Date: 24 July 2005
Cutlass Isle Tutorial: The Dreaded Ship of the Line
Headrock's In-Depth FAQ on the most elusive ship in the Caribbean
If you're an avid "Sid Meier's Pirates!" fan, and have either read Sashanan's
FAQ, spent some time in the manual or pirateopedia, or have otherwise heard
rumors about the Ship of the Line and have wondered about it, this would be a
good read for you.
This FAQ details, among other things, mostly everything you need to know
about acquiring and sailing the fearsome Ship of the Line, from the basics to
the most advanced concepts.
| Before Reading
I apologize beforehand, but throughout this FAQ, I am going to use several
expressions to illustrate several concepts in the game. Some of these may be
commonly accepted, some may be my own, so first I'll try to define most of
them, to make your reading easier.
- From here on, I will occasionally use the acronym "SOL" to signify a Ship
of the Line. In forums and other FAQs it may sometimes be referred to as a
"SotL", but I think "SOL" sounds much cooler. Not my idea, though.
- Since SOLs (look, I used it right there) are basically big, nasty Frigates,
most of what is written here about sailing and combat may also apply to
Frigates and Large Frigates. Not everything, though, so pay attention.
- When I say "Frigates", I mean either the specific ship type called
"Frigate" in the game, or the whole family of ships consisting of the Frigate,
Large Frigate, and Ship of the Line. Again, this can be discerned by context,
but isn't always obvious. I'll try using the term "Frigate-class" if I'm
talking about the whole family, but I'm not promising anything.
- "Galleons", in the game, break into two families of three ship-types each.
For ease of referance, the slower, "fatter" galleons are called "Merchant
Galleons", and include the Trade Galleon, Treasure Galleon, and Royal Galleon
used by the spanish to haul cargo and big fat money around. The other three
Galleon types available are more battle-designed (Although badly), and so
will be referred to as "Combat Galleons". This includes the Fast Galleon, War
Galleon, and Flag Galleon. Confusing? Well, you know, this FAQ ain't about
- Though I'll often use the common wind directions to describe sailing angles
(the same listed in the manual and on quick referance sheets, like "Close
Hauled" or "Beam Reach" and the likes), sometimes I'll be using other various
ways to describe wind directions and aspects. Basically, upwind means "in the
direction that wind is COMING from", and downwind means "The direction
towards which the wind is blowing". If that's hard to follow, just remember
that the "red arrow" wind indicator keeps pointing DOWNWIND. I'll sometimes
say "Off to the side", meaning perpendicular (90 degrees) to this arrow's
direction, but it really doesn't matter to which side.
- For all you non-sailors out there (Oh wait, I'm not a sailor either, am
I?), Port means "left" and Starboard means "right", when referring to things
in regards to your ship's heading. The Bow is the front of the ship, and
stern is the back. Something that's off the starboard and to the stern is
somewhere behind and to the right of your ship.
- I can't really guage distances in ship battles as exact values, sorry. The
game doesn't help with that (and I don't really think it should!), but as an
alternate way to measure how far two ships are from one another, is to use
Round-shot, Chain-shot and Grape-shot ranges as indicators of distance. If
you can fire roundshot at your enemy, you're within "Roundshot distance", and
in you can fire Grape-shot, you're in "Grape-shot distance" of the enemy (Of
course, you're also within HIS distance for that particular type of ammo,
eh?). With experience you learn to be able to tell how far you are from the
enemy in regard to different ammo ranges, even without actually switching to
them to see if you're in range. However, a good point to be cleared now:
Since there is a big difference between said ranges when you're using Fine-
Grain powder and when you're not, I'll say right off that this FAQ presumes
the distances discussed are FINE-GRAIN ranges, and not otherwise. Just to
- All battle maneuvers listed here, aside from the schematics themselves,
do not actually mention the wind direction, because that can change. If
you're playing Apprectice level, the wind is always going west. In harder
difficulty levels, wind can even go South and North, and change radically
throughout both sailing and combat - PAY ATTENTION TO THE WIND. If it shifts
against you, failure to respond can leave you in a very tight spot.
Editor's note: The reader should be aware of the fact that the schematics presented in this article are not to scale and should be taken as abstract representations of the battle situations.
| Table of Contents
-  Short Story
-  BASIC DEFINITION OF THE TERM "SHIP OF THE LINE"
- [1.1] SOME FACTS ABOUT THE SOL
-  WHY IS THE SHIP OF THE LINE CONSIDERED SUCH A HARD CATCH?
- [2.1] WHEN DO FRIGATE-CLASS SHIPS SPAWN?
- [2.2] HOW HARD IS IT TO SUBDUE A SOL ONCE I'VE CHASED IT DOWN?
- [2.3] HOW GOOD ARE MY CHANCES TO SPOT A SOL AT ALL?
-  HOW USEFUL IS THE SOL?
-  HOW DO I CATCH A SHIP OF THE LINE?
- [4.1] WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE A SOL COME OUT?
- [4.2] HOW DO I DEFEAT A SOL IN SEA-COMBAT?
- [4.2.1] HOW DO I USE A SLOOP, PINNACE, OR WAR CANOE AGAINST A SOL?
- [4.2.2] HOW DO I USE A BRIG AGAINST A SOL?
- [4.2.3] HOW DO I USE ANY KIND OF FRIGATE AGAINST A SOL?
- [4.2.4] HOW DO I USE A COMBAT-GALLEON AGAINST A SOL?
- [4.2.5] HOW DO I USE A MERCHANT SHIP AGAINST A SOL?
- [4.2.6] WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THE SOL IS ESCORTED?
- [4.2.7] FINAL WORDS ON SOL-CATCHING COMBAT TACTICS
-  I GOTS ME A SOL! NOW HOW DO I USE THIS THING?
- [5.1] HOW SHOULD I HANDLE MY OVERALL STRATEGY?
- [5.2] HOW DO I USE THE SHIP OF THE LINE IN COMBAT?
- [5.2.1] WHAT SHOULD I DO ONCE COMBAT STARTS?
- [5.2.2] OK, I'VE DAMAGED THE ENEMY AND WANT TO CLOSE TO CHAIN-SHOT RANGE. HOW DO I DO THIS WITHOUT LOSING ADVANTAGE?
- [5.2.3] THE ENEMY'S IN BAD SHAPE, AND I'M READY TO CLOSE INTO GRAPE-SHOT RANGE. HOW DO I END IT?
- [5.2.4] WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN ATTACKING SMALL SHIPS THAT ARE FAST ENOUGH TO ESCAPE?
- [5.3] HOW DOES PLAYING WITH THE SAILS HELP ME USE MY SOL IN COMBAT?
- [5.4] SUMMARY ON SOL COMBAT
-  HOW DO I MAKE LOTS OF SOLS COME OUT?
- [6.1] WHAT IS A "KILLING FIELD"?
- [6.2] WHICH STARTING ERA AND NATION SHOULD I CHOOSE?
- [6.3] WHAT DO I DO ONCE I'VE STARTED THE GAME?
- [6.4] I'VE GOTTEN MEN, MONEY, AND A GOOD SHIP. WHAT DO I DO NEXT?
- [6.5] WHEN DO I GET TO HAVE FUN?
- [6.6] HOW DO I GET MORE THAN ONE SOL?
- [6.7] (NEW) STRATEGY #2: SOLs in 1600
|  Short Story
"It was a long week in port at St. Eustatius. Repairs on the Royal
Sloop "Revenge" lasted for nearly 5 days, and now it was finally ready to go
back out to sea. The governor reported much English activity has been spotted
around the Island, and has requested of you to hunt down the foul enemy to
its last man. You take this mission happily - the English have been a thorn
in your side for almost a year now, their pirate hunters getting bolder and
bolder by the month, and now sailing ever larger Brigs and Frigates to
capture you for that lucrative 50,000 gold pieces on your head. But you'll be
damned if you let them stop you, their fat Merchantmen and East Indiamen are
ripe for the picking, and the Shipwright here at St. Eustatius has promised
to buy any larger frigates you can catch off your hands at very tempting
So, with a cheery heart, your 100 men board the vessel and set sail
out to the Big Blue Sea.
As the Sloop weaves its way out of port, it passes a Dutch Brig
sailing off towards San Juan on a raiding mission. The captain hollers
towards you that he had just gotten news of two escorted English Merchantmen
sailing south across the Lesser Antilles towards Barbados, and wishes you
good hunting. Your ship breaks off to the south, quickly zipping out of the
bay, heading south on its war patrol.
After two days of fast sailing, with the winds helping with every
bit, the watchman in the crow's nest reports having spotted the first
merchantman escorted by a Sloop of War. With cheers and eager battlecries,
your sloop quickly maneuvers to a better position, and charges at the
Merchantman with complete surprise to board and overtake the ship before the
escort even has time to figure out what is happening. The escort is next,
with a fierce battle taking place on board, swords slashing and guns blazing.
