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General DescriptionEdit

A Ship of the Line (SOL) is generally a large warship, belonging to the Frigate Class. Slightly superior to the Large Frigate, the SOL is commonly known to be the most powerful and rarest warship in the game, able to carry the maximum number of guns (48; 24 each side), the largest cargo hold and largest crew capacity.

In-game, the Spanish Empire is the only faction not to deploy Ships of the Line, relying instead on Galleon ships. True to its purpose, a Ship of the Line will only emerge in wartime against another faction. Ships of the Line will always bear the "New Warship" tag. They are commonly considered the most devastating ship in the game. You just don't know what naval supremacy is until you've stood at the helm of a fully-upgraded, fully-armed Ship of the Line with 300 men aboard.

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

Ship Type
Ship of the Line
Largest member of the Frigate class
Smaller:
Large Frigate
2004 Ship Frigate
The most powerful combat vessel on the seas
Prevalence: Very Rare
Physical Size: Large
Maneuverability: Mid-High
Durability: High
Best Sailing Point: Running Broad Reach to Broad Reach
Comparative Speed: Mid-High
Best Speed: Highest
Max. Cannons: 48 Icon Cannon
Max. Crew: 300 Icon Crew
Min. Crew: 18 Icon Crew
Ideal Crew (w/ Max Cannons): 112 Icon Crew
Cargo Capacity: 100 tons
Basic Sale Price: 600 Icon GoldCoin


In Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004), Ship of the Line is the name used to refer to the largest member of the Frigates Class. The "Ship of the Line" is the largest member of its class, and is also considered the most powerful ship in the entire game.

In the Player's HandsEdit

No nation/era combination will ever have the player starting off with a Ship of the Line.

Finding a Ship of the Line is extremely difficult, as it is the rarest ship in the game – it is not unheard of to finish a game without ever seeing one. Only its battle capability matches its rarity; ergo, attacking a Ship of the Line is very risky and dangerous. Once captured, however, the Ship of the Line serves best as the Flagship of your Fleet. Even without upgrades, it should be able to handle any threat that comes your way. Additionally, it can also prove useful when attacking cities, especially if you intend on flipping a city to another nationality, making it both a useful raider or invasion force.

A head-on battle with a Ship of the Line can be difficult and dangerous—especially if the player is unprepared—but even more difficult is actually finding a Ship of the Line. In order for an enemy Ship of the Line to spawn, the following factors and conditions must be taken into consideration:

How to Spawn a Ship of the LineEdit

Here are a number of tips that may help in spawning a Ship of the Line:

  • Ships of the line are only spawned by non-Spanish nations; in fact, the Spanish will never spawn any Frigate  class ships.
  • Some reports maintain that a Ship of the Line can only be spawned by a nation that is offering a reward on you, but there have been reports of France spawning a SOL when they were offer no reward on the player at all. It appears that what is going on is that each nation has an alert level determined by the number of ships they are losing at sea (there may be other factors such as coastal bombardments). When a nation's alert level gets high, they start building New Warships and providing all their regular ship traffic with escorts. For the young nations, there's a small probability that each New Warship will be a SOL. When all three other nations are at war with one young nation is a good time to watch for SOLs (Incidentally, nations have a sea alert level and a land alert level. When their cities are getting attacked, they'll start producing military payroll [my favorite!], troop transports, and invasion forces).
  • Like all other New Warship-classified ships, Ships of the Line are spawned along trade routes that have been recently terrorized by pirates, enemy nations, or the player. For example, attacking merchant ships traveling from City A to City B will eventually spawn a New Warship traveling from City A to City B, though there is no guarantee of the New Warship being a Ship of the line.
  • Some reports indicate that a city's wealth is a factor in whether or not it will spawn a SOL. A nation's wealth may very well be a factor. It may also be more likely that one will spawn from a wealthy city, but they can come from cities as poor as modest.
  • Ships of the Line seem to be the most frequent in 1680, uncommon in 1660, and rare in 1640. There are, as of yet, no confirmed sightings of any Ships of the Line in 1620 and 1600. It is unknown whether Ships of the Line can actually spawn in those eras. [Update: It is possible to acquire a Ship of the Line playing 1600!]
  • Ships of the Line do not behave like Pirate Hunter-class ships: they are simply sent out from one city to another, will display no preemptive hostility towards you, and must be attacked first.


Studying these points gives a fairly obvious set of guidelines to follow in order to spawn Ships of the Line. The most straightforward strategy seems to be to (1) anger a non-Spanish city and placing it under siege; (2) sinking every merchant ship that leaves its ports; while (3) allowing "improvement" ships such as New Governor ships and Immigrant ships to enter, so that the city remains Wealthy. This extremely basic strategy seems to work cities which tend to stay Wealthy if not directly assaulted, such as Barbados.

Repeatedly sinking a particular city's merchant ships—as well as the pirate hunters that come after you— will quickly raise the bounty on your head, increasing the level of discontent for that city. You must, however, stay out at sea for as long as possible, or at least have a friendly port nearby where you can repair and replenish, or else risk missing a Ship of the Line sailing out of your besieged city.

One way to optimize your chances of capturing a Ship of the Line is to rearrange the political map in such a way that you are able to ambush several cities in quick succession, thereby dramatically increasing the chance of spawning a Ship of the Line.

You can wage a one-man war on a nation's shipping, but sadly it is much more profitable to make that nation Spain. A better way to get your ship of the line is to make that nation France (possibly England). Wait until they're at war with everyone. Then go from Port-de-Paix around to Petite-Goave and straight across to Martinique taking every single French ship you see. Another Strategy is to terrorize the Lesser Antilles, quickly moving from one city to another. A third strategy is to focus on two cities very close to each other (such as Tortuga and Port-de-Paix, or St Kitts and Nevis, or St Martin and St Eustatius) and attack all shipping and pirate hunters that leave there ports, while going to a port nearby when repairs are absolutely necessary. If you keep guard frequently, they will send one out. This has worked quite well in 1660 and 1680 eras.

Historical InformationEdit

Developed during the age of Piracy, the Ship of the Line was designed around one simple purpose: To be the biggest possible target on a battlefield. When sent out, a Ship of the Line's massive size, enormous number of guns, and heavy armor ensured that enemy forces would focus on it - and not the rest of the fleet it was assigned to. Rather than act as a flagship, the Ship of the Line was intended to act as a mobile strong-point; wherever it moved, it effectively became a battle line, allowing the rest of the fleet to quickly move into position whilst other forces were busy targetting the (apparent) giant threat that was the Ship of the Line. That the ship itself was a massive threat as well only solidified its role.

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