Sid Meier’s Pirates! Fun Guide by J.K. Millard [email protected] Copyright©2005, MCO Inc., All Rights Reserved I never played the original Sid Meier’s Pirates! DOS game that captivated so many gamers, so my first experience is with the latest issue, which I find great fun! To date, I have acquired more than $1.2 million in gold, have retained almost $37,000 and 67,000 acres of estate, served over 400 months at sea with a “happy” crew, have married a beautiful Governor’s Daughter, save my entire family, defeated nine other Famous Pirates, as well as the pesky Baron Raymondo and the evil Marquis Montalban, and swept the Spanish and French from the high seas (but not the pesky Dutch, for strategic reason explained herein), giving the English control of virtually the entire fabled Spanish Main — all at the tender young age of 80. For a game that considers 40 over the hill, this is quite an accomplishment! The tips that follow will help you on your way to the same success. This document is not intended to be a full-blown strategy guide, but more of intriguing ways to completely enjoy the game without some of its quirky aspects getting in the way. I have read the game documentation, as well as the commercially available strategy guide, and have made every effort not to duplicate any of the information in either publication. In any event, all the information I provide is based on my own personal playing experience. In fact, there is an aspect in my gameplay that was, I am sure, never anticipated by Sid Meier, and is certainly not covered by the commercial guide. IMPORTANT NOTICE: Before you install the game be sure your video drivers are up to date. I had an early and continuing frustration (and, from what I read online and in national publications, shared by others) with the game locking up whenever I entered a swordfight or dance until I discovered a late breaking update that fixed everything. Getting Started The first decisions you must make are levels of experience, talents, and period. Accept the defaults in almost any case. As you progress in your career, you can always adjust your experience — up or down. The main advantage is the higher experience levels allow you to retain a larger percentage of loot when you decide to divide it with your crew. The disadvantage in higher experience levels is markedly deteriorated skill set, even at the lower levels. At first, I thought this was because I had increased my experience levels late in the game, when my character was old (mid-40s!?) and in poor health. But when I started a new game at a mid- or high-skill level, I experienced the same slowdown, even as a young pup. And I still can’t understand the “swirling” graphic around my character’s head, early in a career and early in a sword fight. Someone will explain that, I am sure. For now, however, it’s a puzzlement. Because your basic skill needed to capture ships, loot, and goods is centered on the swordfight (for the most part, at least; see below for alternative strategies), chose the swordsmanship skill. All others available can be bought from the Mysterious Stranger in the Tavern or by capturing from other ships crew members with special attributes. As for the period, the default, as the game instructions emphasize, is the most fun because, particularly sailing as an Englishman, you have the most early targets of opportunity. Other levels are almost devoid of ships and ports, so you end up sailing all over for very little reward as your crew gets more sullen by the day. (Consult the instructions for details; it is very well written, and much better than most produced for contemporary games.) Underway Although you start the game with a sloop, don’t get discouraged. This is a fast little scooter that can sail rings around larger freighters and warships — but you need to walk before you run, so start with other ships you can easily defeat. The Governor (see below) in your first port should offer you advice the first time you meet as to where a nearby ship with treasure may be (at least the English governor does). So long as it’s one of the smaller, slower ships (Pinnace, Barque, Sloop, Brig, etc.) you should be OK in your first firefight. Do not go after a ship with “War” or “Fast” in its name the first few times out, as you stand to lose big, fast, and early. Try to get the wind at your stern (rear) and sail in from the opponents bow (front) or stern so they cannot fire at you. When in range, swing around so your sloop “crosses the tee”, select Round Shot (default) and fire! Repeat this maneuver a couple of times (too many more and you might sink her outright), then switch to Chain Shot to take away the sails, and Grape Shot to kill the crew. Usually, a couple of rounds of Round Shot and taking away the sails will ensure the ship surrenders without a fight. If you do not want to fight, keep firing Grape until there is just one crew left (it won’t go any lower), then if there is no surrender, it takes next to nothing to defeat the captain in a swordfight. This is especially important in fighting the key pirates, the Baron, or the Marquis. The downside to this is that early in each phase, when you have a minimum crew, the best way to build up your crew is by getting volunteers after a fight. My experience is your crew morale may deteriorate quickly