. That
makes it easier to get them to forgive you. If you don't mind spending a
little gold, you can also "buy off" a price on your head. For this you will
need to get to speak with a governor, so you may have to sneak into an enemy
town to do this.

- Remember that hunting pirates and indians makes you popular with all the
four nations. If there aren't any around, you can go to a pirate haven or
indian village, incite them to attack a nearby town, then immediately attack
them as they sail out of port. It's nasty, but it works well. Particularly
with indians who tend to send out three War Canoes at once. Easy to beat, and
lots of points scored with all nations.

- Check back with your benefactor frequently to see if you have a promotion
waiting. You will also get hints if you're close to it ("Soon you'll be
promoted to..."). If you wait for a long time and score more points than
you needed, you still get only 1 promotion, and the excess points are paid off
in a land grant (50 acres per point). These land grants are very good for
your wealth score, but you can also get these *after* you become a Duke for
a certain nation if you keep working for them. They're not a priority while
you are still rising in rank.

- If you have a rank with a certain nation, particularly a high one, you can
afford to betray them a little and get away with it. If you persist they will
eventually become hostile to you and when this happens you lose the bonuses of
your rank, but not the rank itself. And you get the bonuses back as soon as you
make up with them again.


As you will notice if you study paragraph 8.1, there are a lot of different
ships in Sid Meier's Pirates; many more than in its predecessors. It can be
quite daunting to make a choice from the 27 ship types. Fortunately, it's not
as complicated as it looks.

For one thing, there really are only 9 different classes of ships, and 3
variants of each; a small, a medium and a large one. In nearly all cases, the
medium and large variants perform just as well as the smaller ones, they just
hold more crew, guns and cargo. Within whatever ship class you prefer to use,
you are therefore always best off getting the biggest ship you can get.
Frigates are good, but Large Frigates are better. It's that simple.

The question remains, then, which of the 9 ship classes to use. Which is best
depends on what you intend to do with it. Presumably your fleet will consist
of one flagship, or two that you alternate between if you like to have
different types availble (we'll get to that in a bit). Any other ships you
have are likely only cargo or crew haulers, and the only thing you want from
them is that they balance out speed and capacity. The best choice for that is
Frigates, but they are typically hard to get. Most players are happy to get a
good Frigate as their flagship. If you can get additional ones, great, but
you'll likely have to settle for other types. Merchantmen strike the best
balance between capacity and speed; Galleons carry more, but they will slow
your fleet down quite a bit.

Your flagship is a different story. You'll be taking this into battle, and
thus you want it to be a sturdy warship that's fast, agile and well armed.
Let's have a look at each type of warship:

The Pinnace class includes the smallest ships in the game; they have very low
capacity for guns, crew and cargo, and are very vulnerable in battle. If they
get hit, that is; because they are also the fastest and best turning ships,
and perform well even against the wind. In the end, though, the weaknesses are
a bit too pronounced.

Sloops are far better as small ships go. They are still fast, hard to hit and
very agile, and they can carry larger crews. The Royal Sloop, biggest in this
category, is the second most popular ship in the game among the players I know.
Many people stick with them exclusively for their high speed and the fact that
they never seem to take hits in battle.

Brigs are a bit larger than Sloops, but still have a good speed and can sail
against the wind with some success. They basically strike the balance between
the agility of smaller ships and the heavy armament and ability to take a
beating that the bigger ships have. The Brig of War is an excellent ship that
doesn't have as many supporters as the Royal Sloop and the Ship of the Line do,
but is still easily the 3rd most popular. It's also a lot easier to obtain than
the other two.

Frigates are the best choice in terms of large ships. They can carry huge
crews - plenty for any ship battle - have room for a ton of guns, and can
take quite a bit of punishment. Their inability to dodge salvos as easily as
the smaller ships is offset by this, and for such large ships, they are still
quite fast and able to make fairly tight turns. The famous Ship of the Line is
the biggest of the Frigates and probably the most popular ship in the game. It
is also the rarest, however, not in the last place because Spain doesn't use
Frigates of any kind. You'd need to see a random one sailing (usually as a
New Warship special type) or piss off one of the other nations enough to send
out a pirate hunter so influential that he's using one.

The Fast Galleon, War Galleon and Flag Galleon fall in this category. The
Trade Galleon, Royal Galleon and Treasure Galleon do not; those are merchant
ships, unsuitable for combat. Actually, the combat galleons aren't particularly
suitable either. Their power is comparable to that of Frigates, but they are
far slower. They are fast enough when running before the wind, true, but going
against it is almost impossible in a galleon of any kind, and their turning
circle is horribly wide. Smaller ships can and do run circles around these
cumbersome vessels and pelt them with one broadside after another. If you like
to use large ships, you really should stick with a Frigate type instead. Even
the smallest kind of Frigate is a better bet than the otherwise very powerful
Flag Galleon.