Finally, the battle is over. The merchantman is quickly sunk, its prize
hauled first on board your vessel, the enemy Sloop captured and added to your
fleet. Without further ado, you raise the sails and continue southwards, your
mind set on capturing the other merchantman as well before it can reach
In the west, you can now see the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis,
enemy territory. As the night draws closer, you spot an enemy warship closing
in on your position. A pirate-hunter, no doubt, a Brig of War, coming to
claim the bounty on your head. Elusively, you steer the ships downwind and
quickly evade the enemy vessel. By morning it has disappeared.
Passing by Antigua, you decide to taunt the English further by
sailing closer to their sea-side fort. The enemy men, quickly identifying
your flag waving above your notorious sloop, they man their positions in a
panicked bustle and begin firing their cannons your way. What fools, you
think to yourself. Your ships, aided by the strong southwesterly winds,
evade the shots easily, returning several volley as you pass. The English
have been pursuing you ever since you sacked Eleuthera in the north, and you
have returned to them in kind by plundering and sinking any ship of theirs
that happens to cross paths with you. The people of Antigua are particularily
annoyed - aside from your hobby of bombarding their forts whenever you sail
across these islands, they remember clearly that you have sunk every merchant
ship that came in from Barbados for the past year, depriving their city of
much-needed luxuries and spices.
As your ships finally clear Antigua, their fortress disappearing
behind a mountain, your crew relaxes and begins readjusting the sails. Then,
suddenly, the cry bellows from the crow's nest:
"FRIGATE OFF THE BOW!"
The crew scramble back to their positions as you whip out your
spyglass and peer into the horizon. The square rigs on the enemy are hard to
mistake, it is a Frigate alright, flying the red cross of England atop its
tallest mast. This battle will be hard to avoid, you decide, and declare that
the enemy will not stop you from your task, and must be dealt with, promptly.
However, as the two ships close, it dawns on you that this might be the
largest Frigate you've ever seen in your long time in the Caribbean.
The enemy, however, seems to be on some sort of a different agenda,
sailing at a very slow speed in the general direction of Nevis. Once they
spot your ship, however, their attitude seems to change. Their massive ship
seems to pivot gracefully sideways, displaying its broadside to your eyes. It
is then that you finally realize the extent of the encounter. This is no
ordinary Large Frigate, but in fact the Dreaded Ship of the Line, and its 48
cannons are pointed directly at you.
Before you can utter another command, the enemy ship suddenly opens
fire with everything it has! You quickly shout your orders, your ship
creaking as it turns to avoid the incoming fire. The wind is with you, as you
turn your sails flutter and fight against it, but finally you manage to
maneuver sideways, hopefully to dodge the volley altogether. But those
cannonballs seem so numerous. The bulk of them splash down port-wise and
off to the stern, the next fly over your top mast, one of them tearing a
small hole in the sail.
The last four cannonballs shriek right by your heads, and one smacks into
your hull, smashing a hole the size of a grown man into the top deck.
"FIRE!", you shout at once, and release a flaming broadside of 16 cannons at
the enemy, so far away off to the south. 'At least', you think, 'we shall
repay him in kind'.
But the Frigate suddenly lowers its sails, and veers off with good
speed away to the south. Its sailors struggle and finally raise the sails
again, and the ship seems to be whizzing away at a very good speed. As you
watch, your cannonfire splashes short of the enemy, well off its stern,
leaving no mark on the enemy juggernaught. Frustrated, you order the sails to
be raised, turning to pursue.
The enemy captain, encouraged by his successful dodge, lowers his
sails once again, and turns his ship with surprising speed to bring its
broadside your way again. It fires another deadly volley, but this time your
ship has gained some good speed, and you decide to pass underneath the
cannonballs, struggling to close the distance. If the enemy wishes to bombard
you, they can now do so at leisure, but if only you can get close enough...
The enemy ship shows no intention to run. It releases another volley,
and this time, despite your speed, you are hit by several shots, some
roundshot crashing through your decks, some chainshot ripping through the
sail, and little pellets of Grapeshot rip through your crew, decimating your
men left and right. But by now you are close enough. You tack to port,
sliding out of the enemy's line of fire, and quickly pull starboard to sail
next to the enemy warship, now looming above your tiny vessel, a huge menace
of the seas.
With a crash, your ships collide, and hooks are thrown high into the
air to catch the top deck of the enemy ship. Pirates scramble up the ropes,
some falling off into the sea, slain by bullets fired from enemy pistols -
the enemy ship is literally packed with enemy soldiers, all intent on placing
every last one of your crewmembers in Davy Jones' Locker. Swords flash as
your remaining pirates scramble over their side, and quickly the sound of
battle is everywhere. You hop over the side and into the fray, just as an
English officer, an Admiral it seems, storms angrily out of his cabin towards
you, a shiny Rapier in his hand..."
|  Basic definition of the term "Ship of the Line"
The Ship of the Line is in fact the largest kind of Frigate-class ship
available in the game. As you would probably know if you've read the manual
or have played the game a bit, there are several "Classes", sort of like
"Families" of ships, from the tiny "Pinnace-class" to the hulking
"Galleon-class". These classes differ from one another in all variables, from
crew size to speed and maneuverability. Each family has a different model for
its ships, and they are quite easily distinguished from one another also on
the main sailing map. The different classes are also used for different
purposes by different nations, and some nations will change the kind of ship
they use when you select a different era of gameplay.
Each "Class" of ships has three variants - a small, medium and large
variant of the same ship-type, kinda like brothers who resemble one another
in many aspects, but one's big, the other small, and the last one's somewhere
in the middle. In the case of the Brig class, for example, you may encounter
a Brigantine (The small variant), a Brig (medium variant) or a Brig of War
(the Large variant).
The difference between the three variants of any class lies is in these six
factors. The bigger the variant, the higher these values grow:
A) The Maximum number of Crewmmbers you can carry on the
B) The Minimum number of Crew needed to sail the ship at its normal
C) The Maximum number of Cannons that the ship can use in combat
(not the limit of cannons you can have in the cargo hold).
D) Amount of space in the Cargo Hold for storing food,
commodities, and cannons.
E) The actual size of the ship model (All ships of the same
class have the same model, just bigger or smaller depending on the
F) And finally, the amount of damage the ship can take to
its hull and sails (Bigger variants can survive more hits). This point
is under debate, since it's so hard to keep track of cannonfire damage.
Other variables, like the ship's speed and turn rate, stay constant across
all three variants (except for the War Canoe, the "small" variant of the
Pinnace family, which appears to be faster and more agile than its bigger
siblings, although there's a hidden reason for this).
The Ship of the Line is the largest variant of the Frigate class, and
therefore surpasses the other Frigates (known in game as the "Frigate" and
"Large Frigate" types) in all the aforementioned categories.
The Ship of the Line is a "Large" warship. Like the other Frigate-class
variants, it is built both to be a powerful, gun-totting vessel, as well as
being fast enough to do combat with most other kinds of ships without being
[1.1] SOME FACTS ABOUT THE SOL
- The SOL carries aboard a maximum of 300 men. Once Triple-hammocks have
been upgraded on a SOL, it can carry 450 men, a whopping big number.
- The SOL carries 48 cannons on board, the same number a Flag Galleon
possesses. However, the SOL is much much faster and more maneuverable
than any Galleon. In fact, in the right winds, any Frigate type can sail
faster than any other ship. Of course, wind conditions are variable, and
you won't often encounter such situations where you have an overwhelming
wind advantage, but Frigates are still faster than any of the merchants
or the galleon class ships in any kind of wind.
- A SOL's minimum crew requirement stands at 24 men (whew, so few!),
and it can be sailed at maximum efficiency (fastest reloading and
sail-management) with only 168 men, which is still less than a
fully-packed Royal Sloop with Hammock upgrades.
- SOLs can carry 100 tons of cargo on board, almost as much as a Small
Merchantman. They sell for 1800 gold when they are fully upgraded, too.
- The damage capacity of a SOL is incredible. It can take an awful lot
of damage before sinking, although taking enough sail damage can easily
hurt a SOL enough to render it virtually useless for most conflicts,
just like any other ship.
- As far as sailing itself goes, any Frigate seems to be fastest when
going directly downwind or a bit off to one side. This is the Frigate's
"Best Point of Sailing". When fighting inside a storm, with winds going
at 20 knots, a SOL can easily clock 20 and above just by turning
downwind, making it the ship with highest speed potential in the
Caribbean. Still, like I've just said, this is only POTENTIAL, and not a
guarantee. These supreme speeds can only be attained at low and average
levels of difficulty. After that, speed penalties apply to your ship,
while enemy ships become faster.
|  Why is the ship of the line considered such a hard catch?
The SOL has often been called "Elusive", and this definitely has good reason.
Some people have finished several games without seeing ONE, let alone
capturing one. But why? Why is this single ship type so much rarer than
Aside from the most obvious reasons (like, hey man that's a pretty powerful
ship), the Ship of the Line also follows some technical rules that prevent it
from appearing as often as any other ship. Let's take a brief overview on the
various reasons why different ship types often appear in the open Caribbean:
- Merchantmen, Large Merchantmen, Fluyts and Large Fluyts, Barques and
Coastal Barques, and of course Trade Galleons, are all "Merchant" ship types.
