Boarding is the act of attaching one's ship to an enemy ship (using hooks and grapnels), then transferring one's Crew over to the other ship to defeat its crew in direct melee combat. If the Boarding is successful, or the enemy crew surrenders immediately, the ship comes under the control of the Boarding party. Otherwise, the enemy takes control of the Boarder's ship.

In the various Pirates! games, a Boarding is one of the possible outcomes to any Naval Combat. Both the player and/or the enemy ship(s) may sue for a Boarding rather than prolonged cannonplay, if it seems favourable. Boarding is the only way to finish combat if you wish to take the enemy ship as a Prize, acquire its Cargo and Gold, or capture its Captain. It is impossible to board a Sinking ship.

On occasion, the enemy crew may raise the White Flag before you even Board them, and may also Surrender immediately once physical contact between ships has been made. This occurs mainly if the enemy is decidedly outnumbered by your Crew. Both cases result in automatic victory for the player. Otherwise, a Fencing match begins. If the player loses the Fencing match during a Boarding, he will be taken Prisoner or Marooned on a nearby island.

General InformationEdit

The act of Boarding is very common in all Pirates! games.

Boarding occurs automatically during Naval Combat whenever two opposing ships make physical contact with each other on the Naval Combat map.

Unless the enemy crew is willing to Surrender immediately, a Fencing match breaks out between both crews. It is then up to the player to win the match, preferably without losing too many of his men.

Boarding SuccessEdit

A successful boarding occurs when the player manages to defeat the enemy in the Fencing match, or if the enemy Surrenders immediately on or just prior to the Boarding.

Victory allows the player to do the following:

  • Take all Gold from the enemy ship. This is done automatically as soon as the Boarding is declared successful.
  • Take the enemy ship as a Prize, adding it to the Player's Fleet, if desired. This is only possible if the Player's Fleet is not already full. If this option is waived, the ship is sunk once the Boarding process is completed.
  • Take any Cargo from the enemy ship (if it is carrying any), including Cannons. The amount of Cargo that can be taken depends on the remaining Cargo Space available in the Player's Fleet, including this enemy ship's Cargo Space if it is taken as a Prize.
  • Occasionally, you are offered to recruit some of the enemy's crew, adding it to your own. This only occurs in specific circumstances, and the number of enemy crewmen willing to join you depends on several factors.

In addition, game-specific events may occur on taking special ships, such as those captained by Named Pirates and Pirate Hunters (in the original game) or Evil Spaniards (in the later game).

Boarding FailureEdit

Failure to win the Fencing match leads directly to incarceration (if the enemy belongs to a European Nation) or Marooning (if the enemy is a Pirate or of any other minor faction).

It is not possible for your crew to automatically Surrender as enemy crews do. You will always get a Fencing match during a Boarding, no matter how far outnumbered your crew is by the enemy. However, note that the match will be very difficult to win when decidedly outnumbered.

Icon Pirates1987 Header Pirates1987Pirates! (1987)Edit

1987 Combat Boarding

As soon as a Boarding begins, the enemy ship's captain comes out to fight you face-to-face.

In the original game, Boardings are pretty straight-forward, offering only two minor differences from the general description (provided above).

Enemy Combat AIEdit

Unfortunately, the original game used the same exact AI to control all ships, regardless of how well-armed they are, what Type they belong to, etcetera. As a result, enemy ships will never actually sue for a Boarding, prefering always to either run away or attempt to fire their broadsides at you.

Named Pirates and Pirate HuntersEdit

1987 Combat PirateCaptured

This prompt appears when a notable enemy captain has been apprehended.

Once a ship captained by a Named Pirate or Pirate Hunter has been successfully boarded and its crew defeated, you receive a prompt box asking you what to do with the enemy captain.

The options on this menu are as follows:

  1. Ask about Treasure Fleet: The enemy Captain will reveal the current location of the Treasure Fleet. He is then set free.
  2. Ask about Silver Train: The enemy Captain will reveal the current location of the Silver Train. He is then set free.
  3. Hold him for Ransom: The enemy Captain will be held in your cargo hold. In the future, during conversations with various Governors:
  • If the enemy captain is a Named Pirate, Governors may take him into custody and reward you with Promotion Points.
  • If the enemy captain is a Pirate Hunter, Governors may relay an offer of Ransom for his release. You may accept the offer to receive the listed amount of gold, or wait for a better offer.
  • Note: Both types of captives can occasionally escape whenever you leave a Port.

Icon Pirates2004 Header Pirates2004Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004)Edit

In Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004), the act of boarding another vessel has several important differences from the way it's handled in other games. This refers both to in-combat effects, ships that seek a boarding, and even strategic implications!

The Boarding AnimationEdit

2004 NavalCombat Boarding

At the very start of a Boarding, the camera moves to a close-up behind your ship. Both ships become immobile and invulnerable once this happens, though it takes a second or two before Naval Combat to actually ends.

When your ship comes in contact with the enemy ship during Naval Combat, a Boarding occurs. The exact moment this occurs is accompanied by a sudden camera angle change: you'll see a close up from behind your ship, as seen in the image on the right. This "cutscene" persists for about a second, and rapidly fades to black before the game proceeds to the Fencing melee or the opponent's Surrender.

While this does appear like a non-interactive cutscene, it is actually nothing more than an camera angle change. Naval Combat continues to run: You can turn your ship, change Sail States, or even fire your cannons. In fact, the enemy ship will also occasionally fire its cannons during this cutscene, and can even hit your ship.

