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FAQ/Walkthrough by Moonjay

Version: 1.02 | Updated: 03/11/05

A Pirates! guide by Moonjay

Version 1.00 completed March 29, 2003

Version 1.01 June 18, 2003 Update: Sun Sight Information.

July 27, 2004: Email address changed in Thanks and Notes.

Version 1.02 March 11, 2005 Update: Small addition to Land Battle controls.


Section 1

1.1 Introduction
1.2 Controls
1.3 Starting Out

Section 2

2.1 Towns
2.2 Information Menu
2.3 Governors
2.4 Sailing
2.5 Treasure
2.6 Family
2.7 Marriage
2.8 Ships
2.9 News

Section 3

3.1 Ship Battle
3.2 Sword Battle
3.3 Land Battle

Section 4

4.1 Defeat
4.2 Retirement

Section 5

5.1 Thanks and Notes
5.2 Legal Stuff

1.1 Introduction

Welcome to my Pirates! guide. This is a game that I've loved for many years.
I've spent countless hours sailing around in this tiny ocean, and Pirates! has
grown on me more than any other NES game I've ever played. When I realized
this game had no guides for it, I couldn't help but want to do something about
it. This is the first time I've attempted to write a guide for anything, and I
hope I do a good job. May this information be helpful to you.

1.2 Controls

General Controls:

A: Confirm/select
B: Cancel/previous
Select: Menu
Start: Pause
Up/Down/Left/Right: Make Selection/Steer Ship/Steer Crew

Sea Battles:

Up/Down: Raise/Lower Sails
A: Fire Cannons

Sword Battles:

Left/Right: Move Forward/Back
Up/Down: Raise/Lower Sword
A: Quick Attack
B: Fierce Attack

Land Battles:

A: Switch Group
Hold A: Move all groups together in formation.

1.3 Starting Out

When you first start Pirates!, you are given the option to start a new game,
load an old game, or look at the hall of fame. Loading an old game allows you
to continue from the last time you saved in a previous game. The hall of fame
shows the names and highest scores of previous pirates.

When you choose to begin a new game: 

First you are asked to choose a time period. This effects what towns are on the
map, what ship you start off with, and probably other things. Unfortunately I
can't give much info about the time periods because I always play in the
default, 1660. If you choose not to pick a different time period, that is the
one you play in.

Next you are asked to choose a nationality. Either English, Dutch, French, or
Spanish. This effects what city you start in, and what kind of ship you have at
the beginning of the game. The country you choose can be important. England
tends to be the best choice, because the English generally like privateers more
than the other countries do. This can lead to better rewards for your exploits.
Holland and France are fairly neutral, and also not bad choices. Spain is
probably a bad choice if you want to become very wealthy and powerful. Not only
do they frown on pirates, Spain also has the most cities and the best treasures
to steal. So they are the best country to attack mercilessly. >:D You could of
course decide to be Spanish and betray your country, but that is up to you. You
can always befriend countries other than the one you start in.

Next you are asked to enter your family name. This is used as your last name,
so entering a first name may sound a little funny. If you don't enter a last
name of your own, you will be Mr. Incognito.

Then you are asked to choose a difficulty level. Difficulty effect many things.
How easily your crew gets angry, how much storm clouds blow your ship around,
how difficult battles are, etc. Higher difficulty levels also make it so that
you get a larger share of the booty when you divide up the plunder with your
crew. I would suggest playing as an apprentice at first, to get used to the
game. You can raise the difficulty level for this character later on if you
want, so you don't have to completely commit to one difficulty. The levels are
Apprentice, Journeyman, Adventurer, and Swashbuckler.

Next you are asked to choose a special ability. These are quite useful,
especially on higher difficulty. You get to choose between Skill at Fencing,
Skill at Navigation, Skill at Gunnery, Wit and Charm, and Skill at Medicine.
Skill at Fencing makes Sword Battles easier, Skill at Navigation makes sailing
around the world and in Sea Battles easier, and Skill at Gunnery makes you more
skilled at hitting your target with cannons. Wit and Charm makes people like
you more, which causes governors to reward you more and women to love you.
Skill at Medicine helps you stay more healthy, which makes it possible for
your career to last a long time despite any wounds you may get. I find Wit and
Charm most useful by far.

After you're done choosing everything, you get to read a bit of story about
your character and how he became the captain of a ship. You may or may not
have a sword duel to survive, and afterwards you will find yourself in your
first town.

2.1 Towns

Towns are a very important part of Pirates!, because a majority of the most
important activities are done in or to them. This section will cover the things
you can do in a town, the ways you can approach a town, and the things you can
do to a town.

When inside a town, you are shown a menu of options and an information window
about the town. The information window includes the town name, governing
country, the number of forts guarding the town, the number of soldiers, the
number of citizens, and the economy of the city. A positive economy means the
town is doing well. Merchants will have more money, prices will be up, and the
town will be ripe for plundering. A negative economy means the city is poor,
prices are low, and plundering will bring little treasure to your ship. The
more forts a town has, the more cannons and men it's likely to have.

