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In any game of Pirates!, the player is not limited to sailing a single ship. Through successful Boardings of enemy vessels, it is possible to accumulate a Fleet of anywhere up to 8 ships. The ships in the player's fleet can be of any Type or origin, and the game individually records and tracks any damage sustained each and every one them.

Increasing the player's Fleet allows carrying more Cargo on board, and in some games increases the amount of Crew you can have at any given time. However, there are downsides to having a large fleet: extra ships can slow you down on the Sailing Map, and each ship in your fleet requires at least a few men to sail it, making those men unavailable for combat.

Although this is handled slightly differently in each game, you can only use a single ship in your Fleet to fight in Naval Combat. The rest of your fleet stays away from the action. The fighting ship is known as your Flagship, and you can decide which of your ships is the designated Flagship at any time outside combat. The game will always try to keep as many men and Cannons on board your selected Flagship at all times.

Your Fleet ships can be sold or repaired at various locations (Ports, and some other locations if available in the particular version you're playing). You can lose ships from your fleet due to various events, such as sailing into a hostile port or during an attempted retreat from Naval Combat. In some games, having more than one ship in your fleet assures that you'll be able to continue sailing if your Flagship is ever sunk by the enemy.

Icon Pirates1987 Header Pirates1987Pirates! (1987)Edit

In the original game, your Fleet has more of a "theoretical" presence than a physical one. Your entire fleet acts as a single entity except when performing fleet-specific activity such as selling or repairing your ships, or when choosing a Flagship for combat.

Visual AppearanceEdit

1987 SailingMap Fleet

Your Fleet appears as a single ship. Its icon is determined by the largest ship you have.

On the Sailing Map, only a single ship appears to represent the entire Fleet. The visual appearance of this ship depends on the "largest" ship in your Fleet at the time, based on Cargo Capacity. If your largest ship is a Barque, Sloop or Pinnace, your Fleet is represented by a Fore-And-Aft Rigged ship (triangular sails). If any ship in you fleet belongs to another type, your fleet will be represented by a Square Rigged ship.

Sailing SpeedEdit

The "largest" ship in your fleet (again, based on Cargo Capacity) determines the sailing speed and properties of your entire Fleet, whenever you are on the Sailing Map. Therefore, a Fleet of 7 Pinnaces and a Frigate will behave like a Frigate on the Sailing Map, having trouble sailing Into The Eye and running fast Before The Wind.

If the largest ship in your fleet is Damaged, this serves to slow you down even further.

Choosing a FlagshipEdit

1987 Combat SelectFlagship

If you have more than one ship in your fleet, you will always be asked to select a Flagship for a coming battle.

Whenever Naval Combat is about to begin, if you have more than one ship in your fleet you will always be asked to choose which of your ships to use in the battle (your "Flagship"). A list of all your Fleet ships appears, indicating each ship's Type and whether or not it is damaged. Additional info, such as your available Crew and Cannons, and the current Wind speed and direction are also shown, to help you determine which ship is most suitable for the upcoming battle.

Your Flagship will take any available men on board for the battle, and as many Cannons as those men can operate (at 4 men per gun). If you do not have enough crew on board to man the maximum number of Cannons allowed on your chosen Flagship, it will carry less than its maximum amount of Cannons.

Again, "Flagship" status is not permanent in this game: once Naval Combat is over, your fleet returns to behaving as a single unit (as explained above), and you can freely select another Flagship when the next battle starts.

Crew DistributionEdit

In this game, a Fleet can carry as many Crewmen as you can possibly recruit. The "true" upper limit is probably beyond 30000 Icon Crew if not 60000 Icon Crew, though it is extremely unlikely that you will be able to recruit over 1000 Icon Crew at any time.

Each ship in your Fleet requires 8 men to serve as its skeleton crew. The remaining men are put on whichever ship is selected as a Flagship when Naval Combat begins. Therefore, with a fleet of 8 ship, 56 Icon Crew are always occupied with sailing the non-combatant ships (8 Icon Crew * 7 ships) while the remaining ship gets all leftover crewmen. Always make sure that you have enough men to sail your Fleet ships and crew your Flagship, if you do not wish to enter combat with a poor complement of fighting men.

