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Posted on Jul 14, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Sid Meier's Pirates! Strategy

By Terry Lee Coleman


How to Pillage and Plunder with a Purpose

Sid Meier’s Pirates! offers the promise of riches and fame, sailing and buccaneering your way through the Spanish Main during the 17 th Century. Part of the game’s appeal is that it is incredibly open-ended and replayable. However, while Sid Meier’s Pirates! is easy to pick up and play, the game can seem so free-form to newcomers, that it’s sometimes hard to know what to try first. So, here are a few tips to put you on the right career path to achieve legendary pirate status.

It’s a Pirate’s Life for Me

Assuming you’ve played at least one game, there is no need to start at Apprentice level when setting up your pirate character. But don’t get too cocky! Try starting at Journeyman, which can give you enough of a challenge to keep things interesting at the beginning of the game, without putting your pirate at undue risk of capture or injury.


First off, don’t automatically select skill at Fencing. While this is certainly fun, after your first couple of games, you should have a handle on sword fighting, and you don’t need this skill as a crutch. (If you need more prowess in this area, just train with a captain of the guard, whose expertise is often offered by a sympathetic governor.)

All of the other skills—Gunnery, Navigation, Wit & Charm—are noteworthy, but instead, I suggest you try skill at Medicine. You see, as your pirate ages, particularly after 30, he tends to slow down, lose his ability to recover from battle, and so forth. Trust me: You’ll thank me when your pirate is still spry past the age of 40.

For start date, stick with 1660 – The Buccaneer Heroes. This is the most advantageous pirate era, and you can always try other start dates as you gain more experience. One thing I particularly like about starting in 1660 is that you have the British town of Port Royale available, which is a wonderfully centralized base of operations in the Caribbean.

This Ship Is England (or France , or…)

Depending on which nationality you’ve chosen, you will likely have either a Sloop or Brig at your disposal – the former is more maneuverable, the latter has more firepower; either is suitable to begin your pirate career. If you are unsure, always go for a Sloop whenever available. It can more easily escape when outgunned, and handles better even in relatively calm seas.

On your first foray into town, make friends with the local governor and get a Letter of Marque if possible; during 1660, almost all nations are at war at one time or another, and the majority of them stay in conflict with Spain for most of the game, leaving you plenty of juicy (and ostensibly legal) targets.

Any Port in a Storm

After you’ve finished hobnobbing with the nouveau riche, head down to the local tavern, where you’ll find an atmosphere more suited to a young and hungry pirate:
  • As your reputation grows, you’ll be able to recruit more and more crew
  • The local barmaid keeps you abreast of nearby gold-laden vessels and pirate rivals
  • A mysterious stranger can lead you to buried treasure or lead you to clues about your family members’ whereabouts
  • No one knows as much about the price of goods and beauties of the Spanish Main as the local bartender
Dragoon’s unit descriptions worked but were bland.

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  1. I suggest going after Raymondo as early in the gaame as possible so that you ge info on Montleband’s hideout while your young, he’s a tough one to beat if he is in his hideout and the younger you are the better. Dance with he ladies as ofren as possible it helps. Keep your fleet small.
    that way you have more crew on each ship.

  2. You don’t need a fleet. You should use one ship only, a Flag Galleon or a Frigate armed with at least 100 men.

    • Galleons are a beast to turn. Frigates are more nimble.

  3. I agree with sticking to one ship. Always sell off captured ships and cargo at first opportunity. However, I’d recommend against the large ships, and suggest trying a royal sloop. With triple hammocks it has a large enough crew for just about anything you’d need, it is very fast, and it’s small profile allows it to evade enemy fire dramatically reducing crew attrition.

    Lack of firepower means you’ll want to go “grape and board” rather than pound them into surrender. If you enjoy the dueling sequences this should not be a problem, and actually has a number of advantages (amongst them: captured ships aren’t as badly damaged, and you don’t risk sinking a valuable cargo).