Your menu options are:

Visit the Governor
Visit a Tavern
Trade with a Merchant
Divide up the Plunder
Check Information
Leave Town

Visiting the governor lets you have dinner and some serious discussion with the
governor of this town. More on this option later.

When you visit a tavern, you will first tell the tavern keeper about your
exploits, or your plans if you haven't actually done anything yet. :P
Afterwards, men seeking glory and wealth may ask if they can join your crew.
Say yes or no to them as you please. You may also meet a salty sailor with a
treasure map to sell, or someone who is willing to sell you some information
about a town. After you finish your business, you get to see recent news

Trading with a merchant has several uses. First, if you have more than one
ship, you will be offered the chance to sell any ships you don't want. Next, if
any of your ships have been damaged in battle, you will be asked if you want to
have them repaired for a small fee. Finally, you get to buy or sell goods. In
the main merchant window you will see how much money you have, how much money
the merchant has, what items are available to buy and sell, how many tons of
those items you and the merchant have, the price per ton of each item, and how
much space you have left in the hold(s) of your ship(s). Trading is done by
moving up or down to select an item, then by pressing left or right to buy or
sell as many tons as you want. Merchants can only buy as much as they can
afford. You also can only buy as much as you can afford, plus you can only have
as many tons of stuff as you have room in the hold. If you sell a ship, you
will have to sell any extra goods you have that won't fit in your remaining
ships. Anything the merchant can't buy will be thrown overboard, so keep that
in mind. When you are finished trading, press A to return to the main town

Dividing up the plunder allows you to give all of your crew their cut of the
gold you have, and then take your portion of it. The crew may be happy or
angry over how much they get. The less men you have, the more each person gets.
After dividing the plunder, you are given the option to either plan another
expedition, retire, or advance to a higher difficulty. Planning another
expedition causes a few months to go by as you fix up your ship and gather a
new crew before setting out again to make more money. Advancing to a higher
difficulty level makes the game harder, but will give you a bigger share the
next time you divide up the plunder. More on retiring later.

*Hint* When you want to divide up the plunder, make some preparations first.
Make sure you have a small crew. If you have a lot of men, get some of them
killed in battle first. Sell off everything you can to a merchant, including
ships. After you divide the plunder, if you decide to continue sailing, you
will only have one ship no matter how many you had before. So sell every ship
but the one you want to keep. Any ships and goods you don't sell won't be
included in the plunder amount that's being shared out. Only gold counts.

Check information brings up the main information window, which you can also see
by pressing select outside of towns and battles. More on the information window

Leave town lets you do just that. When you leave town you will find yourself
outside, on foot or on your ship.

When outside, you are given a set of options when you touch a town. The options
are march or sail into the town, attack the town, sneak into the town, or leave
the town alone. Marching or sailing into the town is a peaceful way to enter,
but if the city is hostile to you and has forts, it will open fire. Attacking
the town causes either a Land or Sea Battle, depending on if you are on foot
or in a ship, or goes straight to a Sword Battle in a city with no forts.
Sneaking into a town is a good way to get into a city that is hostile to you
without being attacked, but you may be caught and forced into a Sword Battle.
Note that if you enter a town by land, you cannot sell or fix ships or trade
goods. Also, some cities may refuse to trade if they dislike you.

*Hint* If you really really want to get into a city that is hostile towards
you, and you keep getting caught when you sneak in... You might be able to get
in by marching in. The forts will open fire on you, but you won't be damaged
on foot. Keep trying over and over again, and you may eventually get in. Only
try this on foot however, because sailing into a hostile town will destroy
your ships.

You may also be able to change the governor of a city. If you successfully
attack a city with a large enough force of men, the governor may flee in
terror. After that, you can install a new governor from the country of your

2.2 Information Menu

By pressing select outside of towns and battles, or by choosing Check
Information in towns, you get to the Information Menu. This is where you see
most of the crucial information about yourself and your crew. The options in
this menu are Continue Travels, Party Status, Personal Status, Ships Log, Maps,
Cities, Sun Sight, and Save. Save only appears inside of a town.

Continue Travels lets you exit the Information Menu and continue playing the

Party Status gives information about your crew and ships. It shows how many
men are in your crew, how many cannons you have, how much available gold you
have, how many days worth of food you have, how many tons of certain goods you
have, how happy your crew is, and how many ships you have. Crew happiness will
be happy, pleased, unhappy, or angry. Note that if any of your ships have been
damaged in battle, they will be marked as damaged in parenthesis. Also, if you
have any prisoners, another window will pop up showing you their names and

Personal Status gives you information about your character and his reputation.
It shows your titles in the four countries, your age and health, the amount of
gold you personally own (gotten through dividing the plunder), the amount of
land you own, and your overall reputation. If you have no title with a country,
it will say none. If you have attacked a country, they will be wary or hostile
depending on how much you have harmed them. Note that if you have a title in a
country before you attack it, only the title will show, but they WILL be wary
or hostile towards you. Your health has to do with your age and how many times
you have been wounded in battle. If it starts to look poor, it may be time to
retire. Personal Status will also show if you are single or married.

Ships Log is a history of many events. Both the news topics you have seen,
and a history of your recent exploits.