when you recruit from the Tavern (except after defeating the Captain of the Guard, see below), but less so when crews surrender. Seems a good fight increases their loyalty to begin with. The only way to get a better ship is in winning battles. Brigs are better than Sloops, Frigates better than Brigs because they are fast and very tough (“Old Ironsides” is a Frigate). Anything with “War” in its title is better than otherwise, and “Fast” is good, too — except the Spanish Galleons, which are simply too slow. (And no matter what you may read or here otherwise, never assume that another pirate’s Galleon defeated in battle is better than your own Frigate.) If you are ever lucky enough to get a Ship of the Line, you rule! Anything else (Merchantmen, Galleons, etc.) is worthless, even as storage vessels, because they will slow you down. Always, however, retain a couple of fast Sloops or a ship equal to your highest-rated warship for storage, so you can sink anything you don’t want to haul back to port to sell at the Shipwright (see below). A good rule of thumb is to capture a Brig with your Sloop, and continue to work your way up the list until you have at least one Frigate. As you capture good ships you want to keep (not sell to the Shipwright, below), don’t take whatever guns remain, because you’ll want to make sure you can “transfer your flag” should the occasion arise. If some of your key warships are under-gunned, select the “Change Flagship” option before taking on a Merchantman or other easy to fight ship, use the strategy above to minimize damage to the ship, and capture it with as many remaining guns as possible to build up your ship’s armament. Multiple Frigates (you can have up to six ships of any kind) gives you insurance, because if you lose a fight with a skillful challenger (and you will, to be sure, particularly as your pirate ages), you are picked up by one of your other ships, in which case you can continue fighting the same challenger. If you second ship is equal to the first, and it will also be fresher, then you have an advantage. If your second ship is small, slow, and under-armed, you stand to lose it, too. Lose all your ships and you’re marooned — and stand a good chance of losing the valuable tools you’ve collected along the way! Sword Fighting This is your main source of prowess and income throughout the game (unless you choose to only trade goods, which must be really exciting!). But, I am afraid the game over-complicates things — particularly at the lower experience level. Because I always get confused between jumping and squatting, and which of the opponents action prompts what reaction, all I do is continually hit the “4” (Thrust) key. If an opponent Chops or Slashes, the Thrust gets him to back up. If he also Thrusts, my Thrust counters his. This tactic does not work at the higher experience levels, but, as I said before, more fun (but less money) is at the lowest level. Dancing Dancing with the Governor’s Daughter (GD) at the Ball is considerably harder than sword fighting — which most players will agree goes for the real world, too — and if there were ever a need for cheat codes in this game, this is it! Unlike fighting, you have to have all the right moves in dancing; there is no margin of error unless you own skill enhancing items related to dancing. Even then, this is not a “cakewalk”. It takes awhile, but you will learn your left (4) from your right (6), and advance (8) from retreat (2), as well as the left oblique retreat (1) and right oblique retreat (3); the instructions have much fancier names, but if it walks like a duck…. Dancing, like fighting, is a way you get money (a successful dance causes the GD to give you tips where you can find Outlaws who can’t fight worth a darn and will give you anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 pieces of gold for the pleasure). It is also a way you get a lot of “special parting gifts” that help in sword fighting, navigation, crew morale, and — dancing! These may also all be purchased from the Mysterious Traveler in the Tavern, but with the GD, they’re FREE! (You may also get some of these from the Outlaw in exchange for his freedom.) At the end of the game, one of the several success measures is romance, and it’s only at the Ball that you can advance romance. Dance frequently with the same GD and you might even end up marrying her (which, oddly or otherwise, does not prevent dalliances with other GDs) and greatly enhancing your final standings. The more dances with other GDs also leads to easy swordplay with jealous lovers, who are easily beaten (see below) and lead to more clues to more Villains. Not all GDs are the same (not just the looks factor mentioned in the instructions), and some have some really mean moves. There is also one very slow cadence that will catch you off guard, because most of the music is very similar and you will also get used to the similarity of a few of the dances. You will find that the dance moves tend to come in groups of four before changing to a different series of moves. For instance, a Glisse Left may be followed by a Pirouette Left, and repeated three more times before changing to Marche Backwards followed by Pirouette Right, and so forth. As you revisit Governors, you will also have the opportunity to advance your career