However, note that during this short scene neither ship can take damage. Even cannonballs fired just before the cutscene was triggered, and hit your ship or the enemy during the cutscene itself, will cause no damage to either ship. This is actually very important: it means that initiating a boarding can be a last-second measure to avoid being seriously damaged by an opponent's broadside. If you feel that you cannot escape your opponent's line of fire, and that he is about to unleash a broadside, simple turn into his hull to initiate the Boarding cutscene. This will protect your ship from any damage that broadside would do, if in fact fired!

Also it should be noted that once the cutscene begins, both ships are "anchored" to each other and cannot move, even if you do quickly turn your ship in an angle that should otherwise have allowed it to disengage. The triggering of the cutscene is final, and cannot be reversed.

Enemy Combat AIEdit

In this game, certain enemy ships will actively seek to Board the player's ship during Naval Combat.

Ships that do this are usually warships, especially filling roles such as Pirate Raider and Privateer. When a battle against such a ship begins, the enemy ship will turn towards you and attempt to close the distance. It may take the opportunity to unleash a broadside if one presents itself, even turning away from you to do so, but will generally attempt to come closer and closer until the Boarding occurs.

Also note that during two-ship combat (such as when fighting an Escort and Escortee combo), the second ship will also try for a boarding. This behavior can be exploited to lure it away from the ship it is protecting.

Being Boarded by the EnemyEdit

Normally, contact with the enemy ship is assumed to be a Boarding attempt executed by the player on the enemy ship, regardless of whether the enemy was seeking a Boarding or not.
However, during one-on-two combat (I.E. fighting two enemy ships simultaneously), contact with the second enemy ship results in a prompt saying that the enemy has boarded your vessel, which leads immediately to a Fencing match. the This prompt appears instead of the "pre-Boarding" cutscene - after you dismiss the prompt the Boarding starts immediately.
Note that there is no actual functional difference between boarding an enemy ship and being boarded by an enemy ship - the ensuing Fencing match plays out exactly the same.

Surrender MechanicsEdit

Main article: Surrender
2004 NavalCombat WhiteFlag NoDemast

After a prolonged contest of gunnery, this enemy ship has taken enough damage to convince it to raise the White Flag.

As in all other games, the enemy may surrender immediately once a Boarding has been initiated, skipping the standard Fencing match directly to the looting of the enemy ship.

It is also possible to force the enemy to surrender without Boarding it at all. This can occur when the enemy ship has taken considerably hull damage or lost most of its crew, but it will always occur when the enemy ship is demasted. To Demast an enemy ship, use Chain-Shot on it until its Mainmast breaks off. At this point the enemy will raise the White Flag and will stop firing at you. To initiate a Boarding at this stage requires only for you to get close to the enemy - actual physical contact is not required. Boarding will then result in an immediate Surrender, as above.

Note that Escorts cannot be forced to raise a White Flag even if Demasted.

Also, Evil Spaniard ships will raise the White Flag when demasted and will stop firing at you, but will not surrender immediately when boarded (a Fencing match is mandatory). To get around this, use Grape-Shot to whittle their crew down to 1 (the minimum allowed). This will cause the Evil Spaniard to surrender immediately as soon as he's hit once during the Fencing match.

Strategic ImplicationsEdit

2004 NavalCombat BoardingEffect

Two French Sloop Of War Raiders are attacked: one is Sunk while the other is Boarded. The Boarding netted more Promotion Points from the Spanish, as indicated by the slightly-larger flag. France also increased its bounty by a larger amount (not shown).

Another interesting point about Boarding is its effect on the number of Promotion Points and the Bounty increase received for Boarding a ship instead of Sinking it.

When a ship is attacked and defeated, either through Boarding or Sinking it, the nation that owns the ship will increase the Bounty on your head, or decrease your current Promotion Points if you have any. All nations allied with that owner will do the same. On the other hand, all nations at war with the ship's owner will reduce your bounty or increase your Promotion Points.

When a merchant vessel is defeated, the same number of points is increased/deducted as appropriate regardless of whether it was sunk or captured. Bounty is increased/decreased by exactly 1,000 Icon GoldCoin, which translates to 1 Promotion Point if appropriate.

When a warship is attacked, the method by which battle was won has much more significance. If the warship was sunk, the nations will behave the same way as with merchant vessels, increasing/reducing Bounty by 1,000 Icon GoldCoin. However, if it is taken by Boarding, the increase/decrease is worth 2,000 Icon GoldCoin - twice the original amount (this translates into 2 Promotion Points when appropriate).

Therefore, when trying to achieve a Promotion or to acquire additional Personal Land, it is twice as efficient to do so by engaging and boarding warships, rather than merchant vessels. Sinking warships will not give any benefit over sinking merchant vessels.

Note that once again, these mechanics have their exception when it comes to Escorts. To receive any Bounty/Promotion Point shift from defeating an Escort, you must do so after the Escortee is already defeated. In other words, you will need to face the Escort alone! There are several methods to achieve this, but again the most sure-fire method is to sink or board the Escortee, then start a second battle against the Escort before it sails back home. In total, such an attack nets you a Bounty increase/decrease of 3,000 Icon GoldCoin or 3 Promotion Points!

Note: The game doesn't care whether you Sank the enemy ship after it was Boarded - this is still considered a Boarding. An enemy is only considered "Sunk" for bounty/promotion purposes when it has been Sunk during Naval Combat by use of Round-Shot to rupture its hull or blow it up.


  • According to the game's data files, the designers originally planned to implement a 9th Upgrade called a "Boarding Platform". The only surviving indication of this is a single image file containing its unused in-game icon. It is unknown how this Upgrade was meant to function, but it is possible that the original intention was for ships to be unable to perform a Boarding without one!