Maps, if you have any, will show you the maps that you have.

Cities is a list of all the cities in the game, with detailed information
about them. Note that this information can be out of date.

Sun Sight is an option I unfortunately can't explain. It's supposed to be a way
to find out where you are, but I have never understood it.

*Update* The following information was provided to me by Raven:

"I am happy to explain this to you because it is an extremely useful feature.
When you select the option in the menu, a strange contraption is featured with
the longitude reading on the bottom. What you need to do is use the directional
arrows and line up the end of the contraption with the bottom of the yellow
circle which is obviously the sun. As you do so, your lattitude is revealed.
This in turn allows you to pinpoint your exact position on the map which I
assume was included with your game's documents. Ultmately, this presents a very
useful navigating tool so you won't get lost and sail around needlessly."

Save shows up when you're in a town, and it allows you to save your current

2.3 Governors

One of the most important parts of playing Pirates! is dealing with governors.
There is a governor in every town in the world, and each one faithfully
represents the country they serve. Talking to governors is the only way for you
to gain titles, gain land, find lost family members, unload your captives, and
get married. 

You can only visit a governor once per visit to a town.

Whenever you talk to a governor, they will first tell you what countries their
country is at war with. The next options will depend on whether you have been
hostile towards their country or not. If you have not attacked the governor's
country, he may offer to sell you a Letter of Marque. (You may also begin the
game with a Letter of Marque for your starting country, depending on the
country and period you chose.) A Letter of Marque is your path to glory. It is
pretty much an official permission slip for you to destroy the enemies of that
country in return for titles and land. Once you have a Letter of Marque, every
time you destroy a ship or successfully loot a city belonging to a country
they are at war with, it makes a positive impact with the governors of the
country you're working for. Destroy enough of the enemy, and the next time you
speak to a governor of the country you're working for you may receive a new
title and some land. 

*Hint* Try to make the most of the land you gain. There are only so many
titles you can get, and you receive land only once each time you earn a new
title. The more you've done, the more land you'll be given. You may be able to
get a new title by just looting one town, but loot several more and you'll be
given far more land. However, if you do too much you may skip a rank.

The titles you may receive from friendly countries are:


The higher your rank, the better your score will be at the end of the game. It
also effects what women you will have the option of marrying. Note that you
can have titles in more than one country.

Other things that may make a positive impact on governors are capturing pirates
and completing important missions for the governors. Special missions are
given randomly by friendly governors, and you are asked if you will accept or
decline the mission before you know what it is. The missions are to either save
the governor's son from an enemy city (completed by attacking that city) or to
deliver a message to a spy in an enemy city (completed by entering the enemy
city and delivering the message at the tavern). You may also be asked to
deliver a message to the governor of a friendly city. When a mission has been
completed, return to that governor for a positive reaction from him. Failing
or declining a mission causes a negative reaction, but it is not too bad.

You can also get ransoms from the families of Hunters you have captured when
you speak to a governor. He will tell you how much the family is offering, and
you can accept or wait for a better offer.

When you are friendly enough with a governor, he may also give you information
regarding your lost family members, or introduce you to his daughter. More on
that later.

If you have attacked a governor's country, he will not offer you a Letter of
Marque. What he will do depends on how much you have attacked his country. If
you have only attacked it a little, (and your rank with that country in the
Personal Status window is only Wary) he may offer to forgive your acts... for
a price. Then you may be able to buy a Letter of Marque. If you have been
truly destructive to a country (and your rank with them is Hostile), all he
will do is tell you what countries his country is at war with, then end the
conversation. Hostile countries will hold a grudge against you for a very very
long time.

2.4 Sailing

Most of your time playing Pirates! will probably be taken up by sailing on the
overworld. It's how you get from town to town, explore for treasure, and find
ships to attack. 

Always make sure to have plenty of food when you set sail. Food will be eaten
by your crew as time goes by, and a starving crew is never a good thing.

The biggest ship you own will be your flagship, and it will determine how fast
you can sail.

When sailing, you use right and left to turn your ship. You will generally
travel more quickly when the wind is behind you. You can see the direction of
the wind by watching the direction the clouds are moving in. 

At the Apprentice difficulty level, clouds will have no effect on your ship.
At higher difficulty levels, they can blow you off course. At Swashbuckler
difficulty, the clouds will steer your ship almost more than you do.

When you are sailing, if you touch land you will automatically disembark. If
the bit of land you touched has a town on it, you will be taken to the town
entering options. Otherwise, your crew will get out and you can walk around
on foot.

It is very very important when sailing to avoid reefs. They are little
blackish areas on the water, and they are very very bad. When you sail over a
reef, there is a good chance that one or more of your ships will be destroyed.
Small ships have a decent chance of getting over reefs unscathed, but big ships
are just about guaranteed to blow up. Even small ships may be destroyed. If you
must go over a reef, try to go over the smallest part of it that you can. The
less you sail over, the less likely it is that you'll lose a ship. Never EVER
go over a reef if you have only one ship, only large ships, or don't want to
lose any ships. If you lose all of your ships over a reef, you will be sorry.

