This walkthrough was originally written for Sid Meier's Pirates!
on the PC, but the walkthrough is still applicable to the iPhone version of the game.
= SID MEIER'S PIRATES =
* LIVE THE LIFE *
= PC VERSION =
* FAQ / STRATEGY GUIDE *
Date: 12 May 2008
This document is a copyright of Peter "Sashanan" Butter, 2005-2008. All
rights reserved. (Arr.)
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You are not authorized to upload this FAQ on a commercial website and/or
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This FAQ is protected by international copyright laws and failure to
comply with the terms in this disclaimer will result in legal prosecution.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
 Character creation
[4.1] Crew and recruiting
[4.2] Crew happiness
[4.3] Gold and plunder
[4.4] Ranks and promotions
[4.5] Ships to use
[4.6] Overall strategy/walkthrough
[5.1] Naval battles
[5.3] Land battles
[6.2] Named pirates
[6.3] Pirate treasures
[6.4] Lost family members
[6.5] Lost cities
[6.6] Marquis de la Montalban
[6.8] Treasure Fleet
 Reference lists
[7.2] Ship missions
[7.3] Ship upgrades
[7.4] Crew specialists
[7.5] Special items
[7.6] Ranks and benefits
[7.7] Fame points
[7.8] Retirement jobs
[7.9] Crew happiness calculation
 Frequently asked questions
[9.2] Weird things
 Version comparisons
[10.1] New since Pirates and Pirates Gold
[10.2] XBox/PSP version differences
 Revision history
 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.
This FAQ was written with the PC version of Sid Meier's Pirates in mind, and
reflects the changes made in the v1.0.2 patch. The XBox and PSP versions of the
game, while very similar, have some differences; if you're playing either,
you'll find that not all the info in this guide applies to your version of the
game. I've noted what differences I know of between the versions in paragraph
10.2, but I don’t have access to these versions of the game myself. I’ve had
to rely on information I've been able to find online or get from other players.
Veterans of either or both of the previous Pirates games - the original Sid
Meier's Pirates and Pirates Gold - may want to read paragraph 10.1 which gives
a quick overview of the differences between the new game and the old ones.
Although I consider this FAQ completed, future updates based on new insights or
useful reader input are not ruled out. The latest version of this guide
can always be found on GameFAQs (www.gamefaqs.com), so be sure to check there
if you got this guide anywhere else. Might just be an updated version waiting
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 la
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
buying and selling goods, plundering and capturing ships, sacking towns, and
getting to work on a variety of quests including hunting down other famous
pirates, rescuing missing family members, finding treasure and lost cities,
and getting your revenge on the evil Marquis.
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.
Version 1.4 of this guide introduced a section on overall game strategy,
containing my thoughts on how to best get to the maximum fame score of 126.
This being an open-ended game, there are, of course, many other ways to get
there. You'll find the new information in paragraph 4.6.
 CHARACTER CREATION
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:
- Apprentice level has a lot of tutorial messages and visual hints during
minigames that you don't get on any other levels. This goes as far as governors
offering you a free training session with their swordmaster if you lose a sword
fight on this level.
- Enemies, on the whole, strike more quickly in sword fights on higher levels.
It varies per enemy and depends on the advantage bar as well, but in general
you can expect harder fights on higher levels.
- Enemy AI in naval battles improves on higher levels, and the enemy is capable
of quicker turns and sailing. You'll find enemies circle or escape you much
more easily on higher levels. In addition, on Apprentice, the top speed of your
ship is two knots higher than its normal maximum; on Journeyman, one knot. On
Adventurer both you and the enemy are limited by the normal max speeds for your
ships, and on Rogue and Swashbuckler they get the advantage by one or two
knots. This seriously impacts your ability to catch smaller ships on the
highest levels as they can reach impossible speeds.
- The damage dealt by your cannons and those of the enemy is dependent on
level. On lower levels, you'll do a lot of damage while enemy cannons barely
faze you. On higher levels, it will be the other way around.
- Your crew will remain happy for longer on lower levels (see paragraph 4.2).
- You require less map pieces for the various map quests on lower levels. Often
you will receive several at once instead of one corner at a time.
- On higher levels, dance sequences contain more complex move combinations and
there are also more different music styles; some quicker, others having a
- You tend to lose more crew in naval and land battles on higher levels,
making it harder to keep your crew at a decent size. On the highest levels,
there's a real risk of running out of recruits in friendly ports, especially
when starting out.
- The camera zooms in farther on your party during treasure hunting sequences
on higher levels, giving you less of an overview of your surroundings. You'll
need to get closer to landmarks or your target before you can see them.
- Guards are more numerous during sneaking sequences on higher levels, making
it harder to remain unseen. The size of the town garrison appears to be a
factor in this as well.
- Nations are much more forgiving to pirates on lower levels. The higher the
level, the more likely you are to get a reward on your head and pirate hunters
after you if you attack a nation's shipping or towns.
- Opposition on miniquests (such as escorting a new governor) is stiffer on
higher levels. On lower levels, a single privateer is spawned to thwart you,
but on higher levels, it’ll be two and on Swashbuckler, three.
- The wind is less predictable on higher levels, and harder to sail against.
On Apprentice, the wind is *always* straight west. On higher levels, it changes
much more, though it will still tend toward west.
- On higher levels, information on towns on your map does not stay up to date
- On the lowest levels, when you start the game, an enemy trade ship will spawn
just outside of the first port after you talk to the governor, for an easy
first target. On higher levels, the governor will instead let you know that
he's sending a warship to blockade an enemy port, and suggest you tag along to
bag a few prizes.
There are also two advantages to selecting a higher level (apart from making
the game more challenging):
- 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. Share is as follows:
LEVEL SHARE SIZE
- If you play on Apprentice, you are not allowed to select a different era than
1660 (which is, incidentally, the easiest one).
The transition from Rogue to Swashbuckler level in particular is a difficult
one. At this point, smaller ships become particularly hard to catch because
their speed bonus and your penalty now put you 4 knots apart, hard to
compensate for. More importantly, at this point rapier-armed enemies in sword
battles may become impossibly fast if the advantage bar swings their way.
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 your character quicker in sword fights, both on the attack and the
defense. All moves can be pulled off quicker. This skill 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. Especially on the higher levels this
might be your best bet, especially once your character's swordplay slows down
because of old age. On Swashbuckler level, I go with this one without question.
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
action. It is my personal favorite for most levels as I hate having to crawl
back to the east, but on Swashbuckler I cannot go without fencing skill.
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.
WIT AND CHARM
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 important
consideration. Like the dancing items, this skill gives you a set percentage
to avoid stumbling when you input an incorrect move. It does not appear to
protect you if you fail to input a move at all (which the dancing items do).
While the scope of this skill is limited, it does make a difficult but very
rewarding (in terms of items and information) minigame considerably easier. As
such, you may find Wit and Charm every bit as useful as the more direct special
Additionally, Wit and Charm has been reported to lower the minimum rank
requirements for getting invited to the ball by an attractive or beautiful
governor’s daughter (normally Colonel and Baron respectively). I haven’t been
able to confirm this yet.
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.
You'll be able to start new expeditions for longer, and hold off the ill
effects of age for longer as well. The difference is significant but not earth
shattering; expect to get about 4 more years out of your pirate.
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
- 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
around. On the other hand, Spain is richer in the earlier eras; you can
definitely become a very rich man in the 1600s, but you won't have nearly as
many ports to run off to for repairs (and you likely won't have any good places
to sell off captured cargo).
- 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. In 1660, this is
always a Sloop, but in the other eras your starting ship changes depending on
the nation you choose. Check just below in the 'starting ship' subsection for
the whole list.
- 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 (assuming the 1660 era):
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. The English and
French don't have any ports near the Spanish Main, so Curacao is actually an
important advantage. If you decide to side with the Dutch, you might find it a
good idea to stay friendly with either 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. Port Royale is a good place to have on your side, one way or
The English 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
and Gibraltar. One disadvantage of the English is that Barbados, the best place
to sell goods for high prices, is somewhat remote. But Port Royale is nice and
central, there's a bunch of ports huddled together on the east side of the map
(perfect for recruiting) and a few desolate havens in the far north.
Like the English, they have a good presence in different parts of the
Caribbean. No less than four ports are available just to the east of Jamaica
(where Port Royale is), and south of the Dutch and English presence in the east
you'll find three
French ports in a row. To the north, Florida Keys is nicely situated for raids
on Havana and further west. The Spanish Main itself, however, has no French
ports anywhere near it. 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
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. A favorite approach of mine is to leave
working for Spain (to achieve Duke rank with them) for last, and win their
favour mostly by recapturing ports I took from them earlier in the game.
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
challenge. I've included a 'suitability' column for a quick idea of which ships
are viable for piracy and which aren't.
Starting ships based on era and nationality are as follows:
ERA NATIONALITY STARTING SHIP SUITABILITY
1600 Dutch Fluyt very low (1)
1600 English Merchantman medium
1600 French Sloop high
1600 Spanish Pinnace medium
1620 Dutch Brig very high (2)
1620 English Brigantine high
1620 French Barque low
1620 Spanish Pinnace medium
1640 Dutch Brigantine high
1640 English Sloop high
1640 French Pinnace medium
1640 Spanish Mail Runner very high (3)
1660 Dutch Sloop high
1660 English Sloop high
1660 French Sloop high
1660 Spanish Sloop high
1680 Dutch Sloop of War very high
1680 English Sloop of War very high
1680 French Brigantine high
1680 Spanish Fast Galleon low (4)
1: there's something very sadistic about having to start with the single worst
ship in the game for piracy purposes. Capture something slightly better, but
easy to catch to start out with; a Merchantman, perhaps, preferably a
Brigantine. Then use that to get something even better. Trying to capture a
Sloop or something with the Fluyt is pointless unless you're playing on a low
level; you'll never catch it.
2: this is one of the best starting ships in the game. Brigs are very
powerful and well balanced.
3: excellent ship, but for experts only. Its strength comes from its awesome
speed and agility, but it can't carry a lot of crew or guns. You'll come to
appreciate this kind of ship as you get better at ship and sword combat, and
play the higher levels. Also, since the Mail Runner is one of the toughest
ships to find in the game, starting with one is a tempting offer indeed.
4: while the Fast Galleon is a combat ship, it's pretty slow, worth it only for
its high gun count and max crew. Neither of which you will have early in the
game, and its inability to catch smaller ships on high levels will likely
infuriate you. On Rogue or Swashbuckler, you'd need to capture a Merchantman or
something to have a shot at getting a Brig or a Sloop next.
This section describes overall gameplay strategies, not specifically related
to any of the minigames. For those, refer to section 5.
[4.1] CREW AND RECRUITING
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 appear to be lost more easily 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
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 the following
- your rank with the nation in question; Captains receive a bonus to
recruiting, and Barons receive an even bigger one.
- the wealth of the town (richer towns have more job opportunities and thus
less people looking for a captain to sail with).
- the size of the town (bigger towns yield more recruits).
- whether or not you have recruited here before recently (new recruits take
time to amass).
- the happiness of your current crew (you get less new recruits if your
crew morale is already low).
- your reputation for having profitable voyages. Basically, if this isn't
your first expedition in this game, the crew share of your past voyages
will apply a positive or negative bonus to all recruiting. I have no
details on this, but the manual mentions it and it does feel like it makes
a difference; I’m never short of recruits after having divided up a good
amount of plunder once before.
- Recruiting 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
battle, but if you need to get more men you're generally better off finding
them on shore.
- Sailors picked up after they’ve been thrown overboard in battle by cannon
impacts. Such sailors are added directly to your crew for the duration of the
battle, but it seems like only half of them stay on afterward. The impact on
your game is usually negligible.
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. Also, if you should ever have so many (damaged) ships and
so little crew that you cannot meet the minimum staffing on all your ships,
your fleet's speed is reduced. That's a good time to limp to the nearest port,
or if none are in sight, to let go of some of your most damaged prizes.
Crew can be 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. In land
battles, this is particularly noticeable. In ship battles, you only seem to get
wounded men back after the battle if you have a Surgeon. Surgeons,
incidentally, cut permanent casualties in half.
[4.2] CREW HAPPINESS
Recruiting a crew is one thing; keeping them happy is a different story
entirely. Crew happiness is one of the most complicated (and, unfortunately,
obscure) calculations in the game. Courtesy of Wes Atkinson, I can finally
provide the full formula on this - see the details in paragraph 7.9. I will
summarize the findings here.
Crew happiness is primarily a factor of three things:
- the size of your crew;
- the size of the loot in your holds;
- how long your current expedition has lasted.
Basically, your crew happiness is determined by the amount of gold in your
holds divided by the size of your crew. Plus the longer you have been at sea,
the more gold your crew expects to see for their trouble when you finally
divide up the plunder. If your voyage is taking too long and you’re not
bringing in enough gold, your crew will become unhappy and eventually mutinous.
The share per crew member can, of course, be increased in two ways: either find
more gold, or reduce your crew size. Your crew doesn't care if you have 20000
gold to be divided up among 50 men, or 40000 among 100. It's the same to them.
Thus, losing crew in battle can boost happiness among the survivors as much as
plundering a fat target can.
Contrary to what I’ve stated in earlier versions of the guide, how much of the
share goes to you as a captain does *not* factor into this. On Swashbuckler
level, half the loot goes to you, leaving a lot less to be divided among the
crew than on Apprentice. But the crew does not seem to realize this – what
matters is the amount of gold in your hold, not how much is shown as each crew
member’s individual share when you (prepare to) divide up the plunder.
Apart from this basic calculation, there are other factors that impact the
happiness of your crew. Having the Cook specialist, as does having the 3-
Stringed Fiddle or even the Concertina. The Quartermaster is likewise supposed
to boost morale, but does not actually seem to do anything. The other three
effects will basically make your crew more forgiving, and let you get away
with longer voyages (or bigger crews) without loot to match.
But with or without them, 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 take over large cities. For the most part, I find
around 200 men sufficient for expeditions that don't involve attacking well
defended towns. Plenty to win even tough ship battles. If you maintain multiple
ships, you may need a few more to keep enough men on your flagship.
As you get better at ship battles and the usually ensuing sword fights
afterwards, you may find you can make do with even smaller crews and make it
that much easier to stay at sea for a long time without mutiny. How small a
crew you can risk will depend on your own skill level and the difficulty level
you've chosen. My personal preference for sailing a sole Royal Sloop on the
highest difficulty levels caps my crew at 187 (with Triple Hammocks), which is
usually enough but makes land battles tricky, and also means I’ll have to stop
for new recruits if I lose too many.
Since crew happiness becomes harder to maintain late in an expedition, you will
find it relatively easier to have a large crew during the early parts of a
voyage. If you have both city and ship attacks in mind, consider getting a
large crew quickly at the start of an expedition, plundering the fattest cities
in the Caribbean, then reducing your crew size and going after ships for a few
years before dividing up the plunder, after which you can repeat the cycle.
Crew reduction can be accomplished by deliberately losing men in battle, or by
selling so many ships that you're forced to leave some crew behind. Either
method gets rid of some crew while leaving the loot in your hold untouched.
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
halving 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
In the end, you'll find it harder and harder to keep your crew satisfied as
your expedition goes on. Usually, you will have to divide up the plunder
eventually, 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
1. You get to keep only one ship (so you'll have to sell off the rest, like it
2. You lose 7 months of game time starting your new expedition.
You also start with a small crew of 40 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. You'll have it right back up to size by visiting just a few
ports. 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 choice as one of the
ships has to go.
Most players prefer to stretch their expeditions for as long as possible to
minimize the downtime between expeditions. How far you can stretch is mostly
dependent on the difficulty level and, as mentioned before, the size of your
However, there is a cutoff point where, if your loot is especially big
compared to your crew size, your men will never become unhappy even if you
keep them at sea forever. This is due to the fact that after a certain amount
of time – varying per level but it’s roughly six and a half years – the crew’s
gold demands stop increasing. After you get past this point, adding on 10, 20,
even 30 more years does not reduce your crew’s happiness further. So if you
gather enough gold per crew member to keep them happy (or, at least, anything
better than mutinous), you can sail forever.
The exact calculation for the cutoff is described in paragraph 7.9, but the
rule of thumb is 1000 gold per crew member to keep your crew from sinking below
“unhappy”, and thus never becoming mutinous. Likewise, roughly 2000 will fix
them at content and roughly 3000 at happy. The obvious problem with this is
that 3000 per crew member is a lot, requiring you to either have stacks and
stacks of gold in your holds, or to have a very small crew. 1000, however, can
realistically be done by going after the most profitable quests in the game,
like getting revenge on Montalban and finding the Lost Cities. Montalban alone
provides enough gold to keep a crew of 100 sailing forever – add all four of
the Lost Cities and you could do the same with 300.
To take advantage of the above, you'll have to get used to sailing with a small
crew. I wouldn't worry about doing this until you're an experienced player -
having to divide up the plunder isn't THAT bad. But once you're at the level
where you want to minimize your downtime as much as possible, or if you
frequently make use of different ship types that you don't want to give up,
it's something to keep in mind. I find that on the higher difficulty levels, I
usually end up having to divide the plunder once about 5 years in, then for the
second expedition I nail Montalban after about as many years and never see a
CONSEQUENCES OF AN UNHAPPY CREW
Unfortunately, the manual isn't very clear on which aspects of the game are
affected by having an unhappy crew, and it's hard to tell in playing the game
exactly where happiness factors in. There's a few clear spots, but rumours fly
on forums about a host of other things it might or might not affect. Over time
I’ve come to believe that most of these are either untrue or have so little
impact that it’s hard to tell the difference. Nonetheless, I’ll list the
The following have been confirmed to be affected by crew happiness:
- If a crew becomes mutinous, some of them may abandon you while in port; they
do not appear to take any gold along if they do, though, so this is mostly
painless. However, if it has come to this, you'll find it hard to recruit new
crew anymore and should consider dividing up the plunder soon.
- At sea, only if you have more than one ship, mutinous crew may attempt to
depart with one of your other ships. If they do, they take more than their
fair share of cargo and gold along as well. You can, however, overtake and
recapture your mutineers to get your gold back. This kind of mutiny never
occurs on your flagship.
- If your current crew is unhappy with you, it becomes harder to get fresh
recruits. Eventually you may find it impossible to maintain a crew size you
can get anything done with.
- Unhappy crews are poorly motivated in ship battles, and will take noticeably
longer to reload your cannons, or raise and lower your sails. Crew morale is
also a factor in determining, during boardings, which side loses men every
couple of seconds. Unhappy crews get picked off far quicker during prolonged
The following have been *suggested* to be affected by crew morale, but I have
been unable to confirm them one way or the other (though they seem plausible
- Unhappy crews may perform poorly in land battles, although it must be noted
that the morale your units have within those battles is unaffected by crew
happiness. You'll never see units starting at 'angry' or worse even if your
crew is mutinous.
- Unhappy crews may cause your turning rate to drop in ship battles.
- Unhappy crews may cause your sailing speed to drop in and out of ship
[4.3] GOLD AND PLUNDER
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 in 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
also have little in the way of gold and goods, though there are exceptions. For
the most part, neither of these targets will be a good choice if it's gold you
are after, though both are advantageous for promotions (hunting Indians makes
you popular with all four nations, and warships will boost your reputation
quicker than trade vessels).
- Grain Transports usually have little gold, and only food on board. You can
safely ignore these if your crew is not close to starving and you're not
particularly interested in attacking ships of that specific nation for rank
- Regular merchant ships (the ones without any special label on them) tend to
have a decent amount of gold and cargo, sometimes low value (goods/sugar),
sometimes high value (luxuries/spice). Loot varies a lot on the small ship
types (Trade Galleon/Merchantman/Fluyt), but if you see a bigger ship in one
of those classes, it's usually bigger for a reason. They tend to have a good
supply of gold and cargo. Also, if any merchant ship has an escort, that's a
clear sign it has something worth protecting on board. Escorted ships rarely
disappoint, but obviously you do have to deal with the escort. Occasionally
you may find that it's the escort that carries the bulk of the gold.
- Smugglers tend to have nice cargo (a small load of Luxuries or Spice) and a
little gold as well. In addition, smugglers have a higher than usual chance
of having specialists on board. As an extra bonus, they tend to be easy
targets; only the lucky ones sailing Brigantines pose some threat. The main
problem with smugglers comes into play only on Rogue and Swashbuckler levels,
where small ships like Pinnaces become increasingly hard to catch.
- 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. If nothing else, it'll improve your reputation with all
four nations at once. They carry only gold and usually no decent goods.
- Ships carrying immigrants or transporting new governors tend to have a good
amount of gold; presumably the personal fortune of their passengers. Immigrant
ships have the added advantage that they have the best chance in the game of
carrying specialists. Both are fairly easy targets, too.
- Military payroll and treasure ships have good amounts of gold on board, easy
profit which doesn't require you to sell cargo first. Payroll ships tend to
have hard cash only; treasure ships often have a good load of Luxuries and
Spices in addition to it. The Treasure Fleet, if you can find it, consists of
several Treasure Galleons with a better amount of gold than normal, depending
on how far it was on its route when you grabbed it (see paragraph 6.8). Be
aware that both payroll carriers and treasure ships will usually be well
defended, so don't bite off more than you can chew. The Treasure Fleet is an
especially dangerous mark; if you attack one ship, you can expect a second
Treasure Galleon to jump in as an escort, both brandishing 30 guns. I’ve lost
more than one flagship in the crossfire.
- Named villains are always fat targets. Mendoza has 2000 gold, Raymondo 3000
and Montalban 5000, every time you capture their ship. If you spot one, take
them out immediately; but be wary, they're among the tougher targets.
- Named pirates have the best loot of all, especially the most famous ones.
Furthermore, their loot increases over the course of the game, as you get 10%
of what the Top 10 Pirates screen lists as the total amount of gold they’ve
plundered. 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, and up to 30000 if you capture him after 15 years or so in the game. Do
make sure you have what it takes to take these guys down, as the more notorious
pirates sail very powerful ships.
- 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. Usually the ships
that get pointed out like this are payroll carriers or treasure ships, but
occasionally it's a completely random ship (I've even gotten 1200 gold off an
Indian War Canoe after a barmaid told me to grab it). Long story short, 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, and sometimes you’ll be surprised at
what kind of mundane ships secretly carry an enormous treasure.
- Barmaids can also put you on the track of the Spanish Treasure Fleet, or you
can easily run into it by accident considering it stops by most of the big
Spanish ports. It can be tricky to defeat as all ships in it are well armed
and have large crews, but it's profitable if you're up to the task. Between
the gold they carry and the valuable cargo (depending on which part of the
journey they're on), you can usually make a couple thousand gold off each
- It appears that the overall wealth of all ships belonging to a nation is
directly affected by the power level of said nation. Spain's ships, in
particular the larger merchant vessels and the payroll carriers, always seem
to be richer than English and French ones, and those in turn seem to be richer
than Dutch ones. However, if you capture ports for a certain nation and have
them become more powerful, their ships seem to gain slowly as well.
This also appears to cause a weird calculation bug in the unpatched version of
the game, if a nation runs out of ports completely (due to you capturing them
all for other nations). Players have reported seeing ships with ridiculous
amounts of gold in them after they've taken out all ports of that nation, and
one player reported getting *negative* gold from a ship after this (which also
caused his game to crash directly after). This seems to have been fixed in most
cases by the v1.0.2 patch.
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.)
The size of the town is another factor. From what I can tell, the wealth of the
town (in terms of poor/prosperous etc.) is a relative indicator depending on
the size of the town. A big modest town might still have more gold among its
citizens than a small wealthy one. So, basically, pick a target that looks
profitable in all ways.
It appears that how long it takes you to grab a town – i.e. how quickly you
resolve the land battle – affects your eventual profit. If so, this is a
leftover of the previous Pirates games where you’d be informed the town had
been warned of your approach and hidden some (or most) of their gold while you
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. On lower
levels, information about a town sticks on your map for longer, whereas on the
higher levels you will have to rely much more on travellers and your own
visits to keep your map updated. Often you get information about a town just
by sailing close to it without actually having to enter. This will save you a
little (game) time, as every visit to a port takes a week.
- 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. Of course, if
you're confident about your ability to win land battles, feel free to go up
against superior numbers. The AI generally doesn't play these battles as well
as you can.
- 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). This
approach is not entirely without risk, however. If the attack in question
fails (likely if the garrison is bigger than about 300 soldiers, but never a
guarantee), the garrison will be thinned out and the town is otherwise not
harmed. If the attack succeeds, on the other hand, it's a different story. A
pirate attack will reduce the town's wealth rating to poor instantly, and a
successful Indian attack will scare off a sizable portion of the population.
Both are detrimental to the size of the loot you're going to get. In other
words, make use of Indians and pirates only if you don't care about the loot
size (perhaps you just want to capture the town?) or if the garrison is so big
that their chances of success are minimal. Unfortunately I don't have good
stats on that yet.
- 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 is possible to soften up a town with a coastal bombardment by pressing the
space bar repeatedly when you are close to it. However, if it's plunder you are
after, this is not a good idea. It will only damage the garrison slowly, and
do a lot more harm to the town's population and wealth rating. If you’re going
to do this at all (I don’t bother), reserve it for towns you intend to capture,
when you don't care about how much gold it'll earn you.
- 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. Towns will still gradually increase their garrison size if
their economy is in good shape, but without troop ships and payroll carriers
to help them, it's a slow process.
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. Prices won't be any higher, but at least you won't run the
merchant out of gold before you've unloaded even half your cargo.
- Bigger towns don't necessarily offer better prices, but they do tend to have
more gold in reserve. This is a bit of moot point, however, as you can sail
out of a port and right back in after you run the local merchant out of gold,
and he will have a fresh supply of it. The only thing this costs you is time
(which you might actually find significant; every town visit takes up a full
week of game time).
- 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 as you can 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 bulk, if you don’t mind the long walk.
- The False Mustache and Theatrical Disguise items often 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.
Typically if you can get into a Spanish port without being fired on, you can
probably trade there as well. The only exception I can think of is if you sack
a Spanish town and then visit the merchant before leaving – not exactly a good
time to get much profit out of your cargo.