Summarizing this, the Pinnace and Combat Galleon categories aren't your best
choices. It's a toss up between Sloops, Brigs and Frigates, and it's mostly a
matter of personal preference what works best. I personally am a fan of
Frigates, but many people prefer Sloops and a handful prefer the balanced
Brigs. All are solid choices for a flagship. Just make sure that if you do use
a larger ship, you recruit a crew to fill it up with. Not much sense using a
Frigate if you're not going to put more men in it than you could fit in a

Your tactics in ship battles will probably change depending on what kind of
vessel you are using. Sloops will want to thin out the enemy crew before
boarding, and avoid enemy fire as much as possible. Frigates will probably
be a lot more aggressive, heading for the enemy straight away with just a
single broadside to soften them up if needed, and accepting the fact that
they'll take a little counterfire in getting there. Use whichever ship works
best for your style. You could even have both a Sloop *and* a Frigate
available and pick a ship to use for every battle; for instance, using a Sloop
against smaller targets and a Frigate against any enemy Frigate and Galleon

Whichever ship you choose, however, be sure to get all the upgrades you can
find for your flagship. They're all worth having and can make a lot of


Much of the gameplay in Sid Meier's Pirates consists of playing its various
minigames. The premise and controls for each are in the manual, but of course,
it does not go into too much detail about how to play them. But that's what
you're reading this guide for, no? Each paragraph in this section highlights
a different minigame, giving an overview and a set of tactics to improve your
results at them.


A naval battle is always initiated by you. When one or more ships are in range
of your flagship, press 5 and you will be given a list of ships you can
attack. The size of the crew and the number of guns on the enemy ship will be
mentioned and you can compare to what you have on your flagship, or switch
flagships if necessary. Note that you can't see the guns/crew on a ship if it's
a special type, like a Treasure Ship or a named villain like Raymondo. Those
ships tend to have close to the maximum for their ship type, though.

If you choose to attack a ship, you will be thrust into naval battle mode. The
positions of your ships relative to each other is the same as it was on the
world map.

A naval battle is usually against one ship at a time, with two exceptions:

- If the ship has a dedicated escort sailing along with it, you'll fight both
ships at once;
- If another ship was actively chasing you at the time (normally a pirate
hunter but it can be any hostile warship), it will join in. This can happen
even if it wasn't strictly in combat range when you initiated the battle; in
that case it'll need a while to catch up, but it will.

In a naval battle, you and your opponent(s) will be able to exchange fire, run
away from the other by creating enough distance, or start a boarding (and a
sword fight) by sailing into the other.

Controls during a naval battle are as follows:

4, 6: turn your ship left and right, respectively. Turning rate is dependent
on the type of ship, whether or not you are turning into the wind (which is a
lot slower), and any damage/lack of crew. A ship with Copper Plating gets a
slight bonus to its turning ability.

8: raise sails. By default, sails on a ship are raised. This allows the ship to
sail faster than with reefed sails, but the sails are also vulnerable to combat

2: lower sails. This reduces the ship's top speed, but allows for slightly
tighter turning circles, and provides a lot of protection against sail damage
from enemy cannons.

1: switch to grape shot. This ammo type has a short range, but is effective
in taking enemy crew out of the fight while doing little damage to the enemy
ship. Great for preparing for boarding while leaving your prize intact. You
can only switch to this if you ship has the Grape Shot upgrade.

3: switch to round shot. This is the default ammo type; it has the longest
range and does damage mostly to enemy hull and cannons. It also damages crew
and sails, but not as much as the ammo types specialized to do so. Remember
that enough hull damage will sink a ship, which is rarely your intention - its
treasures will sink along with it. Use round shot carefully, especially against
small targets.

7: switch to chain shot. This ammo type has a shorter range than round shot
(but longer than grape shot), and is meant specifically to destroy sails with.
It does little damage to a ship otherwise. Excellent for reducing an enemy's
speed, either to be able to catch up with or outrun them. It will rarely do
any significant hull damage, but be aware that totally destroying the rigging
on ships you intend to capture and keep will really reduce your fleet's overall
speed. You can only switch to this ammo if your ship has the Chain Shot

9: change camera views between the overhead view and a "chase camera" of sorts
which zooms in on your ship and uses an angle that lets you see the position of
the enemy relative to your own ship. Which camera mode you should use is
largely a matter of personal preference. I usually just stick with overhead.