As you sail, every so often you will run across other ships. When you do, you
will be given some information and several options. First you will be reminded
of where you are. If you are near a town, you will be told what country the
waters you are in belong to. If you are very far from civilization, you will
be in unknown waters. When in the waters of a country, the odds are very high
that any ships you find will be from that country. Stalking the waters of a
country you want to attack will therefore give you plenty of prey. You will
also be told what kind of ship it is. 

Then you will be given the option to either Investigate or Sail Away.
Investigating will give you more information about the ship and more options,
while Sail Away will let you just ignore the ship and continue sailing. Note
that if the ship belongs to a Pirate or a Hunter, they will go after you even
if you choose to ignore them. However, you can still sail away.

If you Investigate, you will be told what country the ship is from. Sometimes
a ship will also belong to a Pirate or a Hunter. When you find out who you're
dealing with, you will be asked if you want to Close for Battle, Hail for News,
or Sail Away. Once again, Sail Away allows you to ignore the ship and keep on
sailing. Close for Battle allows you to attack the ship and enter a Ship
Battle. Hailing for news lets you ask the ship for the latest news. If the
ship is from a country that is hostile towards you, they will sail away without
giving you any information.

After you have attacked, asked for news, or ignored the ship, you will return
to normal sailing.

2.5 Treasure

If you have any treasure maps, you can look at them in the Information Menu.
If you have a complete map, it will tell you what town the treasure is close
to. If you have a partial map, you will only be able to see some of the land
formation of where the treasure is. As you sail, you should always keep an eye
out for any land that looks like it may match your treasure map.

If you happen to find a place that looks likely, sail over to it and disembark.
Then you can walk on foot to where you think the treasure might be. When you're
standing over the spot you think it may be buried, press select to go to the
menu and choose the option Search Here.

Your men will dig in the area for a few days. If they don't find anything, they
will be quite grumpy. If they hit the treasure, you will be given a victory
message and the gold amount of the treasure will be added to your overall gold

Treasure maps where you have found the treasure will be removed from your

2.6 Family

Almost everyone has a family, and your character is no different. Unfortunately
for him, however, his family is long lost. Luckily you can find them if you
look hard enough, and it's very rewarding. 

To find lost family members, you must first talk to friendly governors. 
Eventually one of them will probably mention an Evil Spaniard who has
information regarding one of your lost family members. The governor will tell
you the name of the man, and the last place he was seen at. The hunt begins!

The first thing you should do is sail in the general direction of the last
town the Spaniard was seen in. These are always Spanish towns as far as I have
seen. When you get close, you may be able to gain information from the crews
of any ships you attack in the area. After taking their ship, you may be given
the option to ask about the Spaniard's location. He may be currently in the
city, or he may have left to another one. Keep up the hunt until you find out
where he is.

Once you finally find the city he is in, you will have to enter it somehow. You
may be able to enter it peacefully if you're friendly with Spain, or you may
have to sneak in. You can also attack the town normally, and after you are done
you will run into the Spaniard. Either way, once you are in town you will be
face to face with the man, and you will be forced into a one on one Sword

Defeat him in battle, and he will tell you your family member is on a
plantation somewhere. Then he will give you a quarter of a map to the
plantation and run away. They don't call these guys Evil Spaniards for
nothing. It's usually almost impossible to find your family members with such a
small bit of map.

If you are very lucky, you may be able to find your family member with just
that piece. It helps that the plantations are usually pretty close to a Spanish
town. However, it's most likely that you won't find it. If so, you will have
to repeat the same hunt all over again, finding and defeating another Evil
Spaniard. You may or may not find your family member with two or three pieces
of the map. But once you have the full map, you will be told what town to look
near, and you are certain to be able to find the plantation. 

Once you know (or think you know) where the plantation is, you can land and
search for it the same way you look for treasure. Choosing Search Here in the
wrong spot will cause your crew to just dig as if they were looking for
treasure, and they will find nothing. If you're in the right spot, you will
find the plantation! Yay, family! You will then see your character and his
relative reunited, and be told a short story by your relative.

Then you will be given a quarter of a treasure map to... a lost Incan Treasure!
Yum, that may lead to unimaginable wealth. Thank you, family member. You use
this map like any other, just looking for a matching piece of land that may be
where the treasure is buried. If you're lucky, you may find it with less than
a whole map. Otherwise, you will have to find and save three more family 
members to be given the full map. 

Finding this treasure is very very good. You want it, trust me.

Finding family members also adds to your score and overall happiness rating at
the end of the game.

2.7 Marriage

So, you want to settle down with a nice wench?

Marriage in Pirates! is a pretty simple process. This is no dating sim, or even
a Harvest Moon game. You don't have to give the ladies presents or take them
on dates. You barely interact with them at all, truly.

You meet women by making a positive impact on governors. When you're talking to
a governor of a country you're friendly to, he may offer to introduce you to
his daughter. When he does, you will get to see her. All daughters already have
a suitor who is courting them, and you will get to see the social rank of her
current boyfriend. But even though they all have suitors, they also all seem to
be interested in you. You handsome devil, you.