- Goods and Sugar sell well in smaller ports. Spice and Luxuries fetch the best
prices in larger 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. You *can* do
the same thing as you can with ports and just sail out and back in to sell
more, but this is a very tedious process if you have to do it after every five
tons of cargo. Not to mention that this could take weeks, even months of game
time. Better to spend all those days attacking ships.
- For the most part, Spice and Luxuries are worth grabbing off captured ships,
and Goods and Sugar less so. They're a nice bonus if you have the room for it,
but they're not where the profit is. Excess food, similarly, can net you some
extra gold but nothing stellar.
- 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. You can take extras if you like in case you lose some
in combat, but as soon as you need the room for something else, ditch the
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, up to 1800 gold
for the bigger ships if they have a lot of upgrades. You can actually make a
decent profit just 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. Not to mention the fuss of actually bringing a heavily
damaged ship home.
- 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.
- If you can have a ship repaired for free (Count rank or higher), you do not
need to have your ship repaired before you sell it. The selling price is
automatically fixed to that of an undamaged ship, saving you a mouse click.
- 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) when 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. You may
find yourself swimming in these quests in the late game. See paragraph 6.1 for
- Finding a buried pirate treasure: between 2000 and 10000 gold. Talk to
travellers in taverns to get map pieces for this. See paragraph 6.3. for more
- Defeating a named pirate: depending on the notoriety of the pirate and how
long the game has run on, you get a sizable chunk of money off their ships.
They start with roughly as much money as their buried treasure (slightly less),
but their wealth increases over the course of the game as they plunder more
ships. You can easily get double or even triple the value of their buried
treasure if you only take them out many years after the start of the game. To
determine in advance how much you'll get for defeating a pirate, check their
plunder in the top 10 pirates list (updated monthly), and divide by ten.
- 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
6.5. 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 6.6. for the whole story.
[4.4] RANKS AND PROMOTIONS
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. This
works on a point system, where certain actions bring in a happiness point and
others 2 (possibly more) at once. You cannot look up the actual tallies, but
you can see when you scored points with a nation by calling up the captain’s
log and looking at the little nation flags next to certain actions like
attackin ships and towns. A little flag (with a [nation] happy tooltip)
indicates a happiness point, while a bigger flag (with a ‘very happy’ caption)
indicates at least two, and possibly more. The following actions will bring in
- Attack a ship belonging to a nation they are at war with; especially a
warship. Any ship will bring in a point, and it doesn't matter if you only
damage it, capture it or sink it. In the case of a warship, if you capture or
sink it, you’ll get two points. If you damage a ship but then let it get away,
it will be listed as “engaged a [ship type]” and still get you a point.
Occasionally you appear to get credit even if you didn’t fire on the ship at
all, but not always.
- Plunder a town belonging to a nation they are at war with; the attack must
succeed for it to count. This is worth at least 2 points.
- Capture a town for a nation. It doesn't matter if they're at war with the
one you captured it from or not. If they are, you get the bonuses for both the
sacking *and* the capture; they're cumulative. Once again, this is worth
- 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; you get a
point for stopping the ship *and* some points for taking out the named pirate.
- 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, even
if the nation in question is hostile to you.
Obviously, while attacking a nation's enemies will make that nation happy,
these 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 capturing both sides' ships, 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 8.6.
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. You can often save yourself time in racking up
promotions by picking on the most unpopular nation at any given time.
- 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. You can, however, get easy land grants from a
nation that has made you a Duke if you keep working for them. So decide what
you're after and pick your targets accordingly.
- To win a former enemy's trust, you could attack whoever they are at war with.
For serious cases (large bounties on your head), it is easier to convince
Jesuit missionaries close to that enemy's ports to speak to them on your
behalf. If you pull this off, the nation will immediately drop the price on
your head completely, allowing you start working for them with a clean sheet.
Individual ports belonging to that nation may still be hostile if you harassed
them badly, however. Finally, 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
- 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 despicable, 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. There are players who reach Duke
exclusively by spawning and then destroying Indian and pirate ships all over
the place before they go after any specific nation's shipping. Bear in mind
that if native hunting is what you want to do, especially on high levels of
play, you need a small ship to have a realistic shot at catching them. Pirates
may be a better mark on Swashbuckler, although they’ll also put up a tougher
- 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 one 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 probably not a priority
for you while you are still rising in rank, but the choice is yours.
- If you've done a lot for a nation, yet you get just one promotion and no
land grant, try visiting the governor a second time immediately. Sometimes,
land grants do not trigger appropriately for some reason. In this case you
usually get a second promotion straight away and you do get whatever land grant
you were entitled to afterwards. This seems to happen only in the unpatched
version of the game.
- 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, but they are more forgiving than usual, and
the rank is never lost. Contrary to what the manual states, you do not lose the
benefits that come with the rank either. No matter how hostile Spain is to you,
if you're a Count they will repair your ships for free in their settlements.
(In their cities as well but those you likely won't be able to enter.)
[4.5] SHIPS TO USE
As you will notice if you study paragraph 7.1, 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 Fluyt
class of ships has the only exception, but you shouldn't use Fluyts for combat
to begin with. Worst possible choice.)
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 available (we'll get to that in a bit). Any other ships you
have, not counting captured prizes that you intend to sell off at port, 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 find. Just getting one as a flagship can be
difficult enough. 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. I'd say only the Mail Runner is viable whereas the other
two simply don't carry enough guns and crew to be suitable in battle.
To get a Mail Runner, talk to friendly governors and see if one of them will
offer you a mission to escort a ship carrying a peace treaty or an ultimatum.
These ships are often either Mail Runners or Royal Sloops. You will obviously
have to betray the nation to capture the ship, but this is about the only way
to get a Mail Runner during the game. They don't spawn randomly.
The easiest way to get a Mail Runner, if you don't mind playing a different
era, is to sign on with the Spanish in a 1640 campaign. You'll start with one
if you do.
Note: certain expert players prefer the War Canoe for its high speed and
agility. However, as far as I can tell, the War Canoe has no advantages over
the Mail Runner. It should perform precisely the same in combat, but carry
fewer guns and a smaller crew. Either I'm wrong on this (I haven't used Pinnace
class ships all that much), or using a War Canoe rather than a Mail Runner is
only a matter of them being easier to find, or just a prestige thing. It IS
quite cool to be kicking ass with the smallest ship in the game, after all.
Anyway, War Canoe or Mail Runner, it's worth considering if you're a veteran
player. By then you're hopefully skilled enough to avoid all enemy fire with
it, and to win sword fights quickly enough so that the small crew capacity
doesn't put you at risk. The major advantage comes in being able to capture
small prey even on the highest levels, where a big Frigate or Brig, and
sometimes even a Sloop, has a hard time keeping up with the speed bonuses your
Sloops are excellent as small ships go. They are still fast, hard to hit and
very agile, and they can carry larger crews than Pinnace types. The Royal
Sloop, biggest in this category, and is one of the two most popular choices
for flagship. Many people stick with them exclusively for their high speed and
the fact that they rarely seem to take hits in battle. And with Triple Hammocks
on them they can carry a respectable crew of 187, plenty for everything except
attacks on well defended ports.
To get a Royal Sloop, either see if you can backstab a nation allowing you to
escort a treaty carrier (see under Pinnace), or track down and defeat the
notorious pirate Roc Brasiliano, who sails one. Also, Spain may occasionally
send these after you as pirate hunters, and since you'll be clashing repeatedly
with Spain over the course of the average game, you'll probably see one sooner
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
is the other common choice for flagship. It's also my personal favorite for the
lower three levels (from Rogue on I prefer a Royal Sloop to help offset enemy
To get a Brig of War, the easiest way is to track down and defeat Captain Kidd,
who sails one. You may also see them as pirate hunters and new warships.
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 - though on higher levels you'll
find that small prey becomes difficult to catch. The famous Ship of the Line is
the biggest of the Frigates and pretty popular (how could the single biggest
warship not be?). It is also the rarest, however, not in the last place because
Spain doesn't use Frigates of any kind.
Getting a Ship of the Line is tricky. There's no real way to make this easier;
they are all New Warship types and those are mostly random. They seem to appear
more often if you harass a certain nation a lot, but it's mostly luck. I seem
to have slightly more success going after the French for one than the Dutch or
the English, but that may easily be luck of the draw.
You should be aware that large ships in general become less desirable on the
higher levels of play, when their relatively low speed starts to hurt. From
Adventurer on you no longer get speed bonuses, and on Rogue and Swashbuckler,
the enemy gets them. By then Frigates will have a harder time catching smaller
ships, and you may find yourself wanting to tone down to Brigs or even smaller
warships. Until then, enjoy the firepower.
GameFAQs (www.gamefaqs.com) has a guide specifically on Ships of the Line and
how to get them if you're interested in reading up further on the subject.
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 will run circles around these
cumbersome vessels and pelt them with one broadside after another. If you like
to use large ships, you really should go with a Frigate type instead. Even the
smallest kind of Frigate is a better bet than the otherwise very powerful
To get a Flag Galleon, either keep your eyes open for Spanish pirate hunters or
New Warship types (though you won't see many Flag Galleons), or find and
defeat Marquis Montalban. He always uses one.
Summarizing the above, Combat Galleons are usually not your best choice, and
Pinnaces should be considered only if you know your way around the game and are
playing a high level. Usually, it's a toss up between Sloops, Brigs and
Frigates, and it's mostly a matter of personal preference what works best. I
find that the higher the level I play on, the smaller the flagship I want. On
Apprentice I might consider a Frigate (but pretty much anything goes there),
but for Journeyman and Adventurer my favorite is the Brig of War, and on Rogue
and Swashbuckler I tend to go for Royal Sloops. At that point, Mail Runners are
an interesting alternative too, although I find them a little too restrictive
on crew size. A Royal Sloop with Triple Hammocks is just about big enough while
still being able to catch most prey. On Swashbuckler level, it’s Pinnace class
ships that still get away from me more often than not, and Sloops if I don’t
get into a good position before attacking. Either can rack up a speed of over
20 knots in the ideal case, which pretty much ends the chase right there and
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 Sloop. In fact, as a rule of thumb, the only reason
to pick a larger ship over a smaller one should be that you need the crew
and/or gun capacity in ship combat. If you just need to carry a large crew
around for land combat, or you need space for captured goods, you don't need to
have your flagship do the work - just capture a few additional ships.
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 types. This would be a sound
choice on higher difficulty levels, where small ships are increasingly hard for
a Frigate to catch, and where being hit by a large broadside from a big enemy
target *really* hurts your poor Sloop. The main disadvantage of the dual ship
approach is that if you find yourself having to divide up the plunder, you can
only keep one.
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
difference. There's only one you might want to skip on purpose: Triple
Hammocks. Think about how large you want your crew to be; perhaps you want to
keep it small on purpose. If that's the case, upping the maximum may not be in
your best interest.
[4.6] OVERALL STRATEGY/WALKTHROUGH
By request, I've added this new section which is about the closest thing to a
walkthrough that can be made for an open-ended game like this. It discusses
what I think is the best way to "finish" the game; by finishing, I mean
achieving the maximum fame score of 126, although the game doesn't necessarily
end there. This section is purely a guideline, as there are many good ways to
achieve that maximum score, but this is the approach I find the most
convenient. It does not include details on *how* to do the various steps that
are described - that's what the rest of the guide is for.
A typical game will consist of three phases: building up your initial power by
recruiting enough crew and getting the ship(s) you want, building up your ranks
and getting most of the quests out of the way, and cleaning up the final quests
that take the longest to do (lost cities and Montalban, basically).
Your first order of business should always be to build up. You normally start
with a small ship (always a Sloop in 1660) and you'll want to find the third
category vessel for whichever ship class you prefer; most likely, a Mail
Runner, a Royal Sloop, a Brig of War or a Ship of the Line.
Start by recruiting more men in the port you appear nearest to. Visit a few
friendly ports in the neighborhood for more, assuming you can fit them at the
moment. Capture a few easy targets so you can hold more crew and get your first
few promotions out of the way. At this point it is wise not to make an enemy of
everybody. You start every game without enemies, and it's a good idea to keep
at least one, but preferably two nations on your side so you have plenty of
safe havens to retreat to. Especially on higher difficulty levels, it is
important to always be able to patch up your ships, and also to replace crew
lost in combat. If you've recently recruited in a town, you won't be able to do
so again for a while, and after that the available recruits pool will still be
small. Keep this in mind before you fire at every ship you see.
Who to work with and who to work against is a matter of preference and the
current political climate. It is a very good idea to fight a nation that is at
war with two or (even better) all three other nations, because then you'll be
working at your promotions two or three times as fast. There's little point in
attacking somebody who has no enemies at all, unless the individual target is
tempting - maybe an immigrant ship that may carry specialists, or a fat payroll
carrier or treasure vessel. In practice, you'll find Spain is almost always at
war with somebody, usually several somebodies. I almost always start out
fighting against Spain, and worrying about getting their promotions later in
the game. The quickest route to promotions with a single nation is to attack
ports belonging to their enemies and capturing them for your nation. For this,
it doesn't matter if the port is big or small. Pick something tiny that you can
overwhelm with your crew so you actually get to install a governor. If you
don't get the option, sail around and attack them again until you DO get that
option. The gold gains will be atrocious but we're working on rank here, not
A good way to score poinst with all four nations at once is to actively hunt
pirates and Indians. If you don't find enough sailing around, visit pirate
havens/native villaegs, talk to whoever's in charge, tempt them to attack a
nearby target, then intercept their ships as they send them out. This won't
gain you as much respect as taking out enemy ports as above, but you WILL
please all four nations at once, so it's still a pretty efficient way to get
promotions. It is possible to use this technique exclusively to become a
quadruple Duke without ever making any enemies.
A note on spawning pirates this way: you probably know that if you take on a
mission, like escorting a governor or a treaty carrier, hostile Privateers will
spawn in your path trying to stop it (only 1 on Apprentice, up to 3 on
Swashbuckler). These may be of any nation your employer is at war with, but
will be pirates if they’re not at war with anyone. In what appears to be a bug,
inciting pirates to attack a port will also spawn Pirate Privateers, which will
not actually attack the pirate ship that gets sent out but just sail around in
the area and eventually enter a nearby Pirate Haven. What this means is that if
you incite one pirate to go out and attack a nearby port on Swashbuckler, what
you get is four targets. I’ve gotten quick promotions all around on
Swashbuckler by taking advantage of this; especially when there are two Pirate
Havens right next to one another. Capturing eight pirates makes you popular
with the governors in no time, if you have the resources to pull it off.
But back to preparing for the midgame action. Don't hesitate too long on
obtaining the ship you want, it's your primary way of becoming strong enough to
tackle the rest of the game. You'll be facing off repeatedly against Raymondo
and Montalban on their big galleons, and against a variety of named pirates.
You don't want to do all that in your humble Sloop, so aim for one of the
- A Mail Runner (repeatedly talk to governors hoping to get a mission to escort
a treaty/ultimatum carrier, then if it happens to be a Mail Runner, backstab
- A Royal Sloop (fight the Spanish until they send one out as a pirate hunter,
or track down Roc Brasiliano);
- A Brig of War (fight any nation until they send one out as a pirate hunter,
or track down Captain Kidd);
- A Ship of the Line (repeatedly harass any nation OTHER than Spain until you
see one sailing by as a New Warship).
In the meantime, grab anything that's at least something of an upgrade. A
Pinnace, Sloop of War, Brig or Large Frigate can easily substitute any of the
above until you're lucky enough to find the big one.
Apart from a good ship, items and specialists will also make your game easier
without actually adding any wealth. I wouldn't spend too much time hunting for
them specifically, but if a barmaid lets you know about a specialist on a
nearby ship, or you are offered an affordable item in a tavern, you might as
well go for it. (For items, though, be sure that it's something you want, as
there are a few that don't do anything useful in the current state of the
game.) If you'd like to max both of these out, be sure to get items in all ways
you can: talking to strangers, dancing with governor's daughters, and even
taking bribes from captured criminals. For specialists, nothing fancy is
needed. Finishing the Montalban quest will automatically give you all of them.
You'll probably earn some promotions while working on getting the ship and the
crew you want, and get offered the chance to dance with governor's daughters.
Never turn this down unless you’re already wrapping up the late game and
honestly don’t need what they can offer (at some point this will be wanted
criminal quests only). Barring that, always dance, romance as many daughters as
you come across, and get rewarded for your efforts. Even plain looking
daughters can help you stock various useful items early on, or give you quests
to track down wanted criminals (good for cash early on and helps promotion
prospects too - alternatively, you can allow them to bribe you with items once
you catch them).
Attractive and beautiful daughters can put you on the trails of Raymondo and
Montalban, and as soon as you're powerful enough to deal with these fellows, do
it. The main thing to keep in mind with romancing governor's daughters is to
always go and do what they put you on the trail of *before* you return with
gifts or to fight their suitor, or the like. Otherwise, they'll just repeat the
info they gave you before, rather than coming up with something new. You can
safely take any romance subplot as far as you want, but if you go all the way
and rescue a daughter from Mendoza, do NOT ask to marry her unless she is
beautiful. You will only get maximum fame if you marry a beautiful daughter,
and you can only marry once.
Once you do marry - and I recommend you take care of this as soon as you locate
a beautiful daughter and have the necessary rank (Baron, less with the right
items) to get court her - be sure to revisit your wife regularly, potentially
to the point of sailing out of port and coming right back. You get to dance
with her as often as you like, messing up will not do any permanent damage, and
every time you get it right you will be getting clues about Montalban and Lost
Cities (by far the best way to get those).
It's largely up to you if you want to focus on catching Raymondo or earning
ranks first. You can mix 'em if you like. For promotions, keep an eye on war
and peace breaking out, and pick your targets accordingly. If possible, keep
your efforts focused on one nation as an enemy (usually going to be Spain) so
you have fewer people you have to make up with eventually. The way it usually
develops for me is that I manage to achieve Duke with Holland, England and
France first, with Spain having a sizable price on my head at that point. The
best way to go about fixing that is to find a Jesuit mission near a Spanish
port, and head in. They will most likely offer to discuss amnesty with the
nearby Spanish governor on your behalf (if not, try another mission), then all
you need to do is escort their ship to the nearby port. There will be a single
pirate ship (two on higher levels, three on Swashbuckler) trying to stop them,
but after that, the Jesuit will sail into port, and the price on your head will
vanish at once. Years of piracy forgiven by just winning a single ship battle.
Not a bad deal at all. You can do this as many times during a game as
necessary, so even if you just need Spain off your back for a moment, this is
For Raymondo, Jesuit missions are your best bet too. From time to time, an
informant in a tavern may offer to tell you Raymondo's current location for
1000 gold. Governor's daughters may give up this information after you dance
with them. Jesuits, however, give the information often and always for free. If
at any point in the game you don't know where Raymondo is right now and you
sail by a mission, stop by and ask them. It'll save you a lot of time.
(Incidentally, the way Jesuits work is that they give priority to giving you
information on Raymondo. If you already know where he is or you’ve already
finished this quest completely, you’ll get the amnesty offer if applicable. If
the mision isn’t near a port belonging to a hostile nation, you’ll be offered
an immigrants escort quest. All of these exhaust the mission for a few months
before it offers up something new.)
Chasing Raymondo (and for that matter, Mendoza and Montalban) around the
Caribbean should be a primary objective by the time your ship and crew are up
to the task. They're profitable targets in terms of gold and the value of their
ships, you score points with whoever Spain is at war with right now, and you
advance the relevant quests. Besides, the longer you wait, the harder it may be
to figure out where they went. If you lose track of them, aggressively question
bartenders around the area where they were supposed to be and you’ll be put
back on the trail soon enough.
Similarly, when you've captured Raymondo four times and gotten the full map to
a family member - or ideally, if you can already work out their location from
fewer pieces - go and rescue that family member right away so you can get
started on getting the NEXT map from Raymondo. Making sure you hurry up and
finish these quests when you can helps you finish the game before your pirate
becomes too old; age will make swordfights harder and harder, and eventually
take away the ability to divide up the plunder and start with a fresh crew as
you'll be forced into retirement when you try it.
The hunt for Montalban's hideout and the Lost Cities typically come at the end
of the game just because they take the most preparations to do. For the Lost
Cities, this is no biggie. It's a boring quest anyway which involves sailing
all the way to Mexico, and sometimes having to go far inland, but there's no
opposition to deal with. Montalban's hideout is a different story, as you need
to win a land battle to get in (not a particularly difficult one, but you'll
have trouble if you have a tiny crew), and Montalban himself is a very
difficult opponent on the higher levels. The combination of playing on
something like Rogue or Swashbuckler and your character having been slowed down
a lot by age can make the battle almost unwinnable. Do yourself a favour and
get that quest out of the way as quickly as you reasonably can. If you focus on
it, it should definitely be possible to do it within 10 game years, long before
your pirate reaches poor or failing health.
To get a full score, you'll need to hunt down all nine of the named pirates and
find their treasures. Treasures are a matter of talking to the mysterious
stranger in every tavern you visit, and making sure to buy every treasure map
they offer. Once you do have the first piece, you'll be quickly offered the
rest by other strangers. Just stop by every port and settlement and it won't
take long to get all pieces (or enough so that you can figure out where to go).
Do make sure you visit different taverns, returning to the same one over and
over does not appear to work.
Finding the pirates can be a little trickier, as their locations are random.
Barmaids will put you on their trail (or you can blunder into them without
prior info), but for either, you need to be close to their home port. Although
neither the names nor the locations of their home ports are fixed, they ARE
always distributed over the Caribbean. Always a couple near the west, a couple
near the Spanish Main, a couple around the eastern islands and one or two in
the obscure northern area around Florida Keys and such. Almost always, when a
player has captured 7 or 8 pirates and just can't find the remaining one or
two, he's missed the one(s) lurking in that area, because you don't tend to
visit there for any other reason. If you just can't find that last pirate, see
if you can get a lead on him by asking barmaids in or around Havana, Florida
Keys and Eleuthera.
For both pirates and treasures, I tend to handle them when I come across them
while working on other quests, then pick up whatever I missed at the end of the
game. No matter what order I decide to tackle things in, though, I always seem
to end up finishing my game by finding the fourth Lost City. Getting the maps
is usually a matter of sailing circles around the port your wife lives in,
dancing with her constantly to get her to give up more and more pieces of the
map (why won't she just give it to you all at once?), then sailing all the way
to Mexico to find the city, and all the way back for more map pieces. It might
actually be a good time saver to marry a daughter around, say, Campeche or Vera
Cruz, assuming a beautiful daughter happens to live there. Lost Cities usually
spawn in locations that aren't too hard to find, with the coast visible on the
map and ideally a named landmark as well, but other times they spawn far inland
and can be very hard to find. A location hint like "north of Vera Cruz" or
"south of Campeche" is rather useless because it can cover a LOT of territory.
If it doesn't feel too much like cheating for your liking, you could keep a
separate save of the instant just before you get your first map piece, then if
the city does spawn in some hopeless impossible location, reload and see where
it goes this time. The city is not placed in the game until you get your first
map piece for it.
Finally, if you've become a Duke with each of the four nations, captured all
pirates, collected all treasures, found all four Lost Cities, married a
governor's beautiful daughter, rescued your family members and defeated
Montalban, the only thing that remains for a perfect score is to have gathered
enough treasure. This will most likely have happened naturally through the land
grants you got with your promotions and the vast wealth you got from defeating
Montalban (100k), finding all Lost Cities (200k) and all the gold that pirates
and evil Spanish noblemen yielded. If you're still short some (save before
dividing up the plunder and then see if you got to 24 wealth points or not),
the easiest way to add more is to privateer some more. Find two nations at war,
join sides with one of them, and get land grants for every blow you strike
their enemy because they can't promote you any further. Especially capturing
cities will add up quickly, and get you to your max wealth quicker than
additional gold will.
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.
[5.1] NAVAL BATTLES
A naval battle is always initiated by you. Enemy ships can never initiate naval
battles, though they *can* bombard you on the world map, causing sail and
hull damage, and potentially sinking trailing ships (but never your flagship).
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. Please refer to section 7.1 for more ideas on what to
expect certain ships to have in terms of defenses.
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
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. Likewise if the ship is part of a group (Treasure Fleet, trio of
Indian War Canoes or two or three Privateers spawned when you take on a quest),
attacking one of the ships will cause it nearest partner to take on the escort
- 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 eventually. The warship
will serve the same role that a dedicated escort would if this happens. It may
even belong to a different nation than your target.
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
damage. Your cannons will not be reloaded while you're raising your sails.
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. Your cannons will not be reloaded while you're lowering
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. You do not need
to reload your cannons, the switch to the new ammo type is instant.
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. Again, no need to reload your cannons after switching.
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 – furthermore, 100%
sail damage forces a target to surrender without a fight. Chain Shot 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
upgrade. Again, no need to reload your cannons after switching.
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.
As either you or an enemy gets damaged in battle, barrels and sailors may fall
overboard. If you sail over these, they will be collected by your flagship.
Sailors are immediately added to your crew - if they're your own that'll let
you recover some lost crew, and you can also pick up enemy sailors as new
recruits this way. Presumably, these men aren't too picky about who they're
serving and not going to be uncooperative with the man that saved their lives.
Barrels, similarly, contain a small amount of gold. I imagine that if barrels
are lost from your own ship, they're deducted from your loot unless you pick
them up again, but I'm not sure about this. We're talking small amounts of gold
here anyway, I believe 50 gold per barrel.
It is possible to exceed the maximum crew size of your flagship by picking up
sailors knocked overboard during the battle. They will be available during the
sword battle, but after you return to the map, any remaining excess crew will
be lost. Even if you don't pass the maximum, it appears that only half the
people you pick up from the sea will sign on permanently.
Depending on the type of ship, difficulty 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.
- Note that damage you cause to an enemy ship during battle may make it switch
between the two behaviors above. If a ship was going to ram you and you hit it
with grape shot just before it can, chances are it will suddenly swing around
and start exchanging broadsides with you again.
- 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). Running is much more common on higher levels; on lower levels
even outmatched ships will often keep engaging you even though they should be
running. Also, warships and especially pirates are a lot more reluctant to run
than a target that didn’t want a fight in the first place, like a merchant ship
or smuggler. Villains will never attempt to run, nor will an escort ship.
- 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 their 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
over. It is possible for a ship to start the battle with struck colours if it
was already badly damaged when you engaged it (for instance, because of
previous battles or a storm).