Depending on level and the relative strengths and weaknesses of your ships,
the AI may behave in several different ways:

- If the enemy has more cannons, it will try to weaken your ship as much as it
can before boarding you. When in range it will use chain shot to slow you down
and grape shot to thin out your crew, assuming it has these upgrades. The AI
will frequently mix round shot and chain shot in a single volley.

- If the enemy is at a disadvantage with cannons but has a crew comparable to
or bigger than yours, it will attempt to ram and board you as fast as possible.

- If the enemy is grossly outmatched, it will attempt to run away from you,
possibly firing a few broadsides at you to slow you down first (most notably
chain shot).

- If the enemy is too weak to beat you and too slow to escape - usually this
happens after you've hit them a few times - they'll strike the colours and
surrender their ship without a fight. They may still try to sail away from you,
but they will no longer fire and as soon as you come close or board them, it's

There are a couple of exceptions to the behavior above:

- Merchant ships are more likely to surrender than warships. For instance, if
a Sloop contains a new governor, its crew will likely fight until the end even
if you outmatch them. Pirates, too, hate to surrender.
- Named pirates are very unlikely to surrender, but they can.
- Villains (Raymondo, Montalban and Mendoza) never surrender. If you pummel
their ship enough it will seem like they do - you get the victory screen and
everything - but immediately after the usual ship battle scene starts anyway.
Note that you also can't sink these guys - their hull damage will not go beyond

When fighting a naval battle, you need to strike a balance between defeating
your enemy and not damaging your prize too much. It may be very tempting to
just pummel them with round shot, especially if you outmatch your opponent. But
if you intend to capture the enemy ship, this approach leaves you with a very
damaged prize that will slow you down a lot and cost a lot to repair when you
finally limp it to the nearest port. Even if you don't intend to hang on to a
ship, you run a significant risk of sinking it if you hit it too hard, and all
its cargo and gold will sink along with it.

On the lower difficulty levels, many players prefer not to shoot at the enemy
during a naval battle at all. They just head straight for them for a quick ram
and settle the deal with a sword fight. This is a sound approach for enemies
that have far less crew than you (and not enough guns to tear you apart before
you reach them). On Apprentice and to an extent on Journeyman, this also works
against enemies that are stronger than you, as you'll be able to make up the
difference with good fencing. On the higher levels, however, this approach is
suicidal against a powerful opponent. Their guns are more accurate and do more
damage, they are better able to run circles around you and hold off your
boarding as much as possible, and when you do manage to board them, you'll find
them tough opponents in fencing. The size of your crew against theirs is a
major factor in how difficult the swordfighting will be (see paragraph 6.2),
and you *need* to do your naval battles correctly to cut them down to size

As a rule of thumb, on Adventurer level and above, try not to board an enemy
ship until their crew isn't much bigger than yours. Preferably smaller, but
just about the same is good enough if you can handle a sword. Here's a few
ways to get there:

- Pick the right ship for the job. Different players have different
preferences, but the choice is mostly between Sloop, Brig and Frigate types.
Sloops are fast and small, and perfect for running circles around an enemy.
Frigates have a lot of firepower and can stand more punishment, as well as
carry more men so that you can usually go straight for a ram and don't have to
weaken your enemies first. Brigs strike a good balance between the two. In each
class, you're best off with the largest ship within it (Royal Sloop, Brig of
War, Ship of the Line), but every type is servicable. Avoid using other types
of ships for battle; only the combat galleon types (Fast/War/Flag Galleon) are
somewhat suitable, and they are too slow and cumbersomem to engage anything

- Use round shot at long range to knock out enemy cannons and do damage to all
other parts of the ship. Be careful not to overdo it, especially against a
small ship. A Large Frigate or Ship of the Line can sink a Barque-sized or
smaller ship with ONE broadside if it's a particularly good shot.

- At medium range, use chain shot to destroy the enemy's rigging. This will
slow them down and make them much easier to catch. If you destroy an enemy's
riggine entirely (you'll heard their ship groan and ground to a halt if you
do), most enemies will surrender even if they still have a good supply of
cannons and active crew. Of course, if you intend to keep the ship, you
probably don't want to leave it entirely without sails.

- At short range, grape shot works wonders in reducing enemy crew while
leaving the ship almost untouched. This is *the* way to prepare for an
imminent boarding; be careful not to actually touch the ship before you are
ready to board it. They *will* try to board you before you can hit them with
grape shot too often.