You have only two options with the ladies. You can either make pleasant
conversation with them, or immediately propose marriage. What happens when you
choose one of these options will depend on your title and personal wealth. 

Unfortunately, you won't get yourself a wife by being the coolest pirate ever,
or by having a good personality. No, these women are one of the worst types you
will ever meet. Gold diggers. That's right. If you're not rich and important
enough, they'll brush you off like lint.

If you're not rich and important enough, conversation will get you nothing and
a proposal will lead to the woman putting you down and generally acting like a
snob. You will have to have a rank at least almost equal to that of her suitor
for her to be interested in you. You also have to have a good amount of land
and money.

If you are rich and important enough, making conversation will cause the woman
to fall for your charm. But since you didn't ask her to marry you, she will
just become your good friend. Friends are fairly useful. From that day forward,
every time you visit your friend's father, you will also visit her. She will
then give you any information she may have heard by listening to gossip. The
most useful information you can get from her is the locations of either the
Silver Train or the Treasure Fleet. 

The Silver Train and the Treasure Fleet travel around between cities. Any city
one of them arrives in will have its economy go up. This means more treasure
for the taking if you attack that city. Also if you attack a town while one of
these is currently in it, you will be able to capture it and gain a large
amount of money. 

Once a woman is your friend however, you can never ask her to marry you.

If you are rich and important enough when you propose, the woman will either
accept or say she appreciates the offer but you're still not QUITE good enough
for her. If you're not quite good enough, gaining another title or some land or
gold will probably satisfy the wench.

If you are good enough, she will gladly accept... under one condition. You'll
have to defeat her suitor in a one on one Sword Battle. Once you defeat him,
you will finally get married.

Once you're married, you will not be introduced to any more daughters.

Your wife will continue to live with her father after you marry her. Can't take
a woman with you to be a pirate, of course. Whenever you visit her father you
will also visit her, and she will function the same way a friend does.

Marriage increases your score and happiness rating at the end of the game. But
not all wives are equal. Some are better than the others, and will make you far
more happy and earn you more points. 

There are four types of possible brides. They all have a certain rank of
suitor, though they can be a rank (or more) higher or lower than the one I

The first type of bride has brown hair, glasses, a black dress, and a book. She
is usually being courted by a man who is a Major. If you marry her, you will
find out that she is a shrewish and pestersome woman. Not at all desirable in
a wife.

The second type has brown hair, a green dress, needles, and yarn. She is
usually being courted by an Admiral or Colonel. If you marry her, you will find
her to be a friendly and attractive wench. Not a bad wife.

The third type has blonde hair, a white dress, and a fan. She is also usually
courted by a Colonel or an Admiral. If you marry her, you will find her to be a
lovely and cheerful woman. Also not a bad wife.

The fourth type has brown hair, a purple/red dress, and a black cat. She is
usually being courted by a Baron. If you marry her, you will find her to be an
exciting and beautiful woman. As far as I can tell, she is the best wife with
the highest boost to happiness and score. Not surprisingly, she is also the
hardest one to get because of the high title requirement.

2.8 Ships

There are a good variety of ship types in Pirates!. They each have their own
strengths and weaknesses, and what types you use will greatly effect the way
you play the game. 

You can only have a maximum of 8 ships. The only way to get more ships is to
capture them in battle. When you capture a ship, you can send crew members
over to run it. If you don't have enough crew, you can't keep a new ship. If
you lose so much crew you can't run all of your ships, you will have to
abandon one. You can lose all of your ships this way.

All ships use cannons. You have to carry cannons in your storage space to be
armed for battle. As far as I can tell, cannons tend to be partly divided out
among all the ships you have. If you want to have max cannons in battle, you
should carry enough cannons for all of your ships to be armed to the teeth.

All ships have a certain amount of hull space for holding goods. You can only
carry as many tons of stuff as you have tons of hull space in all of your ships
combined. If you sell or lose a ship and had more goods than you have hull
space, you will have to sell or throw away all of the excess stuff.

I class all of the ships and being either small or large. The small ships can
sometimes sail over reefs safely, and they sail much more quickly than large
ships in gentle and medium winds. Large ships are generally very slow in
anything less than strong winds, but they carry more people and goods, and
their hulls are much stronger.

I prefer small ships for their speed in battle. They are also much faster when
it comes to sailing around the map. Because your biggest ship is used to
determine how fast you can sail, using only smaller ships will make travel much

Because of the strengths and weaknesses of ships, I suggest you keep a variety
and avoid using only one type.

Here is a list of the types of ships, their top speeds in leagues, their hull
space, their maximum crew amount, and their maximum cannon amount.