You will very often see them sailing out of a port and headed to another city,
with cargo on board and possibly a good amount of gold. They are generated
frequently, much more frequently than any other ship, and most cities will
send one or two of those in a single month, as well as receive about two or
three! The largest variants of the various Merchant ship families, I.E. the
West Indiaman, East Indiaman and Treasure Galleon are rarer, appearing mostly
when a nation sends out a "Treasure ship". This still happens much more often
than SOL spawning. In any case capturing one for the purpose of using it in
combat is a silly practice since they can't sail to save their grandmothers.
- Sloops and Brigs, of all size variants, occur mostly as escorts (sent
automatically in a convoy with merchant ships to provide them escort in
places where a lot of combat has recently occurred, or by nations with whom
you are not on speaking terms). You'll often see them as Pirate-Hunters when
you've upset a nation - this is a very common occurance - they come out of
their cities, shouting at you to stand and fight. It is also very common to
meet Brig or Sloop raiders, privateers, pirates and famous-pirates, so these
are probably as common as the basic merchant ships in terms of general
appearance ratios. The Royal Sloop is somewhat of an exception, because in
some eras it will be much more rare. However one of the named-pirates (Roc
Brasiliano) sails one, and I believe that Royal Sloops can be "persuaded" to
enter the water in any era with some triggering event or another. Shouldn't
be too hard to get one, although you can bet that it is quite a good ship.
Try it sometime if you haven't already (I bet you already have).
- Pinnaces are common in some eras and uncommon in others, sometimes
used by the Spanish and sometimes by the non-Spaniards, they most often
appear as smugglers. The smallest variant, the Infamous Indian "War Canoe",
will often be sailing out of Indian Villages in a group of three canoes,
headed to raid a port somewhere. You can also enter the village and convince
the chieftain to send out his canoes to attack an enemy city, so War Canoes
are in no way "rare". Mail Runners, the largest of this type, are probably
the second most rare ship in the caribbean, and are often seen only when
dispatching amnesty missions or treaty missions, but may occur in different
- The larger "Combat Class Galleons" (Not to be confused with the
Merchant Galleons described earlier) are strictly Spanish, more often seen as
"Military Payroll", "Troop Transport" and "Invasion Force" ships sailing off
from Spanish ports, and sometimes released by the spaniards as "Pirate-
Hunters" and "Escorts" once you've upset Spain enough. However, since the
three Evil Spaniards used in the game's "quests" (namely Raymondo, Montalban
and Mendoza) sail the three variants of the Combat Galleon class, all you
need to be able to get one is to have one of these Spaniards "at large", I.E.
sailing around in the Caribbean, waiting for you to ambush him. This sort of
spawning easily triggered in many ways, including Dancing with Governors'
Daughters and visiting Jesuit Missionaries. Tracking down the spaniards can
be frustrating, but it is far less frustrating than trying to find a SOL.
This leaves us with the Frigate class.
[2.1] WHEN DO FRIGATE-CLASS SHIPS SPAWN?
Frigates and Large Frigates (the small and medium variants of the family,
respectively) can sail only out of non-spanish cities, as Escorts to Merchant
ships or as Pirate-Hunters sent out to capture you for the bounty on your
head. You will also see them as Raiders and Invasion forces sent by
non-spanish nations. In all cases, the Frigates will start popping up usually
when the enemy is pretty upset, or if shipping in the area of a city has been
hurt repeatedly. The Large Frigates seem to sail only out of "Prosperous" or
"Wealthy" cities, while the "regular" frigates can sail out of any city if it
has been annoyed enough. Also, the English are the only ones who use them!
And if you don't want to upset anyone, you can try going after the #1 pirate
of the Caribbean, Henry Morgan, who sails a Large Frigate, or #2, namely
Blackbeard, who sails a "regular" frigate.
However, the Ship of the Line does not fit into ANY of the above categories.
In fact, the only kind of SOL you will see in the game will be categorized as
a "New Warship" - you'll see this caption over the SOL when it appears on
your main sailing view. New Warships are not limited to SOL class, they can
be Royal Sloops, Brigs of War, sometimes Sloops of War, Frigates and Large
Frigates, and for the Spanish they'll be any kind of Combat Galleon. But
while the other ship types can be seen performing roles other than "New
Warship", the SOL will ONLY ONLY ONLY appear as a New Warship.
New Warships are released from cities in what at first may appear to be
completely random chance. A common frequency to see one is about one per
every 2-8 months, and even when one is released there is certainly no
guarantee that it will be a Ship of the Line. You'll sometimes even see a
Sloop of War "Escort" tugging a Sloop of War "New Warship" behind it. Rather
silly. However, once you've tried the strategies and pointers suggested in
this FAQ, you'll see how the chance of having a SOL spawn out can be
increased. Don't expect the sea to be crawling with them though. While many
affecting factors have been discovered, there is still a great mystery on the
exact number and magnitude of factors that make them come out. So far, even
with special strategies used, frequency doesn't increase to staggering
proportions, just maybe one SOL in a year or two.
[2.2] HOW HARD IS IT TO SUBDUE A SOL, ONCE I'VE CAUGHT UP WITH IT?
Battlewise, combating a ship with 48 cannons is always dangerous, but while a
Flag Galleon can be a menace simply because it's so heavily armed, the SOL is
both much faster and more agile and is therefore several fold more risky to
attack. There are several ways to catch a SOL using different tactics
designed for different ships. However, it is generally and strongly advised
that you do not go after a SOL with any of the following:
A) Merchant ships, like the Merchantman, Fluyt, Barque, etc.
They're too slow and poorly armed. The SOL
can outmaneuver any of them, and plant a 48-gun broadside on you,
crippling you further.
B) ANY kind of galleon
Again, way too slow. You might be able to
hit the SOL with a broadside of your own, but by then you've probably
taken a hit as well, and the SOL can still maneuver better than you.
C) A small combat vessel with sail or hull damage.
With small ships, you'll often want to
board as quickly as possible to avoid having to exchange cannonfire with
a ship three times your gun capacity. If you're already wounded, that
both reduces your ability to approach quickly, and increases the chance
that at a very short range the SOL will land a good number of shots on
you and either sink or horribly cripple you to a point where you can no
longer close the distance without taking more and more volleys (Until
such a point where you sink).
[2.3] HOW GOOD ARE MY CHANCES TO SPOT A SOL AT ALL?
When speaking about chance to locate one at sea in the first place, the
chances are very very slim. Like I've mentioned earlier, you may not even
encounter the SOL in an ENTIRE career. It depends on a whole lot of
factors, from the era you're playing in to the level of discontent you've
caused a European power, to the economic prowess of cities belonging to said
upset nation. Even in the "Sol Capture Walkthrough" described in a later
chapter, where you spend most of your time "engineering" conditions for a SOL
to appear, you may not see them more frequently than once per game year, and
sometimes even if you see one you won't be able to catch it before it goes
Many people have seen one only to lose it. The SOLs is not a Pirate-Hunter
ship, and so does not appear for the purpose of chasing you around. Its
agenda is to leave one city and arrive at another, like merchant ships do, so
you're going to have to chase it. Sometimes they'll be sailing from one port
to another just outside your viewing range and your ships may never cross
paths. Vigilance therefore is key, but more often than not it is no guarantee
that you'll ever see a SOL at all.
|  How useful is the SOL?
Ahhh, now we're getting to the fun part.
The Frigate class of ships were designed to serve as the answer to the
ubiquitous Spanish Galleon. The Galleons are huge, heavy boats, totting a
very large number of cannon, moseying along in the Caribbean with large sums
of money or cargo on board. The foreign powers, especially the English, used
Frigates to match the Galleon's firepower while maintaining far more
maneuverability in combat.
If you've ever sailed a Frigate, you probably know how powerful it can be. A
single 32-cannon volley from a Frigate can do horrible things to the enemy
from very long ranges, and a full hit with 32 chain-shot cannonballs will
often be enough to break the mast on most enemy ships.
The Large Frigate holds 40 guns on board, while the SOL carries a whopping 48
guns - that makes for some serious damage. On top of this, when used by a
skilled captain, a Frigate-class can maintain long-range firing distance,
blasting the enemy to surrender, while actually being able to avoid enemy
cannonfire in a manner similar to the way the Brig-, Sloop- and Pinnace-class
ships often do - and this even though the SOL is MUCH MUCH larger, and
therefore a potentially easier target than a pinnace. When the frigate has
good speed, it turns very well, rivaling even an upgraded sloop. And then
some - even if the enemy managed to smack a cannonball or two on to your
deck, the damages taken are often minimal - you can probably suffer upwards
of 20 cannon hits before you need to consider running away.