title by the achievements in battle against each Governor’s enemies. With title comes land, and the Governor will tell you how many acres he’s given you during that visit. If the GD tells you a jealous lover will challenge you to a swordfight when you return, simply exit the Governor and immediately return and accept the challenge. Once you advance to the higher career titles, you can pick up an easy 50 acres of land merely by returning to the Governor immediately after exiting a round in which he gave you acreage for successfully accomplishing a mission. Sadly, it's taken much longer to explain the importance of dancing, than it did sword fighting. But that’s part of the charm of this game. It’s the Village, Idiot! In addition to the Governor, his Daughter (GD), and the Ball, the other options in port are related to (a) repairing, upgrading, or selling your ship(s) in the Shipwright, (b) selling or buying provisions and armament at the Merchant, and (c) visiting the Tavern. At the Shipwright, any captured ships you don’t want can be sold. Don’t think upgrading them will add value, because it doesn’t do anything but decease your available funds, which are meager to begin with. Also, see that all unnecessary provisions and armament before selling the ship they are on or you will lose them and not get paid. Upgrade any ship you retain whenever you can afford it because they will help survive future battles. At the Merchant, sell everything but food and guns. Keep at least a six months’ supply of food. And make sure your gun count matches the type of ship(s). These are not extra guns, and if you sell too many, you will strip your ship of essential armament. (I found that out the hard way!) At the Tavern, first check the Mysterious Traveler. If he has something to sell, buy it if you can. (I have gone back to the Merchant and sold food or the Shipyard and disposed of an extra ship to get money to buy his offering.) Then check the barmaid. If the Captain of the Guard is with her, challenge him to a duel, otherwise you can’t talk to the Bartender. By defeating the Captain, you increase the number of recruits by 10. Also, your sword fighting speed is normal no matter what your age. If an Outlaw is present, you can only access him through the Barkeep. (In either case, to skip the repetitive opening sequence, hit the ESC key.) Finally, if you are desperate for a crew, hire them (but your crew’s happiness might be jeopardized). Dividing the Loot is how you get rid of an unruly or mutinous crew and keep a portion of the captured treasure for yourself. Even though playing at the Apprentice level ensures your percentage is very low, you can still amass a sizable fortune by the end of the game. Once you have divided the loot, you keep that portion throughout the game, and anything you subsequently add to it is also retained. Be careful towards the end of the game (see below), as this action may, in fact, trigger “game over”. Family Values One of your major goals is to free your four relatives captured by the evil Marquis Montalban. Any opportunity to track him down and defeat him in battle will reveal maps leading to their whereabouts (in a remote cabin). From time to time, a Governor will reveal the Marquis has stolen away his daughter, and it is always good to accept his plea to find her. She will be on the Marquis’s ship, and freed when you defeat him. You must, however, take her back to her father’s city before you can claim the reward in the form of a map leading to the gold of an ancient city. Your best prospects for marriage can arise from rescuing a GD — but make sure she is a Beautiful daughter, and not one of the less attractive ones. Additionally, Baron Raymondo is the source for maps leading to other pirates’ buried treasure. End Game At some point, all good fun comes to an end when you grow old (over 40!?) and retire from pirating. You have no choice, as the game dictates when this happens, but you can manage the process a bit. Once your pirate attains the age of 40, refrain from dividing the loot with your crew, as you stand a good chance of ending the game as a result. At this stage, you should have a Ship of the Line, which is almost indestructible. If your crew grows restless and is Unhappy, just pick fights with opponents you know you can beat (Merchantmen, Fluyts, etc.) and kill off enough of your crew to get them to the Content level. If, however, you run across the Baron or Marquis, bombard their ship with Round Shot until it has no guns left, then cascade it with Chain Shot until only one crewmember remains. (You cannot sink these ships.) That crewmember will, in fact, be the Baron or Marquis, whom you must defeat in a swordfight, which you will win and do so very quickly. To enter the Pirates! Hall of Fame, your career is measured on Cash on Hand, Acres Owned, Career Titles (you can hold titles from all four nations), Relatives saved (four), Lost Cities plundered (four), Named Pirates defeated (nine), Pirates’ Buried Treasure taken (nine), and, of course, Romance (marriage). Do well enough in all these categories, and you can retire as a Governor! The ultimate goal, however, is to fight and defeat the Marquis in his Stronghold, a map to which you will have secured during the game. This stage requires a land battle with his Indian