- If you damage an enemy's sails 100%, rendering them almost immobile, they
will always strike their colours.
There are a couple of exceptions to the behavior above:
- Merchant ships are more likely to surrender than warships or ships on special
missions. 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. Indian War Canoes, on the other hand, always surrender if you manage
to board them.
- Escort ships never surrender. They will fight to the death as long as they
still have something to escort. If you evade the escort and take out the
escorted ship, the escort becomes an independent ship which *will* surrender
normally if you damage them a lot.
- Named pirates are very unlikely to surrender, but they can. Usually only if
you destroy their sails, though.
- 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. Especially if you are sailing a
powerful ship on a low difficulty level, you may be surprised at how easy it is
to accidentally sink an enemy!
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
first. If you don't, even if you pull through, you'll lose far more crew than
you need to and get in trouble later.
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. Also, the bigger
your own crew, the easier you can get away with fighting a numerically superior
enemy. 100 against 150 I wouldn't be afraid to try, but 20 against 30 is a bad
idea. Chances are you'll run out of crew before you win the battle.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of your naval battles:
- Pick the right ship for the job. Different players have different
preferences, but the choice is mostly between Pinnace, Sloop, Brig and Frigate
types. Pinnaces and 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, and have the unique advantage of maintaining a decent speed
against the wind.
- 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 cumbersome to engage
anything small. Pinnaces are also an option, but they come with small crews and
not enough guns to really do anything with.
- On higher difficulty levels, enemy ships get speed advantages. Especially
on Swashbuckler you may find that if you have the same ship as the enemy, they
can still easily outrun you. You may want to stick to the smaller ships to
keep the enemy from constantly outrunning you. Besides, on higher levels, it's
hard to keep a large crew satisfied, so you might not be filling up a Frigate
- 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. Some players
prefer not to use round shot at all, but it's the only reliable way to cut down
the enemy's cannons.
- 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
rigging entirely (you'll hear their ship groan and ground to a halt if you
do this), the enemy 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. It will really slow
your fleet down otherwise. A Sailmaker specialist will help here - he'll repair
a quarter of the sail damage at the start of each month, so even if you destroy
an enemy's sails completely, they'll be back at 75% soon and then the ship will
be at least somewhat mobile again.
- 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 likely try to board you before you can hit them
with grape shot too often. Also, unless you've already destroyed some of their
cannons with round shot, you may get hit just as hard in return. Note that
grape shot will not leave the enemy ship undamaged - it won't do any hull
damage, but the sails will suffer.
- If an enemy has struck its colors, stop firing at it; they will not fire back
anymore and surrender as you draw close. A possible exception is when you are
chasing a named villain, who won't surrender even now. Them you may want to
hit with more grape shot if you want to reduce their crew size further before
you start the battle. I especially find this important when facing Montalban on
Swashbuckler level as duelling him aboard a ship is brutal.
- 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-grain
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 rakes 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. The issue here is speed; if the
wind is such that you can approach your enemy very quickly, then broadsides
will likely pass over you. If you’re not fast enough, you’ll be taking hits –
something you can get away with it on low levels, but not on Swashbuckler.
- If you have a small ship, turning at the right moment may let you sail
through gaps in enemy broadsides and take little or no damage. But bear in mind
that the shots that *do* hit you will likely be raking shots if you do this,
which is exactly why you should not try this with a large vessel.
- 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 reader 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. If you can get your speed at like 10 knots
or above and you're not too near the enemy, you can usually ignore its shots
entirely; they won't connect. At short range, on the other hand, you must 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
- If you lose a naval battle, remember you have the option to restore the
'battle' autosave. This will put you back to just before you initiated the
battle, allowing you to try it again or avoid this (evidently dangerous) target
this time around. Whether or not you consider this cheating (and whether or not
you care) is up to you, of course.
In terms of sailing, there are 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; this might be quicker even if it's a longer turn. Smaller
ships do much better at turning into the wind than larger ones, and Brig type
ships specifically maintain a decent speed even when they're sailing against
the wind. Large ships like Galleons (and to an extent Frigates as well) handle
very poorly against the wind, both in terms of speed and maneuverability. Bear
this in mind both when you're sailing one and when you're going up against one.
- 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.
- If you need to catch an enemy that is upwind, zig zag against the wind
(this is known as "tacking"). This is much quicker than sailing straight
against it. If you're in a large ship like a Frigate (or even worse, a
Galleon), this becomes especially important, but the main thing when you're
using that kind of vessel is not to get yourself caught in such an engagement
to begin with. Maneuver around the enemy on the world map before you start the
fight, and make sure you don't approach the target from the west. Smaller
vessels are not as strongly affected by the wind, so if you're a large ship
going up against a small one, this becomes very important. It's also a major
reason why the Royal Sloop and the Brig of War aren't necessarily worse ships
than the Ship of the Line.
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
nothing. Note that if the target in question was a named pirate or villain,
they won't disappear off the world map, so you can catch up and engage them a
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 some happiness points with
the enemies of the ship's nation, though. 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. It appears you do *not* lose a portion of your gold like you used to in
the past games, however. If you don't have other ships anymore, you are
marooned and will spend some time on a deserted island waiting to be rescued.
This *does* result in the loss of all your loot.
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. This cannot happen with
named villains, they will always fight you.
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. (Technically, at that
point, they're not an escort ship anymore.)
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. And in some cases - the Treasure Fleet comes to mind here, and groups
of Indian War Canoes too - it's not even so easy to figure out which of the two
ships is the escort.
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 are lucky enough to catch Mendoza, Raymondo or Montalban in port, and
fight him in the tavern;
- You decide to fight a duel against the fiance of a governor's daughter you
are trying to charm;
- You attack a town which has a garrison smaller than 100 men, allowing your
crew to storm the fort unchallenged;
- After losing a fight previously, the governor offers to let you spar with his
fencing master for practice, and you agree (Apprentice level only);
- You track down the 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 is 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. If you do take a hit during taunting, the taunt's
effect is nullified.
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. A swirly pattern around either
combatant's head is an additional visual clue that their opponent currently
holds the advantage. 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.
- Taking a hit does not normally reduce one’s advantage. Missing the enemy
does. You have an advantage here in ship battles in the buckets and hooks
scattered over the floor, however. If you’re standing next to one and perform a
chop or slash attack, you will automatically use the item to attack the enemy
with, doing the same damage but this time gaining some advantage as well.
- Advantage generally moves toward the neutral position if nothing happens.
Also, if there is a break in the action due to the territory (going up/down the
stairs on a ship or in a tavern fight), advantage returns to neutral.
- If either side loses part of their crew, advantage shifts away from them.
This happens randomly every few seconds; who loses crew and how many depends in
part on how your duel is going (i.e. who has gotten driven back) and the
relative sizes of the two crews.
The last point isn'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. Rapier
wielders (which includes Montalban, if your game is patched) are the real
danger here. With advantage on their side they can cut you down in seconds. If
you lose the advantage, it will 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
ones, but it's up to you.
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. On higher levels, be
wary of enemy feints; they start one kind of attack but then suddenly switch to
another. You'll need to adapt your defense, too. Keep your eyes on the enemy at
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. But be careful not to press the button too quickly; if your enemy
is still attacking you might get hit after all because you're cancelling your
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, or on Adventurer/Rogue when you have lost the advantage, you
may want to stick with thrusts entirely and forget about the other attacks. Or
you could switch to the Longsword or even the Rapier if you think you can still
defend quickly enough.
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. Repeat once if necessary. Then dodge his next attack and start
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. The Rapier does offer one
extra advantage: if advantage is on your side, you may often get away with
hitting the enemy when he prepares an attack, thus countering without even
bothering to defend.
- 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. However, on higher levels, you may find you have
trouble hitting quick enemies who use Cutlasses as well. If so, you'll have to
work harder to get the advantage bar in your favour.
- 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. How
often you can get away with this strongly depends on the level. It works
brilliantly on Journeyman with most weapons, but on higher levels you'll want
to reserve this for Rapier only. On Swashbuckler it is almost always
ill-advised to even try it.
- You *will* get in trouble if you ignore the advantage bar on Adventurer level
Or higher. 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 on Rogue and Swashbuckler are lost not
because your reflexes weren't up to the task, but because you insisted on
fighting that pirate hunter with only 40 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, and if it doesn't
look good, don't fight. Run.
- 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(sic) 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
dangerous. I consider it pretty much vital for Swashbuckler, if only because
you’re going to have to fight Montalban and his rapier sooner or later.
- 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. From Journeyman
on, however, your opponents will do the same to you if you attack randomly.
This is why you should learn to rely on counterattacks once you move beyond
- 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.
- The jealous suitor of the governor's daughter is one of the toughest enemies
in the game, especially if the daughter in question is beautiful and he happens
to spawn with a rapier. Be ready for a tough battle on Adventurer level and up.
You may want to use that "Arrival" autosave that's carried out every time you
enter a town if you lose your duel against him.
- Marquis de la Montalban, specifically, is a demon with the blade on higher
levels. You'll have to taunt frequently to keep the advantage bar favorable,
because if it shifts to him, he may become so fast that you can't hit him and
you can't keep him from hitting you. At that point you're doomed, unable to
even taunt anymore without getting hit. You may also find it necessary to use
the Cutlass in order to keep up your defense, and rely on thrusts only because
swings will be too slow. Finally, it's a good idea to pursue him as early
as possible in your career, so you don't have to worry about old age slowing
you down. All this rides on the level, though; on Apprentice he's a pushover
like everybody else.
- Note that Montalban always uses a Cutlass in v1.0 of Pirates and always uses
a Rapier in v1.0.2. The switch to Rapier was probably done because on
Swashbuckler mode, it was well possible that he was simply impossible to hit,
so quickly could he defend himself. Of course, now that he uses a Rapier, his
own attacks have become lightning quick. As before, you can make things easier
on yourself by finishing up the Montalban quest quickly and not waiting until
your pirate is pushing 50. Montalban himself is completely unaffected by the
ravages of time, unfortunately.
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. (This will only happen if you're already tracking
the villain in question.)
- If you lose a ship battle, your flagship is lost, along with 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 or named villain
(they simply chuck you overboard). Either predicament will put you out of
action for some months and result in the loss of all your loot.
- 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 escape unharmed but the sack
- If you lose against a jealous fiance, you won't be getting that governor's
daughter. The romance subplot ends.
- If you lose against an annoying captain of the guard or a fugitive criminal,
you are thrown in jail, similar to being defeated in a ship battle when you
have no other ships to run to. The same thing happens if you catch one of the
named villains in port but you fail to defeat them.
- Winning or losing against the governor's fencing master does nothing. It's
purely a practice bout.
- If Montalban defeats you in his hideout, you escape safely, but you'll have
to fight the Indian mercenaries again if you try another assault.
[5.3] LAND BATTLES
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, then 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 (perhaps the island
the town is on is too small, St. Eustatius is a good example), or if you just
don't want to, you'll need to piss off the town enough to open fire on you. The
best way to do that 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, attack 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 sea. Be aware that both approaches will
impact the town's wealth, however, so don't overdo it (particularly not on the
bombardments, which gain you nothing).
In terms of how the minigame works, it doesn't matter which approach you take.
They both result in a land-based battle. The approach in which you have to
maneuver your ship toward the fort while dodging its fire, popular in the
last two Pirates games, is gone.
How hard the battle is going to be depends entirely on how wisely you pick your
targets. Make sure you pick cities with good wealth but a small garrison and
you'll have a much easier time than if you insist on cracking the toughest
nuts. Note that if you attack a city with less than 100 soldiers, you don't
even have to do a land battle at all; your men will storm the fort and it'll
be an easy sword fight instead. On the other end of the spectrum, if your
crew is much smaller than the garrison, your men might refuse to even go up
against the uneven odds, and the option to attack is greyed out. If this
happens, you need to come back with more men, or soften up the garrison first.
When a battle starts, your crew and the enemy soldiers are divided up into a
number of units varying between 3 and 10. You get one unit of officers (elite
melee), and a number of pirate (melee) and buccanneer (ranged) units. These
numbers are usually equal, or have 1 more of pirates. So at the least you'll
have 1 of each, and at the most 1 officers, 5 pirates and 4 buccaneers. How
your units are divided up seems mostly random. Sometimes the game gives you a
few big units and sometimes many small ones. Usually you get unit sizes
roughly equal to the enemy's, but that's not a given either.
Logan Louden has mailed in additional insight on how the game seems to
determine the makeup of your troops. It appears that the way the game can place
your starting troops is a factor here; normally, if you'd look at a formation
B O P
P B P
Then if obstacles (rocky terrain) make this placement impossible and holes fall
in your formation, this can affect the actual type of unit you will see. For
instance, suppose that the above formation is broken up by a rock in the
location where normally the top left buccanneer unit would be:
P r O P
P B P
In this case, the top left unit has been placed one more square to the left,
and apparently, that has caused them to spawn as pirates rather than
buccanneers. Note that this is a fictional example, your units don't
necessarily spawn in such a predictable pattern. However, it does seem that
discrepancies in pirates vs buccaneer unit numbers show up only if the
formation is thus broken up by obstacles.
You can't really 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. (In scenarios like the one described above, potentially the
starting location may also affect what units you get to an extent!) 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. Fail to do this and you'll find that the AI often prioritizes exposed
buccaneers as targets.
- Buccaneers can shoot *from* a forested square no problem and they can also
shoot *at* an enemy in a forest, though damage is halved in the latter case.
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, especially if he happens to be in a forested square.
- Your buccaneers have more range on them than all enemy ranged units. This is
an important advantage, so use it. Keep your buccaneers at the maximum range of
4 spaces whenever you can, so the enemy can't ever catch and rout them. You
don't do any more damage by getting closer.
- Buccaneers win your battles. Period. The main focus of any effort to take
out the enemy (as opposed to sneaking a unit through to the city gates, a
viable alternative) is to maximize the potential of your buccaneers to wreak
havoc unchallenged by keeping them covered with your pirates and officers.
- Enemy infantry has a gun attack range of 2; guards have a range of 3. I find
the two units a little tricky to tell apart, myself. But as long as you keep
your units in forests, you usually don't really have to worry about this range
difference. Often they will come out in the open and then stand and fire at
you, and you can just return fire with your buccanners from forests (or even
hovering just outside their reach) and do major damage.
- 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 routs 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. Even if you use a badly mauled and
panicky unit, chances are you rout the enemy, although in this case you'll
probably be routed at the same time.
- 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. This isn't entirely
predictable, but you'll develop a feeling for when this will happen. Remember
that flanking attacks tend to be easy wins.
- 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.
90% of the units I've lost in all my games were repeatedly shot at while they
were in the open.
- 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. You can also click on a unit to select it, assuming it hasn't
- 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. Preferably a combination of the two.
- Enemy cavalry shows up randomly, however, it appears to happen mostly on
bigger garrisons, and on higher difficulty levels. On the lower levels, in my
experience enemies tend not to have cavalry unless the garrison size is at
least 300, but on Swashbuckler I’ve seen an army of 100 field a cavalry unit,
and that’s the smallest possible garrison where you still *have* a land battle.
- Artillery, though mentioned in the manual and the piratopedia, does not
appear to have made it into the game at all. Even if you attack a huge enemy
garrison on a high level, you may see plenty of cavalry but never any
artillery. I've yet to hear of one player who encountered any.
- 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. In fact,
you might not even need to fight another land battle if you reduced the
garrison to less than 100 men.
- 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. They will only hurt the garrison if their
attack fails, though. If it succeeds, pirates will destroy the wealth rating
and Indians will scare off population, both of which reduce the loot you can
still get. And as a final insult, the garrison remains fully undamaged by a
successful attack. Therefore, reserve this approach for well fortified enemy
towns (say at least 300 soldiers) so that the attack will probably fail. This
kind of preparation becomes more important on higher levels, where getting a
big crew together can be hard to do.
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 commences. You'll get an amount of plunder based on how many of the
enemies you managed to defeat, and how wealthy and big 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 sé) regroup at your ships. You gain
nothing and you're left with a much smaller crew than before.
You can expect to get up to 10000 gold from a wealthy and well-sized port,
though it's not impossible to get more than that. Usually, however, expect the
loot to be in the 5000-8000 range as long as you stick to juicy targets. That
means Wealthy or at least Prosperous, and a decent population size. In
addition, sacking and especially capturing towns can make you popular quickly
with the nation's enemies and goes a long way to earning promotions and land
grants. For the most part, that aspect is more important than the gold.
This is considered by most players to be the most difficult minigame, and in
many ways it is. It requires quicker reflexes than sword fighting, that's for
sure (at least on the lower levels). However, unlike sword fighting, dance
sequences aren't entirely random. There are set patterns in each dance and the
real trick to getting good at dancing is to learn them. The better you know the
patterns, the less you have to rely on reflexes to get through, and the better
you will perform as a result.
In a dance, you watch the hand signals the governor's daughter gives you to
know which move to make next. Do it in time and you will perform the move with
some degree of grace; if you time it perfectly you will add a flourish and
look particulary elegant. Don't press anything in time or press the wrong
button, and you'll stumble and get everybody's attention for all the wrong
reasons. During the dance, a heart symbol at the top of the screen symbolizes
how charmed the daughter is; this is determined directly by your performance
on the dance floor. An additional visual cue to how well you're doing is the
camera; the better you're doing, the farther the camera will zoom in on you and
the daughter. At the end, there are three possible outcomes based on how well
- If you danced poorly, the daughter will be annoyed and turn her back on you.
- If you danced moderately well, the daughter will let you kiss her hand and
you get a reward based on her beauty;
- If you danced very well, you will sweep the daughter up in an embrace, and
get a better reward (but still based on her beauty).
It goes without saying (or does it?) that beautiful daughters are harder to
please. Their dances are more complicated, and they're also less forgiving of
mistakes. Their visual clues are a little more obscure, too; for instance the
plain looking daughter has her hands behind her back whenever she's not giving
a cue, whereas the beautiful one is waving them around, making the gestures
trickier to spot. The difficulty level also factors into the complexity of each
dance, and in how difficult the timing is. Practice with plain looking
daughters on Apprentice while you're getting the hang of it, then gradually
set your sights higher.
You have six different dance steps available to you, under the 8, 2, 4, 6, 1
and 3 keys. (7 and 9 can be used instead of 1 and 3 as preferred.) The
governor's daughter will show you in advance every time which you have to
press; on lower difficulty levels and on your first dance of the game on all
levels, the correct icon will also flash in the bottom right of the screen.
The right time to press the button is usually just after the daughter finishes
her hand gesture, or exactly when the icon flashes. For some quicker dances,
you have to press right away when the daughter gestures.
If you'd rather work with the music, the right time to press the button is
exactly on the beat after the daughter gestures. How much time there is between
beat and gesture varies per dance; you'll get the hang of this with experience.
If you get the timing right, you will do a flourish; if you're a little off,
you will still do the move correctly but without a flourish. If you press the
wrong button or don't press one at all, you will usually stumble, but having
Calfskin Boots or Dancing Slippers introduces a random chance that you make the
correct move anyway (though without a flourish). The Wit and Charm skill does
the same thing for incorrect button presses only, it will not guard against
missing a button press entirely.
Each dance is built up from a number of different patterns. Which ones appear
and in which order is random, but once a pattern starts it will be finished.
Furthermore, the combination of the first move and whether it comes immediately
after the previous pattern or after a single pause is unique for each pattern.
This means that if you learn them, the first move in any sequence will tell you
what comes next. Once you’re at that point, dancing will become a lot easier.
The patterns are as follows (I made up the names):
4-6-4-6, or 6-4-6-4. The two often follow each other, so you get things like
4-6-4-6-6-4-6-4. Not guaranteed, but especially on Apprentice that is a very
common one. Timing on these is standard and easy to get right. This easy
pattern becomes a lot rarer on higher levels in favour of the more complicated
1-1-1-1 or 3-3-3-3. Always four in a row, with standard timing. Easy enough.
These will still appear on higher levels but less frequently.
This one mixes the two previous patterns, and is either 4-3-4-3-4-3-4-3 or the
opposite, 6-1-6-1-6-1-6-1. You can recognize this pattern by the fact that it
runs faster than the basic side-to-side. If you just came out of another
pattern and you immediately get a cue to do a 4 or a 6 without any pause, it'll
be this one, not the basic side-to-side. The pattern runs twice as fast as the
8-1-1-8-1-1, guaranteed. There is no mirrored variant of this one. You
recognize this, of course, by the fact that it starts with an 8. It starts
after a brief pause just like the other patterns (barring the advanced
pirouette), but it runs at double speed. There is another pause halfway, so it
is more like P-8-1-1-P-8-1-1.
8-2-1-1-2-8-3-3. The most complicated pattern you'll be getting on the lower
levels. Like the Advanced Pirouette, it starts immediately after whatever
comes before it, rather than with a pause. This is how you tell it apart from
the Basic Marche. The whole pattern is at double speed, so you need to go
through it quickly. This one *will* trip you up the first few times, but once
you've gotten it memorized, you will be able to get a good number of flourishes
out of it. This pattern is very rare on Apprentice (only seen with beautiful
daughters) but becomes more common on higher levels with all daughters.
This pattern never occurs on Apprentice and only rarely (with beautiful
daughters only) on Journeyman. Beyond there, it becomes more common. There are
two variations: the fairly easy 1-2-1-2-1-1-2, and the more difficult
3-2-3-8-3-2-3-8 which will trip you up completely the first time it happens to
you. This is another double speed pattern which starts directly after another
without any pause.
Swashbuckler level tends to throw a lot of Expert Pirouettes at you and in the
faster dances, this is where you’re most likely to mess up, especially since
these two are not perfect mirror images of one another. It’ll take getting used
to – and Dancing Slippers don’t hurt either.
If you just can't get the patterns right, there are a few things you can do
to make dancing easier:
- If you press the wrong button and you know it, immediately press the right
one after. Your character will correct; you lose the chance at a flourish no
matter how good your timing is, but you will not stumble. In fact, it appears
that if you just mash several keys and the right one is among them, often the
game will accept the move as correct. This isn't a good way to learn to dance,
but it's nice to know the catchnet is there.
- Note that if you correct yourself incorrectly (you press the right button
first and then the wrong one), it'll count as a stumble. You won't actually
see your character stumble and the governor's daugher doesn't react, but the
governor himself does groan and the heart meter *will* decline.
- Some players report better results with flourishes by double tapping the
right button rather than doing a single press. One reader reported he got the
most flourishes by doubletapping as the daughter nods her head, rather than
timing it on the hand gesture.
- Pick the Wit and Charm "skill" at the start of the game. This skill will
help by preventing some of your stumbling by accepting a wrong button press as
a right one sometimes. It won't help you make any flourishes, but since a
stumble really hurts your rating, having one or two prevented by this skill can
make quite the difference.
- The Calfskin Boots item, or even better the Dancing Slippers, give you a set
% chance to make a correct move even if you press the wrong button or take too
long to press one. They'll help reduce the number of mistakes you make, just
like the Wit and Charm skill (and the skill doesn't help you if you neglect to
press a button at all, whereas these items do). The Dancing Slippers in
particular help cover up a surprising number of mistakes. Get them from
mysterious travellers or as a bribe from criminals. Jump on the opportunity
when they are offered as these items are hard to find.
- Some players report getting more flourishes too with the dancing items. It
may be that the window of opportunity for them is increased. I haven't really
noticed this myself, however.
- Some people have reported good results with pausing the game (shift-P) every
time the governor's daughter gives her cue, watching what she's indicating,
then unpausing and immediately doing the move. They even manage to get a lot
of flourishes with this approach. It's not entirely fair, but you could try
this if you really can't get it right otherwise, and perhaps you'll find it
useful as a learning aid when you're still getting used to the dancing.
- If you mess up a dance, especially an important one (perhaps one of the few
beautiful daughters you could find?), you *can* always use the autosave option
to give yourself another chance. Just load the 'arrival' save; it is saved
whenever you enter a port, so in this case, it'll be just before you visited
Most of all, though, practice makes perfect. All of us struggled with this when
we started, and many of us have gotten very good at it just by doing it over
and over. Never pass up a chance to dance with a governor's daughter, and
you will learn before you know it.
Dancing properly with a daughter will initiate or advance your romance subplot
with her, and comes with various rewards as well. Refer to paragraph 7.7 on
romance for the whole story.
This is likely the minigame you'll see least often. Sneaking happens in only
two instances: if you decide you have business in a town that won't let you
enter peacefully (and that you can't/don't want to attack it), or when
you are trying to escape captivity. In the former case, you start at the city
gates and try to reach either the Governor's mansion or the Tavern. In the
latter case, you start in the middle of the city and want to reach the gates.
Guards walk around the city carrying lanterns, and you want to stay out of
their sight. They will spot you if you get too close, and if you are spotted
the alarm will sound and all guards will pick up speed to catch you. If they
manage it, you are thrown in prison, end of story; you don't get a chance to
To stay out of the reach of guards, keep the following in mind:
- Guards can only see in front of them. If you walk (don't run, you can be
heard that way) up to one from behind, you will automatically knock him out.
They will stay down normally, however a different guard may help them back up
on their feet, so don't linger. For the most part, it's safer to stay out of
their sight completely than to try and knock guards out.
- White arrow signs are on various streets pointing in the general direction of
the governor's mansion. The tavern is usually one block behind it. There are
more signs on lower levels.
- If you walk up to a wall, you can climb over it. Guards can't do this, so
this is an easy way to lose one.
- If you walk up to a haystack, you will automatically hide behind it. Then
you can wait for guards to pass and come out of hiding when all is safe.
- By holding shift you can run rather than walk, but this limits your vision
and also makes more noise, potentially alerting nearby guards. Use sparingly.
Of course, if the alarm sounds and they're on to you, you'll want to run.
- Even if the alarm sounds you can still arrive safely at your destination,
though if you're closer to the ship you are probably better off escaping and
trying again. You can also hide in a nearby haystack and wait for the alarm to
die down, which it will in a while (but it’ll take longer for the guards to
disperse so you can come out safely again).
- I've been told, but I'm not sure about this, that day will dawn if you take
too long. I’ve never been able to confirm this, however, so it if happens at
all it’s after a long time. I’ve taken my time on difficult sneaking sessions
and never had an issue.