Frigate-class ships are probably the most powerful against Galleons and
against any kind of Merchant ship. Their speed and maneuverability is supreme
in such cases, and the best advantage is that you can often blast the enemy
to a swift surrender from what is basically safe distance. With 48 cannons,
this takes far less time than with 16, and since a larger volley is often
"wider", it is more likely to hit partially than miss completely, so Frigates
can afford bombarding from far away, able to dodge enemy blows and keep
pounding until the enemy is docile or weak enough to approach for a boarding,
a kill, or a de-mast. A risky downside to this is that hitting something with
48 roundshot cannonballs more than once will often sink it (... And that
sometimes once is enough).
While Frigates are not as useful against the smallest ships (Pinnace and
Sloop class), careful consideration of the winds allows you to control a
battle in such a way that the enemy cannot effectively escape - it either has
to turn towards you (allowing you to board or at least to fire roundshot and
chainshot to slow him down) or turn away into a direction where the Frigate
can use its superior speed to catch up quickly with the enemy. This is
explained further in the Combat section, below.
Also, carrying 450 men aboard makes you into a portable invasion force,
capable of assaulting well-protected cities instead of wasting your time
chasing merchants and dragging their wounded hulls back to port to sell them
and their cargo. A single raid on an enemy city can often produce as much as
4 to 6 (and more!) merchant ships would have yielded, costing you 7 days of
game time, but saving you the time it takes to chase down enemy ships, seek a
port that buys high, and sail in for 7 days to sell cargo and ship to the
Combined, the SOL's resistance to damage, low crew-minimums, and high cargo
capacity, effectively cuts down the number of times you would have to visit a
port to make repairs, replace crew, and sell cargo.
|  How do I catch a Ship of the Line?
Note that this section deals with the actual process of capturing the SOL,
as well as the basic conditions that are needed to spot one out at sea. To
get detailed information on how to maximize your chances of locating a Ship
of the Line, read the last section in this FAQ.
[4.1] WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE A SOL COME OUT?
While battle against a SOL can be difficult and highly dangerous if not
handled properly, the most difficult part is actually getting one to show up.
In order for this to happen, lets sum up the most known factors and
conditions that must occur for an enemy SOL to be spawned.
- SOLs are only spawned by NON-SPANISH nations. In fact, the Spaniards
will NEVER spawn a Frigate of any kind.
- SOLs spawn when any one non-spanish nation has placed a bounty
on your head. This is of course directly related to attacks you make
on said country's shipping, as explained below. You may see different SOLs
belonging to more than one non-spanish nation in a single game. Also, the
importance of Bounty has not been entirely proven - you can get SOLs to
spawn even if bounty is low. This is often attributed to factors that
decreased the bounty AFTER the SOLs were spawned.
- SOLs, like all other "New Warships", spawn to protect a certain
shipping line that has been terrorized by enemies, including mostly
- SOLs spawn in this way from the city of origin for that particular
trade route, so hitting merchants going from city A to city B will
eventually spawn a New Warship going also from city A to city B (but
there's no guarantee it'll be a SOL). This is not related to the
Pirate-Hunters, which will spawn if you attack friendly shipping in the
area regardless of destination or origin.
- SOLs will ONLY spawn from a "Wealthy" city, and no less. It seems
like city population is also an important factor, as well as "national"
prowess, I.E. a stronger nation seems to send out more SOLs, but since
the game provides no hard data on this, there is no way to accurately
- The effect of playing era on SOL spawning has now been refuted
(by myself among others) - playing at 1600 or 1680 doesn't change the
SOL spawning equation at all, it is simply that political conditions
in the early Eras make it more difficult for non-spanish nations to achieve
the proper conditions, while at 1680 the non-spaniards have much more power
and therefore find it easier to spawn SOLs. Intervention on your behalf in
the 1600 Era can and will make SOLs spawn, if you do it right.
- SOLs are NOT sent out to meet you like Pirate-Hunters, they're
simply sent out from one city to another, so they're not going to chase
you down, and you have to be present in the area to spot them and chase
them down instead.
Studying these points can give us a fairly obvious set of guidelines we need
to use to encourage SOL spawning. The simplest way seems to be just getting a
non-spanish city angry, placing it under naval blockade, sinking every merchant
that comes out of the city, while allowing "improvement" ships like "New
Governor" and "Immigrant" transports to enter so that the city remains Wealthy.
This is the most basic strategy you can employ, and reportedly it works best with
cities like Barbados which tend to stay wealthy if not directly assaulted.
Sinking merchants repeatedly (as well as the pirate-hunters that come out to
play) raises the bounty on your head, increasing the level of discontent for
that city. However, you need to stay out at sea for as long as possible, or
set up a nearby friendly port (by conquest or politics) where you can stop
for repairs and restock - otherwise you might spend one day too many away
from the city you're besieging, and might actually miss a SOL sailing out of
If you wish to MAXIMIZE potential, you can do this by rearranging the
political map in a single area so you can ambush several cities at once in
this way, increasing the chance of seeing a SOL. More on this is explained in
the last chapter.
[4.2] HOW DO I DEFEAT A SOL IN SEA-COMBAT?
Sea combat against a SOL can be handled in different ways, depending mostly
on both your stronger points in naval combat as well as the type of ship
you're sailing. A smaller ship will generally want to dart in as fast as
possible, using superior maneuverability to close the distance and board,
while a larger vessel may actually carry out a contest of gunnery and
navigation against the SOL to whittle down its cannon or otherwise prepare it
for easier boarding.
[4.2.1] HOW DO I USE A SLOOP, PINNACE, OR WAR CANOE AGAINST A SOL?
When you fight a SOL with a very small vessel, like a Sloop, Pinnace or War
Canoe, you are seriously, seriously, outgunned. Causing enough damage to the
SOL to bring it to its knees from long-range can take a long time, and is
often very ineffective as well as dangerous. Your most important factor in
this battle would be the wind. You'll need to utilize it to your advantage so
you can weave in between volleys and board the enemy as fast as possible.
Start the battle upwind of the enemy, or otherwise align the ships so that
the enemy is situated in your "best direction of sailing". For a Sloop that
would be somewhere between beam reach and broad beam reach (about 45 degrees
or more off the wind direction). For a War canoe, it will be almost
perpendicular (90 degrees off) to the wind direction.
First, you'll need to dodge a volley or two of cannonfire before you can
actually close the distance. Don't get hit! Any damage to your sails can slow
your ship enough so that when you try to close in for a boarding you'll get
hit by another volley and may either sink or be unable to sail faster than
the SOL, in which case it will maneuver around and blast you to bits. You
need to avoid, avoid, avoid. Close in to Chain-shot range if you can. A
sloop, at this point, can attempt to fire a volley of Chain-shot to make the
SOL a bit slower, but this doesn't always do enough damage to the enemy, so
it is often best avoided.
Once you're ready at a relatively close distance from the SOL, with it placed
directly in your "best sailing" direction, wait for the last volley, and then
dart in as quickly as possible. Trying to approach from a different direction
may be very tough, since the SOL can turn quickly and fire at you, and you
would be going at less than optimal speed. If you're at your best sailing
direction, you'll be approaching the enemy as fast as possible, thus
shortening the time the enemy has to reload and fire again. If the winds
aren't strong enough, your ship may actually take one of those volleys, but
by now it will probably still have enough sails to close the distance and
board. For war canoes, however, getting hit by one broadside can mean death,
so it would have to be a pretty damn good rush if you want to survive.
Remember that facing a SOL with a ship that carries 40 men can be hazardous
to your health. Your crew may get chopped to bits if you're not a good
fencer, so take this into consideration before assaulting.
[4.2.2] HOW DO I USE A BRIG AGAINST A SOL?
Brigs, I believe, have more trouble assaulting a SOL without taking damage,
since they are slower than Sloops and will therefore be more open to incoming
fire when they try to dart in for a boarding. Also, since the Brig is
physically bigger than a Sloop, it is a larger and easier target to hit, and
therefore may suffer many more hits when fired upon by a SOL broadside.
However, a Brig can take much more punishment than a Sloop, and so it might
be worth the risk. The larger "Brig of War" can effectively gunfight
the SOL, but it would require some damn good maneuvering to avoid incoming
fire, as the SOL is every bit as maneuverable as a Brig if it has copper
plating and/or cotton sail upgrades. If the brig sustains some damage to the
sails, it might not be able to close the distance fast enough before the SOL
lands another volley on you, and by then you've probably lost the fight
[4.2.3] HOW DO I USE ANY KIND OF FRIGATE AGAINST A SOL?
Theoretically, this is the simplest vessel with which to take a SOL. Being
equally maneuverable, and carrying similar amounts of crew and cannon, a
Frigate can afford to gunfight the SOL at long firing range. Whittle its
cannons down (DON'T SINK IT!!!) until they no longer pose a serious threat
(16 cannons are not a serious threat to a frigate), then close in and either
chain-shot them a few times or charge and board. With a frigate, you can
probably afford to sustain several cannon hits (unless you get 48 cannon hits
to your ship, in which case you'll probably be too slow to win).
Another tactic, which is often my favourite when taking a SOL with another
Frigate (or my own SOL!) would be to charge right in on them from upwind and
board them as quickly as possible (like smaller ships do, just simpler).