warriors before storming his stronghold and defeating him in one last swordfight. You can retire as a Governor, however, without successfully completing this one last mission. And now for some real fun Once you have completed the game goals in all areas and have left no goal unachieved, the real fun begins! Remember: Do Not Divide The Loot! If you do, the game will end at that point. You can always restart an earlier saved game, but to avoid that hassle, just Do Not Divide The Loot! Even though you may age considerably (my pirate is currently well over 60) and your sword fighting action considerably slowed, you can still apply the recommended attack and fighting strategies to continue to amass wealth and land. As there is nothing to be gained by dancing with the GD (unless you are intent to tracking down every last scoundrel), just decline any invitation to the Ball. But what you can do is create an empire for the client nation of choice (mine is England), usually not Spain, since it has so much territory and serves as your main enemy from which to wrest an empire. First, pick an area already settled by your client nation (England’s is found in the Bahamas). Then select another nation’s port that has no more, and hopefully considerably fewer, soldiers in defense than you have pirates. To learn this information, simply go to the Map and right-click the port to get information, including the number of soldiers. Now, sail to a spot near the port where you can land without actually entering the port. Once your men are ashore, march them to the city wall. When you are presented with an option list, select “Attack”. You will shortly find your men arrayed in a setting near the port city. You have the option to accept this site or select a new one. Once the field of battle is set, advance your Pirates (soldiers) first, your Buccaneers (sharpshooters) behind, and your Officers (best fighters) last. As you advance, the enemy units will begin to reveal themselves. If Indian units are present, they tend to be the weakest fighters, but can shoot at you with their blowguns. Your Pirates will easily defeat the enemy’s sharpshooters if they can get close enough, but the sharpshooters can pick off your Pirates and Officers at a distance. The same goes, of course, for your Buccaneers against the enemy soldiers. The Officers lend morale to the Pirates and Buccaneers, so don’t waste them unwisely. (Movement and combat details are found in both the game documentation and the commercial strategy guide.) If you are successful, you will rout the enemy and take the port. To a lesser degree, you might rout the enemy, and be paid a ransom, but the port is still held by the enemy, although in a much diminished economy. Attack again, and you will surely succeed in conquering the port. You may have to duel the Captain of the Guard, but he is the same ineffectual swordsman as he is with the Bar Maid. Now you are given the option to select the new Governor — and his nation. If you are defeated, don’t worry. Your crew becomes very happy because they have the prospects of dividing all the loot (which, of course you won’t do, but they don’t know that) among fewer pirates because many of their former shipmates were killed in battle. Go to a nearby port — or even the one you are attacking — and sign on more crew members, then return and fight another battle against what will most likely be a much smaller enemy force. Don’t take too much time to replenish your crew, or the enemy will be able to ship in more soldiers. By following this unpublished game strategy, you can turn the Pirates! endgame into a sort of “Game of Risk” by attempting to conquer the Caribbean World. I have discovered the following: 1. Although you may conquer all other ports, the minor settlements remain in control of the original countries. As such, enemy ships will still be a threat, although I have encountered only sloops and brigs under Spanish, French, and Dutch flags. The valuable troop and treasure ships of other nations are no longer present — although other pirates still pillage and plunder, as do the Indians! 2. After accumulating more than $1 million in gold, the game seems to crash at odd times. Usually, you can restart one of the recent save points and keep going. At the $1.2 million level I have achieved, however, the games quickly crashes every time, so that must be the limit. Arrrgh! SPOILER ALERT! BECAUSE I WAS UNABLE TO FIND A WAY TO INVADE THE DUTCH ISLAND OF ST. EUSTACIUS, IT WAS THE ONE PORT THAT I HAD NOT BEEN ABLE TO CONQUER. MY FIRST EDITION OF THIS GUIDE STATED THE PORT COULD NOT BE TAKEN. THAT IS NOT TRUE. BUT IF YOU ARE STILL TRYING TO FIGURE IT OUT, THEN: DO NOT LOOK AT THE LAST PAGE! My thanks to Jonas Sandbekk and Donna L. Blanchard for helping solve the problem I was having: The Dutch port at St. Eustatius cannot be attacked in the traditional manner because the island is simply too small to land your ship to disembark the pirate crew to attack. The trick is to sail past the port and fire your cannon via the space bar. After several passes — made difficult with the other islands close by — you will be given the option to attack the port. Accepting that option initiates the land battle in the normal fashion. In my experience, you must be victorious in land battle before the port falls.