The biggest trial of any pirate crew is in Sea Battles, where duty puzzle skills, dueling prowess, and tactical navigation combine for a true test of mettle! When two ships engage at sea, the navigator's puzzle is replaced by the strategic Sea Battle board. In this turn-based game, the pieces are directly related to the crew's performance! Better Sailing piles on more move tokens. Damage unrepaired by Carpentry lets in bilge, which if not pumped out by the Bilging puzzle, cuts down move tokens. Cannons loaded with the Gunning puzzle become ammunition available to the navigator. Everyone aboard must work together if their ship is to triumph over their enemies!
Once one of the ships grapples the other, a boarding battle of either Swordfighting or Rumble breaks out to decide the fate of the Hold, and all crewmen on both sides take part! Not only that, damage done during the skirmish clogs the puzzle board of the unlucky victims, and any lack of proper ship supplies will cloud their play! When the boarding battle completes, to the victor goes the spoils! The boarding battle will be Swordfighting if the opposing ship contains other players or Brigands. The boarding battle will be Rumble if the opposing ship contains Barbarians.
Selecting a Target
Sea Battles are initiated and controlled by a commanding officer, often the navigator but sometimes a crew officer assigned to the Crow's Nest to look out for likely targets.
Might and ye Colored Rings
The cumulative ratings of all those on board a vessel is known as the 'Might' of the vessel. Ships are displayed with a colored ring based on their Might relative to that of your vessel...
The compared Might is ordered as follows, from Dark Blue (much weaker than your vessel) to Dark Red (much stronger):
Green ships are those who are close to yours in Might, and therefore usually good targets.
Beware the Black Ship
There be a legend that a Black Ship stalks the Oceans, taking vengeance upon those who pick on fish too small for 'em. The Black Ship is terrifying and, it is thought, invincible. In short, if ye attack a blue-ringed ship (anything bluer than green, e.g. cyan, is dangerous) then ye stands a chance of meeting the Black Ship. The chance is much higher if you attack player vessels. If ye are unfortunate enough to meet the Black Ship, it will only take the place of yer opponent when you move to the Sea Battle, so ye have a chance to disengage quickly if ye realizes that your intended prey is a little too blue.
The black ship cares not whether ye be at war or peace, friend or fiend, only that ye be attackin' a far weaker foe. Consider yerselves warned!
The Chart Table 'Radar'
Black Ships aside, never let it be said that there be no magic on the ocean waves. By a strange enchantment placed on every charting table, it is possible to see the vessels nearby!
Use the zoom button to move in close enough to see the ships properly. They are colored by their relative Might, so you can pick out juicy targets.
Sea Routes and their Difficulty
There are established routes between the islands of each Archipelago and over the long distances between Archipelagos. Each route between islands has a rumored difficulty, indicated by the relative darkness of a route's league points on the Course Charting menu. The harder Brigands and Barbarians prefer the more difficult routes, and are more likely to pillage weaker vessels on a difficult route.
Engaging the Enemy
A Battle commences when the navigator sights a ship that looks like a likely prize. Clicking on the ship and signaling 'Attack!' begins the chase.
Before the cannon play can begin, the attacker must chase down their prize. If necessary, the attacking ship will turn about and begin chasing the fleeing vessel. During this time it is critical that the sailors put on a healthy burst of speed!
Note that it's not possible to begin chasing a vessel when either your ship or theirs is at a league point.
The Sea Battle
Should the chase be successful, the two ships move into Sea Battle! The display will change to the Battle Navigation interface for the navigator, with the other crew members being shown a smaller version of the action whilst they puzzle.
You can scroll around the sea battle view using the left mouse button (which returns the view to show your vessel) or the right mouse button (which leaves the view in place).
The Helm and Battling from Within a Puzzle
The officer in control of the Sea Battle will be the last one to 'take the helm'. Usually this means the player Navigating, but it is possible for another officer to take the helm directly from the wheel during a battle.
Should you have the helm, you can move to any puzzle and control the Sea Battle from within the puzzle, essentially manning two stations at once! As expected, this is challenging, but if done well, can certainly give your vessel an edge in battle.
Sea Battle Objective
The objective of the Sea Battle for the attacker is to close in on the prize, grapple them, and begin boarding, preferably after scoring a few cannon hits in order to soften up the opposition.
For the defending ship, they may choose to either flee the attacker, or fight back with cannons. Should the defender achieve at least ten game turns without being either shot with cannon or boarded, they can choose to end the battle and escape.
Movement and Firing Tokens
The diligent Navigator will note that on the bottom left of their battle screen they have a set of different tokens to move forward, turn left and right, fire their cannons and grapple. By each type of token is a number indicating the supply of tokens available for the navigator to use. The endeavors of the sailors on board your vessel will earn tokens to move forward and turn, whilst the gunners accumulate firing tokens by loading full cannons.
The Auto option assigns newly-generated movement tokens automatically, and aims to keep a balance of left, forward and right tokens. The radio buttons above the movement tokens show which token is going to be generated next. If the navigator wants a different token next, they can uncheck Auto and click above the appropriate token to obtain the tokens they are waiting for.
In order to make use of these tokens, the crafty navigator drags them from their "hand" to the slots. It is also possible to drag tokens back out of the slots, if you decide to revise a move. You can also click the empty spaces to place a token there. Clicking again cycles to the next token type (<, ^, >). Cannons may be fired from the port and starboard sides of the vessel (that's left and right, for landlubbers), and larger ships may fire cannons twice on either side in each phase.
