The Sailing Map (sometimes called the Campaign Map) is a map of the Caribbean upon which the player moves his Fleet. The screen shows only a small part of the Caribbean map, with the Flagship at the center (or close to the center, depending on game-version). Using the basic sailing controls, the player can turn the Flagship to navigate around the Caribbean, move it into visitable locations like Ports, make contact with a shoreline to disembark a Landing Party, and in some versions to chase enemy ships around.

The Sailing Map ties the entire game together, and constitutes the primary strategic portion of the game. While on the Sailing Map, time passes constantly day-by-day, causing all sorts of events to occur either to the player's Fleet or even off-screen. Random Encounters also occur while sailing on the map (in some games, at least). The player can pause the game or access the information menus at any time while on the Sailing Map.

General InformationEdit

Pirates! is in part a strategy game, where the player needs to make decisions regarding where to go and what to do. Instead of simply choosing a destination for the Fleet, the player is required to actually navigate across the Caribbean from one point to another, using the simple interface called the "Sailing Map".

Visually, the Sailing Map differs from one version of the game to another, but some basic principals hold true for all versions: The screen shows a portion of the Caribbean, about a hundred miles wide, with the player's Flagship shown at its current location. Using very basic controls, the player can turn his Flagship left and right, and it moves forward automatically at a speed that depends on its heading relative to the wind. The visible portion of the Caribbean will move together with the Flagship, so that the area shown on the screen is always centered (or mostly centered) on the Flagship.

The visible area of the map shows the ocean and land. Making contact with land will trigger Overland Travel, creating a shore party and altering the behavior of the Sailing Map screen accordingly. Ports (and other visitable locations if available) are also visible on the Sailing Map at their correct locations, and sailing into these will trigger the Port Interaction menu (or take you directly into the port, depending on version and circumstances).

Encounters with other shipsEdit

Encounters with enemy ships also occur on the Sailing Map. In the older versions of the game, these are Random Encounters, triggered by the game automatically, with the nationality and/or type of encountered ship being based on which part of the Caribbean your Flagship is currently in. In the later game, this mechanic is completely replaced with actual ships appearing on the Sailing Map, behaving much like the player's own ships, sailing from Port to Port, engaging one another in combat, etcetera. Moving the Flagship close to one of these allows triggering an attack against it, if the player wishes to do so.

The Passage of TimeEdit

Time passes constantly while on the Sailing Map (unless the game is paused). As established above, the player's Fleet automatically moves forward at a speed that is determined by its heading relative to the wind. Every few seconds, the game registers a "tick", meaning that a day has passed on the calendar. Each day, it is possible for various game events to occur. In all versions, these can include economic events, Invasions by one Nation into an enemy nation's Port, etcetera. In the older versions, each new day the player's Crew consume some of the available food, and every day there is a chance to Encounter an enemy ship. In the new version of the game, each day there is a chance for the game to spawn a new AI-controlled ship out of any available location (driving the economy and causing all sorts of subsidiary events to occur across the Caribbean).

Naturally, spending too much time on the Sailing Map will lead to the player's character getting older and weaker. Therefore, it is usually paramount to seek the shortest routes from one location to the other, and maximize travel speeds by keeping a close eye on the direction of the wind.

Obstacles and EnvironmentEdit

Navigation on the Sailing Map is not always as simple as pointing one's Flagship in the right direction and waiting until you reach your destination. Weather plays an important part, with winds changing speed and direction and forcing the player to adjust course and heading to maintain reasonable speed, and Storms threatening to cause damage to the player's ships. Shoals strewn along shorelines must be avoided, if the player does not wish to run aground. Naturally, some destinations cannot be reached in a straight line, requiring the player the navigate around landmasses. Finally, it is sometimes necessary to navigate one's ship away from hostile Ports which might send Pirate Hunters against you.

World MapEdit

Main article: World Map

To navigate properly, the player needs to know where his Flagship is located in the Caribbean. This can sometimes be determined by simply looking at the area around your ship, as shown on the Sailing Map. However, in some cases, the player needs to consult the World Map. In some versions, this is not available in-game, but rather as a physical map supplied with the game. In these versions, there are methods to determine one's latitude by playing the Sun Sight minigame. In later versions, this was replaced with an in-game map of the Caribbean, showing the exact location of the player's ship.