If you reach the Governor's mansion or the tavern, you will be able to conduct
business there normally and you will automatically leave town afterwards. You
can't access any other of the town's services through sneaking. If you
absolutely must visit the merchant or shipwright in a hostile town, your only
choice is sacking the town. You can access all the options afterwards.
If you succeed in reaching the city gates when escaping captivity, you can
resume your career. But if you're caught when trying this, expect your prison
sentence to be lengthened without another chance to escape.
This section details the various quests you can embark on during the game. Each
paragraph describes a different type, going through all the steps and giving
advice on how to perform them. Since a good number of your fame points are
determined by your success at quests, be sure to take them seriously.
As a bit of general advice pertaining to all quests, it's usually to your
benefit to embark on one as soon as you get info on it. If you do not, you will
often get redundant information on quests you already know about, effectively
making it go to waste. No sense hearing where Raymondo is if you already know
about the family member he can tell you about, or getting lost city map pieces
for a map you've already completed.
Fugitive criminal quests start when you dance moderately well with a plain
governor's daughter. You may also get them if you dance better than that or
with a more attractive daughter if the usual reward you would get has run out
(e.g. you would get an item but you already have all the items you can get
this way, or you'd get information on Raymondo but you've already rescued all
of your family). In these cases, the governor's daughter will tell you the
location of a criminal wanted by the nation she belongs to.
Criminals come in five flavours, each with a different name and reward:
CRIMINAL NAME GOLD REWARD
Libertine Chatterley 1000
Embezzler Farthingsworth 2000
Spy Connery 3000
Blackmailer Shawshank 4000
Traitor Faulkes 5000
The more prolific criminals give better gold rewards, but are also better sword
fighters. You also score more points with the nation hunting them if you
When you get a criminal quest, he spawns in a random city which may or may not
belong to the same nation that's after him. He'll stay here forever, so there's
no rush in going there. To catch a criminal, you need to sail to the city in
question, visit the tavern and talk to the bartender. He'll bring you in
contact with the criminal.
You must then face the criminal in a sword fight, and beat him. Once you do,
he'll surrender. You can then choose to make him stand trial, or to accept a
bribe if he offers you one. The former gets you a reward between 1000 and 5000
gold, and some happiness points with the nation that was after him. The bribe
takes the form of an item, which is take it or leave it - if you take it, you
let the criminal go and he disappears forever. Which items you can get is in
part dependent on the criminal's rank; the more valuable ones tend to offer
better items too. You may not get a bribe offered at all if you already have
all items the criminal in question might offer.
If you choose to accept a bribe, you get no gold and no happiness points for
the criminal's capture. It is up to you what's worth more to you. On the higher
difficulty levels, where items are harder and usually more expensive to get,
you may find it more appealing to accept bribes than on the lower levels where
you can usually buy them easily from travellers, and for less gold than you're
giving up by letting the criminal go.
You can have an infinite number of criminal quests open at any time, but you
can only catch one during a visit to a tavern. If two criminals hide in the
same town, you must catch one, leave town, reenter, and only then you can go
after the second. You should also make sure you catch a criminal before you
revisit the same governor's daughter. If you do not, you risk getting the same
info repeated as you charm her further, which is quite a waste. Nothing quite
like giving her an expensive Diamond Necklace only to be reminded that a 1000
gold reward can be gotten in Santiago.
Criminal quests are a minor pastime, not particularly important to go after but
worth doing if you're in the area. On the higher levels, you may find this a
painless way of obtaining items you can't get from governor's daughters. The
travellers usually ask loads of money for them.
Late in the game, when you've gotten most or all of the other rewards you can
get for dancing, you may find your quest log filling up completely with a bunch
of criminal quests. At that point you may find it more profitable to just go
do them all than hunt ships. The more valuable criminals bring in quite a bit
of gold and at this point, you'll likely get land grants as well for the
happiness points you earn, as presumably you'll already be a Duke with one or
[6.2] NAMED PIRATES
"Captain! There's a steering wheel sticking out of your pants!"
"Arr, it's drivin' me nuts!"
The Caribbean is littered with pirate havens, and from nine of them (chosen
randomly), named pirates sail. These guys are all modelled after historical
pirates and privateers, and in this game they are your direct competitors. They
all have a certain amount of plunder to their name and various other stats
(ships taken, towns sacked etc.). One possible objective you can set for
yourself is to outdo them, though this doesn't get you any fame points
A much more profitable course of action is to track them down and defeat them.
Each pirate sails a well-upgraded ship, and the most notorious ones have
pretty good ship types at that. All have the maximum number of guns and close
to the maximum crew on board. They also each have a good haul of gold in their
hold which increases over the course of the game. Finally, you get a fame point
for every pirate you put out of business. If you defeat a named pirate, they're
gone from the game for good.
Finding named pirates is usually a matter of talking to barmaids. If one
operates somewhat near the port you have stopped in, you may be told about the
location of their home base, and you will usually find them sailing nearby.
Named pirates usually do not attack you, though if you've found and stolen
their buried treasure before (see paragraph 7.3), they will chase you down if
they think they can handle you. You may also run across them randomly while
they are out hunting for merchant ships to plunder. Named pirates never lose
battles against other ships, so the only one who can actually defeat them is
Once you locate a named pirate, defeating them is done in the same way as you
take any other ship; a naval battle followed by a sword fight. They are a
little more skilled at both than most of your opponents, but not very much so.
A pirate can be defeated by sinking his ship, but this is a total waste because
of the large amounts of gold they all carry. You *can* also pummel their ships
into surrendering so you don't have to do a sword fight, but this is rare. They
don't give up easily; usually you'll need to knock out their sails with chain
shot for it to happen at all.
The following is a list of the named pirates in order of most notorious to
least, with the ship they sail and the value of their buried treasures. The
gold they have in their vaults is usually just a little lower than their buried
treasure at the start of the game, and increases as they take down more
targets. One player reported getting as much as 70000 gold off Henry Morgan's
ship. My personal record was just over 30000, after 15 years in the game.
PIRATE FLAGSHIP BURIED TREASURE
Henry Morgan Large Frigate 10000
Blackbeard Frigate 9000
Captain Kidd Brig of War 8000
Jean Lafitte Brig 7000
Stede Bonnett Brigantine 5000
L'Olonnais Brigantine 6000
Roc Brasiliano Royal Sloop 4000
Bart Roberts Sloop of War 3000
Jack Rackham Sloop of War 2000
Note that hunting named pirates is also an excellent way to get your hands on
some hard to find ships. Roc Brasiliano's Royal Sloop and Captain Kidd's Brig
of War are of particular interest, and Henry Morgan's Large Frigate is a decent
substitute for the hard-to-find Ship of the Line. Named pirates typically have
a bunch of upgrades on their vessels as well.
It is possible to predict how much gold capturing a pirate will get you. Just
have a look at the Top 10 Pirates list, and have a look at how much gold
they've plundered over their career. Exactly 10% of that will be on board
their ship when you capture it. Pirate wealth (as well as their other stats)
updates at the beginning of every month, so decide for yourself if you want
to capture them early, or leave them be for a while so you can go after them
later in your career and get more gold.
[6.3] BURIED TREASURES
Each of your nine named rivals has portion of his loot buried somewhere in the
Caribbean. To increase your wealth - and to earn extra fame points while you
are at it - you can look for these treasures. To be able to start looking for a
treasure, you need to talk to mysterious travellers in taverns until one offers
to sell you a part of a treasure map. They will often (but not always) sell
you a map for whichever pirate's home base is nearest to your current location.
The treasure always spawns somewhat near your current location regardless of
how near said pirate is, though. If you're offered a map piece in Trinidad, the
treasure won't be buried near Vera Cruz.
If you're playing on Apprentice, buying one part is enough; you get a (usually)
clear map which shows you the direct area around the treasure, tells you in the
vicinity of which port to look, and shows you several distinctive landmarks to
help you find the right spot. On Journeyman, you only get a quarter of the map
initially, but if you find another mysterious traveller to sell you a piece
you will get the other three quarters right away. From Adventurer level on,
you need to buy four separate map pieces to get the entire thing.
You don't *have* to gather an entire map to be able to find a treasure; if you
think you can do it with the parts you have, go ahead and give it a try. You do
need to get at least one piece for a treasure to spawn in the first place,
though; you can't run into them randomly without any sort of map. You also
can't hunt for more than one treasure at a time, as map pieces for a new
treasure aren't sold to you until you find the previous one. In other words,
once you get the map to a treasure, you should go find it at your earliest
Every map includes instructions on which city's area to search, assuming you
have the bottom right part of the map which tells you so. If you collect all
four pieces it will also say in which general direction of the city the
treasure is. The rule here is that the treasure isn't necessarily right outside
the city or even on the same land mass, but it will always be closer to that
city than any other. How useful that is to you depends on which city it is. If
a treasure is near Rio de La Hacha, that's helpful because there are other
cities near it, and you know it has to be relatively close by. On the other
hand, if a treasure is "near" Gran Granada it could be damn near anywhere in
Mexico. Thankfully pirate treasure almost never spawns that far in the middle
of nowhere, but you'll be remembering this when you're after a Lost City or the
hideout of Montalban.
Sometimes, a treasure map is kind enough to include the city itself on the map,
or something else that's easily recognizable, like a named settlement. Usually
however you have to make do with a named landmark, something like Captain's
Shallows or Rum Rock or a dozen other randomly generated names. These are never
in the same spot twice when you start a new game. The way to find them is to
first get to the city that's mentioned on your treasure map, then sail around
it until you spot the landmark with the right name. Landmarks look like brown
rocks just off the shore, and their name will only show up if you come near
them. On Apprentice and Journeyman level, if you are near the right landmark,
its name will alternate with the text "Buried treasure landmark!" so you really
can't miss it.
Once you know roughly where to beach your ship, do so and use the in-land
landmarks (which only appear once you're marching) to get your bearings. Head
for the red X as best as you can, frequently checking your map. You can use
the spyglass to see landmarks before they actually appear on screen. How useful
this is depends on the difficulty level. On higher levels, the view zooms in
further and you see less of your surroundings when just walking around, but the
spyglass functions the same on all levels. Thus, on Apprentice, it hardly shows
you any more than you already see without it, but on Swashbuckler you're
practically blind without it. Interestingly, you don't actually need to get
either of the Spyglass special items to have it available for treasure hunts.
The treasure location itself looks like a mound of sand, a pole with skulls
hanging from it, and a big red glowing skull & crossbones mark on top of the
mound. To dig up the treasure, simply walk into it and your men will do the
The value of each treasure is fixed between 2000 and 10000 gold; the treasures
of the more notorious pirates are worth more. Each treasure also earns you 1
fame point, as well as the wrath of the pirate you stole it from (assuming you
haven't defeated him already). Count on said pirate to chase and attack you if
you ever meet him and you don't outmatch him.
A final thing to note on treasure spawn locations: it seems that there is a
fixed number of locations where treasures can in fact spawn. If you play many
games, you may eventually discover patterns to where they turn up, such as
noticing that a treasure said to spawn "west of [whatever port]" always seems
to be in the same one or two spots, rather than the potential hundreds of
possibilities. I'm not entirely certain about this, but I definitely get this
impression from the games I've played and the sentiment was shared by some
of the reader input I've gotten. And I’ve played more than one game where,
after finding a treasure or a lost city, I was later directed to a new treasure
in virtually the same location.
[6.4] LOST FAMILY MEMBERS
One of the major quests of the game is to find the four family members that
Marquis de la Montalban takes into bondage during the introduction scene. These
are your sister, uncle, aunt and grandfather (presumably, your parents were on
the fleet that was lost?). Conveniently, all four have been shipped to the
Caribbean and are now locked in little shacks littered all over the place,
waiting for you to rescue them. But to do that, first you need to find out
where they are.
Surprisingly, it's not Montalban who can tell you where they are, but one of
his henchmen: Baron Raymondo. To get information on your family members, you
need to track down Raymondo, defeat him, and get him to give up map pieces
detailing their location. Strangely enough, you only get one piece at a time,
and to get more information you must then track him down and defeat him again.
This can mean that you need to find and defeat Raymondo no less than 16 times
over the course of your career. Why your character is so kind to let Raymondo
go every time he gives up a little bit of information and then goes through the
trouble of finding him again, who knows.
There are three ways to get a lead on Raymondo and start the hunt:
- Talk to the abbot at a Jesuit mission, and he'll give you Raymondo's location
just like that.
- Talk to a mysterious traveller at any tavern. If he tells you he has news
about your family, pay his fee (fixed at 1000 gold for all levels) and he'll
give you Raymondo's location. It’s not a lot of money in the long run, so you
might as well do it if the option comes up.
- Dance near-perfectly with an attractive governor's daughter, or moderately
with a beautiful one, and they will tell you where to find Raymondo.
Once you have a lead, you can have your information updated by talking to
bartenders or by capturing ships near the city where Raymondo is supposed to
be. You'll often be told if he's still there or if he's moving somewhere else
by now. Raymondo rarely stays in one port for long, and he's usually out on the
sea in his fully upgraded and well-crewed War Galleon. Just keep chasing him
down and getting your info updated until you spot him, then attack his ship.
You usually can't catch Raymondo in a port. Even if he stops somewhere, his
ship will just be stationary right outside it, and as soon as you come near
and he spots you he'll make a run for it. However, it is possible that you get
information on Raymondo's whereabouts from a governor's daughter and he
happens to start in the same port you're in right now. If that happens, you
*can* go to the tavern, talk to the bartender, and get to fight him just like
a fugitive criminal. Saves you the hunt, though it also means you won't get his
ship and the gold on board.
Assuming the above doesn't happen, Raymondo always moves from port to port, and
only stops in Spanish ones. He can't visit ports that no longer belong to
Spain, and he *can* visit ports that were originally a different nationality if
Spain has captured them. Some players deliberately capture the more out of the
way Spanish ports early in the game to make sure Raymondo can't spawn or travel
there anymore. Note that if you run Spain out of ports completely, Raymondo
will start moving between another nation's ports instead. I haven’t tried out
yet what happens if you leave Spain with one port.
You need to defeat Raymondo in a regular ship battle and sword fight. You
cannot sink his ship (it won't take more than 99% hull damage no matter how
much you hit it) and you cannot avoid the sword fight. Fortunately, if you
wear his ship and crew down enough, it's not a particularly challenging
battle. It is possible, for instance, to use chain shot to destroy his rigging
(causing the ship to strike its colours, but they will still fight you when you
get close), then circle around it and repeatedly hit it with grape shot until
you've brought the crew down to a manageable size. All the way down to 1, if
When you beat Raymondo, you get a map piece for whatever family member
you are currently looking for. On Apprentice you need to gather only two map
pieces per family member to get the entire map; on all other levels you need to
get four. Raymondo always carries exactly 3000 gold on his ship as well, so
that's a nice bonus.
Finding the family member then works exactly like hunting for a pirate
treasure. Use the landmarks on your map to track down the right location, then
march to it. You're in the right spot when you see a low blueish building. You
will automatically rescue your lost family member when you find it.
You get 1 fame point for every map piece you discover regarding a lost family
member. If you manage to find one without getting the entire map, you still get
the total 4 fame points for that member. Furthermore, any family member you
rescue gives you the location of Marquis de la Montalban (see paragraph 6.6).
If you already know where he is or have even already defeated him, you get a
Lost City map piece instead (see paragraph 6.5). As soon as you rescue one
family member, any further leads you get on Raymondo will be regarding the
next. Raymondo will stop appearing when you've rescued your entire family.
Like pirate treasures, lost family members appear to spawn in specific spots,
so that over the course of several games you will notice you are returning
to the exact same spot for certain rescues.
[6.5] LOST CITIES
"Lost a city, master Kenobi has! How embarassing, how embarassing."
Lost Cities are kind of a wrap-up quest that is offered as an alternative to
the main one of vanquishing Montalban. There are four Lost Cities in the
Caribbean belonging to various famous Indian tribes, and finding them is a
daunting but profitable task. As with pirate treasures and family members, you
need to gather map pieces, but you'll find that with Lost Cities this is only
the beginning. They are usually in very out of the way and hard to find places.
First off, to get a Lost City map piece, you must do one of the following:
- Rescue a family member, and already know the location of Montalban or have
- Dance near-perfectly with a beautiful governor's daughter, under the same
- Rescue a governor's daughter from the evil Colonel Mendoza.
You basically get a Lost City map piece as an alternative to Montalban's
location if you don't need it, or by rescuing a daughter (something you will
typically do only once, though there's nothing stopping you from running as
many romance subquests as you want).
On Apprentice level, you need to get two Lost City map pieces to complete the
map; the first is just a quarter, then the second piece completes the map right
away. On Journeyman, the first piece is a quarter, the second piece brings you
to three quarters instantly, and the third piece completes the map. On all
higher levels you need to find four pieces to get the full map. You don't
strictly need the entire map to be able to find a Lost City, though - it spawns
as soon as you get the first piece, and can theoretically be found then.
Finding a Lost City takes a lot of luck and patience. They are often in the
middle of Mexico or other big land masses, nowhere near the city they are
claimed to be in the vicinity of (though closer to there than any other). There
is often a lack of shoreline on the Lost City maps, making it very hard to have
any idea of where to start your search. All I can advise you to do is to check
the map carefully, and sail around the coast hoping to recognize any landmarks.
Failing that, you'll have to march, check your treasure map frequently, and
hope for something recognizable. A Lost City looks like two red poles opposite
A good suggestion mailed in by Andrew Durdin: it is possible to spot landbased
landmarks while sailing if you use the telescope (right mouse click), so if you
have trouble determining where to look for a Lost City (map has no coastline),
it may help to sail just by the coast and use the telescope to see if you spot
a familiar set of landmarks.
One other thing that will help is that landmarks typically only appear in the
area surrounding your target. If you beach your ship in a random location and
start exploring, you won’t be stumbling over Incan Temples and Geysers and Dead
Trees and whatnot – the land will be barren. But if you approach a Lost City or
other land based target, they will start showing up. They’re not necessarily
within the map’s range, and the map may not show all of them even if they are
in range, but it’s your first sign that you’re getting close.
Quarter map pieces for Lost Cities are worth 1 fame point each. Completing a
map (or finding a Lost City without completing the map first) earns you the
full 4 fame points for that city, and a chance to start gathering map pieces
for the next. Each Lost City you find also has a little bit of treasure
waiting for you. 50.000 gold, to be exact. A fitting reward for the headache of
As with pirate treasures, there seems to be a finite number of locations where
Lost Cities can spawn, and you may notice from one game to another that there
is a pattern to where Lost Cities appear and where they do not. But I don't
have hard data on this.
[6.6] MARQUIS DE LA MONTALBAN
The main quest of Sid Meier's Pirates, and certainly the most convoluted one,
is tracking down and defeating the evil Marquis who made off with your entire
family in the introduction movie. To do this, you'll need to find his hideout
and defeat him there; but to do that, you'll need to track him down at sea a
couple of times, first.
To be able to find Montalban at sea at all, you'll need to get a lead on him
just like with Raymondo, except the lead is a little harder to get. You must:
- Rescue a missing family member (which in turn requires you going through the
whole Raymondo chase several times);
- Dance near-perfectly with a beautiful governor's daughter.
Either will get you Montalban's location. You will then need to chase his Flag
Galleon in exactly the same way you track down Raymondo; talk to bartenders and
crews of captured ships to find out where he's gone off to next. Soon as you
catch up with him, you need to defeat him in a ship battle, which is no easy
task. Flag Galleons may be slow, but they're very powerful, and Montalban only
sails fully upgraded ones with a sizable crew. He's powerful in duels, too,
probably the most powerful opponent in the game. Just how hard he is depends on
the level, of course. Like Raymondo, Montalban *can* be caught in port but
usually only if he happens to spawn in the same one you are in when you get a
lead on him. If you fight him at sea, you can use the same trick as with
Raymondo to make the battle easier: take out his sails with chain shot first,
then circle his defenseless ship and repeatedly hit it with grape shot to take
out the crew. If you reduce him to the minimum of 1 crew, he'll lose the sword
battle as soon as you hit him just once, so you may want to do this on the
highest levels when he is difficult to beat regularly.
Defeat Montalban at sea and he'll manage to escape, but searching his ship
will turn up a map piece for his hideout (as well as 5000 gold). On Apprentice
level you only need to find two of those to get the complete map, on Journeyman
you need three, and on all other levels you need four. Then, when you finally
have the complete map, you run into the same problem as with Lost Cities: more
often than not he's got his hideout somewhere in Mexico, far away from the
coast, and very hard to find.
When you do finally come across his hideout, it's not over yet. The exterior
is protected by a band of Indian mercenaries that you need to defeat in a land
battle. I'm not quite sure if the size of this band is dependent on the
difficulty level; on Apprentice and Journeyman I found that a crew of 200 was
plenty to be able to win this battle, but you may need more on higher levels. I
was able to do it on Swashbuckler with a fully crewed Royal Sleep (187 men),
but only barely – better to get a second ship and some extra hands before you
go into this fight. As with all land battles, though, you can sneak a unit
through to the main gates instead of defeating all the enemies. And at least
the Indians won't have any cavalry.
When you're through the land battle, you finally need to face Montalban in a
one on one duel and prove one more time that you're his master with the sword.
On the lower levels, this isn't much harder than any other duel in the game.
On Swashbuckler, it will take everything you've got.
The reward for going through all this is solid though. You get 2 fame points
for every map piece to the hideout you uncover, and another 2 for tracking him
down and defeating him (for a total of 10 fame points regardless of if you
completed the map). Furthermore, you get 100.000 gold from his hideout - the
highest gold reward in the game - all crew specialists that you don't have yet,
and any further family members you rescue/beautiful daughters you charm will
give you Lost City map pieces so you can focus on that very profitable quest.
Two pieces of advice for completing the Montalban quest on higher levels:
1. In ship battles you may find it necessary to use the trick of destroying his
sails and then cutting his crew down to 1 with Grape Shot so that tagging him
once during the duel will force a surrender. The issue here is the staircase
he’ll flee up or down halfway the battle, resetting the advantage bar. On
Swashbuckler, armed with his trusty rapier, Montalban is almost impossibly fast
whenever the advantage bar isn’t on your side, and the stairs make it so that
you cannot *keep* it on your side. I’ve been beaten by him many times because
he manages to regain momentum at the stairs and then became so fast that I
couldn’t defend myself anymore. This is actually less of a problem during the
final battle with him as there is no advantage bar equalizer there, so you can
keep up a steady rhythm of dodging blows and alternating counterattacks with
2. Don't delay. Get a lead on him as soon as you can - this will require
tracking down a beautiful daughter and getting to dance with her (become a
Baron or get the Ostrich Feather Hat), and doing it well. If you hold off too
long and you only get around to tracking down Montalban when your pirate is
already past 40 and getting slow, you may find the final duel unwinnable. It’s
perfectly possible to wrap up the quest in 10 years if you focus on getting
Montalban leads as soon as you’ve got the ship and crew you need to be able to
Apart from gathering riches and tracking down villains, a significant part of
your fame points and happiness come from romance. Your ultimate objective here
is to get close enough to one of the many governor's daughters in the
Caribbean to win her hand in marriage. More points are earned for charming a
more beautiful daughter (looks really do count in the 17th century, it
appears). A maximum of 10 fame points can be earned for marrying a beautiful
You need to go through a couple of steps to marry a daughter, and here they
- First, you need to get introduced. This requires you to at least be a
Captain for a plain looking daughter, a Colonel for an attractive one or a
Baron for a beautiful one. The latter two requirements can be bypassed if you
have either or both of the fashion items (French Chapeau / Ostrich Feather
Hat). Once you are introduced, you must accept the daughter's invitation to
dance with her at that night's ball, and you must dance at least moderately
well and not make a fool of yourself. More info on dancing in paragraph 5.4. If
you don't mess up, the quest continues on your next visit; if you do, you’ll
have a chance to try the dance again later.
- On a subsequent visit, the daughter will remark she would really like to
have a Ruby Ring or a Diamond Necklace. Subtle. She will keep repeating this
on next visits until you actually bring her one. Obtain them from the
mysterious traveller in the tavern, or occasionally as a bribe from a fugitive
criminal. Note that if you actually have either of these items but refuse to
give it to her, she'll somehow magically know it and be insulted. I believe
this may end your romance subquest with this daughter, but I’m not sure if you
can’t just return and give her the gift later.
- The next time you visit town after giving the governor's daughter a gift, it
turns out she has a fiance who is now less than pleased with you. In fact, he
will challenge you to a duel. You fight this duel the next time you visit
*after* this (you can immediately revisit the governor in this instance to get
it over with). You'll need to win the duel for the romance subplot to continue.
Losing it ends the subplot as far as I’m aware.
- On your next visit, you have to dance a second time. Strangely, the game's
dialogue is exactly the same as it was with the first dance, so that it seems
like you don't even know this daughter yet. Don't worry, the quest hasn't
reset. But you do need to get the dance right a second time for the subquest to
- The next time you visit, the governor will tell you his daughter has been
kidnapped by the evil Colonel Mendoza. If you refuse to go after him, the poor
governor will faint, and the subquest ends. If you decide to rescue her, you
need to track down Mendoza's ship (a Fast Galleon) and defeat him in battle to
rescue the daughter. Tracking him down works in exactly the same way as
Raymondo and Montalban, and the battle is slightly easier. The old trick of
chain shot to take out the sails and then grape shotting the crew down to the
minimum works once more. Whatever you do, the next time you return to the city
the daughter will be reunited with the governor. She will also give you a Lost
City map piece.
- On your next visit to the port, you have the option of asking for the
daughter's hand in marriage. If you do not, you will end the subplot and break
the lass’ heart. If she is beautiful, go ahead and propose; if she is less so,
it's up to you if you're okay with ending up short of the maximum fame score.
You can only marry once, and you will only get all points out of this quest if
you marry a beautiful daughter.
- After marriage, subsequent visits to the city give you a chance to dance
with your wife and gain more rewards; messing up or refusing the dance causes
no permanent harm, but yields no rewards either. You can still flirt with any
other governor's daughters you desire, playing the romance subquest right up
until marriage, but you can only marry once. You can, however, rescue as many
more daughters from Mendoza as you wish. In fact, if you have multiple
romance plots running at the same time, it's perfectly possible to have
multiple clones of Mendoza sailing around the Caribbean, all having a different
daughter as their hostage.