Start upwind from them, and sail directly with the wind right at them, you'll
reach them soon enough. The difference between this tactic and the one
explained above for smaller ships is that your frigate can take the damage
and keep sailing, so there's no reason for fancy maneuvering. Since choosing
not to gun-fight them from long range probably means you'd be taking damage
anyway, it's obviously better to close the distance while you're taking it.
An accomplished captain with a Large Frigate or SOL can possibly even make
the SOL surrender by breaking its main mast. This requires either great skill
or great planning, but it is very much possible. Don't expect to stay
unscathed, though. The enemy is DANGEROUS whichever way you look at it.
[4.2.4] HOW DO I USE A COMBAT-GALLEON AGAINST A SOL?
Don't. It outmaneuvers you easily, and you can't avoid its gunfire
[4.2.5] HOW DO I USE A MERCHANT SHIP AGAINST A SOL?
Please, please don't. Just don't. If you really have to, try running circles
around the SOL, blasting at it with your numerous guns, and taking it before
you do too much damage to its sails. No, seriously, please don't attack a SOL
with a merchant unless you're VERY, VERY, VERY good. VERY.
[4.2.6] WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THE SOL IS ESCORTED?
Although I've taken on a SOL escorted by a Large Frigate (You can imagine
what that's like), it has only happened to me twice, and therefore considered
VERY rare. Most of the ships escorting a SOL would be Sloops, sometimes
Brigs, and sometimes the SOL isn't escorted at all.
When attacking a SOL with an escort, you have to remember that the escort is
at the same time both unimportant to you, and a serious threat to you. Your
main goal would be to either avoid the escort altogether (possible only with
a fast small ship, or with a very good starting position and wind conditions
in a big ship) or to board and sink the escort as soon as possible (Best if
you've got a Frigate-class). Don't let the escort stay alive or engage you in
cannon-play, because the SOL will keep bombarding you as you fight, and your
maneuvering will either be insane or impossible.
[4.2.7] FINAL WORDS ON SOL-CATCHING COMBAT TACTICS
All this said, you've probably got a good idea of what you're going up
against. Picking the right flag-ship to do the job, as well as pre-battle
maneuvering and correct wind assessment are every bit as important as your
sailing skills. To me, SOL captures are among the most interesting battles
you can attempt.
|  I gots me a SOL! Now how do I use this thing?
NOTE: While this chapter holds true with any kind of Frigate, the
differences between having 32 and 48 cannons is immense, as well as having
450 vs. 300 men on board, and other distingishing factors between a SOL and
its smaller siblings. A Large Frigate can often double as a second ship to a
SOL, but you will notice the difference in gunnery performance very quickly,
from the width of your volleys to the damage you can safely take. However, as
far as handling and maneuverability goes, the SOL is much the same as a
Frigate or Large Frigate, and the same tactics can be used for all three
ship-types, as long as you allow for some adjustments to compensate for less
cannons, men, and survivability.
[5.1] HOW SHOULD I HANDLE MY OVERALL STRATEGY?
The first thing you need to know about the SOL is that it is the fastest ship
in the Caribbean when sailing from East to West, mainly because its top speed
is achieved when sailing directly with the wind, and most of the time
(especially in lower difficulty levels) the wind is going West. However,
sailing against the wind, as with anything larger than a Sloop, can be slow
and tedious. To balance this out, you will be constantly applying pressure to
the political map of the caribbean to allow you to stay in the same area for
a lengthy period, eliminating the need to sail east and west too often. This
is one of the main reasons why siding with the Spaniards gives best results
for SOL users - Besides the fact that in order to get a SOL you'll be
fighting against someone non-spanish, the Spanish have cities everywhere on
the map so returning to port never takes much more than a week or two. This
strategy is further explained below.
If you HAVE to sail directly east, either hope for the wind to change
drastically north or south (Only possible in high difficulty levels) or
instead zig-zag northeast-to-southeast across the caribbean in order to
maintain "OK" speeds. It takes a while to master, but will seriously
shorten the time it takes to sail from Vera Cruz to Barbados from a year
(or more) to about 4 or 5 months. Also make use of storms, as they can really
boost your speed.
The SOL can chase down ships at leisure, especially if equipped with Cotton
Sails. However, the best part about a SOL is that ship-to-ship combat quickly
becomes redundant, and you will be much better off using the huge 450-man
crew to storm cities and plunder them for all they've got. While this can be
performed with a fleet of smaller ships, having a lone flag-ship often proves
to give much faster sailing time across the open-sea map, whereas a fleet
will constantly slow down to accomodate the varying speeds of its member
ships (This happens even if you have 8 ships of the same type with cotton
upgrades!). Because the SOL is so powerful, enemy ships are ALL considered
easy prey, so Pirate-Hunters, Evil Spaniards, and the top Named Pirates
(namely Henry Morgan and Blackbeard) cease to be dangerous conflicts. With
450 men on board, you'll find that fencing is also much less dangerous as
you're very unlikely to run out of crew, and that large enemy crews that used
to defend themselves against your boardings will now surrender to you without
a fight simply because you vastly outnumber them in manpower.
Your ship is a veritable terror on the seas, and it should be used
accordingly. Sailing westwards is easy, but coming back takes a long time, so
the best strategy is to stay in the same area for a long period of time. To
this end, you will use the SOL's immense power to restructure regions of the
Caribbean, placing friendly cities in the midst of enemy concentrations, or
actually MAKING enemy concentrations near your friendly ports. Most "Buried
Treasure" maps point to locations in close proximity to where you bought your
first map piece of a set, so buying more maps to other treasures in the same
city will make sure you don't stray too far when pursuing them. Pay attention
to the locations of Evil Spaniards and try to ambush them when they come close
to your current location, otherwise you might end up chasing them all the way
to Puerto Bello, forcing you to spend months trying to get back to the Lesser
Antilles in the east. In general, basing yourself around Santiago gives you
the best options, but not the best yield. On the other hand, basing yourself
in St. Kitts or Trinidad gives you the best yield, but any out-of-area sailing
you need to do will probably be westwards, again a big problem. But since your
ship is big and mighty, you'll find it rather easy to base yourself pretty
much anywhere, changing friendly and enemy cities to maximize yield in a
certain area that you find is easily accesible to you (Like making Maracaibo
and Margarita into English cities so you can raid the spaniards on the Main
more easily, etc.).
Money is a serious matter of consideration, because you will need LOTS of it
to keep such a large crew happy. This isn't very hard to do, because you'll
be making lots of money from your plunderings and warmongering pretty soon.
However, more often than not you will need some starting capital to prevent
your crew morale from deteriorating. There are several things you can do to
help yourself with this.
First of all, when you're sailing a SOL (And in my opinion, in any game you
play), do not fill it up with 450 men right away - this will make morale
deteriorate badly if you can't get lots of gold fast enough. You can keep
somewhere around 200 men (The minimum for best combat performance is 168),
and increase crew size gradually when your capital grows to about 200,000.
This maintains your crew at "unhappy" state, with 1,000 gold per crew member,
for as long as you might need. The easiest way to get all this money is to
find all the Lost Cities, and possibly also Montalban's Hideout. To keep a
crew of 450 men HAPPY indefinitely, you need somewhere along the lines
of 1,200,000 gold, which is almost an impossible amount, 3,000 Gold Pieces
per crewmember. Again, a 1,000 gold-per-member ratio will indefinitely keep
them from mutinying, although it's been argued that unhappy crew functions
Keep in mind that marrying a girl in St. Eustatius or Nevis or Martinique is
pretty damn silly. Your best reward for marrying a Beautiful Daughter is that
she can provide you with all the Lost City maps you'll need, but after
finding each city you will have to visit your wife again for more map pieces.
Since all Lost Cities are in Mexico and Central America, having to sail all
the way east after finding each treasure will make your time run out like
a chicken on fire. Your first priority once you've acquired a SOL would
probably be to sell all your other ships and make your way, as soon as
possible, to Puerto Bello. You should enter, in this order or otherwise,
Santa Marta, Cartagena, Nombre de Dios, Puerto Bello, Santa Catalina (if it
exists), Port Royale (if exists), Havana, and Florida Keys. If you can't
enter one, consider sneaking in, or even capturing it. What you're looking
for is a potential marriage with a beautiful daughter. Since these cities are
close to Central America, sailing between your wife and the lost cities will
take much less time. Once you've located and begun courting your new wife,
take the time to visit Campeche, Veracruz, and Villahermosa. You need to
conquer all of them, and pass them from Spanish rule to another nation. This
will prevent the Evil Spaniards from spawning so far to the west. If you're
partial to the Spanish, you'll need to appease them later by sinking enemy
ships or visiting a nearby monastery to get an Amnesty escort mission. It may
also be advisable to take St. Augustine for the same reason. Sometimes you
can't get them all, but getting a few helps alot. Also remember that while
sailing up the coast of Central America you will probably run into several
Named Pirates, and this would be a good chance to take them out. If you
happen to know the location of Montalban's hideout - so much the better.
Assault his hidden fortress as quickly as possible, as the 100,000 gold
reward is very very important to you.