- The speed with which your cannons load is directly dependent on the size of
your crew, their morale (happy crews load faster) and the presence of a Gunner
specialist on your ship. Range of your shots is increased by the Fine Shot
Powder upgrade. Accuracy is increased by the Bronze Cannon upgrade and by
picking the Gunnery skill for yourself.

- While it's easier to hit the enemy along the sides of his ships, a shot
that "grazes" over a ship front to aft or aft to front does more damage. Keep
this in mind for yourself as well: heading straight for your enemy through
their broadsides is not usually a good idea. You can get away with it on low
levels but you'll get slaughtered on Swashbuckler.

- If you have a lot of cannons, you can fire a "mixed shot" by switching to
a different type of ammo just after firing. Your fire will come out in two
bursts, and the second will be of the type you switched to. I haven't found
much practical use for it, but the option is there. One player suggested using
this when you are using a Ship of the Line or another heavily armed ship
against a small target: start with round fire, then switch to grape shot to
make half of your cannonballs fall short. Helps to keep you from accidentally
sinking your target.

- To dodge enemy fire at long range, sail in whichever direction is fastest
due to the wind; even if that's straight away from your enemy. The shot is
aimed at the position you were in when it was fired, so if you're no longer
there when it lands, you're safe. At short range, keep maneuvering to stay
away from the enemy's sides. If you're a smaller ship, you'll be able to keep
out of its sights and pummel it with your own broadsides.

In terms of sailing, there's a few things to be aware of:

- You are, of course, much faster running before the wind than going against
it. You are also more maneuverable, which is new since Pirates and Pirates
Gold. Turning into the wind is slow and cumbersome and sometimes you might not
even manage it at all; you just get blown back. Turn *away* from the wind
whenever you can.

- If you need to catch an enemy that is upwind, zig zag against the wind, don't
sail straight. Note that smaller ships are better at sailing against the wind
than larger ones. In other words, to outrun a smaller vessel, try to be upwind;
to outrun a larger one, try to be downwind. "Outrunning" in this case can be
read either as trying to catch up or trying to flee.

- You can pick out your starting position relative to the enemy on the world
map. When you initiate a battle, your positions will be the same as they were
on the map. Use this to your advantage; for instance if you want to be upwind
from your enemy, maneuver to the east of his ship before you start combat. If
you're attacking an escorted ship, you might want to move in behind it so you
can grab it before the escort can turn around to engage you. Works very well if
it's something slow like a War Galleon.

A naval battle can end in the following ways:

1. Retreat: the distance between the ships becomes so great that they lose
sight of each other. How big this distance is depends on the time of day: it's
easier to lose each other at night. If this occurs, the battle ends and the
enemy ship disappears off the map; it has either gotten away or been shaken
off, depending on your perspective. If you've damaged the enemy ship at all,
you are said to have "engaged" it, which appears in your log and earns you a
happiness point with the enemies of the ship's nation. Otherwise you gain

2. Boarding: if you ram the enemy ship or they ram you, and the enemy is not
so low on morale that they'll surrender, a sword fight ensues (see paragraph
6.2) that'll decide the outcome.

3. Sunk: if either ship takes on 100% hull damage - which basically only
happens with round shot - that ship will sink. If it's the enemy, the battle
is concluded, and you gain no plunder. You do gain one or two happiness points
with the enemies of the ship's nation, depending on if it's a merchant or a
warship you sunk. Your benefactors don't care if you sink or capture your
enemies; but you are likely interested in loot, so sinking enemies is rarely
your objective.

If you're the unlucky sod to be sunk, you are transferred to another ship. You
lose whatever cargo/crew you can't carry anymore on the remainder of your
ships, and you lose a portion of your gold depending on how many other ships
you have. If you don't have other ships anymore, you are marooned and will
spend some time on a deserted island waiting to be rescued. Your loot, of
course, is gone.

4. Surrender: an enemy ship may surrender to you if you sail close to it and
they know they can neither win nor escape. Sometimes, you actually have to
board them before they make this decision. Either way, the ship is yours
without a fight; the swordfighting sequence is skipped.

In a fight that involves escort ships as well, things work slightly

- If the escorted ship gets out of range, the battle ends in 'retreat' even
if you are still engaged with the escort ship. The ships do not disappear from
the world map, but they do appear some distance away from you and you'll need
to catch up if you want to fight them again.

- If the escorted ship is sunk or boarded, or it surrenders, the battle ends,
and (after the sword fight if applicable) you are returned to the world map.
The escort ship now becomes an independent warship which may decide to chase
you or flee to the nearest port. You can then engage it separately if you wish.

