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Ship Type

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Each ship existing in a game of Pirates! (any version), be it the player's ship or otherwise, belongs to one specific "Type". The ship's Type defines many of its most basic parameters, from Cargo capacity to the number of Cannons or Crew it can carry, to sailing characteristics and hull strength, and even the price for which the ship can be sold.

Each game has a finite array of "ship types". Some are fit for trading, others for combat. Some are rarer than others, while some are ubiquitous around the Caribbean. In a long-running campaign, it's likely to meet at least one of every ship type.

General InformationEdit

In any game of Pirates!, there is a plethora of ships moving around the Caribbean, performing various actions such as trading, attacking one another, attacking the player, and so forth. Each of these individual ships is created by the game out of a "template", a basic set of characteristics that define the ship in general. This template is called a "Ship Type", and it tells the game how the ship should behave in combat, what it might be carrying, and who it might belong to, amongst other things.

A Ship Type is not a final set of characteristics, rather more a set of guidelines. Each ship is an "individual", with most of its statistics randomly generated. However, the Ship Type a ship belongs to determines the range for its characteristics, and will also determine other properties that are not randomized at all.

By far one of the most common Ship Types in all versions of the game is known as the "Sloop". In other words, most of the ships you will encounter will belong to the "Sloop" Type. All ships that the game creates which belong to the Sloop class will share some basic statistics. For instance, they will all be small, fast ships with the same appearance and roughly the same sailing characteristics. They will all have low Durability, and can all carry up to the same number of Cannons, Cargo and Crew. However, the ship generator will randomize several attributes, such as the exact number of Cannons, Cargo and Crew on board, the nationality of the ship, as well as its intentions. Nonetheless, on the whole when a Sloop is encountered, a savvy captain can determine in general what sort of challenge this ship will present, what rewards can be acquired by capturing it, and how useful it would be if added to the Player's Fleet, just by knowing that it is in fact a Sloop.


All ships of the same Type have the same design, and thus will look almost exactly the same, with the exception of very minor differences such as the flag they are flying. As soon as a ship is spotted, an experienced captain can always tell what Type of ship this is.

In the 2004 game, this is somewhat more difficult thanks to several Ship Types sharing the same 3D model - however the difference will mainly be in size.

Sailing CharacteristicsEdit

All ships of the same Type have the same sailing characteristics. This refers to their overall speed, maximum speed at various wind conditions, how quickly the ship turns and the direction relative to the Wind in which the ship sails fastest (known as its "Best Sailing Point").

Assuming no damage to the sails of the specific ship you've encountered, or (in the 2004 game) upgrades installed on the ship, an experienced captain can predict the ship's sailing properties just by determining its type.

For example, all captains know that a Merchant Galleon is a slow, lumbering ship barely capable of turning about or sailing at any reasonable speed. They also know that a Pinnace is highly maneuverable and can escape combat easily if it wishes to do so by rapidly sailing Close-Hauled. No Galleon will ever display remarkable sailing properties, while no undamaged Pinnace will ever have trouble out-maneuvering a larger vessel.

Maximum CapacityEdit

The Ship Type also determines the maximum number of Crew and Cannons a ship can carry. With Cannons, this refers to the number they can use in battle, rather than how many they can keep in the cargo hold. In addition the size of the cargo hold itself determines how many tons of Cargo a ship can carry when full.

These characterstics are the same for each ship belonging to the same Type. However, these are only maximums: the actual number of Crew, Cannons and Cargo carried by a ship is randomly generated when that ship is created, but can never exceed these pre-defined maximums.

Nationality, Era and Role RestrictionsEdit

The game has many internal rules governing which nation can own which Types of ships. In some of the games, these rules are also affected by the current Era you're playing.

For example, in the original game, the French will never sail the ship type known as a War Galleon, while the Spanish will rarely (if ever) sail a Merchantman. Frigates do not appear in the 1560 Era, under any nation or even Pirate control.