Once you retire, your wife will move to whichever city you settle down in. You
don't have to stop your career in her home city.
You get a reward in fame points based on the best romance result you've had so
far. You could be running a dozen romance subplots in different cities at the
same time, and whichever one is worth most based on the daughter's beauty and
how far you have advanced the plot is the one that determines your fame
points. The rewards are as follows:
SUBPLOT PLAIN ATTRACTIVE BEAUTIFUL
Completing the first dance 1 2 3
Giving her a gift 2 3 4
Hearing that fiance is jealous 3 4 5
Beating the fiance in a duel 4 5 6
Completing the second dance 5 6 7
Rescuing daughter from Mendoza 6 7 8
Returning daughter to her father 7 8 9
Marriage 8 9 10
In addition, you can get two grades of reward from a daughter whenever you
advance the plot. Which reward you get depends on how well you've handled
this particular part of it, and once again, on how beautiful the daughter is.
- For dancing: a moderate dance where you end up kissing her hand yieds the
lower reward, while a good dance which ends in an embrace also gets you the
- For gifts: a Diamond Necklace should get you the better reward compared to
the Ruby Ring. However, I’ve found this is not always true.
- For defeating the fiance: this always yields the lower reward. There's no way
to get the better one here.
- When you rescue a daughter from Mendoza, she always gives you a lost city map
piece regardless of her beauty.
After handling a part of the subplot, your rewards can be:
- Information on a fugitive criminal (see paragraph 6.1);
- A free item (see paragraph 7.5);
- Information on the location of Baron Raymondo (see paragraph 6.4);
- Information on the location of Marquis Montalban (see paragraph 6.6);
- A lost city map piece (see paragraph 6.5).
The following table describes which reward you get under which circumstances:
BEAUTY REWARD #1 REWARD #2
Plain Criminal Item
Attractive Item Raymondo
Beautiful Raymondo Montalban/Lost City map
If you already have all items you can get from governor's daughters, you will
get information on a criminal instead. Similarly, if you already rescued all
family members and no longer need to chase Raymondo, you'll get information on
a criminal. If you already know where Montalban is or you have vanquished him,
you get a lost city map piece instead. If you've cleared Montalban *and* found
all Lost Cities, you get information on a criminal. Due to the way this system
works, you will often end up with a quest log full of criminal quests late in
Note that if you advance a romance subplot with a daughter before acting on the
information you got from her earlier (on either criminals or Raymondo, not for
the lost city maps), she'll merely restate what she already said earlier. This
is a bit of a waste, so if the daughter you're wooing has given you info to
act on, do so first before coming back to her.
In the original unpatched version of the game, during the Mendoza part of the
romance subplot, the plot can break if an invasion force captures the city
before you manage to return the daughter to her father. If this happens, this
plot is effectively gone and you'll need to find somebody else to marry. After
you have married a daughter, even the capture of the city she lives in won't
end your marriage, though it may cause other weird effects, such as her
appearance changing to reflect the new nationality. It is not possible to
install a new governor yourself in the city your wife lives in.
If the governor of a city is changed but the nationality isn't, the romance
subplot is unaffected. Apparently, every new governor promptly adopts the old
Version 1.0.2 of Pirates contains some safeguards against the nationality
changes breaking the romance subplot. When the subplot is in the critical
stage (from the moment the daughter is kidnapped by Mendoza), you can no
longer switch the town's allegiance by sacking it, and AI controlled invasion
forces will no longer target it. It does appear that the patch has gone a bit
overboard – I’ve found that once a city is thus “protected” from invasion, I
start having trouble attacking *any* port where I have a romance subplot
running up to any level. I simply don’t get the option anymore even when
entering on land.
A final tip: marrying a beautiful daughter as early in the game as you can
doesn't just ensure you've got those 10 fame points pocketed: she will act as a
renewable source of Montalban leads and Lost City map pieces since you can
return to dance with her at any time. This is especially useful on high levels
to track down Montalban before you get too old to have much of a chance against
him in battle.
[6.8] TREASURE FLEET
Every two years, the Spanish Treasure Fleet sails around the Caribbean to pick
up valuables at each important port to carry back to Spain. Obviously, this is
a very profitable target for a bold pirate. The Treasure Fleet consists of 3
Treasure Galleons which, starting with Trinidad, sail west along the Spanish
Main, then up north to Havana, then back east and out to Europe. This trip
takes about a year and a half, and along the way the ships sell off Luxuries
and Spices and pick up gold. At the start of every even numbered year, some
months after the Treasure Fleet has left for Europe, a new one appears at
In the original version of the game, various bugs associated with the Treasure
Fleet made it hard to find, and often it would not appear (or reappear) at all.
Version 1.0.2 fixes these bugs and you should run into the Treasure Fleet
much more frequently now. Barmaids can tell you where it is currently heading,
and you can also stumble upon it yourself. Bear in mind that it's around
Trinidad in January, then sails west up to Puerto Bello, then straight north to
Havana, and then straight east. It will reach the east edge of the map about
halfway the next year. The Treasure Fleet only spawns in odd years, so in the
standard era, the first one will appear in 1660, then the next in 1662, et
cetera. However, if you capture or sink the entire Treasure Fleet, a new one
can spawn almost immediately, ignoring the previous time frame. I've once
captured three separate Treasure Fleets in only a little more than one game
While the Treasure Fleet is still intact, its ships will not actually be
labelled 'treasure ships'. However, if the fleet breaks up - which can be
caused by pirate attacks but also by you just coming close to it - the
individual ships that leave the formation will get the 'treasure ship' label.
Especially in this case, you might not even realize you just captured part of
the Treasure Fleet - it will look just like any other treasure ship.
When you attack a ship in the Treasure Fleet, one of the others will typically
act as an escort. This means you'll have two big ships with lots of crew and
guns after you at once, so you'd best be prepared. These aren't ordinary
merchant ships you're after and you may find yourself biting off more than you
can chew. If you're well armed and have a sizable crew, you can pull it off,
but head in to board them quickly. You don't want to exchange broadsides with
two 30+ gunners at once.
The loot on each ship in the Treasure Fleet depends on when you catch it. Since
it will sell off cargo and pick up gold in every port it stops at, the loot
grows over time. Capture one or more of the ships at Trinidad early in the
year, and you'll get just about a thousand gold and a fair bit of cargo.
Capture it when it comes out of Havana - perhaps swooping down on it from
Florida Keys - and you can expect each remaining ship to hold 3000 gold
easily. Of course, the downside is that by then, perhaps only one ship
survives as enemy nations and pirates have already sunk the others.
There are no fame points associated with capturing the Treasure Fleet, nor any
special sequences; it's just a couple of well armed Treasure Galleons with a
lot of gold on board. A little disappointing compared to the awesome target it
was in the original game, but still a nice boost and a challenging battle on
the higher levels.
 REFERENCE LISTS
This is a complete list of all 27 ships in the game, sorted by 9 different
classes. Info comes directly from the game and should be accurate.
Note that the term 'combat galleon' does not come from the game, I made that
up. Had to distinguish somehow between the merchant types and the warship
types, and since 'war galleon' was already the name of a specific type of ship,
that would have been a little awkward to use. Hence 'combat galleon' is how
I refer to the fast/war/flag galleon line of ships.
'Crew' refers to the maximum crew a ship can carry if it does *not* have the
Triple Hammocks upgrade. If it does, the ship can carry 50% more crew, rounded
'Min crew' refers to the minimum crew needed to operate the ship at full
sailing speed; the game will automatically assign exactly this crew to any
ship that's not your flagship. If a ship is damaged, the minimum crew required
raises. If at any time the minimum crew requirement cannot be met, the ship
slows down considerably.
In battle, having just the minimum crew will let you sail the ship at its
proper speed, but cannon reloading will be seriously slow. The more excess
crew you have, the faster your cannons will be reloaded. Excess crew does not
increase sailing or turning speed though; only so many men can be in the
The fastest possible reloading speed for cannons (not counting the bonuses that
a Gunner specialist and the Gunnery skill add) can be achieved by having the
minimum crew, plus three more men for every cannon your ship has. For instance,
12 men are required to keep an (undamaged) Royal Sloop sailing at its best
possible speed; if it has its maximum 20 cannons on board, you'll need 60 more
men to reload those at the best possible speed, thus ideally a Royal Sloop
should have at least 72 men on board to function perfectly in battle. This
same formula works for all ships. Keep in mind that as soon as a ship takes on
damage, its minimum crew increases on the spot, and with it the ideal crew
for maximum reload speed as well. Your men can't load cannons and scoop out
water at the same time.
All missing minimum crew figures as well as confirmation of the ideal crew
formula (min crew + 3x number of cannons) were kindly provided by Strange.
CLASS SHIP SIZE TURNING TYPE SPEED
Pinnace War Canoe Small Very tight Merchant Very fast
Pinnace Pinnace Small Very tight Merchant Very fast
Pinnace Mail Runner Small Very tight Merchant Very fast
Barque Coastal Barque Medium Tight Merchant Slow
Barque Barque Medium Tight Merchant Slow
Barque Ocean Barque Medium Tight Merchant Slow
Fluyt Fluyt Medium Wide Merchant Very slow
Fluyt Large Fluyt Medium Wide Merchant Very slow
Fluyt West Indiaman Medium Very wide Merchant Very slow
Merchantman Merchantman Large Very wide Merchant Slow
Merchantman Large Merchantman Large Very wide Merchant Slow
Merchantman East Indiaman Large Very wide Merchant Slow
Merchant Galleon Trade Galleon Large Very wide Merchant Very slow
Merchant Galleon Royal Galleon Large Very wide Merchant Very slow
Merchant Galleon Treasure Galleon Large Very wide Merchant Very slow
Sloop Sloop Small Tight Warship Fast
Sloop Sloop of War Small Tight Warship Fast
Sloop Royal Sloop Small Tight Warship Fast
Brig Brigantine Medium Medium Warship Medium
Brig Brig Medium Medium Warship Medium
Brig Brig of War Medium Medium Warship Medium
Combat Galleon Fast Galleon Large Wide Warship Slow
Combat Galleon War Galleon Large Wide Warship Slow
Combat Galleon Flag Galleon Large Wide Warship Slow
Frigate Frigate Large Wide Warship Fast
Frigate Large Frigate Large Wide Warship Fast
Frigate Ship of the Line Large Wide Warship Fast
CLASS SHIP CREW CANNONS CARGO MIN CREW
Pinnace War Canoe 50 8 20 6
Pinnace Pinnace 60 10 25 6
Pinnace Mail Runner 80 12 30 8
Barque Coastal Barque 75 12 60 10
Barque Barque 100 16 70 12
Barque Ocean Barque 125 16 80 14
Fluyt Fluyt 50 8 80 12
Fluyt Large Fluyt 75 12 100 14
Fluyt West Indiaman 100 16 120 18
Merchantman Merchantman 125 16 100 16
Merchantman Large Merchantman 125 20 120 20
Merchantman East Indiaman 150 20 140 24
Merchant Galleon Trade Galleon 100 20 120 16
Merchant Galleon Royal Galleon 150 32 130 20
Merchant Galleon Treasure Galleon 200 40 140 24
Sloop Sloop 75 12 40 8
Sloop Sloop of War 100 16 50 10
Sloop Royal Sloop 125 20 60 12
Brig Brigantine 125 20 60 12
Brig Brig 150 24 70 14
Brig Brig of War 200 32 80 18
Combat Galleon Fast Galleon 160 24 80 16
Combat Galleon War Galleon 200 32 90 20
Combat Galleon Flag Galleon 250 40 100 24
Frigate Frigate 200 32 80 16
Frigate Large Frigate 250 40 90 20
Frigate Ship of the Line 300 48 100 24
Some notes on the various ship types:
- The third ship in each class tends to be a lot rarer than the first two.
They are also almost always preferable over the two earlier types, having
better crew/cargo/cannon capacity with roughly the same performance. The
West Indiaman is the only exception, performing worse than the other two
Fluyts. But what the heck are you doing using a Fluyt in battle to begin with?
- Pinnaces, Barques, Sloops and Brigs are used by all nations. The War Canoe,
specifically, is an Indian-only ship.
- The Spanish use merchant Galleon class ships as their merchants. The Dutch
use Fluyt classes. The English and French use Merchantman classes.
- The Spanish use combat Galleon class ships as warships. The Dutch, English
and French use Frigate class ships instead.
- Virtually all merchant ships in the Caribbean are the smallest type in their
class. The Spanish variant, the Trade Galleon, is the single most common ship
in the game. Bigger merchant ships like Royal Galleons are noteworthy since
they will almost always have a lot of gold and/or valuable cargo, whereas the
smaller merchant vessels are a bit of a gamble.
- The Ship of the Line is the rarest and most sought after ship in the game.
Check the first entry of the Frequently Asked Questions section (paragraph 9)
for some hints on how to get one. There is, unfortunately, no easy foolproof
[7.2] SHIP MISSIONS
While many of the ships you encounter in the Caribbean are just randomly
sailing merchant ships, a lot have special missions which will light up as you
hold your cursor over a ship. A ship's mission can be important to know, as it
gives you important clues about what to expect if you engage it, and what
effect this ship may have on the game world if it reaches its destination
safely. This section details all possible ship missions and what you need to
know about them.
These ships have no special marking at all; they are the most common in the
game. Merchants spawn in any port, and then sail to a different port belonging
to either the same nation or another nation they are not currently at war with.
They are usually the smallest kind of the regular merchant ship class used by
this nation: Trade Galleons for Spain, Fluyts for Holland, and Merchantmen for
England and France. Barques of all kinds (but mostly the medium size one) are
often used as well, or the medium size merchant ships (Royal Galleon, Large
Fluyt, Large Merchantman). Rarely you may see Sloops (only the small size)
or the largest kind of merchant ships (Treasure Galleon, West Indiaman, East
Indiaman). If you see several unmarked Treasure Galleons sailing in formation,
you just stumbled upon the Treasure Fleet (see paragraph 6.8).
If a regular merchant reaches its destination, this has a subtle effect on the
wealth of both the source and the destination port, helping them improve their
wealth ratings over time. If a merchant is intercepted, the destination port
is unaffected, and the source port loses part of its wealth. Consistently
taking ships as they come out of a port will reduce it to Poor fairly quickly.
Merchants are typically poorly defended, with a small crew (often smaller than
50) and only a few cannons. There are exceptions, though, and the better
defended ships often have more loot. Some merchants bring along an escort, and
that's a dead giveaway that their ship holds something valuable.
Merchants typically have gold and a decent load of one specific kind of cargo;
often Goods or Sugar, but occasionally Luxuries or Spice.
Smugglers are basically merchants who trade with the enemy. Smuggler ships
spawn in any port, and sail to a port belonging to a nation its home port is
currently at war with. Smugglers often use Pinnace class ships (always the
medium size kind), Sloops (the small ones) or Brigantines.
If a smuggler reaches its destination, only the destination port benefits from
it economically. Interestingly, though, the smuggler ship is considered to be
a loyal ship to the nation it comes from in terms of who gets happy and who
gets mad if you sink it.
Smugglers tend to be a little better armed than regular merchants, but this is
offset again by the fact that their ships are smaller. They usually just try to
escape if you attack one. Only the Brigantine using smugglers can pose some
Smugglers usually have a decent amount of gold, and a bit of cargo - almost
always something valuable like Luxuries or Spice. They also have a better than
normal chance of carrying specialists.
These rare prizes are some of the most sought after targets in the game.
Treasure Ships carry pure profit. They usually sail from one port to another,
but the Spanish Treasure Fleet spawns from Europe in the southeast corner of
the map (near Trinidad) at the beginning of every even year, and consists of 3
Treasure Galleons sailing in formation. These ships, however, are not marked
'treasure ship' unless and until they leave the formation.
Treasure Ships are always the largest in the nation's merchant class of ships
(West Indiaman, East Indiaman, Treasure Galleon). They tend to have a large
number of cannons and a decent sized crew, and are often, but not always,
escorted by a warship as well. I'm not sure yet on what impact they have on
their source and destination ports if they reach their destination, but it
seems logical that they take wealth away from the source and make the
Treasure Ships carry both a large amount of gold (starting at 1000, going up
to as much as 3000 sometimes) and a large cargo of either Luxuries or Spice.
Sometimes both. They are the among the most profitable targets in the game.
Governor turnover in the Caribbean is extremely high. Very frequently,
settlements spawn small ships transporting governors to nearby ports belonging
to the same nation. The usual targets are poor ports, but it can happen
anywhere. If a governor reaches his destination, the wealth rating there is
instantly boosted; to Prosperous if it was Poor or Modest, or to Wealthy if it
was Prosperous. If the town was already Wealthy, it appears to get a population
boost instead (which might actually make the new rating Prosperous as the
wealth rating is relative to the population size).
Governor Transports are typically Sloops (small size) or Barques (medium size).
They are typically poorly defended and unescorted - perhaps hoping just not to
be seen - and have a fair amount of gold but no cargo to speak of on board.
You can spawn Governor Transports yourself by visiting a settlement and talking
to the Mayor. If there is at least one nearby port belonging to the same
nation, you will spawn a Governor Transport and be given the task of escorting
the governor. The game will also spawn 1-3 Privateers (depending on level) of
a random enemy nation directly between you and the destination port, which will
attempt to sink the governor's ship. If the nation in question has no enemies
right now, the Privateers will be pirate class instead.
Immigrant Transports are a little less frequent than governors, but still quite
common. These ships spawn in settlements and head for a port belonging to the
same nation. If they arrive safely, the port gets a significant population
boost. This may make the wealth rating seem to drop a notch, as it is relative
to the size of the town. The boost can be up to 2000 depending on the type of
Immigrant transports are typically small merchant ships (Trade Galleon, Fluyt,
Merchantman). They are almost always poorly defended, with a small crew and
few cannons. They do carry a lot of gold - the personal fortune of all those
immigrants, no doubt - and have the highest chance of all ship types in the
game to carry specialists.
You can spawn Immigrant Transports yourself by visiting a Jesuit mission and
talking to the Abbot. Often, you will be given the opportunity to escort
immigrants to the nearest port of any of the four nations. Once you choose a
nation, the immigrant ship will take that nation's flag, and 1-3 enemy
Privateers (depending on level) will spawn between you and the target.
Seedling Transports are a rare kind of ship that doesn't spawn on its own, but
only as a specific mission for you. When you visit a settlement that doesn't
have any ports belonging to the same nation nearby, you will be given a chance
to escort a ship carrying hardy sugar seedlings. As with immigrants, you choose
what nation it's going to, and you bring them to the nearest port belonging to
Attacking the seedling ship is mostly pointless as it won't have much gold or
cargo on board. If you escort it to its destination, however (and as with the
governor and immigrant transports, you'll have enemy Privateers to deal with
along the way), its wealth rating will be boosted, and I believe its
population as well.
Seedling Transports appear to be Barques for the most part. They are poorly
defended and can definitely not fight off any Privateers on their own.
Grain Transports spawn from either settlements or ports - not sure which, it
might even be both - and head to a random port belonging to the same nation.
They are largely uninteresting targets which may have some gold, but rarely a
lot, and carry only food. They become interesting only if your crew is close
to starvation and you are desperately in need of new supplies.
Grain Transports are almost without exception Coastal Barques. They are,
completely without exception, poorly defended.
Raiders are warships sent out to blockade and harass an enemy port. They spawn
at any port, head for a specific port belonging to an enemy nation, attacking
any enemy ships along the way. When they reach the port, they will park in
front of it and bombard it for a while, lowering its population, wealth rating
and garrison size. If a Raider takes heavy damage during the blockade or
before, from combat, it will retreat to its home port.
Raiders are always Sloop, Brig, Frigate or (in the case of Spain) combat
Galleon type ships. They are usually not the biggest kind; Royal Sloop and
Brig of War sightings are rare. Frigate or combat Galleon Raiders are never the
biggest kind; you won't see Ship of the Line or Flag Galleon Raiders.
Raiders typically have little in terms of interesting cargo, but taking out
enemy warships is an excellent way to get on a nation's good side quickly. They
always have plenty of cannons and a decent sized crew, so they're not easy
Invasions forces spawn at any port - usually the best defended ones - and head
for a random enemy settlement or port in an attempt to capture it. If they
reach their destination, their attack either succeeds or fails, with the
chance depending on the size of the garrison (settlements are always captured
successfully). If the attack succeeds, the port or settlement now belongs to
the new nation; if it fails, the garrison size is reduced.
Invasion forces are always the largest kind of combat vessel - combat Galleons
for Spain, Frigates for the other nations. They may be either the small or the
medium variant, never a Flag Galleon or a Ship of the Line.
Invasion forces always have the maximum crew on board (however, they do not
take advantage of Triple Hammocks if the ship has them). They tend not to have
many guns. They're worth taking out for the prestige with the enemy nation and
if you want to prevent the invasion from happening, but there's very little to
plunder on a purely military ship like this.
Troop Transports are basically the peaceful variants of Invasion Forces. They
are often Brigs, occasionally Frigates/combat Galleons. Just like Invasion
Forces, however, they are fully stocked with troops and have few guns. Troop
Transports spawn in settlements, then head to a random port belonging to the
same nation; usually, but not always, a port that could do with some
reinforcements. If the troop ship reaches its destination, the garrison size is
Troop ships aren't worth taking out in terms of plunder, and don't gain you
all that much prestige. The main reason for going after one is to prevent the
reinforcing of a port you intend to plunder now or in the near future.
New Warships randomly spawn from settlements or ports and sail to a random
other port belonging to the same nation. They can be any kind of Sloop, Brig,
Frigate or combat Galleon, including the biggest ones; this is the only way to
see a Ship of the Line, or a Flag Galleon if you don’t count Montalban. New
Warships appear to spawn mostly randomly, but more seem to appear if you harass
a nation a lot by attacking its ships and ports. They are, perhaps,
reinforcements or just a show of arms from a nation that is having a lot of
trouble with pirates.
New Warships always have the full complement of cannons, but only a small crew.
As such they're relatively easy targets as warships go, and a good way to earn
prestige. Most of all, however, they're a great source of good ships to put to
use for your own pirating needs. If you need a Ship of the Line, this is the
kind of ship you want to keep an eye on.
New Warships are occasionally escorted. Think long and hard before you go into
a battle like that, as this means you'll be up against *two* heavily armed
warships. It is possible for a New Warship's escort to be a Flag Galleon or a
Ship of the Line as well, so in theory you might see either of these ship
classes in pairs. You'd better know what you're doing if you're going to engage
a pair like that.
Of all the military targets, this is the one that is actually worth grabbing
in terms of loot. Usually a Frigate or a Fast Galleon, but sometimes foolishly
an easier target (I’ve seen an Ocean Barque payroll carrier once), these ships
are normally well armed and crewed, but carry a good sum of gold. No Spices or
Luxuries on these ships, no fuss about selling them, just pure gold, often
around 2000-3000. I’ve seen up to 6000 on rare occasions. As if that isn't
enough, stopping a payroll carrier earns you a lot of prestige with the
nation's enemies as well.
Military Payrolls spawn randomly in settlements and head to a random port
belonging to the same nation. If they reach the destination, the garrison size
Privateers spawn exclusively in response to you taking on a quest, although
this includes inciting pirates to attack a town (possibly Indians as well,
haven’t confirmed this). They will inevitably spawn in the path between you and
your quest destination – solo on Apprentice and Journeyman, in pairs on
Adventurer and Rogue, and as a trio on Swashbuckler. Their nationality is a
random nation at war with whoever your benefactor is, or if nobody is or this
doesn’t apply (like with Jesuit amnesty offers), they will be pirate type.
Privateers are after the ship you’re escorting (in the case of an incited
pirate attack, where their spawning appears to be a bug, they sail around
aimlessly), but will get into fights with hostile ships if they encounter them.
Privateers may turn into Pirate Hunters if you sail close to them and the
nation they belong to has a price on your head at the time.
Pirate Hunters either sail from ports, or are escort ships/raiders/privateers
that break from their current mission to chase you. They only show up when
they're after you specifically; they're always sent by nations that have a
price on your head. Often they come directly in response to an attack you've
done nearby, but if the price on your head is high, you will start seeing
pirate hunters sail spontaneously from hostile ports if you come near them,
too. Similarly, escorts and other warships might spontaneously turn into pirate
hunters if you come near and that nation is particularly anxious to capture
you. However a pirate hunter spawns, there will be an audible warning: a
specific piece of music starts to play that you will learn to recognize. When
you hear it, you know somebody's out for your blood.
Pirate hunters will chase you, yelling at you to stand and fight, and shoot at
you as well until you shake them or engage them. If you flee into a friendly
port, pirate hunters will give up the chase and disappear from the map.
Pirate hunters usually have well upgraded ships with maximum cannon counts and
big crews. They normally sail Sloops (usually Sloop of War or Royal Sloop) or
Brigs (usually Brig or Brig of War). Occasionally you may see Frigate/combat
Galleon size ships as well. Contrary to what I reported in earlier versions, it
does not appear to be possible for Flag Galleon/Ship of the Line pirate hunters
A pirate hunter usually has no loot or valuable cargo to speak of. You will
likely have to fight them purely in self defense. They're good for scoring
points with nations at war with the hunter’s home nation, too.
Pirate raiders spawn from pirate havens and sail to a random nearby port
belonging to any of the four nations. They will then enter it and attempt to
plunder it. If successful, the town's wealth rating is brought down a notch and
the population may decrease somewhat as well. If unsuccessful, the garrison
takes losses but the wealth remains unaffected.
Pirate raiders normally sail in Sloops or Brigs; usually not the largest kind.
Occasionally you may see them in Pinnaces as well. Pirates tend to have few
cannons but a large crew.
You can spawn pirate raiders yourself by visiting a pirate haven and talking to
the captain. You can then advise him to attack the nearest port of any of the
four nations, and they will send out a pirate to do just that. You could then
backstab and attack the pirate to score points with the four nations, or let
them hit the target. This can be a good tactic to soften up the defenses of a
strong town, but if the garrison is about 300 men or lower, there's a good
chance their attack will succeed, leaving the town robbed but the garrison
Pirate raiders sometimes have a decent amount of gold on board, and sometimes
not so much at all. It's luck of the draw. It's worth it to engage them anyway
though, since this is a surefire way to score points with everybody. And of
course, if a pirate raider is about to rob the town you were intending to
plunder, it is in your best interest to prevent them from doing so.