- The battle continues if the escort ship is sunk or if you board it (after the
sword fight). Escort ships never surrender. Victories against escort ships are
not noted on your record and do not get you any happiness points, unless you
engage them separately after taking the escorted ship.

For the most part, avoiding the escort ship is the best thing to do. You can
always engage it afterwards if you like, and that way you *do* get credit for
it. Escort ships aren't always easy to avoid, though, especially since they
think nothing of sailing straight *through* the ship they're escorting to get
to you.


Of all the minigames in Sid Meier's Pirates, this is the one you'll see the
most often. Many naval battles end in boarding action and an accompanying
sword fight, and you'll need to draw steel in many other scenarios as well.
Sword fights can occur in the following cases:

- You board an enemy ship (or they board you) and the enemy does not decide to
surrender without a fight;

- You decide to teach the annoying captain of the guard some manners when he
is bothering the barmaid;

- You track down a fugitive criminal to the tavern of the town he is hiding in;

- You decide to fight a duel against the fiance of a governor's daughter you
are trying to charm;

- You attack a town with such an overwhelming force that your men can storm the
fort unchallenged;

- You track down Marquis de la Montalban to his hideout and fight your final
battle against him.

Ship battles are the most common, and the most interesting because the fight
between your crew and the enemy's plays a big factor in the fight. When
attacking a town with an overwhelming force, this factor is present as well,
but you can barely lose those fights anyway (they wouldn't happen if you
weren't badly outmatching the enemy to begin with). In all other fights, it's
just you against the enemy without anybody else influencing the fight.

In a sword fight, your opponent and you start in the middle of whatever area
you are fighting in, and you both have the objective to drive back the other to
their end. This is done by scoring hits on the enemy while not getting hit in
return. The first one to get his back driven against the wall - or whatever
else, depending on the area - loses the battle, with various consequences.

You have the following moves available during battle:

7: high chop. A fairly slow attack that drives the enemy back 2 steps if it
connects, or 1 step if it is parried. No damage if the enemy ducks under it,
and in fact, you'll be overbalanced for a moment if he does.

1: low slash. Just like the high chop, it drives back the enemy 2 steps if it
hits and 1 if it is parried, but it can also be jumped over. In that case
you'll be overbalanced for a while.

4: thrust. A quicker attack than the high chop and the low slash, but it only
drives back the enemy 1 step. If it's parried it has no effect at all. You
will be overbalanced for a short while but not as bad as with the stronger,
slower attacks. You may be able to hit an enemy with a thrust while they're
preparing a high chop or low slash, cancelling their attack and driving them
back. If you and your enemy thrust at the same time, you usually end up
parrying each other with no ill effect to either side.

8: jump. Used to jump over an enemy low slash. Successfully jumping over one
will usually give you the time to counterattack.

2: duck. Used to avoid a high chop. If you pull this off you'll usually have
the time for a counterattack.

5: parry. Used to stop thrusts, or to reduce the damage for a high chop or low
slash. It's better to avoid the latter two when you can though, as parrying
them merely softens the blow and does not give you time for a counterattack

6: taunt. This does not drive back the enemy, but it does swing the advantage
bar in your favour (see below). It's best only to do this instead of an
attack while the enemy is overbalanced, or you'll likely get hit while you
are busy making fun of him.

Winning a battle is theoretically as simple as avoiding your enemies' attacks
and countering with your own. In practice, it's made a little more complicated
by the advantage bar. This red & white bar at the bottom of the screen changes
as the battle develops to shift advantage to either you or your opponent, and
directly affects the speed at which you both move. If you have the advantage,
your opponent becomes slow and easy to predict. If your opponent has the
advantage, he'll unleash a flurry of blows upon you and you'll have a hard time
just fending them off, let alone countering. The advantage bar is affected by
the following:

- Every time you dodge a blow or parry a thrust (and only a thrust), advantage
shifts to you. If your enemy likewise avoids your attacks, advantage shifts to

- If either side taunts the other, advantage shifts to them. This bonus is
nullified if they take a hit during a poorly timed taunt.

- If either side loses part of their crew, advantage shifts away from them.

- Advantage generally moves toward the neutral position if nothing happens.
Howevever, it will tend to stay on the side with the biggest crew.

The last two points aren't a factor if there's no crew in the battle, but in
most cases there will be. This is why having a larger crew than your enemy is
very important on higher levels. It will cause advantage to stay on your side
for the most part, and it will also increase the chance that your enemy loses
crew rather than you, further keeping the battle on your side.