Acquiring More ShipsEdit

In most Era/Nation starting combinations, you will have only one ship at the beginning of your career. To acquire more ships, you will need to perform successful Boardings during Naval Combat. Once a Boarding is successful, you'll be offered the option to add the captured ship to your fleet as a Prize.

Note that the game does not remind you how many ships you have in your Fleet when this option is offered. This is a problem, because if you already have 8 ships, selecting the "Yes, send a Prize crew" option will result in the captured ship being sunk anyway.

Selling and Repairing Fleet ShipsEdit

1987 City TradeShipwright

A prompt for selling ships appears before trade with a Merchant begins.

At any Port where you are allowed access to the local Merchant, you can sell and/or repair the various ships in your fleet. As long as you have more than 1 ship, the appropriate menus will appear before the Merchant's trading screen comes up.

Note that selling ships from your fleet reduces your Cargo Capacity. If you are carrying more cargo than your Fleet can hold at any time, you'll be asked to dump part of it into the water.

Losing ShipsEdit

Several events in the game can cause you to lose a ship from your fleet:

  • Hostile Forts: If you attempt to sail your fleet into a Fortified Port that is hostile towards you, the Fort is likely to open fire at you and if so, is likely to sink one of your ships at random.
  • Sunk in Combat: During Naval Combat, the enemy can sink your Flagship if he manages to land enough broadsides on it. This leads to Marooning if you only had one ship in your fleet. Otherwise, your other ships will pick you up from the water, but your chosen Flagship for this battle will have been lost.
  • Shoals: Whenever your Fleet sails over Shoals, there's a chance for one of your ships to sink. This is only possible if you have at least one ship that is larger than a Sloop. A Fleet comprised entirely of Pinnaces and/or Sloops can sail over Shoals without fear.
  • Escape from Combat: During Naval Combat, if you escape by steadily increasing the distance between yourself and the enemy ship, there is a chance that the enemy will manage to capture one of the other ships in your fleet (any except the Flagship used in that battle). This is only possible if the enemy ship's AI is not trying to escape combat as well, and only if you have more than 1 ship in your fleet to begin with.
  • Failed Mutiny: If your men become angry enough and lead an unsuccessful munity, some of them will take a ship and leave your fleet. There is no current info on how the game selects which ship will leave your fleet when this occurs. This is only possible if you have more than 1 ship in your fleet to begin with.

The loss of a ship is always accompanied by the loss of a proportional amount of Cargo and Gold.

If you lose your only remaining ship to any of the above conditions, you will be Marooned on a tiny nearby island.

Dividing the PlunderEdit

Whenever the plunder is divided, you will immediately lose all Fleet ships except the largest one (based on Cargo Capacity). If you choose to continue adventuring, your new fleet will consist only of that single ship.

For this reason, it is always a good idea to sell all but one ship (the "best" one, whichever you choose it to be) before Dividing the Plunder. This will increase your profits from the voyage, and lets you decide for yourself which ship you want to keep if you start another voyage.

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

In Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004), the player's fleet is comprised of actual, individual ship models. This allows the fleet to behave more realistically than in previous games, due to the physical presence of each ship in it.

Formation SailingEdit

2004 SailingMap Fleet

A fleet of 8 ships, maintaining the "V" formation behind the Flagship. Each ship is controlled by its own AI, which will constantly endeavour to keep it in formation.

Once a ship is added to the player's Fleet, it will follow the Flagship around on the Sailing Map, staying in formation behind and slightly to the one side - assuming it can keep up. As more ships are added, they will also assume similar places to create a "V" formation, with each arm stretching behind and to one side of the Flagship.

The Flagship's speed does not change depending on the speed of the other ships in your fleet. However, there is a sort of an invisible "Rubber Band" between all ships, which makes sure that they are never too far away from each other. If the Flagship has sailed too far ahead of any other ship in the fleet, it will slow down considerably to allow the slower ships to catch up.

2004 SailingMap FleetLag

When a Fleet ship falls too far behind your Flagship, it'll display the "Wait for me!" caption, and your Flagship will slow down considerably to let it catch up.