Unfortunately a pirate disappears after a successful raid, so you cannot
attack their booty-laden ships on the way back. (If you're reading this,
Firaxis, missed opportunity!)
INDIAN WAR PARTY
From time to time, the local Indians decide it is time for a punitive raid on
a European port. At this time one, two or three War Canoes will leave a random
Indian village and sail to a nearby port. Like pirates, they will attack it,
and if they fail the garrison will be weakened. If they succeed, however, they
scare off population rather than lower the wealth rating. This still impacts
the plunder you can get from the town, though.
Indian War Canoes always have the maximum 4 guns and 50 men on board. They will
Usually attempt to flee if you attack them, and often succeed because they are
very fast and hard to catch. If you manage to board an Indian War Canoe, the
crew will surrender immediately; there is never a sword fight against the
Their ships usually hold only a few tons of food and if they have any gold at
all, it will be very little (barring one or two freak incidents where I got
over 1000 off a Canoe after a barmaid tipped me off). Normally, the only
benefits in stopping Indians are to prevent them from hitting a town you intend
to plunder or trade in, or to score points with the European nations. It's
usually easier to go after pirates, though. War Canoes become very hard to
catch on higher levels unless you sail a small flagship yourself.
You can spawn Indian War Canoes yourself by visiting a village and talking to
the Chief. You can then incite him to attack a nearby European port, and they
will send out three War Canoes for the job. As with inciting pirate raids, be
careful only to do this on well defended ports, because if the attack succeeds
you're left with a less profitable target that's still just as well defended
as before. Or you could just sink the three Canoes the moment they leave the
safety of their village...
These rare ships only appear if you've been given the mission to escort one.
They carry either a peace treaty, an ultimatum, or an amnesty proposal. The
first two types are missions assigned by governors, and they will be to the
nearest port of a specific other nation. Escorting a peace treaty to its
target will trigger peace between two nations at war, and escorting an
ultimatum will cause war to break out. Amnesty proposals are spawned when you
talk to the Abbot at a mission, and he offers to have one of his monks speak
on your behalf to a nation that has a price on your head. If you deliver the
amnesty proposal safely to its target, the price on your head is lifted and
the nation in question is neutral toward you again.
Treaty carriers normally sail in Mail Runners, the largest kind of Pinnace.
Since this is the only time you'll ever see these ships, they're pretty rare.
Occasionally, they will also use Royal Sloops, not a common ship either and a
very desirable one at that. Either way, the ship tends to be poorly defended
and doesn't have much loot on board. You may find it worth it to backstab one
of these ships just for the ship itself, though, and you can delay (but
usually not prevent) two nations from making peace or declaring war by
intercepting the right kind of ship. Preventing war is usually pointless, but
there are good reasons to want two warring nations to remain at odds. War is
always profitable for privateers.
[7.3] SHIP UPGRADES
All ship upgrades are done in port, and every shipwright has only one
specialty. These are random in every game, so you have to find out where to
get which upgrade done. Best way to find out is to talk to bartenders, who
will often hint at possible upgrades your flagship doesn't have yet if they can
be done in nearby ports. Your first ship in every game starts with the Grape
Shot and Chain Shot upgrades already in place, and ships captured from the
enemy might have any number of upgrades. Warships and pirates tend to have
some, and named enemies (like the most famous pirates, or the various evil
Spanish noblemen) tend to have most or all.
In v1.0 of the game, the upgrades that each port can do change over the course
of the game; talking to a bartender to find out which upgrade can be done
actually resets it. This bug was fixed in v1.0.2.
Allows the ship to use Grape Shot as an alternative ammunition type. Switch
to Grape Shot in battle by pressing 1; this can be done while the cannons are
loading and even when they're already loaded. Grape Shot has the shortest
range of all shot types and is hard to hit with. However, it mostly does
damage to the enemy crew, doing only very light damage against sails and hull.
It is perfect for weakening an enemy crew before boarding while leaving the
ship as intact as possible.
Allows the ship to use Chain Shot as an alternative ammunition type. Switch to
this by pressing 7 in battle. As with Grape Shot, you can do this at any time.
Chain Shot has better range than Grape Shot but not as much as regular Round
Shot does. When it hits, it mostly damages the enemy's sails but leaves its
hull intact. This is particularly useful if an enemy is threatening to outrun
you or maneuvering around you. A good broadside of this can cripple an enemy
ship without any real danger of sinking it before you have a chance to plunder
it. If you wipe out an enemy's sails entirely, they will always strike their
Cotton Sails improve the overall sailing speed of a ship, both in and out of
battle. Out of battle its usefulness is limited as, unless you get this upgrade
for all your ships, your flagship will still have to adapt its speed to
whatever the slowest vessel in your fleet is. But in battle the advantage of
Cotton Sails is too important to pass up; it can be the difference between
catching an enemy or not. Or when you're the one who is in danger, it can be
just what you need to escape. Especially on higher levels, actively search out
a port that can give this upgrade to your flagship as soon as possible.
Iron Scantings provide extra protection to a ship's hull, making it harder to
damage. Your ship will take less hull damage from enemy broadsides, allowing
you to sail that much longer. Only hull strength is affected, so damage to
your cannons, crew and sails is the same as always.
Bronze Cannons fire more accurately than regular ones. Your shots don't spread
out as much, and a small degree of auto-aiming takes place when you fire your
broadside. Overall, your broadsides will do considerably more damage with this
Fine-grain Powder gives your cannons a better range for all three ammunition
types. Especially with the shorter range on Chain Shot and Grape Shot, this
difference can be very significant.
Triple Hammocks increase the maximum crew size of your ship by 50%. This
allows you to carry larger boarding parties into battle. Your crew size is hard
capped by the maximum carrying capacity of your ships (contrary to what the
manual states you are not allowed to overload), so this is one improvement you
might want to get for *all* your ships, not just your flagship. Particularly if
you're putting together a large crew for an imminent attack on a large Spanish
port. On the other hand, if you are deliberately keeping your crew small, it
may be in your best interest to use this upgrade sparingly or skip it entirely.
Copper Plating lets you turn your ships faster in battle. The importance of
this upgrade can't be overstated, as all your success in battle - be it with
gunnery, catching and boarding an enemy, or running away from a very angry Flag
Galleon - depends on being able to turn swiftly and outmaneuver your opponent.
While this upgrade won't turn a Galleon into a Sloop, it always helps, and
should be obtained as soon as possible.
[7.4] CREW SPECIALISTS
Enemy ships might carry specialists which you can recruit for your crew. This
happens automatically if you capture such a ship, and specialists remain with
your for life. They are basically "crew upgrades", each of them affecting a
different part of the game to your benefit.
Barmaids can often tell you if there's a ship sailing nearby that has a
specialist you don't have yet, so you can follow their advice to get them. You
can also just randomly attack ships and gather them soon enough; especially
when you don't have any yet, you'll find some easily. Smuggler ships have an
improved chance to have a specialist on board, and immigant ships in particular
have a very good chance. Seek these targets out specifically if you're after
Finally, if you capture Marquis Montalban (see section 6.6), you will get a
full complement of specialists right there and then if you didn't have them
The following specialists are available:
Carpenters are capable of making hull repairs at sea. At the start of each
month (signified by the sound of a bell), Carpenters repair 25% of the hull
damage on all your ships. Note, they repair a quarter of the damage, not 25%
worth of damage. So if a ship has 40% hull damage, a Carpenter will bring it
down to 30% at the start of the next month, then to 22% on the next month, et
cetera. The effect is therefore useful for particularly bad damage, but you'll
still do the bulk of your repairs in port.
Cooks prepare tasty meals at sea, which helps to keep crew morale up. With a
cook, you can basically go for longer without your crew getting unhappy.
Particularly on the higher levels where your crew tends to be unruly, this
makes a big difference. The Cook is therefore one of the most useful
specialists around. To be specific, what a cook does is make your crew appear
to be 19 heads smaller for the purposes of the morale calculation.
Coopers help you preserve your food in barrels. In gameplay terms, this cuts
your food consumption in half, and thus lets you sail twice as long with the
same amount of food. This saves you money for supplies, decreases the risk of
starvation and frees up cargo space for more valuable goods. All in all, a
specialist you want to have.
Gunners train your crew in fast reloading. Your accuracy is unaffected - that's
what Bronze Cannons are for - but the reloading speed is increased
significantly. About twice as fast, as far as I can tell. This is an important
advantage in battle, depending on how often you rely on your guns. If you're
the kind of pirate who prefers to ram the enemy without using your cannons at
all, you'll likely be indifferent about the Gunner. But on higher levels you
usually don't have the luxury of not using them, making the Gunner much more
Navigators increase the speed of your ships both in and out of battle. It
should be obvious that this is a significant improvement: shorter voyages and
better battle results. As with the other upgrades that affect speed - Cotton
Sails on your ships and the Navigation skill for yourself - you'll find this
especially helpful when sailing against the wind. Saves you a lot of headaches.
I haven't yet been able to determine exactly how much of a difference the
Navigator makes, but it is noticeable.
The quartermaster enforces discipline at sea. This should manifest itself in
the same way as the Cook's special ability: your crew remains happy for longer
than usual. However, now that the calculation for morale has been revealed (see
paragraph 7.9) and it turns out the Quartermaster is not a part of it, I’m
unclear on what, if anything, he does.
Just like the Carpenter repairs damaged hulls over time, sailmakers do the same
to sails. A quarter of the sail damage on all of your ships is repaired at the
start of every month. As with the Carpenter, the repairs are nice for
emergencies but not very effective. It mostly comes in useful if you've decided
to keep any ships of which you destroyed the sails entirely in order to catch
them; a ship with 75% sail damage sails a lot better than a ship that has no
Surgeons can treat injured crew members. This basically manifests itself as
fewer losses in battles of all kinds, as crew members who might otherwise die
or be too injured to continue sailing can now be patched up. In ship battles,
the difference is obvious; half of the people lost during the sword fight
return to duty afterwards. The impact during land battles is not as easy to
figure out, but I suspect it may be the same, cutting losses in half. The
surgeon does not affect the decay of your character's health over time; only
Medicine skill and two of the special items help with this.
[7.5] SPECIAL ITEMS
This section describes the special items you can get over the course of the
game, and their effect. There are a whopping 17 categories of items, and two
in each category; the basic item and the upgraded one that has a stronger
effect along the same lines.
Items can be obtained in three ways:
- They can be bought from mysterious travellers in taverns. They offer a random
item for sale sometimes, a one time offer for a flat fee of gold. How much gold
depends on the item, the wealth rating of the town, and the difficulty level.
Prices also seem to rise over the course of the game; perhaps depending on
passage of time, but more likely depending on how many items you already have.
I've seen Ruby Rings for as little as 600 gold on Apprentice level but as much
as 3300 on Swashbuckler. Similarly, I've seen a Dutch Rutter for sale for 6000
gold on Apprentice so I dread to think how much that would cost on higher
- Items can be gotten as a bribe from fugitive criminals. When you catch a
criminal, they will often offer you an item if you allow them to escape. If you
accept this offer, you forfeit your gold reward and a chance to make the nation
that wants him happy; the criminal disappears forever. But if the reward is low
and/or the item is good, it can be a good deal. Particularly on the higher
levels, where travellers will make you pay through the nose for their items.
- Finally, items can be given as gifts by governor's daughters you have
impressed sufficiently with your dancing or with subsequent actions on return
visits. You normally get a choice between two and four different items.
However, not all items can be obtained this way. I've indicated in the item
descriptions which items can and can't be given out by governor's daughters. It
appears that if there is only one item choice left, you don't actually get it,
but you get a criminal quest instead.
Below is a list of all items in the game and their effects. I have sorted them
from most to least important in the eyes of yours truly.
3-STRINGED FIDDLE / CONCERTINA
Among the most important items, these help keep your crew happy. They basically
work by extending the time it takes for your crew to become unhappy, just like
the Cook specialist does, and like getting more gold in your
hold does. Specifically, the 3-Stringed Fiddle tweaks the morale calculation
such that it effectively cuts 4 months off the length of your expedition – the
Concertina cuts 8.
You'll want to get these at your first opportunity, particularly on the later
levels. Fortunately they are often offered by governor's daughters.
MEDICINAL HERBS / INCAN MYSTIC SALVE
Another important set of items, these are harder to find. They increase your
health, basically ensuring that A) you don't get slower with age as quickly and
B) you can extend your career for longer. The effect of these items is
retroactive, so even if you acquire them late in your career, your health will
be boosted right back up. The Incan Mystic Salve has a stronger effect. Have
them both as well as skill at Medicine and you can extend your career as far as
age 54 (farther if you don't divide up the plunder). Have neither these items
nor the Medicine skill, and you will already be too old to start a new
expedition at age 42.
Get these items when you can; an extended career is never a bad thing, and even
if you don't need more than 24 years for your game you will still be in better
health (and thus remain faster in sword battles). I've never seen a governor's
daughter offer these, but you can get them from travellers in taverns.
RUBY RING / DIAMOND NECKLACE
By far the most common item in the game (at least the Ruby Ring is), this is
also the only class of item you can lose once you've got it. Basically, these
are gifts for the governor's daughter, which can be given to her on your
second visit (after you danced with her the first time). This advances the
romance subplot and will also get you a reward in return. Which reward it is
depends on the beauty of the daughter and the item you gave her. A Ruby Ring
does the same as dancing adequately would, and a Diamond Necklace is equivalent
to a perfect dance.
You can't get these items from a governor's daughter (obviously). However, you
will find the Ruby Ring is the single most offered item by travellers in
taverns. In fact, you probably want to get one and hold on to it if you want
them to offer you anything else, because they'll rarely do otherwise. You can
only have one of either item at a time, but as soon as you give them away to
governor's daughters you can obtain new ones.
CALFSKIN BOOTS / DANCING SLIPPERS
These items are particularly popular because they help with dancing, which many
people consider the hardest part of the game. These items have mostly the same
effect as the Wit and Charm skill (and are cumulative with it): when you press
the wrong button during a dance scene, or none at all, there is a flat %
chance that the move succeeds anyway, though without a flourish. In addition,
unlike the Wit and Charm skill, these items may even prevent you from stumbling
if you fail to press any key at all in time.
So basically, these items help cover up mistakes, and that means your overall
dancing ratings will come out better. The Dancing Slippers offer a higher
percentage and let you get away with even more slip ups. I haven't yet worked
out the actual percentages, but the difference is noticeable. The Dancing
Slippers seemed to cover about half of my mistakes easily. Note that neither
item will help you do more flourishes as best as I can tell, but they should
help you get through a dance somewhat gracefully if you don't have the hang of
it – or on Swashbuckler, just in general.
These items are never offered by a governor's daughter. You may be able to get
them from travellers, but they're not commonly seen. If a fugitive criminal
offers you these in exchange for his freedom, I suggest you give it some
SET OF BALANCED SWORDS / SET OF PERFECTLY BALANCED SWORDS
Since you are going to do more swordfighting than anything else in the game,
most likely, items that help you with this are among the more important ones
to have. This is particularly true on the higher levels where a few of your
opponents can be very tough, or if your character is aging and becomes slower
in combat. Balanced swords improve the speed of your attacks. The perfectly
balanced swords have a stronger effect.
Balanced swords are easy to get from travellers and governor's daughters alike.
FENCING SHIRT (PUFFY) / SILK FENCING SHIRT
Fencing shirts are the other item to improve combat speed, and as such just as
important to have as balanced swords. They improve the speed of all your
defensive moves - parrying, jumping and ducking. The Silk Fencing Shirt is more
effective than the puffy one.
Like balanced swords, fencing shirts are often offered by governor's daughters
as gifts, and you can get them off travellers as well.
ONE-SHOT PISTOL / BRACE OF PISTOLS
Owning a pistol, apart from adding a cool extra scene to the start of battles,
gives you an edge in terms of your starting position in combat. Normally when
a sword fight starts you and your opponent are in "neutral" positions in the
middle of the battlefield, and it takes an equal number of blows for either to
be driven back so far that they'll be defeated. A one shot pistol shifts the
balance one step in your favour at the beginning; a brace of pistol gives you
two free steps. It is basically the same as getting a free thrust or chop/slash
on your opponent, respectively.
Pistols are easily obtained both from governor's daughters and travellers.
LEATHER VEST / METAL CUIRAISS
Armor is the final enhancement item for sword fights. Leather Vests give you
a % chance to deflect a thrust; the Metal "Cuiraiss" (their typo, not mine)
gives an even better chance at this. If a thrust is deflected by your armour,
you are not driven back and any attack you were setting up is not foiled. As
far as I can tell, armor has no effect on enemy chops and slashes.
Like the other battle items, armor can be gotten both from travellers and
QUALITY SPYGLASS / FINE TELESCOPE
After the battle items I'd consider this one among the more useful things to
have. Spyglasses improve the range at which you spot other ships at sea.
Without them, you don't necessarily see ships even if they're close enough to
be displayed on the overhead view (depending, of course, on how far you are
zoomed in). The Quality Spyglass improves the range at which you see them
somewhat, and the Fine Telescope is good enough to let you spot pretty much all
ships that sail into the range of your screen. Note that you don't need these
items to have the "spyglass" option on land and sea; they are purely meant to
spot ships from farther away.
The spyglass items can be obtained from travellers and governor's daughters
WEATHER GLASS / PRECISION BAROMETER
more effective Precision Barometer reduce the damage caused to your ships by
sailing through storms. According to reader input, they work not so much by
cutting the damage, but by allowing you to sail closer to the center of a storm
without taking damage. This way, with these items, you can take full advantage
of the speed boost a storm can give you without taking on damage, or at least,
not as much. These items are useful, but not vital. Buy them from a traveller
if offered and affordable, or get them from a governor's daughter if she has
nothing better to offer.
DUTCH RUTTER / SPANISH RUTTER
The Dutch Rutter contains the names and locations of a number of "hidden"
settlements, missions, Indian villages and pirate havens. The Spanish Rutter
contains even more. What these items do is add these locations to your world
map, which is convenient but not vital. They do not actually cause new
settlements to spawn in the game like I thought they might; they just reveal
the existing ones to you. This is decently useful item but nothing vital.
Mostly interesting if you rely a lot on Indians and pirates to weaken down
ports for you, or you just like to lure them out and then ambush them to
improve your standing with the four nations. Or to find the nearest mission
easily if you're looking for free information on Raymondo.
Rutters can be bought from travellers but tend to be among the most expensive
items they offer. You're probably better off getting them from a governor's
daughter at some point.
FRENCH CHAPEAU / OSTRICH FEATHER HAT
These two stylish items of clothing allow you to get invited to the ball
easier. The French Chapeau lets you bypass the requirement to be a Colonel to
dance with an attractive daughter, and the Ostrich Feather Hat lets you dance
with beautiful daughters even if you're not a Baron. It is theorized that they
will also let you see the daughters more often in general (i.e. they'll show
up more often if you visit the governor) but I'm not so sure about that part.
One way or another, getting promoted is usually not a big problem (at least not
to Colonel) and you get to see governor's daughters quite often as it is, so
these items have low priority. Note that you cannot get stylish clothing from
FALSE MUSTACHE / THEATRICAL DISGUISE
Wealthy Spanish ports will often refuse to trade with you if your relations
with Spain aren't very good. The likelihood of this depends on how much Spain
hates you and how poor (i.e. desperate) the port in question is. The False
Mustache helps ease the equation and make it easier for you to trade even in
hostile ports, while the Theatrical Disguise helps even more. Contrary to what
I first believed, it seems that even the Disguise doesn't guarantee a chance
to trade, though it does help the chances a fair bit.
The usefulness of these items is limited as they only apply to trading, not to
being able to get into the port in the first place. Not much use being
allowed to trade in Spanish ports even when they have a price on your head,
when there is no way to sail your ship into port in the first place. You would
only be able to sneak in (and then you can't trade), or plunder the port and
trade directly after; and if you plunder a port it typically ends up so poor
that they'd be desperate enough to trade with you to begin with. As such, these
items have little practical use as far as I can tell.
Disguise items can't be obtained from governor's daughters.
LOCKPICKING KIT / SKELETON KEY
If you're down on your luck and get captured, you might find yourself
imprisoned for quite a few months. With luck you'll get a chance to try and
escape along the way. You can help Lady Luck a little by having either or both
of these items; a chance to escape will come sooner and assuming you do not
mess up the sneaking out of town part, you can escape very quickly and thus
shorten your time in captivity if worst comes to worst. The Skeleton Key offers
you an opportunity even more quickly than the Lockpicking Kit does.
These items will probably be of little value to you, though. Most players
would reload the game if they lose a battle and get captured, anyway; the fact
that an autosave is done right before every battle certainly encourages this.
But if you decide to play a game in which you do not allow yourself to rely
on saving and loading to get you out of trouble, you'll likely find these items
somewhat more important.
Lockpicking items can't be obtained from governor's daughters.
SIGNALING MIRROR / SIGNAL FLARE
The signaling items serve the same purposes as the lockpicking ones, except
that these are meant for when you are marooned rather than captured. The time
it takes for a ship to pick you up is shortened by the Signaling Mirror and
shortened even more by the Signal Flare. Once again, how important you find
this is going to depend on whether or not you just reload your game if you
lose your last ship. If you do, these items are useless. If you don't, their
value to you is going to depend on how often it happens to you.
Signaling items can't be obtained from governor's daughters.
GOLDEN CROSS / SACRED RELIC
The purpose of the Golden Cross and the Sacred Relic was to be to improve your
standing with the Jesuit Missionaries, making them more likely to offer you
missions or offer to speak on your behalf to a nation that has a price on your
head. However, Jesuit relations were never implemented in the game; you are
always on good terms with them. As such, these items do nothing and you needn't
waste your money on them. Unless, of course, if it's for completion purposes
or because you want the travellers to stop offering them in favour of something
SHRUNKEN HEAD / CARVED SHAMAN STAFF
Similar to the Golden Cross and the Sacred Relic, these items are meant to
improve your standing with native Indians and make it easier to convince them
to attack a port on your behalf. However, the same situation arises here;
Indians are always friendly to you no matter what, making the items useless.
[7.6] RANKS AND BENEFITS
Rank is earned by making certain nations happy with you and then visiting their
governors afterwards. You get a happiness point for every merchant ship you
take that belongs to an enemy of the nation in question, as well as for serving
them in another minor way (catching a criminal, intercepting an enemy governor,
helping them get a special shipment of some sort through). You earn 2 or more
happiness points if you sack an enemy town, capture one for them (this is
cumulative!), or take an enemy warship. For the purposes of 'taking' an enemy
ship, capturing and destroying both count, and even just engaging a ship and
then fleeing or letting them flee counts as long as you damaged it.
In your Captain's Log, you will see little flags next to every action you've
taken that has made a nation happy. A small flag is 1 point, a large flag is 2
or more points. Hovering your mouse over them will pop up a text like "Dutch
happy" or "French very happy" which also indicates the difference between 1
point or several. You may see "Pirates happy" for some actions too (most
notably striking military targets), but this has no effect on the game, as
pirate relations are not actually implemented.
You lose happiness points with a nation if you destroy any of their ships or
sack any of their towns. How bad these losses are, and how many happiness
points are needed to get promoted to each rank depends on the difficulty level.
On Apprentice, if England and France are at war and you destroy one ship of
either, they're both happy and neither cares that you took one of their own
ships out too. Try that on Swashbuckler and they'll both be mad. Simply put,
on higher levels your transgressions are taken more seriously and your exploits
don't impress as easily. Here, pick your battles carefully to avoid pissing off
all four nations at once.
The following is a list of all ranks and the benefits you get with a certain
nation for earning one. Veterans of the old Pirates games will notice that the
Ensign rank has been scrapped.
Captain % bonus to recruiting in taverns
Major % discount on ship repairs
Colonel Merchant offers more goods and has more gold
Admiral % discount on ship upgrades
Baron Boosts recruitment bonus further
Count Free ship repairs
Marquis Boosts merchant bonuses further
Duke Free ship upgrades
Benefits only count in a port or settlement belonging to the nation you hold
the rank in question with. French ports couldn't care less if you're an English
Duke. Note that even if you anger a nation enough to make them put any kind of
price on your head, you retain the rank (and the fame points) and the
associated benefits. Though you might have a hard time claiming them if every
port belonging to your former ally opens fire as you approach it.
Rank also is a factor in which governor's daughters are willing to dance with
you (and thus start the romance cycle). Plain daughters will be willing to
dance with Captains and up, attractive daughters with Colonels and up, and
beautiful daughters with Barons and up. These requirements can be bypassed with
the French Chapeau and Ostrich Feather Hat special items.
Roland on the Hooked on Pirates fan forums has done extensive research on how
happiness points work, and what the requirements are for each level. Although
not everything is conclusive at this point, he made an important discovery.
Apart from the overall ‘happy’ ration of a country, there is also an individual
bias for governors. If you’ve escorted a governor to a new port, ensured that
immigrants/reinforcements arrive there, or even advanced the romance subplot
with his daughter, your favor with an individual governor can rise above that
of the nation as a whole. This manifests in specific ports of a nation
promoting you earlier than others, and/or giving you bigger land grants. A
funny side effect is that it’s quite possible to get promoted *solely* for
courting the good man’s daughter.
Getting specific numbers on the happiness points required for each promotion
was made difficult both by this and the fact that not all actions that do
result in happiness with a nation are properly reflected in the log. For
instance, “reinforcements arrived at [port]” does not come with any flag, but
it does seem to at leat raise that port’s individual attitude toward you.
Points lost for attacking someone’s ships, or the ships of their allies, are
not shown. It is unclear if attacking a nation that someone’s ally is at war
with also gets you happiness points with the nation that isn’t. It also appears
that attacking a ship right next to a port, even a hostile ship, can result in
that port opening fire on you when you try to enter it even though you
technically did nothing to *them*. And, of course, plenty of things can happen
in the Caribbean even if *you* do nothing, such as getting credit for arriving
governors and immigrants that you had nothing to do with.
Due to these factors, the following table should be considered an indication as
it’s hard to pin down the exact numbers.