On Swashbuckler level in particular, losing advantage is a very dangerous thing
to happen. It's possible for your enemy to become so fast that he can no longer
be hit, and/or that his attacks become impossible to properly avoid. If this
happens, it takes luck and iron will to shift the battle back in your favour.
Usually when things start to go wrong, you're doomed. On lower levels,
advantage is a far lesser concern as you'll still be faster than your enemy
even if he has the advantage. The difference between difficulty levels is
more pronounced in swordfighting than in any other aspect of the game.

On Apprentice level, you'll find that almost anything goes in sword battles.
You can just randomly attack and usually connect. Enemies are driven back
quickly and defeated before you know it. You can completely ignore the
advantage bar and come out of virtually any battle as a victor, even if your
crew is much smaller than the enemy's.

Starting on Journeyman, that approach won't work anymore. Enemies will block
and dodge random attacks, and if advantage shifts away from you, you'll feel
it. Better tactics are needed and the higher the level, the more you have to
stick with them.

First off, you need to choose a weapon for each battle if you're playing on
any level other than Apprentice. Your choice is between:

RAPIER: faster attacks but slower defense.
LONGSWORD: balanced for attack and defense.
CUTLASS: slower attacks but faster defense.

In the previous Pirates games, there was a difference in damage and range
between the weapons; one effect of this was that the Rapier was nearly always
the best choice. This is no longer the case. Weapons are now largely a matter
of personal preference, and on higher levels it is especially important to
pick what suits your style best. Most players seem to agree that the Rapier is
suitable for low levels and you should stick with the Cutlass on the higher

When you're in battle, it's best to wait for the enemy to attack; he won't
make you wait for long. Identify the style of attack, then press the right
button in response. Jump over low attacks, duck under high ones, and parry
thrusts. It *will* take you a few battles to get the hang of this, but you'll
learn soon enough. How much time you have to dodge depends on the level. Don't
worry about dodging too early; your character will hold position until the
enemy attack goes past. Even if that means hovering in the air for a few
seconds after jumping.

If you press the wrong button in response to an enemy's attack, don't panic.
Quickly press the right button and your character will correct himself
accordingly. As long as you do it before the enemy's attack connects, you can
still dodge or parry even if you started off incorrectly.

When the enemy's attack is past, you can strike back. You don't have to wait
for your character to return to neutral position; the attack is initated as
soon as you hit the button. So if you're still hanging in the air and press
attack, your character will instantly be back on the ground to strike his blow.
On the higher levels you *must* take advantage of this if you want to place
any hits. Do be careful not to press the button too quickly; if your enemy
is still attacking you might get hit after all.

For the most part, you want to counter with chops and slashes for better
damage. However, a thrust is quick and can sometimes hit where the other two
can't. Consider using it if your opponent is particularly fast (due to his
skill and possibly advantage on his side), especially if you're fighting with
a Cutlass. Much better to hit with a thrust than to miss with a slower attack.
On Swashbuckler you may want to stick with thrusts entirely unless you are
brave enough to use the Rapier.

You'll need to keep an eye on the advantage meter while fighting, especially on
the higher levels. If you let it shift to the enemy he will soon become so fast
that you can't fight him properly anymore. If this happens, dodge or parry his
next attack, and then taunt instead of attacking. This will shift advantage
back to you. Now dodge his next attack and start countering again.

If you're still having trouble after all this, keep the following in mind:

- If you are having trouble getting your attacks in quickly enough, switch to
a faster offensive weapon. Rapier is best for this, though I find it dangerous
to use on higher levels. Your mileage may vary.

- If you are having trouble defending quickly enough, make sure you are using
the cutlass. It helps immensely. The only possible disadvantage is having to
do more thrusts instead of chops and slashes, but thrusts win battles too as
long as you don't get hit.

- When deciding to either thrust or chop/slash as a counterattack, keep your
opponent's weapon in mind as well. If he's using a cutlass, you'll find his
attacks easy to dodge but he'll block your counters just as easily. But if he
uses a rapier, mercilessly counter with chops and slashes as he can't defend
nearly as quickly.

- If your opponent is slow you can sometimes hit him with a quick thrust while
he is setting up a slash or a chop. Keep this in mind especially if you are
using the Rapier, which is slow on the defense but can thrust very well.

- You *will* get in trouble if you ignore advantage. Keep it on your side.
You may not be able to do this if you consistently attack opponents with more
men on board than you have, so pick your battles wisely. Many sword fights are
lost not because your reflexes aren't up to it, but because you insisted on
fighting that pirate hunter with only 20 men on your Sloop. Keep your crew up
and avoid spreading them across too many captured ships (particularly damaged
ones). Compare crew sizes before you engage in a battle.

