Cutlass Isle Tutorial: Beginners' FAQ

(Tutorial by Airsaw)

How do I begin, really?

This isn't a guide to a quick and dirty win. It is more of an orientation, a way to get one's bearings to more easily slide into gameplay with some sense of purpose and direction. Pirates! is a game which has an infinite possibility for variation. This makes things more than interesting. You don't repeat step-for-step, as many video games require. "Winning" can then be whatever you choose it to be, not a mechanical repitition of "correct" moves leading to a prize. There isn't a "right" way to play. There is "Your" way of play, and this will come to players as they become more familiar with the game.

There is a scoreboard of sorts. Several categories fill a point system. You have ten named pirates to defeat to fill that category. There are ten treasures to find, filling that one, and so on through finding the hidden cities, rescuing your relatives and capturing the evil-doer who so beset your family. Yet, the game isn't limited to these. You can also set your own goals, or ambitions. You can fill the points in the categories while playing-out any strategy you set for yourself. You also have "Fame Points". These are shown on the gamescreen in red at the top of your wind rose. (The wind rose is at the lower left of your gamescreen. It looks like a compass, but it isn't. It shows you the direction the wind is blowing and at what speed.)

This post will mainly deal with the nature of the game in general. The Guide section of Cutlass Isle has information about specific parts of the game, such as dancing and fencing. Also, the Hints & Strategies section of the forum tells in great detail what many experienced players have discovered. It is recommended new players take the time to read these, as they are compiled by players with much experience with the game, and they contain some useful hints and tips to help a new player get a handle on each feature.

Making heads, or tails of matters.

After the introductory video, which sets the stage for the game, and explains "how you ended up here in the first place", you'll come to a screen allowing you to name your character. Below this you'll see various levels - Apprentice, Journeyman, etc., then a choice of specific skills you may choose (one), then a starting era. Mousing over each selection will give you a description of each. To begin it's recommended you select "Apprentice" or "Journeyman", at least until you're familiar with the gameboard/maps and other features. The recommended skill is "fencing", since swordfights are a major feature of the game, and until you're familiar with this feature, you'll need all the help you can get! The recommended era to begin play is "1660 - Golden Age of Pirates". This is self-explanatory once you're into the game. The other eras, and the challenges they contain will make sense to you once you've puttered around this era for a few voyages. Having signed-on, you're offered a nationality to sail with. The game will identify this as your own nationality. There is significance in gameplay to which nation you choose, but just starting out, any one will do.

This done, you click on the "continue" sword, and you are in another well-produced video depicting how you came to obtain a ship, and became a .... PIRATE! When this video ends, you'll suddenly find yourself in command of a ship, on the ocean, heading for a port owned by the nationality you've picked. TIP: When the game screen suddenly appears (after the video) IMMEDIATELY pause the game. Take a look around. On the PC version, the numbers keypad #7 is the pause button. The 3 key opens your status screens. Take a look at all the features you find there. Your ship and crew condition, your player status is there, the overall game map, too. Find out what ship you have. Look this up in the Pirateopedia and familiarize yourself with the features of your ship, and so on. Once you're aware of what you have at hand, unpause the game, and go into your nation's port (the one your ship is heading for when the gamescreen appears.) You'll enter the port automatically by sailing directly into it. Then, run down the available list. Visit the governor, the tavern, the merchant and take a look around. This should be enough to give you a good idea of what you have to work with. It's very straightforward and visiting the various places in port will make obvious what each does for you.

What should I do to begin play? What's my first goal?