This creates an unpleasant effect whereby your Flagship accelerates forward, then slows down to let the other ship(s) catch up, then accelerates again, over and over. This is especially noticeable when the Flagship is considerably faster than any of the other Fleet ships. If the situation is reversed (I.E. a slow Flagship with fast fleet ships) this does not occur as often, but then your Flagship sails much slower to begin with.

Unfortunately the effect applies even if all ships in your fleet are of the same Class. For example, the fastest ships on the Sailing Map are the Pinnace Class ships. With a Pinnace Flagship alone in the fleet, you will be able to zoom around the Caribbean at great speeds. However, add a second Pinnace to the fleet, and you'll notice a significant reduction in speed (though the two ships will still be faster than most others).

For this reason, many players choose to stick with one single ship for the majority of the game, adding ships only for the purpose of selling them at the next visit to a Port, or for the purpose of increasing Crew Capacity in preparation for a Raid. Otherwise, sailing can be frustrating, especially when one's Flagship is much faster than the other ships.

The FlagshipEdit

Main article: Flagship
2004 SailingMap ChangeFlagship

The Attack Interface allows you to change your Flagship freely, just prior to the battle.

The Flagship is the first ship in the fleet (or the only one, if there are no others). In this game, the player only controls the Flagship on the Sailing Map - all other ships in the fleet will simply maneuver to maintain formation with it (see above). The Sailing Map camera is always centered on your Flagship.

You can reassign "flagship" status at any time during sailing or during a visit to any location. The pre-battle prompt that appears before an enemy vessel is attacked also allows changing the Flagship.

When Naval Combat begins, only your Flagship will participate. All other ships are assumed to be keeping their distance, and do not appear nor participate in the battle at all.

2004 PlayerShipSizeComparison

Your Flagship appears artificially larger on the Sailing Map to make it more visible. These two ships are actually a War Canoe and a Mail Runner, which both use the same model but are normally very different in size!

On the Sailing Map, your Flagship appears artificially larger than a ship of its size should be. This makes it stand out more, and is only a cosmetic change. During Naval Combat the ship will be normal-sized for its type.

Crew DistributionEdit

Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004) places two important limits on the size of your crew: a "Minimum Crew" requirement, and a "Maximum Crew" limit. These determine how many men you should/can have in your crew at any time.

In addition, Crew is automatically distributed between your Fleet ships, first to make sure that each ship has at least the "Skeleton" crew to keep it sailing properly, and then to make sure your currently-selected Flagship has as many men as it can carry for Naval Combat purposes.

Maximum Crew LimitEdit

In this game, the number and Types of ships you have in your Fleet directly determine the maximum number of Crewmen you can have at any given time. This limit is rigidly enforced, meaning you can never have any more men than this. To increase your Maximum Crew limit, you can add more ships to your fleet, replace small ships with larger ones, or install the Triple Hammocks Upgrade on your ships. Selling and losing ships from your fleet will result in a reduction of the Maximum Crew limit.
The absolute maximum possible crew size is achieved when the player has 8 of the largest ships possible, all upgraded with Triple Hammocks: (450 Icon Crew * 8) = 3600 Icon Crew, achieved with a fleet of 8 Ships Of The Line. Note, of course, that it is very difficult to feed so many men, not to mention keep them all happy enough to avoid a Mutiny.

Minimum Crew RequirementEdit

2004 Message FleetSpeedReduced

When your Crew is not large enough to meet the "Minimum Crew" requirement for each ship in your fleer, this message is displayed and the entire fleet becomes slow and sluggish.

Each Ship Type has a specific "minimum crew" requirement. This minimum limit corresponds somewhat to the size of the ship: The smallest ships (War Canoe, Pinnace) require a minimum of 6 men, while the largest (Combat Galleon, Ship Of The Line) require 24 men as their skeleton crew.
This is called the "Skeleton Crew". It's the number of men required to keep the ship sailing properly. This Skeleton Crew is charged with the basic operations such as navigation, maintaining the sails, etcetera.
If any ship in your Fleet has less than the minimum required crewmen on board, the entire fleet becomes slow and sluggish. This can make navigation on the Sailing Map considerably more difficult: each of your ships takes a massive reduction to its maximum speed. This is accompanied by an on-screen prompt that usually appears when leaving Ports or other locations. The penalty will only disappear if at any time you get enough crew-members to fill the minimum requirement on each and every ship.