- Balanced swords and fencing shirts help improve your character's battle
speed. Get these items off governor's daughters or mysterious travellers. They
are especially important on higher difficulty levels. Also, getting armor
helps; the leather vest will sometimes deflect blows for you if you failed to
dodge or block them, and the metal cuiraiss will do this even more often.

- Skill at Fencing is a good choice on higher difficulty levels. It will speed
up your character considerably and make a loss of advantage a lot less

- If you react particularly quickly to an enemy attack, your character will do
a flourish and counterattack automatically. This is mostly luck, but the
chance increases quite a bit if you've picked skill at Fencing. Your opponents
will do the same to you if you attack randomly, however; this is why you should
rely on counterattacks only once you move beyond Apprentice.

- Be aware of the effect of your health on fencing. Your character will become
slower with age whenever his health category drops a notch. Try to offset this
with items to either make you quicker or to hold off the effects of aging, but
most importantly, know when it's time to retire. You will eventually get too
old to fight properly.

Unlike in the previous Pirates games, you cannot flee from a sword fight. The
possible outcomes are therefore win or lose. A battle can be won in two ways:

- One fencer drives the opponent to the edge of the area;
- In ship/fort battles only: one side runs out of crew and then takes another
hit, forcing surrender.

If you go into battle with small crews, be very aware of that second possible
outcome. If you run out of crew you *can* still win, but you can't afford to
take a single hit.

What happens if you win or lose a battle depends on the setting.

- If you win a ship battle, you'll automatically plunder their gold, and get to
keep their cargo and their ship if you desire. If there is a specialist on
board you don't yet have, he'll be added to your crew automatically. You may
get the option to recruit additional crew from the enemy ship, and you may
get information on the location of a villain if he was spotted in a city near
where the battle took place.

- If you lose a ship battle, your flagship is lost, along with a portion of
your gold, and any excess cargo/crew your remaining ships can't carry. You will
escape to one of your other ships. However, if it was your last ship, *or* if
you are forced to surrender by running out of crew, you will not be able to
escape. You are imprisoned in the nearest town if the enemy ship belonged to
one of the four European nations, or marooned if you were defeated by a pirate.

- If you win a fort battle, you get to plunder the town. If you somehow manage
to lose one (shame on you, they're easy!), you get captured.

- If you lose against a fiance, you won't be getting that governor's daughter.
If you lose against an annoying captain of the guard, no ill effects occur
except that you can forget about recruiting in that town for the time being.
If you lose against a fugitive criminal, they will escape and never be seen
again. I haven't yet tried out what happens if Montalban defeats you in his


Land battles usually occur when you decide to attack a town. In a turn based
strategy minigame, you move your pirate units across the map, trying to
outmaneuver and defeat the defenders. You win either by routing all defending
units or by reaching the gates of the city with one of your units. You lose if
all your units are routed.

In order to attack a town, you must do either of two things:

- Beach your ship some distance away from the town and march inside; pick the
option to attack the town when it is presented.
- Sail into a hostile town which opens fire on you as you try to enter, then
pick the option to attack.

The latter only works if the town opens fire on you; otherwise, you will just
sail inside peacefully and never get the option to attack. For this reason, it
is usually easier to use the former method. If you can't or don't want to, the
best way to piss off a town enough to get fired upon is either to get a price
placed on your head by its nation (just keep attacking them), or to get an
individual grudge from the town. To do the latter, attacking ships coming in
and going out of the town, and press the space bar a couple of times to bombard
its fort with your cannons while on the world map. Especially on the higher
levels, their patience runs thin, and you'll soon be able to attack them from

In terms of how the minigame works, it doesn't matter which approach you take.
Either results in a land-based battle. The approach in which you have to
maneuever your ship toward the fort while dodging its fire, popular in the
last two Pirates games, is gone.

When a battle starts, your crew and the enemy soldiers are divided up into a
number of units varying between 6 and 9. You get one unit of officers (elite
melee), and a number of pirate (melee) and buccanneer (ranged) units. These
numbers are always equal, or have 1 more of pirates. So at the least you'll
have 1 officers, 3 pirates and 2 buccanneers, and at the most 1 officers and 4
each of pirates and buccanneers. How your units are divided up depends on how
many men you have compared to the enemy. The game always strives to make the
units on both sides roughly as big, so if you outnumber the enemy you tend to
have a lot of different units to work with.