Happiness points needed for each promotion per difficulty level, as provided by
Rank App Jrn Adv Rog Swa
Captain 2 2 3 3 4
Major 2 3 3 4 4
Colonel 4 4 5 5 6
Admiral 4 5 5 6 6
Baron 6 6 7 7 8
Count 6 7 7 8 8
Marquis 8 8 9 9 10
Duke 8 9 9 10 10
[7.7] FAME POINTS
Fame points are the closest thing you have to a score in Pirates; a numerical
representation of the success of your exploits. You earn points in specific
categories up to a certain maximum. About half of these points come from how
wealthy you've managed to become and what ranks you have reached with the
various nations. The rest comes from completion of the game's various quests.
A "perfect" game, in which you get the maximum ranks, enough wealth to qualify
for all wealth points and full completion of all side quests, would earn you
the maximum of 126 fame points. On the personal status screen, fame points are
referred to as 'achievement points' instead, but it's the same thing.
Fame points are divided into the following categories:
Fame points for wealth are earned based on how much land you've been granted,
and how many gold pieces you've managed to put away for yourself. Land grants
are given in addition to promotions if you've done particularly well, and as
alternatives to promotions once you have achieved the rank of Duke with any
country. They come in units of 50 acres. Gold flows into your pocket whenever
you divide up the plunder at the end of an expedition; you get a set percentage
of the total loot based on the difficulty level you're playing, unrelated to
how many men your loot is divided amongst.
I have yet to determine the formula for wealth, but I've found the following to
- The first wealth points are easier to get than the last ones; the difference
between the 23rd and 24th point is much, much greater than the requirement for
the first point.
- Land is much more valuable than gold, so 10000 acres of land equals more
wealth than 10000 gold pieces. In a typical game, nearly all of your wealth
score tends to come from land grants. This is especially true on lower
difficulty levels where your share of the loot is so small. On Swashbuckler
it’s more even because you get to keep half of the gold when you divide up the
- About 30000 acres of land appears to be enough for 24 wealth points
regardless of how much gold you have brought in.
More fame points to be gained here than anywhere else, and the formula is
simple: every promotion gains you 1 point. There are 8 ranks and 4 nations to
gain them with, so if you manage to become a Duke in all four nations, you get
the maximum of 32 fame points for rank. Whereas if you only managed to become
a Captain with England and a Major with France, you'd have to make do with 3
There are 9 other named pirates out in the Caribbean of various levels of
strength. Each pirate you track down and defeat in a naval battle earns you a
fame point. It doesn't matter if you capture his ship or sink it, though you
always want to capture them as they carry large amounts of gold.
Each of the named pirates has a treasure hidden somewhere in the Caribbean,
which you can find if you buy at least one map piece off a mysterious traveller
in a nearby tavern. The value of the treasures varies between 2000 and 10000
gold - based on which pirate it is, the higher ranked pirates have the bigger
treasures - and each one earns you a fame point for finding it. As well as the
wrath of the owner, if he's still alive.
LOST RELATIVES (16)
You have four lost relatives - your sister, your uncle, your aunt and your
grandfather - held captive in the Caribbean. To find them, you must learn the
location of the evil Baron Raymondo, track him down and defeat him in battle
either on land (sword fight only) or on sea (naval battle followed by sword
fight). Each time you find him he'll give you a piece of the map to find the
next relative in line, and you'll need to track him down and fight him again
for additional pieces.
You get 4 fame points for every relative you find and rescue, and a fraction of
that for merely getting pieces of the relevant map. Rescuing all four family
members gets you the maximum 16 points. You reach 16 even if you only rescue
the first three and complete the map for your grandfather's location without
ever rescuing him.
LOST CITIES (16)
There are four lost Indian cities in the Caribbean, which you may find if you
get map pieces either from governor's daughters or from rescued family members.
This is worth doing as every city holds a treasure of no less than 50000 gold,
and you get 4 fame points for every lost city you find. A fraction of that is
earned for getting map pieces but not finding the city in question. Finding all
four cities makes you a very wealthy man, and gets you the maximum 16 fame
points too. As before, though, you can also get 16 points by finding three
Lost Cities and completing the map for the fourth without locating it.
Your romance score is determined by how far you managed to get with any
governor's daughter, and how beautiful said daughter was. Just having danced
with a plain looking daughter will earn you only 1 fame point, but you get
far more if you manage to marry any daughter. The maximum of 10 is only earned
if you marry a daughter in the "beautiful" category, so be picky if you are
after a maximum score. You can only marry once.
The last 10 fame points are earned for tracking down and capturing the evil
Marquis Montalban who wronged your family. This is a long and complicated
quest - easily the most time consuming in the game - but is well worth it.
A full 100.000 gold await in his hideout, and capturing him gets you the
maximum of 10 fame points for this quest. Merely defeating him in ship battles
a few times and thus getting parts of the map to his hideout will earn you a
fraction of this - 2 for every quarter of the map, so 8 for completing it. You
must actually track down and defeat Montalban at his hideout for the final 2
[7.8] RETIREMENT JOBS
Your job when you retire is determined solely by how many fame points you have
earned. It is a direct representation of how well you did as a pirate. Here is
a list of jobs and the range your fame needs to be in to get this specific job.
The list has been updated and appears to be fully accurate now. All previous
cases of conflicting information have been checked and confirmed. I see one
oddity in that the fame range for a Magistrate is smaller than that for the
lower ranking Fencing Master, which happens nowhere else, so there may be an
inaccuracy left in there. If you get a result that contradicts this table, I'd
appreciate an e-mail with a screenshot of your final results screen.
JOB FAME RANGE
Fencing Master 53-61
A little blurb of text on the retirement screen also changes depending on the
success of your career. It is possible to get all 126 fame points and still not
have the best possible outcome: namely, by getting the full map to rescue your
grandfather, but not actually rescuing him.
[7.9] CREW HAPPINESS CALCULATION
Up until v1.5 of this guide, the exact calculation for the happiness rating of
your crew was a mystery to me. Along with other veterans of the game we
discovered that eventually, there is a cutoff point where no matter how long
you sail, your crew will never fall to mutiny – we also found it to be roughly
1000 gold per crew member. But we never got at the precise formula, as it
contains a lot of different factors.
The mystery has been solved now by Wes Atkinson who generously provided the
exact formula, gleaned from studying game data. This is a pretty technical
section, so feel free to skip this if you’re not interested in the inner
workings. The rule of thumb of 1000 gold per crew member to never see a mutiny
is pretty accurate and all you really need to know.
The following formula calculates the minimum amount of gold required for a crew
to have a certain morale level:
G = R * (20 + C – 19*K) * M – 500
G = total amount of gold on your ships
C = crew size
K = 0 if you don’t have the Cook specialist, 1 if you do
M = morale rating; 1 = Unhappy, 2 = Content, 3 = Happy, 4 = Very Happy
It bears restating, as I’ve claimed the opposite in earlier versions of the
guide, that G is the amount of gold in your hold as shown in the bottom left
corner of the screen when you’re on the world map. It does NOT matter how much
of this gold will go to the crew when you divide up the plunder, and what %
goes to you (as affected by the difficulty level). I thought the crew cared.
They do not.
R is a calculation of its own:
R = (int((T-D) / 2) ^ 2 ) – 4*I)
T = total months of expedition
D = difficulty level: 4 = Apprentice, 3 = Journeyman, 2 = Adventurer,
1 = Rogue, 0 = Swashbuckler
I = 2 if you have the Concertina, 1 if you have the 3-Stringed Fiddle only, 0
if you have neither
Furthermore, R is capped at 999.
What does this all mean? Depending on all the factors in the calculation –
whether or not you have a Cook, 3-Stringed Fiddle and/or Concertina, difficulty
level, and how long you’ve been sailing, it is possible to calculate how much
gold it takes to reach a specific morale level. For example, let’s assume an
Adventurer level game, crew of 100, with the Cook and both items available, and
we’ve been sailing for 24 months. First we calculate R:
R = (int((24 – 2) / 2) ^ 2) – 4*2
= (11^2) – 4*2
= 121 – 8
Now to plug that and the values for C (100) and K (1, for the Cook) in the main
G = 113 * (20 + 100 – 19) * M – 500
= 113 * 101 * M – 500
= 11413M – 500
Now if we plug in the values for each morale rank, we can determine the exact
amounts of gold needed for certain morale levels.
The crew will be very happy if G is at least:
G = 11413 * 4 – 500 = 45152
They would be at unhappy if G is at least:
G = 11413 * 4 – 500 = 10913
If after two years, this crew would have less than 10913 in their holds, they’d
So what’s this about a rule of thumb that 1000 gold per crew member is enough
to keep them happy forever? This is where R being capped at 999 comes in. The
longer you sail, the higher T becomes and thus the higher the value for R, but
at 999, it no longer matters how many months you sail, so it’s essentially a
worst case scenario. Let’s say we haven’t sailed for 24 months but for 10 years
(120 months) in the previous example:
R = (int((120 – 2) / 2) ^ 2 – 4*2
= (59^2) – 4*2
= 3481 – 8
R now gets reduced to its cap of 999. Moving on to G:
G = 999 * 101 * M – 500
= 100899M – 500
So now, for our crew to be at least Unhappy (M = 1) so they will not mutiny,
we’re looking at:
G = 100899 – 500 = 100399
Dividing this by 100 to get to the gold per crew member, we come to 1004 gold;
very close to the 1000 gold often used as a rule of thumb. Similarly, the
values for being Content and Happy come to roughly 2000 and 3000. The values
get skewed somewhat for very small crews, but they work well enough in all
Perhaps more interestingly, what does this tell us about what the Cook, the
special items, and the difficulty level do, exactly?
1. The (20 + C-19*K) calculation comes to [crew size + 1] when you have a cook.
Combined with the maximum of 999 R, this result in the “almost but not quite”
1000 gold per crew member needed for each morale level, further corrected by
the 500 that’s subtracted at the end. Without a cook, it is as if we have 19
more crew members than we do. At this point 100000 gold (roughly) would be
needed for 81 crew members already. Put differently, with a crew of 100, the
cook is letting us get away with about 20% more crew or 20% less gold,
depending on how you want to look at it. However, since 19 is a fixed number,
this percentage only holds true for crews of 100 – the cook’s impact is
absolute. On larger crews, the relative benefit is lower and on smaller crews
it is larger.
2. The 3-Stringed Fiddle and the Concertina do exactly the same thing (with the
Concertina being cumulative and thus doubling the effect). They lower the value
of R by a flat 4 or 8. Since R is an exponential value, this means that their
relative benefit drops rapidly the longer an expedition lasts, at some point
disappearing entirely when they fail to reduce R below 999.
3. From the formula for R it is possible to derive the moment at which it
exceeds 999, whether or not you have the special items; this is the number of
months at which your crew’s demands for gold stop increasing. The moment, in
other words, where the “1000 gold per crew member” estimate comes into play.
Due to the position of D in the calculation for R, this varies per difficulty
level, but only slightly. On Apprentice, the R cap is hit at 68 months, and at
each higher difficulty level it happens one month earlier, for 64 months on
Swashbuckler. Therefore you have about five and a half years since the last
time you divided the plunder before you really need 1000 gold per crew member,
and after that, you can sail for as long as you like without ever seeing a
4. Perhaps most surprisingly, nowhere in the calculation do we find the
Quartermaster. Maybe he does something else – perhaps has an impact on what
actually happens when your crew has fallen to Mutinous status – but he does not
factor into your crew’s morale, and is not equivalent to the Cook as I always
 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
This section contains questions I have seen asked on GameFAQs' Sid Meier's
Pirates forum with some frequency, as well as other anticipated questions
about aspects of the game that don't specifically fit in one of the other
sections. It has been structured in classic question & answer format.
Q: Know any good Pirates fansites?
A: Hooked On Pirates (www.hookedonpirates.com, formerly known as Cutlass Isle)
and Addicted To Pirates (www.addictedtopirates.com) are as good a place as any
to start. Both have forums dedicated to this game and a wealth of information,
and both have contributed to this guide.
Q: Where can I find a Ship of the Line?
A: Ships of the Line spawn only as "new warships" (previous information that
they can be pirate hunters as well appears to be incorrect). It appears that a
nation spawns more of these the more you harass them, but it also happens
One thing to keep in mind is that Spain does not use Frigates of any kind, so
they're out. Keep an eye on the other three nations instead.
There's a specific FAQ on the topic of the Ship of the Line on GameFAQs
(www.gamefaqs.com) if you wish to read more about them.
Q: I wanted to pick a difficulty level and a skill but it just went right
into the game, and now I'm an Apprentice with skill at Fencing. How do I
A: The game locks you into these options for your first game after installing,
as a sort of tutorial mode. If you start a second game you'll be able to set
the options yourself. Also, for difficulty level, you can also increase this
during a game whenever you divide up the plunder.
Q: I want to pick a different starting era than 1660 but the options are greyed
out. How do I unlock them?
A: Play on any other level than Apprentice. You're restricted to 1660 on
Apprentice level, probably because it's the easiest era.
Q: Is it possible to change my pirate's appearance?
A: Not in-game, however, Pirates is a fairly moddable game and different skins
have been created by fans on the net. A good place to start looking is the
fansite Hooked On Pirates (www.hookedonpirates.com, used to be known as
Cutlass Isle) which has, among a lot of other things, a forum devoted
specifically to skins and modding.
Q: Where's my parrot?
A: Bartender made you curious, huh? There is no obtainable parrot in the game,
they merely say this when they have nothing else to say (the equivalent of the
barmaid's "it's pretty quiet around here"). Although some fan mods (as noted
above) have altered the main character's appearance to have a parrot on his
Q: What does aging do, precisely? How old can my pirate be? Will I die of old
A: Every pirate has a health rating depending on age, skill at Medicine and
possession of either or both of the health items (Medicinal Herbs and Incan
Mystic Salve). Your health rating can be:
HEALTH AGE (WITHOUT ITEMS/MEDICINE SKILL)
Poor (1) 30
Poor (2) 33
Failing (1) 36
Failing (2) 39
forced to retire 42
A new 18 year old pirate starts at excellent, then as he gets older, his
health will gradually drop. Normally, health drops once every 3 years. Having
skill at Medicine adds 6 months to every health drop interval, and both of the
healing items do the same. Thus, if you have the Medicinal Herbs, the Incan
Mystic Salve *and* skill at Medicine, your health drops only once every 4 and
a half years, and the forced retirement age is bumped up to 54.
As you fall to lower health ratings, your speed is sword duels is adversely
affected; you become slower as your health rating drops. Your pirate will also
visibly age, getting more lines in his face as he gets older. Note that there
are two categories of poor and failing each. You won't see the difference in
the overview, but it's there. A drop from poor (1) to poor (2), for instance,
counts as a health drop as significant as going from fair to poor, and your
pirate *will* slow down.
Additionally, when you've spent some years in "failing" health, you are no
longer allowed to start a new expedition. If you divide up the plunder, you'll
be told it's time to retire, and that's that. The age at which this happens
appears to be 42 without the Medicine skill and the health items, and 54 with
the skill and both items; since you start at age 18, that means you normally
have 24 game years available to you, and that can be extended to 36. However,
you can play on indefinitely as long as you don't divide up the plunder, and
your health won't fall any more. A 70 year old pirate isn't any slower than a
54 year old one. You also can't die of old age.
Apart from age, and the slowdown effect from the skill and the items, nothing
in the game appears to affect your health. Losing battles, getting imprisoned
or marooned, taking hits, starving, having a Surgeon specialist, it all does
nothing to your character's health.
Q: The manual says I can go on pirating indefinitely, yet I divided up the
plunder and was told it was "time to retire". What gives?
A: The manual is misleading here. When you divide up the plunder, if you're too
old and in failing health, you will be forced into retirement. However, as long
as you do not divide up the plunder, you *can* sail on indefinitely on your
last expedition, or at least until you can't keep your crew happy anymore.
Q: How much gold does it take to keep my crew happy?
A: It depends on how long your expedition has run, how big your crew is, and a
variety of smaller factors (Cook specialist, 3-Stringed Fiddle and Concertina
items, difficulty level). The exact calculation can be found in paragraph 7.9.
As a rule of thumb, the amount of gold per crew member that you require goes up
for about the first 6 and a half years of an expedition, and then caps at a
required 1000 gold per crew member to keep them from falling from Unhappy to
Mutinous. Likewise, about 2000 would fix them at Content, 3000 at Happy and
4000 at Very Happy. These figures aren’t 100% accurate but they’re close. If
you remember that 1000 gold per crew member will always prevent mutiny, you’re
Q: I want to divide up the plunder, but the option is greyed out. Why can't I
A: I haven't yet determined when exactly this happens, but it always seems to
be early in your expedition, and it appears that on lower levels it takes
longer. At any rate, whatever the level, what you need to do is to sail for
longer and plunder more before you divide up the plunder. It's no big deal as
the option is usually only greyed out when your expedition has barely begun and
you shouldn't even be thinking of dividing up the plunder yet. Most players
prefer to hold off on it as long as possible, anyway.
Q: I want to attack a city, but whenever I sail to it I just enter it! How do
A: This happens if you try to attack a friendly city from the sea. It won't
work. There are two ways to attack a city:
- Beach your ship some distance away from it, choose to march, then march over
to the city. When your men reach it you get the option to attack it even if it
- Get the city hostile. This approach may be necessary if the city is on a
small island where you cannot actually beach your ship next to it (St. Catalina
comes to mind, as do many of the cities on the Windsward Islands). If you try
to sail into a hostile port, it will fire on you and you get the option to
If the nation already has a price on your head, that should be enough to
convince most or all of their cities to open fire on you. If not, a good way to
get an individual city mad enough at you to open fire is to capture some
of the ships going in and out. They have very little patience with this if
you snatch them right outside port. Alternatively, or in addition to this,
pressing the space bar just outside a port lets you bombard their fort. This
doesn't seem do much damage to their garrison, but it will piss them off. Soon
you should be able to do an attack from the sea. Do note that this approach
can really ruin the population and wealth rating of a city, so you're cutting
into your own plunder.
Q: I marched into a city as you said to do, but I *still* just entered the
city without ever seeing an option to attack! Why is that?
A: This appears to be a side effect of a bugfix in the v1.0.2 patch. The patch
fixes an issue where a port changing hands (through you, or through an AI
invasion force) breaks the romance subplot you may have running with a
governor’s daughter; the method of fixing is that invasion forces no longer
target the port at a certain point (apparently once Mendoza comes into play)
and you yourself can no longer sack it. However, it seems to do more than that,
and occasionally prevent you from attacking a different port that shouldn’t be
a problem. I’m not entirely clear on when it happens.
Q: I want to attack a hostile city, but the option is greyed out! Why?
A: You have brought so few men that you don't stand even a remote chance. Come
back with a bigger crew, and/or convince nearby Pirate Havens/Indian Villages
to attack the target. They can soften it up for you.
Q: I successfully sacked a city, but I didn't get the option to replace the
governor. What did I do wrong?
A: You only get this option if you completely overwhelmed the city. Try using
a bigger crew, and make sure you win the battle by wiping out the garrison, not
just running past it to the city gates. It also appears that cities are easier
to capture if their economy is poor. In some cases, you may be able to capture
a city by sacking it twice in a row; the second time the city has already been
made poorer by your earlier attack and the garrison will still be thinned out.
Note that in v1.0.2 there are a few restrictions on replacing governors as
well. You can no longer keep changing the allegiance of one city back and
forth all the time (thus milking promotions easily), and in all versions of the
game, you cannot change a city's nationality if you're married and your wife
lives there. v1.0.2 also puts additional restrictions on nationality changes if
the governor's daughter of that town has been captured by Mendoza, to avoid
breaking the roamnce subplot. And, as mentioned above, it seems to affect other
ports as well on occasion.
Q: The manual mentions I can get Indian units to fight on my side?
A: So it does, but it's wrong. The best you can do is to go to a nearby
Indian village and convince them to attack the city before you do. They will
send out war canoes to do it; just stick close, intercept any ships trying to
sink them, then let them enter the port before you do. They'll thin out the
garrison and if they are successful, the population as well, without touching
the city's wealth. That's where you follow up with an attack against the
You cannot actually get to command Indian units in battle, though. That's for
the AI only.
Q: The manual mentions that defenders might use artillery in land battles, but
I never encountered it. Am I just lucky?
A: No, it appears artillery never actually made it into the game. You might say
we're all lucky, considering how dangerous they sound in Piratopedia.
Q: I am using a laptop and I don't have a keypad. How will I be able to play
the game properly if nearly everything is controlled with the keypad?
A: There are two things you can do. First, your laptop will have an "Fn" key,
likely near the bottom left of the keyboard. While that is pressed, certain
keys will function as a surrogate keypad. Look for secondary functions on the
front of your keys (as opposed to on the top), and you'll be able to see which
keys these are for you. For instance, on the laptop I originally typed out this
guide on, Fn + the U key emulated the left cursor/4 key on a keypad.
If you find this hard to do, you can also remap the keys. Go to your Sid
Meier's Pirates folder through the Windows Explorer, and open the keymap.ini
file you find there. You can change the keys for most functions in the game
here, so just replace all references to the keypad with whatever keys you want
to use instead. Make sure you make a backup of the .ini file before you change
anything in it; that way if you mess up, you still have a version that works
and won't have to reinstall the game to fix it.
Q: How come the Treasure Fleet is always said to go to the same port? OR: Why
is the Treasure Fleet not where the barmaid says it will be?
A: This was a bug in version 1.0 of the game where the barmaid's information
doesn't update after the first time, and the Treasure Fleet itself doesn't
always spawn properly. Updating your game to version 1.0.2 will fix this
problem, and you'll have much better luck finding the Treasure Fleet.
Q: Is the compass working incorrectly? It seems to be pointing east when I go
west and vice versa!
A: No, it's working correctly; this is what compasses do. The gold indicator
does not point in the direction you are going in. Rather, it's indicating where
north is. Therefore, if you are going west (which means the north is to your
right), it will be pointing to the right; that doesn't mean it's pointing east.
Note that the gold indicator only changes direction at all if you're using a
view that rotates based on the direction you are sailing in (and when you’re on
land). In the default overhead view of a ship battle or the world map, the top
of the screen is always north.
Q: The manual states that I need to be on good terms with pirates or Indians to
get them to attack a port. Yet I never seem to have any trouble convincing
them. Why is this?
A: Looks like a missing feature. Jesuit missions, pirate havens, Indian
villages and even the four nations' settlements always seem to be on good terms
with you regardless of what you've done. You can even offer to escort governors
for nations that have a huge price on your head, ambush them immediately
outside of the settlement, then visit the next settlement and do the same
again, over and over. This seems to happen on every difficulty level.
Q: So if Indians and missionaries always cooperate, what's the point of having
the items meant to boost your relations with them?
A: None, as it stands. Unless this is fixed/changed in a future patch, don't
bother buying those items. They still don't do anything in version 1.0.2.
Q: Is the fact that I'm always chasing the same Baron Raymondo to learn about
my family members a bug?
A: No, this is intentional. One reader confirmed this by taking a peek in the
game's source files, and finding out that the name of the villain who knows
where your family members are is not a variable. Both Raymondo and Mendoza are
set names just like Montalban is. Chasing a plethora of different Spanish
nobles died with Pirates Gold.
Q: The money I get when dividing up the plunder doesn't appear to match up.
I've calculated how much I *should* get according to my share percentage, yet
it doesn't add up with the gold for my next expedition. What happened?
A: When your share is determined, 90% of it goes into your retirement fund. In
other words, it disappears from the game, appearing only in your status
screen, where it helps to determine how many fame points you get for Wealth
(along with the land grants you've gotten). The other 10% are the starting fund
for your next expedition.
For instance, on Journeyman you get 10% of the share. If your expedition
yielded 50000 gold, that means 5000 gold is for you; 90% of this (4500) goes
into your retirement fund and the other 10% (500) will be the money you start
your next expedition with. 45000 gold is divided up among your crew.
Q: You refer to ships called 'combat galleon' and 'merchant galleon' but I've
never seen ships with those names. Don't you mean war galleon and trade
A: No. These names I came up with myself to describe the whole group of ships;
there are six galleon types in Sid Meier's Pirates, but they're actually two
different classes of three ships each. With combat galleon, I refer to the line
of ships Fast Galleon, War Galleon and Flag Galleon. With merchant galleon, I
refer to the Trade Galleon, Royal Galleon and Treasure Galleon.
Q: Are there any easter eggs in Sid Meier's Pirates?
A: Two obvious ones that I know of (provided by Aleksi Aalto and David Vallee
respectively). Look up the entry for St. Eustatius in the Piratopedia, notice
that early in the entry, in the word 'eastern', the 'easter' part is a
clickable link. Click it for an easter egg entry that strongly hints at the
existence of others. The second occurs if you play the game on September 19th
(or just set your system date to that). This day is known to some as
International Talk like a Pirate Day, and as a tribute to this, the game's
dialogue is made more 'piratey' when you play on this day, including a lot more
arrs and mateys.
There are also a couple of less obvious ones, such as certain characters in the
game taking on the appearance of game developers. The bartender, for instance,
is modelled after Sid Meier.
This section is a comprehensive list of all bugs and glitches that people have
Reported running into in this game, as well as other weirdness which may be
bugs or oversights, and random trivia which may be of some interest. Since PC
games can cause a variety of weird problems on different systems, I've only
included bugs if I've seen more than one person report more or less the same
problem. That said, if you have something to add do mail me, and if you're not
the only one I'll be happy to add it. In the future, if and when patches for
this game are released, I'll specify which problems got fixed when and which
are still outstanding. At the time of this update, the only significant patch
out there is v1.0.2, and it's been out for a while. I suspect it will be the
[9.1] BUGS (SPECIFIC TO PC VERSION)
These are the outright game problems; sometimes showstoppers, sometimes merely
annoying. All are obvious problems that will hopefully get fixed in a patch at
some point, with some more important than others. These are all PC specific
issues, not necessarily present in the XBox/PSP versions, and those versions
may have issues of their own that I'm not aware of. Check paragraph 10.2 for
what information I have on those versions.
CRASH, CRASH AND CRASH SOME MORE
BUG: An often heard report is that the game is unstable and crashes (very)
frequently, often within seconds of actually starting on the map.