If you're not much of a Land-Battles person (And most people aren't, mainly
because on most machines land battles are so incredibly slow and tedious),
you'll be wanting to make ship-capturing raids. In theory, SOL raids should
be very ineffective because you'll probably be doing ALOT of damage to the
enemy ships before capturing them, thus rendering them worthless. However,
once you get the rank of Count with a foreign power, damage is no longer a
factor in ship value as long as you sell the damaged ship at a port belonging
to said foreign power. If you're going to go out for repeated capture-raids,
make sure you first engineer friendly ports in the area that can provide this
service for you - taking demasted ships to a far away port to sell them for
full value can take a long time. Just make sure to sink small vessels and
capture only the bigger ones (like combat galleons and frigates), which are
worth much more in gold. There's an 8-ship limit, after all.
[5.2] HOW DO I USE THE SHIP OF THE LINE IN COMBAT?
With a ship so heavily armed and so dangerously maneuverable, the SOL
basically fears nothing out in the open seas. While it employs slightly
different "starting" tactics against different kinds of ships, the basics
will usually stay the same for most battles - Bombardment from afar. You're
not quick enough to just dart in and board without taking damage, but you are
quick enough to avoid cannonfire at long ranges, and pack enough guns
yourself to cripple anything at said ranges with impunity.
Most of your attacks should have you starting downwind from the enemy. During
battles against formidable enemies, your first task would be to bombard them
with roundshot to whittle down their cannon, while staying a good enough
distance away that you will have time to avoid incoming fire. Because the
enemy is upwind from you, turning AWAY from the enemy quickly gives you
enough speed to regain good distance and resume firing. There are several
downsides to this, as will be explained, but this general tactic is useful
against MOST enemy ships, including Merchants and anything larger than a
In the case of smaller ships, however, they are far more likely to try and
escape. If you really have to capture a small ship (there aren't many
reasons, but it can happen), the conditions change. You will need to start
UPWIND from them so that you can quickly gain speed and close the distance
enough to smack them with either roundshot or chainshot, slowing them down
enough to enable you to continue normally. If you start downwind like with
other ships, the enemy can turn into the wind and sail away faster than you
The first thing you'll need to know is how to gauge an enemy's hull strength.
Enemy cannon numbers and crew size are displayed clearly on the battle
screen, but determining exactly how much damage the enemy has sustained, and
how much more it can take, is a matter of learning with experience, and will
eventually prove a crucial point in SOL combat. In some careers, you'll find
that you actually have no need to board and capture, so sinking the enemy is
no issue, but there are plenty of cases where capturing the enemy is worth
the time spent to carefully neutralize it instead of blowing it clear out of
the water. With 48 cannons on board, your ship can sometimes sink a Sloop or
a Brig with a single hit, so extra care must be taken against any of the
smaller ships. Only time and practice will be able to teach you to tell how
many more times you can hit the enemy without sinking it, but there are a few
pointers you can take heed of:
- Smaller enemy ships can obviously take less damage than large enemy ships.
- Iron Scantling upgrades on enemy ships keeps them in the water longer, but
is no guarantee that you won't sink them with the first volley.
- Whether you cause damage to enemy hull, sail, or cannon (And exactly how
much damage you will cause with each cannonball hit) is randomal, so
don't count on the enemy's Remaining Guns number to tell you how
close the enemy is to sinking. You can sink a ship without destroying
1/4 of its cannons, sometimes, and you can destroy all cannons
without damaging the ship much at other times.
- Hull damage is displayed as smoke billowing out of the enemy's hull. The
smoke's color and consistency changes as the ship becomes more
damaged, but it can sometimes be hard to guage exactly how bad the
enemy is hurt just by looking at the smoke. Also, a lightly-
smoldering ship can sometimes sink completely if you hit it with
enough cannonballs in a single volley.
Whenever you get the opportunity to fire Chain-shot instead of roundshot, DO
SO. Trying to get the enemy's gun count to 0 is risky, since you can't always
do this without first sinking the enemy ship. However a single 48-cannon
volley of well-placed chain-shot will often get the enemy to raise its white
flag, thus effectively making it harmless without risking sinking it
altogether. This doesn't work with enemy Escort ships (or any ship that comes
in at slot #2 when you enter ship-to-ship combat), as they will keep firing
even when demasted. These are often better to sink anyway, if there's no risk
to accidentally hit and sink the #1 ship as well.
Grape shot is often useless, since you've probably got a much larger crew
than they do anyway. Besides, if you can demast the enemy with chain-shot,
then why the heck not? (They surrender, hence no more fighting).
Unless of course you're trying to keep the enemy ship intact. Keep in mind
that Grape-shot as well as Round-Shot has a certain chance of hitting enemy
sails too, so you might damage enemy sails anyway. Grape-shot is useful
against an enemy #2 ship, because it will never surrender, and sometimes you
don't have enough time and maneuvering space in a battle to actually sink
them - so it's better to kill some crew before they try to board you.
Maneuvering in Ship-to-ship combat for the Frigate-class is of the utmost
importance. In a Sloop or Pinnace this may seem trivial, both ships were
designed to maneuver quickly, especially since these ships remains greatly
maneuverable even at slow speeds. With Frigates, the unexperienced user can
often make the mistake of assuming that his ship is UNmaneuverable, and
therefore attempt to perform as few tricks as possible, accepting the
occasional hit from enemy gunfire ("Hey, my ship can take it, so why bother").
This is, in fact a mistake. A Frigate can become a very agile weapon in the
hands of a skilled user, enabling the captain to minimize (or even eliminate)
damage taken in combat. The key here is to know when and how to change sailing
direction, and obviously to avoid sailing into the wind if there is nothing
exceptional to be gained by doing so.
[5.2.1] WHAT SHOULD I DO ONCE COMBAT STARTS?
When a battle begins, the SOL's first priority is to gain speed (And maybe
launch a broadside if the situation allows). All ships enter battle at 4
knots of speed. A War Canoe can put this up to 15 or 16 in a split second,
while for a Frigate, especially if ill-aligned before combat, will take much
longer than this. However, once turning away from the wind, a Frigate can
quickly reach high speeds, approximately 12 to 13 knots in a mild wind, which
is basically enough to begin maneuvering. Smaller vessels lose speed much
faster when they turn away from their best sailing point. A Frigate retains
its momentum much longer, and can therefore afford the larger turn radius
because it maintains most of its original maneuverability even after a few
seconds of off-wind sailing.
ALWAYS REMEMBER: The stronger the winds, the more powerful your SOL becomes.
At winds going 18-20 knots, a Frigate can turn very very fast, and lose very
little speed while doing so. The use of sail-reefing (The "2", or "Down" key
on your keypad) becomes completely unneccesary, as the ship is at its maximum
possible maneuverability even with the sails up. You may find that you can
sail a Frigate as though you'd have sailed a Sloop in such powerful winds.
However, since such conditions are rare, some tactics below include detailed
instructions on reefing and raising sails. This is a skill you would need to
master if you wish to become truly innvincible at sea.
If you have little experience with Frigates, your best option would be to
continue with a maneuver I call the "Snaking Chase", which at lower levels
does not neccesarily require reefing and raising sails. You will need to
start downwind of your enemy to do this. Once reaching good speeds going
downwind, away from your enemy, you turn sideways (perpendicular to the
wind), fire a volley (waiting until all cannons have fired), and pivot back
downwind to regain speed and distance. Alternate your turns to either side
so you don't end up drifting too far off, or you'll quickly find that the wind
is no longer aiding you. Make sure to spend some time regaining speed if the
enemy is getting too close. Otherwise, they might be able to turn sideways and
fire a broadside at you unexpectedly, and at short distances you may not be
able to avoid all incoming fire effectively, especially if you don't know how
to reef sails in the proper manner.
As your shells smack into the enemy, he will slowly lose cannon and sails. If
his sails are damaged enough, you can begin maneuvering more freely, taking
time to aim correctly and readjust your position relative to the enemy. If
his cannons drop below a certain "safe" level, you may begin to turn around
and facilitate closer combat - one method is described in the following section.
[5.2.2] OK, I'VE DAMAGED THE ENEMY AND WANT TO CLOSE TO CHAIN-SHOT
RANGE. HOW DO I DO THIS WITHOUT LOSING ADVANTAGE?
Closer combat with an enemy ship is recommended only when you have crippled
the enemy enough to be able to assault it without fear. An enemy with 10
cannons or less on board is considered DOCILE when you're sailing a SOL,
perhaps 8 or less when you're sailing a Frigate. Basically, the enemy can't
possibly make too much damage to your ship even with 16 guns, but when
sailing a Frigate your main task is to remain unscathed out at sea for as
long as possible, to keep you from going into port for repairs. An enemy is
also considered DOCILE when its sails have been damaged considerably, since
it loses a lot of maneuverability in this way. Careful weaving on your part
can put you in a position where you can circle an enemy ship, not enabling it
to fire back at all.
The best way to close in to Chain-Shot range from the "Snaking Chase"
position described above is to simply make a 3/4 circle off to one side.