You probably noticed you didn't buy your ship from a used ship lot. You seized the ship you signed-onto as a sailor. Beggers can't be choosers, and your starting ship isn't the best ship to use as a pirate. Sometimes it's a merchant vessel (slow with few guns). Sometimes it's a smaller sloop (fast, but fragile ... with few guns). So, to do some real piratin' you must obtain a useable ship. (There are copious posts in the Life at Sea section of the forum dealing specifically with ship types, qualities, and arguments for and against for the various vessels experienced players call "good piratin' ships.") There isn't necessarily a "best ship". Which one suits you is something you'll discover through trial and error. As you develop your own style of play, which ship suits that style will become apparent to you. Suffice to say, however, the first goal you have in this game is to obtain a ship that is good for piratin'. In the easier levels, Apprentice and Journeyman, it's easy enough to run right out and grab a ship, but this doesn't pose much of a challenge. Attempting this in the higher levels will result in disaster, so obtaining your piratin' ship should be done in phases, or steps. Good warships have captains that are good at fighting. Until the new player is familiar with how to fight ship-to-ship, or hand-to-hand, it's probably best to confine attacks to merchant vessels. Your first visit to the governor, he'll give you a letter of marque and tell you of a ship he's sending on a mission nearby. Go along with that ship and see what you can find there. TIP: The ship the governor sends will either bombard an enemy port, or attack enemy ships near the port. If it attacks a ship, you can let it damage its target somewhat, then attack that target ship yourself. The target will be somewhat weakened, and damaged, and won't present much of a problem to defeat. This will give you some room to investigate just how to fight the various battles. If this friendly ship attacks the port instead, go ahead and attack a merchant vessel. Once again, posts in the Life at Sea section of Cutlass Isle will cover the ins and outs of sea battles. Take a look to get some good advice on how this is done, and what to expect. Once you're handy with your cannon and sword, it's time to go for that ship suited for piratin'.

I've captured "the" ship, now what?

ARGH! You're the skipper! I now refer you to the Hints & Strategies section of the forum. Before you go, a word or two about your main concerns as you go. Crew Happiness. This is a rather innovative method to keep the pressure on the gamer. There's a coin with a smiley face, or a frown, or a downright frightening glower/blinking look that is important to the captain - which is you. You need to keep the smiles on your crew's faces. If you don't, each time you leave port, some of your crewmen will jump ship. If you have a prize ship in tow, and the crew gets blinkin' angry with you, a goodly portion of your men will run off with that ship! They'll also take with them some of your captured goods, and cannon! You could lose a lot of hard work this way, so how is it done? This is discussed in detail, very entertainingly I might add, in many posts, and strings in the Cutlass Isle Forum, mainly in Hints & Strategies.

Philosophically speaking, consider that your crew has spent many years sailing the Carribean, and sight-seeing isn't something they've hired-on with you to do. They hired-on to get a large cut of that treasure you're piling up. Always sail with a mission in mind. Meandering around while you think on what next to do only makes them groan with impatience. They want that gold total of yours to go up and up and up, because their end, in the end, goes up and up and up, too. If you spend gold in town for niceties like dancing shoes, or a fancy set of pistols, their end goes down, and so does the corners of their mouths. If you hire-on crew, the same thing happens. Your crew wants action, and it's up to you to provide. If you sail with the same amount of gold for a lengthy period of time, their prospects aren't getting any better. If you keep them busy, capturing prize ships, or large treasure troves, you'll find them smiling. There are items you can buy, or win by dancing with the governor's daughter, that will aid in crew morale. There's a specialist who can do the same thing. Far into the game, you'll have the chance to win the best of the specialists, and crew morale then becomes a minor thing, but until you get there, keep 'em busy. Try to plan your moves while in town. Sail as efficiently as possible so as not to waste their time and labors, and keep increasing that pile of gold. If things get too out of hand, you'll be forced to divide your spoils in town, and hire another crew. The game only allows you to do this so many times before you're forced to retire, so hold out as long as you can before taking this drastic step. When your crew is unhappy, they don't fight as well, so your swordfighting skill is less sharp than it could be. There's even an effect in how much damage you do to your targets in ship-to-ship battles, so above all else, be mindful of that crew's morale. Your overall game strategy will be a thing that comes to you as you get into the game, and gain familiarity with it. Now, if you want to know what others have done, peruse Hints & Strategies. The posts are not only entertaining, they're informative as well.