Note that the large ships have a "spacer" that prevents them moving four times in a turn. This spacer moves when you place movement tokens over it, or can itself be dragged.
When the sands of the hourglass run through, the turn is executed.
Within each turn, the four phases are executed in order: within each phase, first any movement tokens are applied, then any wind or whirlpool takes effect, then any cannon shots or grapples are applied.
Cannons and their Consequences
Cannons fire straight out from either side of the vessel.
Should your vessel be hit by a cannon it will be damaged an amount that depends on the size of the cannon. Damaged vessels take on more bilge and therefore become harder to sail, making it difficult to accumulate more tokens with which to pursue or evade the opponent. Diligent Carpentry will repair a damaged vessel.
When a Sea Battle reaches boarding, crews who have sustained damage during the Sea Battle begin the boarding puzzle with reduced game space proportional to the damage. In Swordfighting, this damage appears as stacks of black blocks at the bottom of the puzzle space. In Rumble, this appears as a solid grey area at the top of the puzzle space. This damage effect cannot be destroyed, essentially limiting the size of the board for those poor wretches afflicted, and making their puzzling that much more challenging.
Hazards: Wind, Whirlpools, and Rocks
A number of Hazards can be seen on the Sea Battle map:
- Wind will push your vessel in a direction, regardless of which way the ship faces.
- Whirlpools will swirl your vessel around. They are predictable, but tricky.
- Rocks will stop a vessel dead in its tracks, causing it a little damage.
- The edge of the board also acts like rocks, causing damage.
Wind and whirlpools can be used by the skilled navigator to the player's advantage, adding extra speed to the vessel. Note that whirlpools do their whirling and winds their winding after the player's movement turn, but before the fire of cannons.
Ramming other Vessels
If you collide with another ship both ships will be damaged, but larger ships inflict much greater damage on smaller ships. Indeed, they can even push them out of the way!
Should the defenders succeed in evading their attacker for a number of turns they will have the opportunity to end the Sea Battle and flee. On the Battle Navigation screen, you can see if there are three or fewer turns remaining before the defender can disengage.
To board the other vessel you must bring your ship alongside your quarry, into an adjacent space, and play a grapple token in the correct direction. Grapple tokens can be played at any time, and do not need to be accumulated like other tokens, but you cannot fire and grapple from the same side of the ship in the same turn. Any cannon fire from your opponent will, however, take effect while you cast your hook.
Once one side successfully grapples the other, then boarding occurs.
In boarding, the attacking crew swings across to the defending ship and a pitched battle takes place between the two crews. The two crews face each other over the board. The battle will be Swordfighting against Brigands, or Rumble against Barbarians.
You will be assigned a random opponent, but can select another enemy by clicking on them; that pirate will then receive your blows. Beside each pirate, you can see dots that indicate how many enemies have targeted that pirate. Note that it's not usually a good idea for more than 3 or 4 pirates to gang up on a single individual. The dots are each two colors, and the outer and inner colors of the target dot represent the primary and secondary colors of the weapon being used by the person attacking. In Rumble battles, it is also possible to defend a crewmate from attacks by clicking on them.
In large battles with more than eight pirates on a side, there appear two buttons to move up and down the list of pirates. In addition to that, the [ and ] keys can be used to adjust your target up and down.
As pirates are defeated, they are shuffled to the bottom of the list on either side. The crew with the last pirate(s) standing is declared the winner!
When a Brigand or Barbarian vessel is pillaged, the victorious pirates receive a handsome settlement of gold, along with a share of any commodities they might have aboard (doubtless pillaged from other hapless souls). After winning a battle, 50% of the Pieces of Eight won are immediately divided among the pirates aboard. The crew's restock cut of that 50% will be automatically placed in the ship's Hold, or into an officer's pocket if no Fleet Officers or above are aboard. The rest of the booty is placed into the Booty chest to be divided when the vessel returns to port. Should a pirate vessel manned by players be defeated, a portion of the commodities in the Hold and the commodities and gold in the Booty will be pillaged by the victorious crew, with more taken from the Booty than the Hold. As the amount in the Booty increases over the course of a pillage, the amount of booty that could be lost in a battle increases, but so does the likely payout from victories against subsequent Brigands and Barbarians.
Cooling-off after the Battle
For a lengthy period of time after a battle, the defeated pirates may not be attacked by the same crew. They may, however, attempt to attack the victors and revenge themselves. In addition, it is not possible to attack either party from another battle for two minutes afterward.
Player Versus Player Action
In addition, ye may try to chase down and pillage yer fellow pirates and traders! Ye will receive a share of whatsoever gold and commodities lie in their hold. Beware! Real pirates may make for much harder foes than lily-livered Brigands and Barbarians.
On Subscription and Doubloon Oceans, if the flags of the two crews in battle are at war with one another, then the Sea Battle between them will be a sinking battle! Ships with whom you are at war can be discerned in the sea view by their red outlines. In such a battle, if a vessel is hit by enemy cannons or ramming such that it is fully damaged, then it will sink! The ship is forever lost to Davy Jones with all its contents, and the poor crew washes up on the shore of their last port. Some may have lost an eye (for a patch), a leg (for a peg leg) or a hand (for a hook)! Arr, the rigors of war!