Start this when you're facing downwind. As you turn off of the wind, you will
gradually lose speed due to both the turning and the fact that at some point
you'll be sailing into the wind, so make sure not to start this maneuver until
your ship is sailing with ample speed in the first place.
After the first half-circle, you'd have lost about 4 or 5 knots, and are
now facing the wind. KEEP TURNING - you'll regain 1 or 2 knots as you turn
sideways again (the last 1/4 of the turn). Do not switch the direction of the
turn at any point, always do the whole 3/4th circle in the same direction,
otherwise it may leave you for too long facing the wind, in which case you'll
lose more speed and may become highly unmaneuverable. Once the 3/4ths are
complete, you are sailing perpendicular to the wind, with your broadside aimed
at the enemy. Since you turned towards the enemy and still haven't sped away,
you are also now closer to the enemy, possibly within Chain-shot Range. Be
wary - the enemy may very well attempt to turn sideways to fire at you. If the
enemy's sails are still in good condition, it may take you some pretty good
aiming to actually hit him with Chain-Shot.
If the first Chain-Shot volley was insufficient, you'll need to make a
180-degree turn (do it downwind this time) to make another perpendicular-to-
the-wind run and fire again. At the end of this second run, reevaluate your
poisition in regard to the enemy as well as the enemy strength. Often at this
point the enemy is already crippled, and you can turn downwind again and
initiate the final "Pounce" maneuver described below. You might also want to
simply tack into the wind and board at this point, if the enemy looks to be
easily subdued, or you might want to try another chain-shot run (another
180-degree turn downwind).
[5.2.3] THE ENEMY'S IN BAD SHAPE, AND I'M READY TO CLOSE INTO GRAPE-SHOT
RANGE. HOW DO I END IT?
In a SOL, entering Grape-shot range is seriously risky. The only true reason
to enter this range is either if you're in a bad spot and are trying to gain
speed, or if you've already subdued the enemy (0 cannons, or white-flag
raised) and have no fear of being shot. Otherwise, it is best to stay at a
longer range so you can avoid incoming fire.
To close in from Chain-shot Range to Grape-shot range, the best tactic
involves changing the aspect of battle, I.E. your ship's position relative to
the enemy and to the wind. So far, if you've followed the previous
explanations, you have been trying to stay downwind of the enemy so he can't
catch up with you. Now, however, you will be trying to maneuver your ship so
that the ENEMY is relatively downwind of you, for that moment when you turn
downwind and pounce. A skilled captain can dart at an enemy ship in this way
similar to what War Canoe captains do when they're facing a powerful enemy
(Which is basically any enemy. War Canoes are fragile).
Bringing your ship around the enemy can be tricky, since it almost always
involves sailing directly into the wind. The moves themselves are pretty
simple - turn your ship perpendicular to the wind direction (90 degrees off),
and then some. Keep an eye on the speed gauge, to make sure you're not
dropping below 7 knots. The enemy will either turn to chase or turn to fire,
in either case they will be aiding your maneuver by either playing along with
it (sailing further downwind) or chasing you and losing speed. If your speed
drops too far, turn slightly back downwind (no more than 30 degrees), then
tack back. Eventually, you should reach a situation where a line drawn from
your ship to the enemy ship is at about 60 degrees off the wind direction.
Now would be a good time to glance back at your speed gauge. If you're doing
less than 7-8 knots, tacking directly in the wind at this point will slow you
down considerably. However, if your distance from the enemy is also long
enough (about chain-shot distance), you can afford to slow down, as you will
very soon pick up speed again. Tack into the wind (or AWAY from the wind, if
that seems better at the present conditions) to finally bring your ship in a
straight collision course with the enemy. This is pretty much where battle
ends, because you're going to gain enough speed to be free to do whatever you
want. Be wary of incoming fire, although mostly you should be able to evade
it without doing anything spectacular.
A note on Grapeshooting - With a SOL, grapeshooting the enemy is often
futile. You would be better off chain-shooting them to take their sails
down - this, at least, ensures surrender. When you're confident enough, you
can just sail downwind and smack into the enemy.
[5.2.4] WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN ATTACKING SMALL SHIPS THAT ARE FAST ENOUGH TO
The problem with SOLs attacking a smaller vessel is obvious - the enemy is
far more maneuverable than you are, and can probably avoid cannonfire at long
ranges with ease. Moreover, an enemy not bent on your destruction (Like a
smuggler or a Treaty ship) is more likely to use wind to its advantage and
just run away, instead of fighting. If your starting moves are not precise
and quick, you'll quickly lose sight of the enemy.
When attacking smaller vessels, pre-battle positioning is KEY. You will need
to assess wind conditions first, and position your ship accordingly. The best
position to start a SOL vs. SMALL battle is upwind of the enemy instead of
downwind. There are several reasons for this:
- The SOL sails fastest downwind, and loses speed very quickly when sailing
- A small boat, on the contrary, sails fast in slightly-off-wind conditions,
but has no trouble clocking a few good knots when sailing upwind.
- Frigates are the fastest ships in the Caribbean, but ONLY when they are
sailing at their "best point". Otherwise, they are no faster than any
- Sloops, Pinnaces and War Canoes gain speed quickly, but their maximums,
even at good wind conditions, are not as high as a Frigate's.
A small enemy is, by definition, not powerful enough to pose any serious
threat to you. Therefore your first interest is to close the distance as soon
as possible to maximize the chance of landing cannonballs on the swift enemy,
or at least convincing it to make the mistake of turning to fire at you.
Therefore, when a battle starts, your first move should be pointing yourself
downwind, straight at your enemy (or do this before combat!). You will
steadily begin to gain speed. The enemy, at this point might turn to fire,
but since you're gaining speed in this phase, the shots will probably pass
over your ship and splash behind you. If the enemy turns downwind, you are
sure to overtake it (though if you surpass its speed, the A.I. will probably
decide it's better to turn and fire). If the enemy turns perpendicular to the
wind (like War Canoes), you can adjust your heading slightly to that
direction, but rememeber that your top priority is not to board, but to land
a broadside on your enemy.
You must fire that broadside only when you are sure that you've closed as
much distance as you're going to do (if you're very close, you might not need
to fire at all). If your firing angle and aiming skills are at their best, or
if you're playing a lower level of difficulty, you can probably try to fire
some chainshot along in the same volley, to increase the chance of sail-
damage to the enemy. Note that Chain-Shot flies slower, so it's not very
useful against a fast-sailing ship that's right on the edge of Chain-Shot
A good way to increase change of hit is to fire while turning with the sails
reefed (see below). Since it takes a bit of time for the SOL to fire all its
cannons, turning the ship while it's firing will send different cannonballs
in different directions, creating a "spread". Start firing BEFORE your
broadside is aimed directly at the enemy, then "sweep" across the enemy's
path to fire your cannonballs all around his ship. Note that the enemy still
has some chance to avoid all them, and that by using this technique, you're
increasing the chance of a hit while reducing the damage given to the enemy,
so more often than not, you will not do enough damage to slow him down.
Once the enemy has been injured enough to prevent its escape, you may now
attempt to board it. Make sure you don't sink the enemy if you're trying to
board, and watch out - some of the bigger "small ships", like Royal Sloops,
carry 20 guns on board. Not enough to cause you any major damage, but enough
to hurt you and your men. Be wary even when you're winning.
[5.3] HOW DOES PLAYING WITH THE SAILS HELP ME USE MY SOL IN COMBAT?
Pressing the "2" key on your keypad, during both map sailing and combat
sailing, will lower your sails. The term "Reef the sails" is more accurate,
since they are actually pulled upwards. In this state, the ship will go
slower, develop and lose speed slower, but will have increased turning speed.
Pressing the "8" key will "raise" the sails back to full state, increasing
speed and reducing turn rate.
Handling a ship's sails can be awkward, especially if you haven't had much
experience sailing in combat even without tinkering with sail states.
However, once you can master the technique, you'll find that dodging
cannonballs with a huge ship like the SOL becomes simple!
The reefing/raising technique is best used in the "Snaking Chase" maneuver,
where you lure the enemy into trying to chase you while maintaining long
firing distance from it (see sections above). By reefing the sails, you will
be able to suddenly change direction, fire at the enemy, and quickly turn
back into the wind to gain speed, thus escaping incoming fire.
The maneuver itself is rather simple, although getting the hang of it can be
Once you've gained good speed in combat, going downwind as my earlier tactics
instruct, hit the "Reef Sails" button (2). Immediately begin turning sideways.
When the "Reef Sails" button lights up, indicating that sails have been
"lowered", immediately press the "Raise Sails" key (8) to give this new order to
the crew while the turn continues.
What effectively happens is that the turn begins before the crew actually
reefs the sail (as this takes them a moment to accomplish), but the turn
immediately becomes much faster once they do. Then, when you pressed the (8)
key, the crew began raising the sails back to full state, but this takes them
even more time, so they will complete raising the sails right when you've
completed your turn. Thus you were turning the ship in reefed-sail mode, but
ended the turn with full sails, and are now regaining speed without having
lost any precious seconds.