Sloop - Small
Max speed: 9-10 leagues
Hull space: 40 tons
Max crew: 96 men
Max cannons: 12

Barque - Small
Max speed: 9-10 leagues
Hull space: 60 tons
Max crew: 128 men
Max cannons: 16

Pinnace - Small
Max speed: 9-10 leagues
Hull space: 20 tons
Max crew: 64 men
Max cannons: 8

Cargo Fluyt - Small
Max speed: 9-12 leagues
Hull space: 80 tons
Max crew: 160 men
Max cannons: 20

Merchantman - Large
Max speed: 9-12 leagues
Hull space: 100 tons
Max crew: 198 men
Max cannons: 24

Frigate - Large
Max speed: 9-12 leagues
Hull space: 120 tons
Max crew: 224 men
Max cannons: 28

Galleon - Large
Max speed: 7-15 leagues
Hull space: 160 tons
Max crew: 288 men
Max cannons: 36

Fast Galleon - Large
Max speed: 9-12 leagues
Hull space: 120 tons
Max crew: 224 men
Max cannons: 24

War Galleon - Large
Max speed: 7-15 leagues
Hull space: 140 tons
Max crew: 256 men
Max cannons: 32

2.9 News

This section will describe a few events that you may see in the news when you
ask ships or taverns for information.

New government: When a city is attacked by a significant force, its governor
may flee and be replaced by a governor of a new country.

Indian attack: When a city is attacked by Indians, its soldier force will be
lower than it was before.

Malaria: When a city is plagued by malaria, its soldiers and overall population
will be lower than it was before.

Gold mine: When a city starts a gold mine, its economy and gold supply will go
up a lot.

War: When countries are at war with each other, they are openly hostile. This
is the perfect opportunity for a pirate to destroy a country's enemies for fun
and profit.

3.1 Ship Battle

Ship Battles happen when you attack a ship at sea or choose to attack a town
that has forts from your ship. 

If you have more than one ship, you will be asked to choose the one you wish to
use before the battle. You will also be told how strong with wind is, which is
very important to deciding which kind of ship to use. You should only use large
ships when the wind is blowing strong or at least medium. Using small ships in
strong winds is generally not good, unless you're using a Barque. Don't use
damaged ships if you can help it, because they will move more slowly and blow
up more quickly.

*Hint* If you are fighting against another ship, and you have an undamaged ship
of the same kind as your enemy, I suggest using it. Then you will both be able
to go at similar speeds no matter how strong the wind is blowing. Also, once
you get the hang of sailing at just the right angle, you can always move a
little faster than your enemy when you're chasing directly behind them. Plus
you can give and take damage on an equal level.

Once you are in a Ship Battle, you will see yourself and your enemy, plus
information on both of you. If you're fighting a ship, your ship is red and
the enemy's is black. If you're fighting a fort, you will see your ship and the

On the left is your information - The type of your ship, your current speed,
how many guns and men are on your ship, how badly damaged your ship is, and the
status of your cannons or sails. If your enemy is a ship, you see all of the
same information for them, save for the cannon/sail status. If the enemy is a
fort, it will just show how many men and cannons there are. Over the other
information you will always see the current wind speed and direction.

Sailing your ship here is generally the same as normal sailing, only now you
must take the current wind speed and direction into account far more seriously.
Generally, sailing directly into a strong wind is going to be very slow, and
sailing in front of a strong wind is fast. Different ship types react
differently to sailing in certain wind speeds and directions, and you will have
to get used to the details with practice. 

You also have the option of raising or lowering your sails by pressing up or
down. You always start off with your sails lowered to battle sail status. This
makes it less likely for your sails to be damaged, but you also move more
slowly with the sails down. Raising them increases the odds of them being
damaged, but you also move far more quickly when you raise them. Raising or
lowering takes a short amount of time.

You can fire your cannons at the enemy by pressing the A button. The cannons
only fire from the sides of your ship, so you have to have one side facing the
enemy to hit them. Once you fire your cannons, they take a short amount of time
to reload. Your cannons status will show when they are ready to be fired again.
Cannons cannot be reloaded while you are raising or lowering your sails.

When fighting against a ship, your goal will be to either ram it or blow it up
with cannon fire. To blow it up, just keep avoiding its fire and hitting it
with your cannons until it is damaged enough.

Each time a ship is hit by cannon fire it may be damaged, lose men, or lose
cannons. Forts can only lose men and cannons.

The damage levels are as follows, from least to worst: Spar damage, sail
damage, lost a mast, hull leaking, ship sinking. Once a ship is leaking or
sinking, one or two more shots will probably blow it to bits.

If you want to capture the ship so that you can take the gold and goods from it
and perhaps keep it, you have to ram it. Just sail directly at the ship until
your ships touch, and then you will be lead into a Sword Battle. If you win,
the ship will be yours.

When you capture a ship, you will first be reminded of the type of ship it is,
and how much space you have left in the hold. Then you will be asked if you
want to keep the ship. Say send a prize crew to keep the ship, or no to
simply take all the plunder and sink it.

If the ship you captured belonged to a Pirate or a Hunter, you will be given
the option to either hold them for ransom or to ask about the Silver Train and
Treasure Fleet. (See the marriage section about Silver Train and Treasure
Fleet) If you ask for info, he will tell you where one of those were last seen.
If you hold him for ransom, you will keep him on board. Prisoners can escape
sometimes when you're in cities. Pirates can be turned in to governors for a
positive reaction. The families of Hunters may offer you a ransom when you
speak to a governor, and you can choose to accept the offer or wait for a
better one.

After you capture a ship some of the remaining crew memebers may ask to join
your crew. You can choose to either accept them or leave them to their fates.