Automatic DistributionEdit

However many men you have in your Crew, the game distributes these men between your various ships. This is done automatically whenever you are not in Naval Combat.
:First of all, the game tries to make sure that each fleet ship has a "skeleton crew" on board, the bare minimum of men required to sail the ship. This is done to avoid getting the entire fleet slowed down. Note of course that the more (and larger) ships you have in your fleet, you will need more men just to have it sailing properly.
Once this minimum requirement is filled on all ships, the game assigns as many men as it can to your selected Flagship. These men will participate in Naval Combat on board the Flagship. The game fills the Flagship first because it is the only ship that will actually take part in Naval Combat, and therefore needs as many men as can be spared. If you switch Flagships at any time, the game automatically reassigns men to the new Flagship.
If all Fleet Ships are carrying a Skeleton Crew, and your Flagship is carrying as many men as its Ship Type allows, all remaining men are automatically distributed between your other Fleet ships. Note that since only your Flagship participates in Naval Combat, it doesn't matter how to game distributes these additional men. They will serve mainly as replacements when crew is lost during battle, or to augment your ability to Raid heavily-protected Ports.

Flagship Combat EfficiencyEdit

While filling the Skeleton Crew requirement on all ships removes the Fleet Slowdown effect (explained above), you'll generally want your Flagship to have as many men on board as it can carry. During Naval Combat, these extra men (beyond the Skeleton Crew requirement) will reduce the reloading time of your cannons and the time it takes to change Sail States. A Flagship with only Skeleton Crew on board (or less!) will take ages to reload its broadsides or change Sail States.
The "Ideal" amount of men on a Flagship is calculated thusly:
Minimum Crew Requirement + (3 * Cannons On Board) = Ideal Crew

If you have this many men on board, your cannons and sails will be handled at maximum efficiency. Extra men above this amount do not increase efficiency further - though they are still useful both for Boardings and for replacing crewmen who are killed during the battle.
Therefore, if at all possible, you want to make sure you have at least enough men to meet the Skeleton Crew requirement on all non-Flagship vessels in your fleet, and enough extra men to meet the "Ideal Crew" requirement on your Flagship.
Again, this is just the required amount for top-efficiency. You'll usually want more men than this in your crew, primarily to increase your power on Raids, as well as to replace men killed in combat.

Sailing Map EffectsEdit

Since each ship in your fleet has its own model and physical presence on the Sailing Map, each ship is independently subjected to the various environmental effects that occur on the Sailing Map.

  • Shoals: If any ship in your fleet passes over Shoals, it will receive Damage to the hull. Only the ship that touched the Shoals will receive damage - the others are unharmed, as long as they remain in clear waters.
  • Storms: Each ship's speed is affected by its surrounding weather. Therefore, one ship may accelerate due to a nearby storm, while another does not. This is most noticeable when one wing of your fleet formation moves close to a cloud, while the other wing is far enough from the cloud not to be affected. In addition, harmful Storms can damage the Sails of any ship that sails into them. Only the ship that sailed through the stormy area will receive sail damage - other ships in your fleet are unharmed as long as they are sufficiently far from the storm.
  • Bombardment: Forts and enemy vessels may open fire at your fleet ships on the Sailing Map (I.E. outside Naval Combat]]. If such a cannonball hits any of your ships, it will do Hull damage to that ship, but not to any other. Note that enemy vessels have been observed to fire specifically at fleet ships rather than your Flagship, though this may or may not be the result of relative movement causing a Fleet ship to be hit instead of the Flagship.

One important thing to note is that your currently-selected Flagship cannot sink as a result of Hull damage taken from sailing over Shoals or being bombarded by an enemy. It will take up to 99% damage to the Hull, and is then impervious to further damage. On the other hand, any Fleet Ship receiving enough Hull damage will sink!

Acquiring More ShipsEdit

2004 NavalCombat Prize

If you have room in your fleet, the option to take an enemy ship as a Prize will appear during the post-Boarding loot menu.

In this game, you will always start your career with a single ship. To acquire more ships, you will need to perform successful Boardings during Naval Combat. Once a Boarding is successful, you'll be offered the option to add the captured ship to your fleet as a Prize.

