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Know Your Ship!
Sounds simple, but a captain must be aware of his ship’s strengths and weaknesses.
Sloops - Quick, but have a shallow cargo hold with a thin hull. Use your speed to get behind your opponent, where your guns do more damage and stay there!
Galleons – Durable, more broadsides with a lot of cargo space, but slow. Keep in mind your gunners will have limited angles of fire from the deck guns, so you will need to keep enemies at your sides.
Frigates – Mix of speed and durability with some cargo sacrifice. The forward guns mean you can engage an enemy as you approach. You do have fewer broadsides than a Galleon, so deck hands are more important.
Brig - These new arrivals mount more deck guns than sloops and galleons, but more broadsides and cargo than frigate. They have a good mix of features but do not exceed each other ship types in their specialty. They are not faster than sloops, roomier than galleons or stronger than frigates, so be mindful.
Sailing skills can compensate for ship weaknesses. Having Top Sail or Full Sail will make up for a Galleon’s lack of speed. Take Cover and Open Fire balance for a sloop’s weak hull and fewer guns. Your sailing style and use of skill points will dictate which ship is better for you.
This compensation also comes into play when it comes to customization. A heavier armored frigate is going to be slower but having improved Full Sail rigging can adjust for that.
Know your Enemy!
The same thing applies to the ship(s) you’re up against.
Sloops are fast, so they will be harder to hit and keep your broadsides to. They may not carry a lot of guns, but War Sloops pack Firebrands and Ghost War Sloops use supernatural ammo.
Galleons are tougher, but have no front guns - stay on their bow if you can.
Frigates won’t be as fast as your sloop or as tough as your Galleon. If you’re in a Frigate, hope your guns and gunners are better.
NO ship has rear guns, but they won’t sit still and let you pound their backsides.
Enemies do not engage unless fired on or you move too close. Beware of your distance.
Undead ships use Thunderbolt or Fury and do major broadside damage.
Fleet ships are the strongest by far and work in tandem to take down attackers. You should only engage them with a crew or multiple ships.
Know your Crew!
Having a full crew is always best, but just a few cannoneers aboard can make a huge difference. They can engage targets from greater distance, with more lethal loads. If you have a small crew, try to keep enemies on one side of you to concentrate firepower.
A good captain talks to their crew. Inform your gunnies of their targets. This keeps them focused and prevents them from attracting other ships into the fray. Also, remind them what loads to use. Don’t be afraid to speak up; a good player respects that the captain is in charge.
A good captain listens to their crew. The pirates on deck can often see things the helmsman can’t. They can tell you of ships approaching before they’re on radar and give a heads up on the enemy you’re engaging. Before boarding a flagship, make note of which crewmen may be your weak links and try to protect them.
An appreciative captain can keep a good crew. Helping a player finish a quest or giving them time to reload their high-end rounds will foster loyalty and you want good gunnies.
Know the Sea!
Two of the famous tactician Sun Tzi’s major lessons were ‘know when to fight’ and ‘where to fight’. New ships spawn in certain areas as others are destroyed. Spawning ships can be a headache if one appears on your aft, while you’re already engaged.
Knowing where the enemy will arrive gives you an advantage. Some islands are home to certain classes of ship. Once you know where these pop up spots are, you can exploit them. Your crew can be locked and loaded and get the first volleys as a new enemy materializes.
Padres del Fuego and the Isla Tormenta are the two best areas for warships. Conversely, the Strait between Port Royal and Tortuga is fertile ground for the beginning sailor with plenty of lightweight ships to plunder and practice on.
Even if you’re just wading in the Straits off Port Royal, sailing the Caribbean alone is a dangerous endeavor. But, if you choose to go it alone, there are a few important things to remember.
Know the Capabilities and Limitations of your Ship
Sloops have the speed to be able to get away from trouble or avoid it all together. Some pirates like being able to zip in behind an enemy, blast away, and dart out of range.
Galleon’s heavier hulls and more broadsides make them better if you have to slug your way to a destination. The limited firing angle can actually work to your advantage when firing broadsides.
A Frigate’s advantage of forward guns is lost when sailing alone and their broadsides tend to fan out at longer range, but they’re still a good middle of the road option.
The Brig will not be as fast a sloop, but she has more guns. She's faster than a galleon but can't take as much damage. They can turn tighter than a Frigate but don't have as much firepower.
Pick a Fight You Can Win
While that may sound unsportsmanlike, we pirates are not good sports. We’re in this for the gold, and as players, in it for the experience points and quests. This doesn’t mean only attack lighter ships, just fight smart and take every advantage you can.
Enemy ships only attack once fired upon or when a pirate vessel comes too close. Keep a safe distance and you can take time to line up the perfect first volley. Hit an enemy in the rear whenever possible. Attacks to the aft get a damage bonus and the Open Fire skill adds even more. Also, it gives you time to reload and maneuver against counterattack.
Often, a fellow pirate overestimates his ship’s abilities and sinks before getting the job done. Sinking a wounded enemy ship won’t win you many sailing points, but it may finish a quest for you.
You Are Alone Out There
Everything at sea is either out to get you, or minding their own business. Some pirates may lend fire support, but that costs you sailing points and treasure – and newbies will fire on anything; even the flagship you just crippled. If you’re getting overwhelmed, go get a crew or call some friends and guild mates to help.
Primarily Focus On Quests and Sailing Experience
Sacking a flag ship, fighting an entire Navy, EITC or Ghost crew, and escaping with your life are pretty hard – even for an experienced pirate. And even then, the rewards are still lower without a crew.