Ships can escape from you if they sail far enough away from your ship. And if
the battle takes too long, the sun will set and force both sides to stop
fighting. You can escape from the enemy as well by sailing away, but that will
hurt your reputation and may cause you to lose a ship.

After that you will see how much gold you gained from the ship, and how much
stuff the ship is carrying. This is just like the merchant window, where you
also see how much stuff you are carrying in your hold. Use up and down to
choose items and left and right to take or leave tons of stuff. Once you're
done, press A. Anything you don't take will be thrown away.

When you are fighting a fort, the goal is simply to land at or near the fort.
It is very important to avoid the cannon fire from forts, because it is very
damaging. You can fire at the fort to kill off men and destroy cannons, and if
it runs out of either it can no longer fire at you. This is very dangerous and
time consuming however. 

If you land too far away from a fort, your men will refuse to attack it and you
will fail completely at attacking the town. 

If you land close enough, your men will scale the walls and you will be sent
into a Sword Battle.

If you win, the town will be yours for the plundering. You plunder towns the
same way as you plunder ships.

Note that towns can sometimes have warning of your approach. If you have been
seen or have attacked ships near the town, it's likely they will hide most of
their gold away before you arrive. The more notorious you are and the more
hostile the country is towards you, the more likely it is that this will

3.2 Sword Battle

Whenever you ram a ship, scale the walls of a fort, find an Evil Spaniard, get
caught sneaking into a town, or fight a woman's suitor, you go into a Sword

Sword Battles are pretty simple. First you will be asked to choose a sword
type. Your options are a rapier, a longsword, or a cutlass. The rapier is the
fastest and weakest, the cutlass is the slowest and strongest, and the
longsword is somewhere in the middle. I always use a rapier myself.

Afterwards you will see yourself on the right, your enemy on the left, and the
vital information of both sides. If you are fighting with your crew, how many
men you have and how many men the enemy has will be shown. If you are alone,
that will not be a factor.

The most important thing in Sword Battles is Morale. The morale is how your
side and the enemy's side are feeling during the battle. Good morale makes the
men fight better.

The morale levels, from worst to best, are: Panic, shaken, angry, firm, strong,
and wild!

If one side panics enough or loses all of its men, it will lose the battle.

If you have your crew with you, the amount of men you have vs how many men the
enemy has will determine your starting morale. The side that is more
outnumbered is naturally more unhappy. If you are in a one on one battle, you
start off firm and your enemy angry.

Morale is effected by being hit, hitting the enemy, and men dying. The more you
hit the enemy, the more your morale will go up and his will go down. The more
you are hit, the lower your morale and the higher the enemy's. If you have a
crew in the battle, each time some of your men die it causes negative moral,
and positive when they kill the enemy. Higher morale causes men to kill more of
the enemy more quickly as well.

To fight your enemy, you use right and left to move forward and back, and up
and down to raise and lower your sword. Note that going all the way to the
righthand side of the screen will cause you to run from the Sword Battle,
making you lose the battle and some of your reputation.

You can hold your sword at three different levels. High, middle, and low. It is
always in the middle position when you're not pressing up or down. Moving the
sword up and down is how you both parry the enemy's attacks and hit the enemy.
When your swords are on the same level, you block each other. When they are not
on the same level, you can hit each other. Always try to move your sword to the
same level as his when he's attacking you, and try to move yours to a different
level than his when you want to hit him. 

To attack, you press the A button for a quick and weak attack, or the B button
for a fierce attack. The quick attack does damage more quickly so that you
don't leave yourself as open to attack. The fierce attack does far more damage,
but you are also more likely to be hit before you are ready to defend yourself

Get your enemy to panic by hitting and avoiding him enough, and you win.

However, if you are fighting a crew battle, one side can also lose by losing
all of its men. In theory a crew of 5 men could beat 500 if you're skilled
enough at battle, but if you end up all alone and get hit, you will lose.

3.3 Land Battle

Land Battles happen when you decide to attack a town that has forts from land.

When you enter a land battle, your crew is divided into three somewhat even
teams, and your cannons are counted as muskets and also divided up among the

The defenders of the fort will also be divided up into teams.

On the Land Battle screen, you will see your teams, the enemy teams, the fort,
and the terrain around the fort. Also you will see your information window on
the left, and the enemy's on the right. The information shown is always only
for the currently selected group. It will show how many men are in the group,
how many muskets the group has, the morale of the group, and what kind of
terrain the group is standing on.

You can switch groups by pressing the A button, and move the groups with the
directional buttons. If you hold the A button while moving, you can move all of
your groups together in their current formation.

When enemies are in range, the crew fires automatically at them. They only fire
if you're not currently moving the team however. Always stop moving when you
want to shoot.

Terrain and Morale are both very important in Land Battle. Morale effects how
well the group will fight, and whether or not they will run away from battle.
As with Sword Battle, the morale levels from worst to best are: panic, shaken,
angry, firm, strong, and wild!

Morale will go up or down depending on how many men and guns the group has
compared to the group they are fighting, and also depending on how many men
they kill and lose. An outnumbered group is very likely to panic and start
running away.