In the later games, Era has no relevance, but certain Ship Types will only appear in specific Ship Roles. For example, you will never find a Sloop Of War serving as a Trader Ship or a Smuggler, just as you'd never see a Pirate Trade Galleon or a New Warship Barque.

Naturally, any captured ship may be added to the Player's Fleet, if one wishes (and manages) to do so.

Icon Pirates1987 Header Pirates1987Pirates! (1987)Edit

Pirates! (1987) has exactly 9 different Ship Types available. Some of these ship types are extremely common, and most ships encountered will belong to them. Other ship types are very rare, and will possibly appear only in specific eras, sailed by specific nations, or simply have a low chance of spawning at all.

Pirates! (1987) Ship Types
Ship Type Image Short Description
Pinnace 1987 Ship Pinnace The smallest ship type, a trading vessel with a small crew and a few cannons. Hardly a danger, unless piloted by a captain looking for a quick Boarding and relying on skillful Fencing skill to win battles. Will not survive more than a few broadsides by an enemy ship. Favoured by enemy pirates.
Sloop 1987 Ship Sloop A small combat vessel, relying on its keen maneuvering to confuse enemies while it pummels them with its small-but-potent cannon complement. Suitable for hunting down small or medium vessels, but will be in trouble if hit by a large broadside. Favoured by different nations in different Eras, and generally does not appear in the early Eras at all.
Barque 1987 Ship Barque A mid-sized combat vessel with a good cargo hold. Usually encountered as a Spanish trading ship, it is nimble enough to protect itself from most ship types, and can survive a broadside or two from an enemy ship without too much trouble. Useful for player who want the largest ship that doesn't have too much trouble sailing eastwards or upwind.
Cargo Fluyt 1987 Ship Fluyt A mid-sized trader with poor maneuverability and speed for its size. While its cargo space is large, its cannon complement is lacking, and most Fluyts encountered during the game are poorly crewed and equipped. This ship is largely unsuitable as a combat vessel, and is sailed only by Dutch and occasionally English traders in the later Eras.
Merchantman 1987 Ship Merchantman A mid-sized trader with a surprisingly large cannon array and crew capacity. Can carry a large supply of goods, and is not too slow even sailing Close-Hauled. It is the most maneuverable ship to use Square Rigging. All major nations use the Merchantman at one Era or another. Pirates in Merchantmen are quite dangerous. A surprisingly-favoured player ship.
Frigate 1987 Ship Frigate A heavy but fast combat vessel, designed to take on both large and medium-sized ships. Carries formidable armament and a large crew, but has trouble sailing Close-Hauled or Into The Eye. Favoured by non-Spanish nations, it appears with more frequency during the later Eras of the game.
Fast Galleon 1987 Ship WarGalleon A powerful combat vessel comparable to the Frigate, its main strength is in dealing with other heavy ships, though slightly less efficient against small ships that are more likely to escape it. Develops a great speed running Before The Wind, which means it relies greatly on a good starting position during combat. Used by non-Spanish nations during the earlier Eras of the game.
War Galleon 1987 Ship FastGalleon The heaviest Combat Vessel in the game, typically sporting both a large array of cannons and a large crew. Can cripple most other ships with a single successful broadside. Can't manage going Close-Hauled, but has amazing speed running Before The Wind and even at Broad Reach. Used by the Spanish in all Eras, primarily for hunting pirates.
Galleon 1987 Ship Galleon The largest and heaviest Ship Type in the game, a massive trader with a huge crew complement and room for the most Cannons of all ship types, though it rarely carries a full complement. Incredibly difficult to control at most sailing angles, though it can run very quickly Before The Wind. Needless to say, when fully armed a single broadside from a Galleon will sink or cripple most small or mid-sized ships, but it is still easy to outmaneuver the Galleon. Rarely, if ever, used by the Spanish.

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

In Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004) there are 27 different Ship Types available. These are split into groups of 3, with each group constituting a single "Class" of ships.

Members of the same "Class" are quite similar to one another, both in appearance and characteristics. The smallest member is always slightly lighter and faster than the others, the largest member is both heavier and slower, and the middle one is statistically in-between. Nonetheless, different Types belonging to the same Class are treated differently, as they may have surprising benefits that the others do not, and/or be exceptionally rarer than the others.