Note that if you already have 8 ships in your crew when the enemy ship is attacked, the option to keep this ship as a Prize will not be offered after a successful boarding. Instead, the interface will say "Your fleet is full". If you wish to capture an enemy ship to add to your fleet, you need to Scuttle one of your ships prior to combat, through the Fleet Status screen. Remember that Scuttling a ship may cause you to lose Cargo and/or Crew, if the remaining ships do not have sufficient capacity to contain your current load.

Selling, Repairing and Upgrading Fleet ShipsEdit

Main article: Shipwright's
2004 City Shipwright

You'll visit the Shipwright's often, to repair damage and sell captured ships, not to mention Upgrade the ships you want to keep.

Ports, Pirate Havens and Settlements offer the Shipwright's service, where you can repair and sell your ships. In this interface, switch to the appropriate ship and click on the icon for the action you wish to perform.

If selling a ship will bring either your Cargo Capacity or Crew capacity below the amounts you have on hand, you'll be notified that the sale will cause you to lose cargo or crew as appropriate.

Note access to a Shipwright's is denied if you walk your men into the location by Overland Travel while your Flagship is anchored more than a short walking distance away. Also, you cannot visit a Shipwright's when Sneaking into a Port.

UpgradesEdit

Main article: Upgrade
Shipwrights at a Port or Pirate Haven will also offer to Upgrade any of your ships, for a price. Each location's Shipwright sells only one type of upgrade for the entire game (barring Known Bugs), so a full upgrade to any of your ships requires visiting several locations. Note that each ship in your fleet is upgraded individually, so you can choose which ships to upgrade and which to skip.
If you're sure a ship in your fleet is not going to be used as a Flagship at any time in the future, you do not need to fully upgrade it. Designated Fleet Ships benefit from Cotton Sails (to increase their speed) and Triple Hammocks (to increase crew capacity), and may also benefit from Iron Scantlings. All other upgrades are combat-specific, so ships that will not see combat do not need them installed. Of course, if you've attained the Rank of Duke with any nation, upgrades at Ports belonging to that nation are done free of charge, and so should be picked up whenever possible.

Losing ShipsEdit

Several events in the game can cause you to lose a ship from your fleet:

  • Sunk in Combat: During Naval Combat, the enemy can sink your Flagship if he manages to land enough broadsides on it. This leads to Marooning if you only had one ship in your fleet. Otherwise, your other ships will pick you up from the water, but your chosen Flagship for this battle will have been lost.
  • Shoals: Whenever a ship in your fleet sails over Shoals, it will receive some Hull damage. Damage is slightly reduced if the ship has the Iron Scantlings Upgrade, but it is still substantial. If any Fleet Ship reaches 100% Hull Damage, it will immediately sink. Note that your currently-selected Flagship can never go above 99% Hull Damage.
  • Failed Mutiny: If your men become angry enough and lead an unsuccessful munity, some of them will take a ship and leave your fleet. There is no current info on how the game selects which ship will leave your fleet when this occurs. This is only possible if you have more than 1 ship in your fleet to begin with. Note that you can recapture the fleeing ship immediately after the mutiny, if you are quick enough.
  • Bombardment: Enemy vessels and Hostile Ports may open fire at you on the Sailing Map. Any cannonball that hits one of your ships will cause Hull damage. Damage is slightly reduced if the ship has the Iron Scantlings Upgrade, but it is still substantial. If any Fleet Ship reaches 100% Hull Damage, it will immediately sink. Note that your currently-selected Flagship can never go above 99% Hull Damage.

The loss of a ship is always accompanied by the loss of a proportional amount of Cargo and Gold. You will also lose as many Crewmen as were assigned to the sinking ship at the time (see "Crew Distribution", above).

If you lose your only remaining ship to any of the above conditions, you will be Marooned on a tiny nearby island.

Dividing the PlunderEdit

Whenever the plunder is divided, you will immediately lose all Fleet ships except your currently-selected Flagship. If you choose to continue adventuring, your new fleet will consist only of that single ship.

For this reason, it is always a good idea to make sure that your selected Flagship is the one you want to keep for your next voyage. It's also advised to sell all other ships before Dividing the Plunder, to increase your profits from the voyage.

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