Also, you are very vulnerable when you board any enemy ship and immediately after you return to your own. If you’re out there for the money, get a crew – you can haul in two to five times more treasure.
You Can Always Bail Out!
Something that a captain of a crewed ship would never do is jump. But, if you’re being chased by half the Navy and down to a few timbers strapped by baling wire, you may have time to pull up your map and teleport off. Anything in the hold is lost, but going down with the ship still loses your haul and recovery is a lot more expensive than ship repair (Over 350 gold to recover a War Brig!).
Here are a few solo moves I’ve used with some success.
As players travel the long distance between islands, the game speeds their ship up. This feature can give a clever captain a rapid assault option while out performing a quest. Head for your target island. After a few moments, your ship will be in high gear. Keep a sharp eye out for enemies as you whip along. Then, throw out a passing broadside. The AI will have no time to react.
Light vessels can often be sunk by a single broadside, even from non-warships. Follow up with a quick turn or a Come About to cut speed to finish any survivor.
While the Quick Drive-by is an opportunity strike, the strategy can work in regular combat.
Enemies shoot once your vessel is in their field of fire, but it takes a moment for the AI to recognize your position. Take advantage of this by heading directly at the opposition, making adjustments to keep them head-on. The AI will turn to avoid you.
At the last moment, turn away (It goes left, you turn right). The ships will cross each other for just a few seconds. Fire broadsides, and then turn toward the enemy. You will cross behind.
This will give a lighter ship a chance to escape by keeping the enemy’s aft facing yours. Heavier ships can take a breather to recharge broadside guns for the finishing blow.
Ring Around the Rosie
A simple, effect tactic is to make a wide circle around an opponent once it is coming at you. It will keep trying to turn and broadside, but if you maintain a wide turning arc, their main guns will never line up.
Being pursued by a larger enemy vessel is never a fun proposition. No captain likes to turn his unprotected aft to the opposition’s cannons. But, if you turn to fight, you face their broadsides as you come about.
Keeping the enemy chasing you gives you an edge, since they can’t bring the big guns to bear. Use your compass to monitor the distance between you.
Once you have pulled into a comfortable lead, turn hard left or right. Watching the compass, wait until you are perpendicular (90 degrees) to the enemy. As your broadsides come to bear, fire, then turn back the other direction or use Come About. Your opposite guns can now fire.
By this point, you may have to turn straight ahead to regain your lead. But, a couple of repeats of this side-to-side tactic will make even the largest opponents wish they hadn’t given chase.
Just be aware of other enemy ships on your radar. Dodging one enemy may lead you right into the path of another.
Freebooter Reverse (or Double Broadsides)
A real simple move that lets you get a double whammy before the enemy can react. Keeping an enemy at long range, move quickly to position your vessel in the enemy’s path and stop dead. Use the right-click method to view your ship from the opposite side and sight up your enemy. Watch the radar. Once she’s about mid-range, unload on her! As soon as the shots are fired, rotate in place. Do NOT move forward. It may seem slow, but it keeps your ship aligned to the target. As you complete your turn, the enemy should be in close range and right in line with your second, fully loaded broadside cannons. ‘ello, poppet!
All experienced players have done this to get quick quests or cash without even leaving the harbor. Go out to your ship, and then don’t pull up the anchor. Just man a deck gun. There are several ports where enemy vessels sail quite close (Padres del Fuego is probably THE most widely known for this). This is not to say you’re safe, but it gives you the chance to sight up a close range target and get some cannon practice in, too. After sinking a few, go to the helm and Weigh Anchor, then click Drop Anchor to cash out. Another good reason to Turkey Shoot is when trying to leave a dangerous port. Just jumping aboard and weighing anchor, a captain may find themselves quickly surrounded by major opposition. Turkey Shooting can help make an escape route or monitor ship movements until you can find an opening and slip away; otherwise, teleport to a safer island to launch from.
Enemy ships move in a pattern until they engage a target. Position yourself outside where ships patrol. Don’t sail through or into a group and hammer away. You’ll end up at the bottom.
Gauge your distance as your gunnies fire long-range. Once they make contact, the enemy will come to you. Unless other enemies are near, stop dead and angle your broadsides at it. As the enemy closes, your broadsides and deck guns should have enough time to finish her.
If the enemy is getting too close for comfort, turn and get some distance ahead. Only Frigates will be able to shoot while pursuing. Once comfortably ahead, stop and turn back to face her.
Enemy ships will attempt to angle for a broadside from close range. Except for Frigates, they won’t be able to shoot as they come directly at you. Stopping and staying put will give your gunners more time to fire on an enemy that can’t fire back. And it’s much easier to hit a target when your ship isn’t moving. Staying still also minimizes lag, which affects gunner accuracy.
Trust your gunners! Put your ship in a good position and let’em work. Erratic steering to use your broadsides will only mean the deck guns will likely miss and most gunners do better damage than your ship’s guns.
There will be times when taking a broadside is unavoidable. High-level captains may have Take Cover to protect the ship. If not, use Full Sail or Ramming Speed to pass your enemy as quick as possible. Many big enemy ships tend to shoot chain rounds first, then Firebrand, Thunderbolts or Furies after. If you can skirt past, you may minimize the damage and with a quick turn or Come About, put your guns on their aft.
Watch your radar and right-click to look around you occasionally; especially, if you are going to be boarding a flagship. Nothing spoils a great raid more than coming back to a ship surrounded by Man ’O Wars and losing all those royal chests you worked so hard for.