You can't choose how your units are divided up, but you can choose their
starting position - sort of. When the battle starts, you can click 'change
start location' to cycle through three different ones, and pick whichever one
you think is best. The enemy units are placed after yours, and you get the
first turn.

Each turn you get the option to move your units and attack enemies. When all
your units have moved, the opponent does the same. The battle continues until
either side runs out of units, or one of your units reaches the city gates.

Be sure to read the manual section on land battles before you do any. This is
the most complex minigame in terms of strategy and controls, so it's good to
know the basics. Here are some tips on getting the most out of your land

- Buccaneers are weak in close combat and should never be exposed to it.
Maneuver your pirate units such that no enemy can ever engage your buccaneers
in melee.

- Buccaneers can shoot *from* a forested square no problem and they can also
shoot *at* an enemy in a forest, though damage is halved. However, they cannot
shoot *through* a forested square even if you can see the enemy. The same
restriction applies to all your ranged enemies. Shooting through friendly units
and rough terrain is no problem at all. In fact, just behind an impassible
rough terrain square is one of the best places for a buccaneer unit to be.

- Enemies can be routed before the unit is destroyed by hitting them with one
attack after another. This way, your buccaneers can defeat an enemy even if
it's hiding in a forest, but you'll need to concentrate your attacks on one
unit. Morale will drop to angry, then wavering, and finally panic, and at that
point the next attack automatically defeats the unit regardless of how many men
are left in it.

- The single best way to beat any enemy unit is to flank it. If you attack from
either of the sides or one of the three rear squares (so anywhere except from
the three in front), your attack rating is doubled. This practically guarantees
a win under all but the worst circumstances.

- Infantry units have 2 moves, cavalry has 3. However, when either type of unit
moves into a forest square, their turn ends. Indian units are the exception -
they are therefore the only ones who can move into a forest and then
immediately move again. Be aware of this advantage as they *will* use it to
launch surprise attacks against your weak buccaneers, if you let them.

- If a unit's first move is attacking an enemy unit, it may or may not be able
to move again. This depends on how easily the battle is won. If it's a close
call, it takes them the entire turn to do it. If you waltz over the enemy you
get another move, assuming the enemy was not in a forest.

- Enemy units will usually opt to shoot rather than engage in melee, unless
they spot a weakened melee unit or can reach a buccaneer unit. Because of this,
there's something to be said for *always* ending your turn in a forest square.

- When enemies are in range of both your pirates and buccaneers, have your
buccaneers soften up the enemy before you let your pirates have their turn.
Use "skip turn" (SHIFT-7) liberally to let your units act in the order you
want them to.

- Enemy cavalry is very dangerous in the open field, especially if they're
attacking. Don't let them catch any of your units, not even your powerful
officers, out of a forest. If they attack you while you're in a forest their
attack is greatly reduced and you can probably beat them off. If you can hit
*them* while they're in a forest, you will slaughter them. If they don't let
you lure them into a forest, shoot 'em from a distance with buccaneers or set
up a flank attack.

- Artillery is bad news. Not much to do except charge it with several units and
engage it in melee as soon as possible. Try to approach it through the edge of
a forest; move out of the forest and closer to the artillery, then back into
the forest with your second move. This lets you advance at top speed without
exposing yourself too much to its return fire.

- If you can reach the gates of the town without finishing your enemies, do so
unless you can wipe them all out the same turn. You might get a little less
gold and not wipe out as many enemies this way, but nothing stops you from
attacking the same town a second time right afterwards to get the rest; and if
you've done well, this time you'll be facing a much smaller garrison.

- If an enemy is too powerful for you, you can bring more men; but you can
also convince indians and pirates in nearby villages/havens to attack the
target and soften it up for you. Indians are preferred because they don't
plunder the place even if their attack succeeds. Using pirates introduces the
risk that they succeed and take all the gold before you can; use them only to
soften up a powerful target they can't handle. This kind of preparation can be
the difference between facing artillery or not, so give it some serious

A land battle can end in three ways.

- If one of your units reaches the gates of the city, you win the battle and
the sack commerces. You'll get an amount of plunder based on how many of the
enemies you managed to defeat, and how wealthy the port is. If your force was
particularly overwhelming, you will also get the option to install a new
governor, thus switching the town's nationality.

- If you rout all enemy units, you win the battle. You get the maximum amount
of plunder and a bigger chance that you're allowed to replace the governor,
though that still depends on how overwhelming your force was.

- If all your units are routed, you and the other survivors (not every unit
that falls in a land battle is killed, per s

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