In the table below, variants of the same Class are ordered by size, from smallest to largest.

Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004) Ship Types
Ship Type Image & Ship Class Short Description
War Canoe 2004 Ship Pinnace
Pinnace Class
The smallest ship class. These three ships are poor in cannons, crew and cargo capacity, but they are all exceptionally maneuverable and can sail at high speed in extremely odd angles to the wind. Experienced captains can learn to take advantage of this by bypassing combat and going straight for a Boarding, making them extremely favourable vessels.
Mail Runner
Sloop 2004 Ship Sloop
Sloop Class
A selection of small combat vessels with great maneuverability and a small but useful array of cannons. Most Sloops are extremely common, and are used by every faction in the Caribbean. They are capable of outmaneuvering and Boarding larger vessels, and are fast enough to catch small vessels as well. Exceptionally easy to use, they are obviously favoured by many players.
Sloop Of War
Royal Sloop
Coastal Barque 2004 Ship Barque
Barque Class
The smallest trading vessels in the game, though essentially mid-sized. Used primarily by the French and Spanish, these vessels display interesting sailing characteristics for their size, and can manage to escape combat with most larger ships. Largely unsuitable for player use, they can nonetheless serve as auxiliary craft for their cargo capacity and speed.
Ocean Barque
Fluyt 2004 Ship Fluyt
Fluyt Class
A set of slow mid-sized trading vessels, used exclusively by the Dutch. Ungainly and relatively weak in firepower, these ships are often seen as easy prey to both pirates and raiders. They have no characteristics worth mentioning aside from their significant cargo capacity.
Large Fluyt
West Indiaman
Brigantine 2004 Ship Brig
Brig Class
A family of mid-sized combat vessels, whose forte is their ability to take on any other ship, using either their good maneuverability or formidable firepower as required by circumstances. With ample cargo space and reasonable speed, they are favoured by players who like the mix between strength and speed these ships offer. Brig Class ships are used for many warlike tasks by all factions. Amongst all Ship Classes, the difference between the three Brigs is easily the most noticeable, with the smallest ship being significantly more maneuverable than the largest, but the largest being significantly better armed.
Brig Of War
Merchantman 2004 Ship Merchantman
Merchantman Class
A group of common mid-sized trading vessels with a good defensive array of cannons. Considered prey by most combat vessels, the Merchantmen can often put a dent in their assailants nonetheless, though they are unlikely to actually outmaneuver or escape any but the slowest opponents. They are used by the English and the French for running various peaceful deliveries.
Large Merchantman
East Indiaman
Trade Galleon 2004 Ship MerchantGalleon
Merchant Galleon Class
These three ships are the largest ships the game has to offer, easily dwarfing the tiny Pinnaces and Sloops. Used as general-purpose trade ships by the Spanish, their gigantic cargo holds often contain great riches. While their broadsides can sometimes be threatening, they are too slow to put these to good use in most situations due to extremely poor sailing properties.
Royal Galleon
Treasure Galleon
Fast Galleon 2004 Ship CombatGalleon
Combat Galleon Class
This is a set of heavy combat vessels used by the Spanish to protect their trade routes and assault the other factions. Combat Galleons pack a lot of firepower, though their slow turning rate can make those cannons difficult to use properly. Easily out-maneuvered by smaller ships, these hulking beasts rely on their ability to hit the enemy at least once before being boarded. Combat Galleons are also the fastest ships in the game, but only heading towards their Best Sailing Point, Running Broad Reach.
War Galleon
Flag Galleon
Frigate 2004 Ship Frigate
Frigate Class
These three vessels are classic warships, through and through. The most heavily armed ships in the game, Frigates are often used by non-Spanish nations to perform their most vital wartime operations. Frigate use is complicated due to their less-than-favourable sailing properties, but in the right hands they are practically invincible. The Ship Of The Line is both the rarest and most powerful ship available in this game.
Large Frigate
Ship Of The Line
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