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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

One Pirate if by Land…All Right, Maybe 100 Pirates

In many ways, land combat when attacking cities is one of the most improved areas from the original game. While the AI will try different tactics from battle to battle, there are a few rules to keep in mind:

  • Don’t be impatient! Sometimes, waiting for the enemy to come to you is more effective, especially if you have good fields of fire for your Buccaneers
  • Native Archers are tougher than they look, so neutralize their quickness by hitting them from long-range with your Buccaneers and follow up with melee by your Pirates
  • Any chance you get, use your first move (remember, you have two moves) to attack from a flank – even if you expose your own flank, your troops can handle it better than the enemy
  • Be willing to sacrifice troops to cut around and sneak up to the enemy gates, which will win the battle
  • In large cities, Cavalry are tough opponents – but they are only a third as effective in woods, and much weaker defending than attacking, so attack them first
  • Always shield your Buccaneers with Pirates or Officers, because even weak enemy units can drive Buccaneers from the battlefield in melee combat
  • When your troops are being particularly mutinous, a dastardly way to get them back in line is to attack with them in bloody frontal assaults to reduce their numbers – be sure to still take the enemy city, though!

Life, Love and Happiness

Once you begin to master the tactics, you can start to think about the big picture. What is it your pirate is trying to accomplish? Is it to drive your notoriety as high as possible? If so, take on enemy pirates and sack as many towns as possible. If it’s having a high rank, then capture as many enemy vessels as you can before your health starts to go.

But one of the most satisfying victories in Sid Meier’s Pirates! is to reunite your family—which means taking on the evil Baron Raymondo, Marquis Montalban, and other villains as often as you can. Sometimes, this means you might have to forego easy prey to chase after Raymondo, for example. Or that you will be hunting for Montalban’s hideout in the Yucatan Peninsula when you’d rather be wooing maids in Tortuga.


But if you succeed—and there is no guarantee that you will—then you will gain fame, and riches galore. You will probably also gain a wife (after you rescue her from the evil one’s clutches) and possibly find Lost Cities of legend as a side benefit. It’s a tough road, but after all, you’re a world-famous pirate, aren’t you?

Regardless of which path you choose, may your sword always be sharp as your wit, and may your legend live forever in the annals of Pirate lore.

Sid Meier’s Pirates! review on Armchair General. 

Author Information

Terry Lee Coleman is former Senior Reviews Editor of Computer Gaming World magazine. He has written about board, card and video games for several years in such publications as Fire & Movement, The General, BROG, and Armchair General.

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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).