SOLUTION: counterintuitive as though it is, for many people this problem seems
to be solved by turning your graphics settings UP. Apparently, some of the
'low' settings for various graphics options are unstable. If you have a lot of
unexplained crashes, this might help for you.
X DOESN'T MARK THE SPOT
BUG: Several people have reported getting a treasure map of any kind (pirate
treasure, family member, Montalban) without a red X. Even when the map is
complete, no X appears, and if they go to the general area the target is
nowhere to be found. In one instance somebody reported having the X initially,
except it disappeared later. And sure enough, when he went to the exact spot
where the X used to be, nothing was there.
SOLUTION: patch 1.0.2 fixes this issue. Red Xs no longer disappear and neither
do the things they point to. You might still get fiendishly obscure maps at
times (especially for Lost Cities), though.
BUG: Many players have reported that the game slows down over time, and I've
noticed the same. When you first start up the game, it runs at a brisk pace
(assuming your specs are up to the task), with sea battles running quickly,
fading out going smoothly and your units rapidly hopping from one square to
another during land battles. As the game goes on, however, everything slows
down a fair bit. Several players have suggested the game suffers from memory
leak problems, causing this slowdown. Others have suggested the problem
occurs specifically if you skip scenes a lot; perhaps the memory isn't properly
freed if a sequence is skipped.
SOLUTION: saving, quitting the game and starting it up again usually solves
the problem; rebooting always seems to do so. Perhaps not skipping sequences
helps, but I have not been able to confirm this. If this *is* a memory leak,
with any luck it can be addressed in a patch. In v1.0.2 I observe this problem
happening less frequently, although it's not entirely gone.
THE ELUSIVE TREASURE FLEET
BUG: For nearly all players, barmaid hints on the Treasure Fleet's location do
not reset properly. Initially the location she names for it is accurate, but
for the rest of the game, they keep repeating the same port name without it
ever updating. Even if that port is no longer Spanish at the time. I've heard
sporadic reports of people who did not have this problem, but it seems mostly
SOLUTION: all issues with the Treasurs Fleet's appearance and the information
on its current location were fixed in patch 1.0.2.
THE EQUALLY ELUSIVE BARON
BUG: Many players have reported isolated instances of Baron Raymondo (or, for
that matter, Mendoza or Montalban) seemingly disappearing. Bartenders keep
reporting that they left for this port or that many, many days ago, but they
never seem to arrive and cannot be found. It seems that this issue is caused by
the destination port being captured by another nation than the Spanish (by the
player, and possibly by AI invasion forces) while they're on their way. In some
other cases, the good Baron merely gets stuck on a landmass somewhere between
the two ports, and you may find his ship trying and failing to get around an
island if you check out the route.
SOLUTION: to the latter, explore the route carefully. To the former, no known
solution, and what's more, this issue has been reported to happen even with the
1.0.2 patch installed, and on more than just the PC version too.
NO LAND GRANT?
BUG: Occasionally, when you have done a whole lot for a nation, you will still
get only a promotion and the expected large land grant doesn't show up at all.
However, if you visit the governor again immediately, you get a second
promotion and then the remaining happiness points are converted into a land
grant after all. This is not supposed to happen; you are meant to get one
promotion and then a land grant, however big, for the remaining points.
SOLUTION: if you get only a promotion and nothing else when you are pretty
sure you did enough to earn more, immediately visit the governor again.
UM, SIR...YOUR DAUGHTER
BUG: If you rescue a governor's daughter from Count Mendoza, but an invasion
force from another nation captures her home port in the meantime, you will be
forever unable to return this daughter to her father. The romance subplot just
ends, and presumably the woman sails with you for all eternity.
SOLUTION: this issue appears to have been fixed by the 1.0.2 patch; the town
can no longer be taken over (either by your or AI invasion fleets) at this
point during the romance subplot.
BUG: Apart from the missing red X problem mentioned above, sometimes a map is
plain wrong. Named landmarks and red X's always appear to be in the right spot,
but other points of recognition like Incan Temples and such are often either
not on the map when they should be, or on the map when they don't actually
exist (or at least not in that location). Sea based landmarks, while usually
accurate, sometimes have duplicate names and cause confusion that way - it is
possible for a map to have two instances of 'Rum Rock', for example, and they
could in theory spawn near enough to each other to be easily mistaken for one
another. None of the above appears to be intentional.
SOLUTION: none, except to make sure that you rely on sea based named landmarks
and things like ports/settlements on a map before you rely on the inland points
of recognition. I haven't run into this issue since updating to patch 1.0.2 so
it seems that they fixed it along with the disappearing red X bug. Duplicate
landmark names still happen, however.
BUG: Since many of the game's events are random, a few problems can result. It
is possible for two landmarks in the game to have the same name, and especially
if they're close to each other, this can lead to some real confusion when
trying to follow a treasure map. Another player reported having absolutely no
ports in the Caribbean that offered the Cotton Sails upgrade. Presumably it
would also be possible (though unlikely) that no beautiful daughters exist
anywhere in the game, as there is no set number. These latter two problems
would become more common in the 1600 era which has less ports overall.
BUG: Several players reported seeing a named pirate sail again after they had
already defeated him. Sometimes they had a big loot again, sometimes their
ship was practically empty. Haven't had it happen to me yet.
SOLUTION: none known, but I'm sure you won't mind a second opportunity to
grab Henry Morgan's stash if it occurs.
BUG: Rarely a ship becomes stuck in place, no longer moving, not selectable,
and thus not attackable. It often stays where it is forever. This seems to
happen particularly with ships that spawn spontaneously rather than in port,
such as the ones that appear to intercept you when you're escorting a governor
or such, or one of your own ships if it's taken over by mutineers.
STUCK SHIPS STRIKE AGAIN
BUG: It is rare but possible for your *own* flagship to get stuck in a
landmass, most notably when consistently sailing in and out of the same port
without putting some distance between you and the port first. To prevent the
player from constantly being whisked into the port screen again while leaving,
the game waits a few seconds before it lets you reenter. If you turn around
immediately when you leave a port and stubbornly try to sail in anyway, your
ship will be stopped, but it may be able to get some way into the landmass and
at that point become stuck. You may even find your ship being warped to the
west coast of that same landmass in an effort by the game to get you unstuck,
which doesn’t always help.
SOLUTION: none, except not to invite the issue; if you want to leave a port and
reenter, sail a little distance away before turning around again. If it does
occur, and you cannot get your ship unstuck, you’re going to have to revert to
an earlier save.
LEAVING SO SOON?
BUG: Occasionally if you have just sacked a town, clicking any of the options
is taken as "leave town" and you end up back outside.
SOLUTION: none short of just sacking the town again immediately (which you can
probably pull off if you've thinned out the garrison in your last attack).
Fortunately the problem doesn't seem to occur very often. I also haven't
encountered it since upgrading to version 1.0.2, though considering how rarely
it happened to begin with, that could be just luck.
BUG: Several players reported seeing ridiculous amounts of loot on certain
ships; five or six digit rewards at times on completely random trade or
immigrant vessels. This seems to surface specifically if a nation runs out of
ports due to you capturing them all. One player reported actually getting a
*negative* loot from one ship, subtracting from his current treasury and
crashing the game to boot. These are very likely calculation problems; perhaps
the number of ports a nation has is a factor in determining how much loot their
ships has, and a 0 for that variable is causing this problem.
SOLUTION: this issue is caused by taking away a nation's last port; just don't
do that and it won't occur. Version 1.0.2 seems to have some safeguards against
taking a nation's last port, although I understand it's still not impossible.
[9.2] WEIRD THINGS
These aren't necessarily bugs, just things that seem to be poorly implemented,
forgotten, or perhaps just ignored. Mostly things that, if the game had just a
little more polish, probably wouldn't be there. For the most part tiere is no
serious impact on gameplay.
- If an escort ship is fought and defeated (either captured or sunk) in the
same battle where you are hunting an escorted ship, you get no credit for it.
It does not appear as captured or sunk in your captain's log, the nation it
belongs to will not be mad, and you will not score any points with their
enemies. To get credit for an escort ship, you must evade it and deal with the
escorted ship first, then when you are returned to the world map, reengage the
escort now that it is on its own.
- Indian War Canoes always surrender if you board them; escort ships never
surrender. In the rare event that one Indian War Canoe escorts another, if you
ram the escort ship, it is automatically sunk.
- Escort ships can sail right through the ships they're escorting. In addition,
any ships - both yours and the enemy's - can sail through shoals and ports as
if they're not there while you're in battle. Only the shoreline actually stops
a ship from passing. Since v1.0.2, sailing through shoals while in battle does
cause damage to your ship, however I’ve noticed enemies – large ships like
galleons, no less - getting away with it.
- After a battle, upon returning to the world map, you are still in the same
spot and direction where you started the battle. Even if you sailed somewhere
completely different during the battle.
- If you've made a port mad enough with your previous actions (bombarding it,
or engaging ships near it), it may continue to be hostile and fire on you even
if you've captured it for another (friendly) nation. This appears to be related
with individual governors having a different attitude toward you than the
nation as a whole (also seen in the way promotions work). In some cases, the
new nation's governor might even scold you for sacking the town instead of
congratulating you for capturing it for him!
- Indian/pirate/missionary relations do not appear to be implemented at all.
While Indians and pirates occasionally use the "steer clear you scurvy pirate"
line on you if you've attacked them a lot, you can still visit their villages
and havens and get all the support you need. Similarly, settlements are always
friendly to you even if the nation they belong to has a large price on your
head. And they'll still happily let you escort (and backstab) their governors.
- Artillery is mentioned as an enemy unit type for land battles both in the
manual and in the piratopedia - and made out to be very dangerous, to boot.
However, it doesn't appear to have actually made it into the game.
- If you're out of the loop for a couple of months - be it because you divided
up the plunder, or because you get captured/marooned - the only thing that
changes about the state of the world is which nations are at war with each
other (and the prices on your head will drop a bit). Otherwise, everything is
still exactly where it was. You might see a nice treasure ship sailing outside
a port, go in, divide the plunder, take 7 months to start a new expedition,
then when you leave port again it's still there.
- Named villains (Mendoza, Raymondo and Montalban) never surrender. However,
if you pummel their ship so much that a normal ship would surrender, it does
raise the white flag and you get the "as you approach the ship strikes its
colors" message when you come near. Directly after, you suddenly get a sword
- The game gives you credit for any special ship safely reaching port
(immigrants, governors etc.) if you've ever spotted it. It doesn't matter if
you've taken any effort to escort it, if you're friendly with said nation, or
if you're completely on the other side of the Caribbean when it reaches its
- In unpatched games, new governors arriving in a town apparently adopt the old
governor's daughter. Romance subplots go on exactly as they did. However, if
you or an AI invasion force changes the nationality of a town, the subplot is
automatically ended. From version v1.0.2 on, this can no longer happen once a
governor's daughter has been captured by Mendoza. Also, in this version the
subplot is reset to the beginning if a port changes hands pre-Mendoza.
Nonetheless, the “new” daughter will have the same beauty rating, and if you
romance her, she will repeat the same information the previous one gave you (if
you haven’t acted on it yet) with the “I believe I have told you this before”
- If you are married, you cannot change the nationality of the port your wife
lives in anymore. However, randomly spawned invasion forces still can, and if
one does, your wife will mysteriously change to the new nationality, appearance
and all. This issue seems to have been fixed in v1.0.2.
- You can have as many romance subplots running as you like, up to the marriage
proposal (you can only marry one woman). Most notably, it's perfectly possible
to be saving multiple daughters from Colonel Mendoza, and if this happens
there will actually be multiple clones of Mendoza sailing around the Caribbean.
One player reported seeing three of them sail in formation.
- While town merchants are limited in how much gold they have to buy your
cargo, their gold resets instantly when you leave port. You can sail out, sail
right back in, and start selling again. Do bear in mind that every town visit
takes a week in game time, which can add up.
- One player reported seeing a named pirate (Blackbeard, in his case) engaging
and successfully sinking Baron Raymondo, which wiped the Raymondo quest off his
log. While it must have been a sight to see, the lesson is clear; if you see
them fighting, hurry up and intervene before you lose your precious target. Oh,
and it also establishes the Frigate's superiority over the War Galleon. :)
Random facts about the game. May or may not be of interest. Read at your own
- All named pirates have their bio listed in the in-game piratopedia. Captain
Kidd is a little tricky to find as he is listed as "William Kidd".
- The flag that's on the wall behind the mysterious traveller in the tavern is
the actual historical flag of Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. Probably one of
the more famous pirate flags; definitely one of the most famous pirates.
- The names of the criminals are set, depending on what exactly they've done.
Each name is a reference, too, as follows:
"Chatterley", the libertine, is likely named after Lady Chatterley's Lover, an
early 20th century novel notorious for its (by those days' standards) explicit
"Farthingsworth", the embezzler, doesn't seem to refer to a specific person.
However, the farthing is an old British monetary unit.
"Connery", the spy, is a clear reference to Sean Connery, the original James
"Shawshank", the blackmailer, refers to the movie The Shawshank Redemption in
which blackmail is a major theme.
"Faulkes", the traitor, most likely refers to Guy Faulkes, a famous British
terrorist (or folk hero, depending on who you ask) who planned to blow up the
House of Parliament.
- The named pirates are all actual historical figures, though most don't
exactly fit in the default 1660 era. The majority are 18th century pirates,
and Jean LaFitte is in fact 19th century. Raymondo, Montalban and Mendoza are
fictional. Montalban and Mendoza are references to the original Pirates and
Pirates Gold games, however, where all pirates, pirate hunters and evil
nobles had randomly chosen names from four lists, one for each nationality.
Mendoza and Montalban were two of the possible Spanish names. Raymondo is new;
possibly named after somebody on the development team?
- In addition to having been used before in the original Pirates games,
"Montalban" may well be a reference to one of the actors in Fantasy Island,
- Historically, piracy tended to be a lot less rewarding than Sid Meier's
Pirates makes it out to be. Just checking the bios of the named pirates will
confirm this. Out of these nine pirates, three were hung, three were killed
in battle (and all of them quite brutally), and one went missing, presumably
lost at sea. Only two of them, namely Henry Morgan and Jean LaFitte, retired
in wealth. And Henry Morgan soon ate and drank himself to death on Jamaica.
- The original Pirates had four difficulty levels rather than five, however,
there was a hidden fifth level, sort of. If you failed the copy protection
question at the start of the game, your career would start off disastrously
with a small ship, a skeleton crew, a serious starting injury that instantly
cut your health down a few levels, and all four nations hostile to you. In
addition, the game would run onhe hidden fifth difficulty level where battles
were incredibly hard to win. Your career would almost inevitably end in quick
disgrace. The Swashbuckler level in Sid Meier's Pirates seems to be something
of a throwback to the difficulty of that hidden level, minus the injury and
the "everybody hostile" touch. Although in the original game the fourth level
was called Swashbuckler; Rogue is the one that was missing.
 VERSION COMPARISONS
This chapter is aimed at two specific groups: veterans of the previous
Pirates games who want to know how this one differs from them, and players of
the XBox or PSP versions of Sid Meier's Pirates who want to know how their
version differs from the PC version this guide is primarily aimed at. All
others can skip this chapter without having to worry about missing anything.
[10.1] NEW SINCE PIRATES AND PIRATES GOLD
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 is roughly the equivalent of what Swashbuckler used to be,
whereas Swashbuckler is now a brutal difficulty setting that will really test
you, but also give you a whopping 50% share of the loot.
- 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
(sometimes) 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
- 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. Its relative value has declined a fair bit, though, and it's
now a nice bonus rather than one of your most profitable targets.
- 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.
- Your retirement age is no longer a factor in your final score. While you
will get slower in sword fights as you get older (as before) and you will
eventually be too old to start new expeditions, you no longer have to decide
between retiring early or amassing more fame and wealth. For as long as you
can sail, you can pursue your objectives without fear.
[10.2] XBOX/PSP VERSION DIFFERENCES
In this paragraph I'll be listing differences between the PC version of Sid
Meier's Pirates - the one this guide was written for - and the newer XBox and
PSP versions which has changed quite a few things around. While not identical,
the PSP version is based off the XBox rather than the PC version and thus has a
lot more in common with it.
Aside from a short session with a borrowed PSP I haven’t really played these
versions and most of the information here comes from external sources. Consider
it a reference, but take it with a grain of salt. I do believe that most of the
information in the actual guide will still be useful to you if you play either
of these versions, as long as you’re aware of what does *not* apply.
- There is a multiplayer component in the XBox version allowing up to 4 players
(including any number of AI opponents) to fight a free for all ship battle.
- The XBox and PSP versions have a more compact Caribbean map. Getting from the
east to the west side (and vice versa) is a quicker and easier affair, and
you'll generally be spending more time in action and less sailing from place to
place over large stretches of sea. Unfortunately, there is one bug associated
with this on the XBox and possibly the PS as well: rarely a missing family
member might spawn just outside the area you can sail in and be impossible to
- Beaching your ship and marching across the land - either to attack a city or
to find a family member/treasure/lost city - was taken out of these versions.
Attacking cities can still be done from the sea, obviously, and to find the
other three, all you need to do is beach your ship as close to the spot
indicated on your map as you can. The search is then automatic.
- Due to the above, some ports are missing from the XBox and PSP versions. The
landlocked ones (Panama, Gran Granada, Puerto Principe) are gone as they would
now be unreachable, and Leogane is missing as well. Bermuda is gone too, being
too far on the edge of the map to be reachable on the more compact game
map. Also reported missing is St Thome (I've never seen that one in the PC
version either though, perhaps in different eras than the default?). On the
XBox only, Havana has been given its proper Spanish name, La Habana.
- Apparently the XBox version's ingame map shows only ports you've already
visited, except if you get the Dutch/Spanish Rutter. If so, it'll be a lot more
useful in the XBox version, at least until you learn for yourself where each
port is. I’ve confirmed this is not the case for the PSP version, though.
- There are no settlements in the XBox and PSP versions only straight out
ports. This also means that there will never be sugar seedling quests. New
governor ships do seem to spawn on their own. Also, Jesuit missions, Indian
villages and pirate havens are present.
- In the PC version, a treasure map's "near [town name]" hint is on the bottom
map pieces. On the XBox version, it's on the top of the map.
- The Spyglass and Telescope function differently in the XBox version; rather
than letting you see enemies from farther away (they will always be visible in
this version), they give you detailed information on enemy crew size and cannon
count prior to going into battle. On the PSP version, these items appear to
allow you to zoom the map out further than you could without.
- There is a structured set of quests to undertake which includes the ones from
the PC version but also a couple of other goals to complete (such as sinking
a certain number of ships). These quests are given by the mysterious stranger
in taverns, and they're random (although at least some of them always show up
somewhere in the sequence). All in all, the XBox and PSP games play like a more
structured, linear console-type game, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for a
game like this. In order to get to and defeat Montalban, you'll need to go
through this series of quests.
- Perhaps to compensate for the treasure hunting minigame being taken out, the
XBox version has an extra minigame that triggers when you board an enemy ship,
called "Evening the Odds". A time bar appears at the bottom of the screen, and
you need to press a sequence of buttons that appears on screen as well (three
buttons, repeated three times). Do it correctly, and you will dispatch some of
the enemy's crew before the sword battle begins. This sequence will trigger
only if the enemy crew outnumbers your own at the time of boarding.
- The sneaking minigame uses a different, zoomed in perspective in the XBox
game, which gives it some nice added atmopshere but makes guards hard to
avoid. However, it's my understanding that you can still overpower and escape
a guard if he spots you, whereas in the PC version you'd be captured
automatically if a guard catches up with you.
- The dancing minigame now only has you handle forward, backward, left and
right movement - the pirouettes (controlled by the diagonals in the PC version)
are automatically handled by the game. There are no patterns to follow,
apparently, just a matter of pressing the right button one at a time, and with
more obvious visual cues (the button itself is displayed on screen, and colour
coded at that). There might not be Calfskin Boots/Dancing Slippers in the XBox
version, but from what I hear, they aren't particularly necessary. The PSP
version, meanwhile, has a more familiar type of rhythm game with cues for
button presses scrolling by that need to be hit at the right moment.
- Cannons are not a commodity to be captured and sold in the XBox and PSP
versions. I’ve had conflicting reports on how they do work, but the majority
opinion seems to be that a ship comes with a certain number of cannons (bound
by the upper limit for whatever the ship type is, but can be fewer) that never
changes once the ship is in your fleet.
- Your fleet can consist of only 5 ships in the XBox and PSP versions, as
opposed to the PC version's 8.
- You can pick a sword to use on all difficulty levels in the XBox and PSP
versions, including Apprentice.
- There is no advantage bar in the sword fights in the XBox version - this
reduces the importance of having a large crew compared to the enemy's (as long
as you don't run out) and presumably also removes the practical benefit of
- There is no autosaving in the XBox version. You can only save manually and
(as in the PC version) only while you're at sea. The PSP version allows saving
while in port.
- The "Talk like a Pirate" Day easter egg is present in at least the XBox
 REVISION HISTORY
v1.0: (22 Dec '04) First version of the FAQ.
v1.1: (20 Jan '05) Thanks for your feedback, everybody! Significant updates and
corrections throughout the guide based on my own experiences and a vast amount
of reader input.
v1.2: (22 Feb '05) More updates and corrections, and this time the credits list
is complete. Sorry for the ones I forgot the first time around; that's what
happens if you keep lists in two separate places :(
v1.3: (30 Sep '05) Updated with a few more corrections and some information
pertaining specifically to the v1.0.2 update. In addition, I've made a few
notes on differences between the PC and XBox versions. Finally, my contact info
has been updated, previous contact address is no longer in use.
v1.4: (19 Jul '07) Following my first full completion (126 fame) of the game on
Rogue, updates have been made throughout the document reflecting new insights.
There's been a slight renumbering of sections as I moved the 'version
differences' paragraph to the end of the document. I have also, once again,
received a lot of valuable reader input on a variety of topics - thanks
v1.5: (12 May ’08) Having at last completed a full fame game on Swashbuckler
level, the time was right for what will probably be the last major update. This
version of the guide corrects falsehoods, compresses rambling, and adds new
insights. Major updates include new information on promotions, courtesy of
Ronald of Hooked on Pirates, and at last the full story on how crew happiness
is calculated, courtesy of Wes Atkinson.
No more updates are specifically planned for the future, but you never know.
 FINAL WORDS
ABOUT THIS FAQ
It had been a good four years since I started writing for GameFAQs, and longer
still since my first offline experiments at FAQ writing, but my first full FAQ
for Sid Meier's Pirates finally saw the light in late 2004. Before then, my
full guides had been limited to retro games - decidedly easier to write an
exhaustive FAQ for - and for more recent gaming I've stuck to specialist,
in-depth guides which don't require broad coverage. This project was a much
bigger time investment, and has been successful beyond my wildest expectations.
At the time I rolled out my “final” (can’t ever be sure with FAQs!) update in
May 2008, this guide had received over 300.000 hits on GameFAQs alone. I’d
never have believed it would go that far. A big thank you goes out to all
readers, and I hope you enjoyed the guide.
For questions, comments, suggestions, praise and criticism, please contact the
author, Sashanan, at firstname.lastname@example.org. This e-mail address is for FAQ
feedback only. Whatever you wish to share about this document or Sid Meier's
Pirates, chances are I'll want to hear it. Any serious mail will be answered.
Specifically, if you have additional strategies or different views on the ones
I've posted, I'd love to hear about it. Reader input helps to make any FAQ
better and more comprehensive.
If you wish to do anything with this FAQ except for just reading it, check
the Disclaimer section at the top of the FAQ to find out what you can and
can't do. When in doubt, you can always mail me.
I would like to thank the following people for their help in bringing
about this document:
- bansama, for being my primary proofreader for the initial version of the
- ASchultz, falsehead, lisanne, MartinG and siara79 for their continued
providing of motivation and inspiration;
- All readers who have sent in feedback for updates/corrections to my guide. In
Alphabetical order, these are Aaron Bilger, Aaron Goldfein, Addiction, Agent
Edmonds, aGorilla, Aleksi Aalto, Andrew Durdin, aramil34, Aron Postma, Bennet
Gubat, biologic, Bobguy, Brian Barzeele, Brian Gilbert, Brett Turner, C.
Griffin Mitchell III, Chris Miller, Christopher Agne, Cody Williams, Colin
Sellar, Corey Close, CyRxRich, Dan Needler, David FitzSimons, David Vallee,
Deaddrop, Death on a stick, dj arcanus, Don Bosh, Evreitor, Gin Ryu, Guillermo
Baena Fernandez, J. Weiss, Jay247, Jacob Finn, Jason Cote, Joel Hansell, Jon
Pearson, Jonatan Vincent, Kevin Dorough, Kristan McDonald, Lemonade SODA,
Leonidas, Logan Louden, Luke Sweatlock, Márci S. Fujikawa, Mark Warren, Martin
R. Huttenloher, Michael Mifsud, Noah Langowitz, Paul Aubuchon, Riidi WW, Robin
Toll, Rokenbok, Roland, Sam Greene, SlowRazorz, Strange, Strategerm, Surumon
White, Thaddeus Kohrman, Tola Burke, Vasco Cabral Martins, Wes Atkison, Will
Saab, wonka wonka, YuPing, and anybody else whose name I might have misplaced
in the mess that updating a guide of this size really is. (If I replied to your
e-mail, used your info but did not credit you, please feel free to mail me
again to remind me!)
- The regulars of the GameFAQs/GameSpot Sid Meier's Pirates forum, as well as
the regulars of Hooked on Pirates (formerly Cutlass Isle) and Addicted to
Pirates, for their many insights and the discussions that helped shape this
- GameFAQs administrator SBAllen for his tireless efforts to keep up GameFAQs
as the best place to go for your gaming resources, and for submitting your own
for that matter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born in 1980, a good 300 years too late to be a pirate, Sashanan has settled
for being a software engineer. Unlike his countrymates Bart Roberts and the
Roc of Brasiliano, he will likely never be rich, nor feared all over the
Caribbean, though he'll likely live longer. When not developing software, he is
usually found playing games or writing about them. He does not like macaroni.
This document is a copyright of Peter "Sashanan" Butter, 2005-2008. All
rights reserved. Disclaimer at top of document. Avast!