The World Map may also be useful for determining course and destination. It allows determining how far the desired destination is, and what obstacles may need to be navigated around in order to get there. Again, depending on the version played, this may require manual orienteering, while in others all information is available in-game.

Icon Pirates1987 Header Pirates1987Pirates! (1987)Edit

In the original game, the Sailing Map is a simplified 2D animated map showing a set area around your Flagship.

This map shows the contours of nearby land-masses, any Ports within view, and the locations of Shoals. The Player's Fleet is represented by a single ship icon, which rotates as the player changes heading.

Wind on the Sailing Map is represented by white clouds. These clouds travel across the viewscreen in the direction of the wind.

The player's ship moves freely within the visible area. Whenever the ship touches the edge of the visible area, the view will "re-center" around the ship, showing a new portion of the Caribbean as appropriate.

AI-controlled ships do not appear on the Sailing Map at all in this version. Instead, the game automatically triggers Random Encounters whenever it deems this to be appropriate. Upon the completion of a random encounter, the game returns to the Sailing Map, with the player's ship exactly where it was when the encounter began.


The controls for the Sailing Map are remarkably simple, consisting of only two buttons: Left and Right. These controls turn the Flagship to Port and Starboard respectively.

In addition, the "Space" button (in PC versions) pauses the game, and the trigger (or "Enter" on the PC) opens the information menu.


To sail into a Port, simply move your Flagship into contact with one. This will trigger the Port Interaction menu, which allows entering the Port peacefully, attacking the Port, Sneaking into the Port, or leaving the Port alone.

Whenever you leave a Port, after having entered or otherwise, your Flagship will sail out of it in the exact opposite direction to the one it was sailing in when it entered the Port.

Note that some ports may not be reached by sea. You will need to land your party, and use the Overland Travel interface to move your landing party into that Port.

Overland TravelEdit

Contact between the ship and the shore will immediately trigger Overland Travel, depositing a landing party on the shore immediately adjacent to the ship.

Overland Travel is not a separate interface in this game. Instead, once the Landing Party appears on the shore, all that changes are the player's controls: now moving the Landing Party instead of controlling the heading of the Flagship.

While traveling on land, the Flagship remains anchored on the shore where the disembarking took place. Moving the shore party back onto the ocean near the location of the ship will cause normal sailing to resume, with the Flagship now heading in the opposite direction to the one it had when the shore party was created.

Attempting to move the landing party into the Ocean far away from the Flagship's position will not accomplish anything: the landing party will remain immobile if instructed to do so.

Wind and WeatherEdit

Main article: Weather

Wind constantly changes direction as time goes by. The current direction of the wind is indicated by white clouds floating across the screen. These clouds travel in the same direction as the wind.

It is possible for the Fleet to get caught in a storm, whenever it passes underneath one of these white clouds. This is a random occurence, though the likelyhood of this happening is proportional to the size of the largest ship in the Fleet (based on Cargo Capacity). For instance, with a Galleon as the largest ship in the fleet, almost every second passage under a white cloud will cause the Fleet to become trapped in a storm.

When caught, the Fleet will automatically change direction to match the direction of the wind. Control of the Fleet is temporarily disabled, so the player is not able to turn away from this direction for at least a few seconds. This is very dangerous, as it can cause the Fleet to sail over Shoals, causing damage, not to mention possibly being taken several days off-course

Passage of TimeEdit

While unpaused on the Sailing Map, time passes at a rate of 1 day per every 2-3 seconds (the actual rate is difficult to determine).

Each day, several things occur:

  1. The Crew consumes a certain number of tons of Food. The more Crew you have in your Fleet, the more food is consumed each day.
  2. The game randomly determines whether an Economic Event occurs anywhere in the Caribbean. If this is the case, one Port's attributes (population, wealth, etc.) will fluctuate up or down as a result.
  3. The game randomly determines whether a Random Encounter with an AI-controlled ship occurs. If so, the player is taken to the encounter menu to decide how to handle this event. The chance of encounters is increased in the vicinity of Ports.
  4. The game determines whether the Crew's morale, or a lack of sufficient Food, triggers a Mutiny.