Terrain effects how fast a group travels and how well protected they are. The
best terrain to be in is forest. It gives your group a lot of protection from
musket fire, and the enemy also can't see you when you're moving around in the
forest. Clear land is bad for musket fights, but you can move very quickly in
it. Marshes slow you down, and I'm not sure how they effect your defense.

The goal of Land Battle is to reach the fort. You can either decide to storm
the fort directly, or to try to kill off all the defenders first. Once you
storm the fort, you are taken into a Sword Battle.

*Hint* A good tactic is to hide a group or two in the forest, and use another
group out in the open to lure the enemy towards the hidden groups. It sets up
a nice damaging ambush.

4.1 Defeat

No matter how mighty you are, you always have a good chance of suffering
defeat. There are several bad things in this game that will harm you and your
pirating career. Here are some descriptions of these events so that you can
hopefully avoid a bad fate.

Several of these events lead to you being wounded. Wounds effect your health,
making your possible career shorter, and they also negatively effect your
end score and happiness.

If you are defeated in a Sword Battle, you will probably find yourself wounded
and thrown in jail. Several months will pass before you are rescued. You may
lose health, happiness, reputation, gold, ships, men, and overall score.

If your ship is destroyed in a Ship Battle, or if you lose all of your ships
in any other way (such as by sailing over reefs), you will be stranded on an
uncharted island. As with being thrown in jail, several months will pass
before you are rescued, and you will lose the same things. This also wounds

If your men are starving because you don't have enough food in the hold, some
of them will steal a boat and sail away with part of your goods and money.

If your men are angry, they may mutiny and challenge you to a Sword Battle or
simply steal a boat and escape with money and goods. Men become angry when you
have too many men, not enough gold, not enough food, have not battled in a
long time, have sailed too long away from towns, have stayed in a town too
long, have tried to dig for treasure too many times without any luck, or have
fled from battles too many times. The best ways to make the men happy again
most of the time are to attack something, make more gold, and to get some men
killed in battle.

If you stay in a town too long by repeatedly going into a tavern, you may be
forced into being a servant to a rich noble. Months will pass by until you are
rescued. You may lose money, reputation, men, ships, happiness, and overall

4.2 Retirement

When the time comes, your character can finally retire and (hopefully) live
the good life on his earnings from being a pirate. This allows you to see
your score as a pirate, how important and happy your character is after
retiring, and what he becomes when he gives up pillaging and destroying.

To retire, you simply choose the retire option after dividing up the plunder.
For information about dividing the plunder, see the section on Towns.

After you retire, you will be shown several windows describing your status.

First you will see your overall reputation. If you have always been daring and
bold, people will remember you that way. If you have run from more battles
than you can count, or have rarely battled at all, people may remember you as
meek or cowardly.

Then you will see the total amount of gold and land you have acquired during
your career, and how wealthy you are in comparison to most people. You may be
penniless or you may be disgustingly wealthy.

Next you are shown your titles in each country, and how important all of them
together make you in your community. If you're just a lowly Major, no one will
think you're very important. If you're a noble, you will become an important
member of the community.

The next window will show how old you were when you retired, how many family
members you saved, how many times you were wounded, what your wife is like if
you have one, and how happy you have become during your life. If you have
suffered you may be a bitter and angry man. If you have triumphed, you will be

The last window shows you your score and what your job is after retiring from
pirating. Your score can range from under 0 points to 100 points. The best jobs
require a very good score, and THE best job requires a full 100 points. The
jobs in order from worst to best are as follows:

Farm Hand
Sailing Master
Shop Owner
Council Member
Merchant Captain
Sugar Planter
Wealthy Merchant
Plantation Owner
Rich Banker
Fleet Admiral
Lt. Governor
Kings Advisor

If your score is high enough, you may be entered into the Hall of Fame.

After retiring, you may choose to return to the pirate's life after all. You
will then spend a few months getting together a ship and crew to go out again
into the world.

Here's hoping that you live happily ever after!

5.1 Thanks and Notes

I want to thank the creators of Pirates! for making what I think is the best
NES game ever.

I want to thank my husband Zangulus for letting me hog the computer while I
wrote this guide. And for just being special. ;P

And most of all I want to thank CJayC for creating and running GameFAQs, the
best video game web site I've ever seen.

If you have any questions, comments, or information you think should be in this
guide, you can contact me at Moonjay@gmail.com. Please include the word
Pirates! in the topic title, or it may be deleted. You may also find me at the
Poll of the Day board on GameFAQs.

5.2 Legal Stuff

Copyright 2003 Moonjay

This may be not be reproduced under any circumstances except for personal,
private use. It may not be placed on any web site or otherwise distributed
publicly without advance written permission. Use of this guide on any other
web site or as a part of any public display is strictly prohibited, and a
violation of copyright.

This guide was written to be hosted on www.gamefaqs.com. If you wish to host
this guide elsewhere, contact me for permission. If permission is granted, this
guide must be shown in its complete and unaltered form. All legal information
must be kept intact, and my name must be on it. Do not claim this guide as
your own.

All trademarks and copyrights contained in this document are owned by their
respective trademark and copyright holders.

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