As you align your guns, begin firing a volley. Once firing has almost
been completed, Hit the "reef sails" button again, repeating the procedure
described above, this time turning away from the enemy. You'll eventually also
learn how to reef your sails at just the right moment to bring your broadside
towards the enemy at the very moment your cannons are fully reloaded.
When dodging cannonfire, you need to reef the sails as soon as the enemy
releases its volley. Begin turning away from the volley (or if you were
headed away from it in the first place - turn sideways from the incoming
cannonball's heading). You will need to eventually make a 90 degree turn.
Repeat the same tactic described above as to the exact timing of reefing
and raising the sails. When you make such a quick turn and hasty acceleration,
much like a car "whipping its tail" in a tight curve, the cannonballs will
land where you were supposed to be, however you have strayed from that position
already, and shouldn't get hit at all.
Note that you will need at least 168 men on board to reef/raise your sails at
optimal speed. Also notice that reefing takes much less time than raising,
and that while you're switching sail modes, cannon-reloading pauses until the
sails are set.
At closer ranges (Chain-shot range), whipping your ship around may not
provide the best results, but it will often help you turn what would
otherwise be a complete hit across the side of your ship to slight damage by
only a few of the cannonballs. It will be best if you do the maneuver when
the reefing will put you at best-sailing-point at the end of the 90-degree
turn (You'll speed away from the cannonball impact zone much faster).
At Grape-shot range, forget the reefing maneuver altogether. If you've come
this close, it's better to board quickly rather than keep playing with an
enemy that fires back. Remember that once you've smacked into the enemy (the
game shows you a close-up, low view of both ships right before boarding), no
further damage is recorded even if you see your ship getting hit! so
if the enemy has fired a large broadside at you, or is apparently going to do
so in a moment, this is a good way to minimize the effect of what would
otherwise be a devastating hit.
Another important thing to remember (And this is a VERY important strategy
for SOL sailing) - fighting in the middle of a storm, or otherwise when the
winds reach 19-20 knots, your ship becomes so fast you don't need to reef the
sails at all. In fact, reefing might actually HINDER performance, in much the
same way it does for Pinnaces.
And last, but not least - if your turn is going to bring you "into the eye of
the wind" (Sailing AGAINST the red arrow), do NOT reef the sails. You will
lose so much speed that the turning rate is not increased at all. Better keep
those sails up so you can quickly regain speed as you turn away from the
[5.4] SUMMARY ON SOL COMBAT
While the SOL seems like a big, ungainly tub in the water, it is in fact very
fast and very maneuverable. It is clearly no match for the maneuverability of
a Sloop, Pinnace, or War Canoe, but using it correctly can help you maintain
an advantage over any other ship. Using reefed sails tactics you can do
combat without injury to your ship at all, and as long as you maintain good
distance, you can probably sink any other ship with ease. Wind direction is a
very important factor, so both pre-battle positioning and constant attention
to changes in wind direction can both make or break a triumph.
|  How do I make lots of SOLs come out?
So far, I have played a large number games that were, from the get go,
played only for the purpose of getting 8 Ships of the Line together in a
single fleet. They were all successful (I'm relentless), although the later
games performed the task much faster than the first, since I had learned alot
in the meantime about the optimal conditions for SOL spawning and capture.
This section details what would possibly be the best strategy for
"enticing" SOLs to sail out with much more frequency. However, do not expect
to catch them all in two years' time. My best game yet has produced 8 SOLs
in under three years, but the time it took to achieve the neccesary conditions
was fifteen! (It was based on a different strategy, which I shall describe
later in this FAQ). More often, with minimal-to-average restructuring effort
invested (about one to three years of preperatuve gameplay), SOLs will appear
at intervals of about a year, a year and a half, provided you work well.
This startegy can be used to get just one SOL, if you want, or to get a
fleet of 8 (Which is obviously more of a CAREER than a STRATEGY). Fleets are
much harder to build since you will need a whole lot of crewmembers, and once
you've captured two SOLs or more, you'll need to avoid dividing the plunder
because that means dropping all but one ship. The strategy seems a bit
pointless for capturing just one, but it will definitely do the trick if you
haven't seen a SOL before, or if you're trying to catch one to continue the
game with it as your flag-ship as soon as possible.
My Strategy is basically to set up a "Killing Field" centered around
Montserrat, in the Lesser Antilles (the "Windward Islands"), which include
(from north to south): St. Martin, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua,
Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Martinque and Barbados.
While the strategy written here is pretty specific, you will probably play it
a bit differently than I do. There is no guarantee that my strategy is
absolutely best, but it's the best one I've heard/used so far for getting
SOLs early. The second strategy will be described later - it explains a much
more straight-forward way of restructuring, but ironically takes MUCH more
time and effort, after which time SOLs will spawn out like crazy.
Also note that while both strategies defines the "attacked" nation to be
English, you can use any non-spanish nation instead, as long as you make sure
to change the other nations mentioned accordingly.
Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the images
[6.1] WHAT IS A "KILLING FIELD"?
The whole SOL capture strategy rests on building a specific area in the
Caribbean, hereby referred to as a "Killing Field", which contains several
close-together cities belonging to the same non-Spanish nation. Shipping in
this area will be severly disrupted for a period of several years. The object
is to both upset that nation and its cities considerably, by sinking almost
anything that belongs to them, and at the same time maintaining those cities
at "Wealthy" status so they can spawn Ships of the Line. Additional remote
ports belonging to the same nation, hereby referred to as "Supply Cities",
will send in reinforcements and improvement ships, as well as their own
merchant shipping (which can be attacked to make those further cities also
likely to spawn SOLs).
Let's have a quick overview on some of the political goals we'll be trying to
achieve in the area:
A) The cities of St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Antigua and Guadeloupe are
the "Core" cities of the strategy, and most or all of these will be
turned English and besieged inccessantly to create a virtual blockade,
which either these or other cities will attempt to lift by sending
New Warships to the area.
B) Barbados, Martinique, and possibly also San Juan, Margarita or Trinidad
are the "Support Cities", which maintain wealth status and will
probably be the ones sending New Warships into the area to assist.
C) One or more cities in the northern Lesser Antilles, namely all the ones
listed in (A) above, as well as St. Eustatius and St. Martin, will act
as homebases, given to a non-English nation, providing support to your
efforts. Each has its own pros and cons as a homebase, explained later.
If you're using more than one, you can give them to different nations to
make more political gain and to offset any political changes that may
occur in the area. Striking the balance between the number of homebase
and non-homebase cities is very critical, and results may vary greatly.
[6.2] WHICH STARTING ERA AND NATION SHOULD I CHOOSE?
It has been already proven that SOLs can spawn at ANY era. The relative
lack of SOLs in earlier eras is a direct result of the lack of naval and
colonial power of NON-SPANISH nations during these Eras. Therefore, in the
later Eras the non-spanish factions have more prowess at the start of the
game, and are more likely to spawn SOLs even if the political situation stays
the same. A strategy described later shows how a non-spanish nation can be
made so powerful in 1600 that it spawns SOLs like crazy. However the strategy
we are now discussing requires very little intervention on your part in the
restructuring process, and also purtains only to Eras where the Lesser Antilles
are full of ports and settlements. Therefore, this strategy only works in
the Eras 1640-1680, not earlier.
The amount of work you'll have to do is greatly influenced by the the Era
you choose. Since a lot of conquest is going to have to be performed, one must
consider the power of the nations controlling the Antilles. In 1640, conquering
cities in the antilles may be much simpler as they are still weak in power,
but the nations retain very little overall strength, and so are less likely to
spawn SOLs unless further conquest is made outside the Antilles. In 1680,
the non-spanish nations are very powerful in the universal scale, but the cities
in the Antilles are also heavily fortified, and so reconquest can be tedious
and sometimes also near-impossible. The era of 1660 seems to offer a good
balance between the two, and therefore is very recommended for a first
attempt at this strategy.
Your starting nation is not important per-se, but I like choosing the English
for three reasons. First, you'll start with a sloop, which is pretty much the
easiest ship to begin a career with. Second, it gives you the chance to start the
game in St. Kitts (Especially in 1640), which puts you right near the Killing
Fields. Third, and most important: It's just so highly ironic! (since you'll be
attacking them constantly for the next 10 years, heh heh heh).
[6.3] WHAT DO I DO ONCE I'VE STARTED THE GAME?
Your first and foremost agenda will be to restructure the Lesser Antilles and
set up the political structure that makes a good killing field, as described
above. This can be approached in several ways, but I'll describe a pretty
straightforward one that you can use if you're not adept at the game already.
Begin by capturing several warships, brigs, sloops, or the occasional Frigate
if you see one. Try capturing warships from different nations, since you
don't want to be upsetting anyone in particular at this point, not even the
English. Go around and visit the different cities in the area (including the
eastern Spanish Main) to gather enough troops to later be able to assault
well-defended cities. In the Era of 1640, less troops will be needed. The
opposite applies to 1680, when cities are heavily fortified.
During this time, you will gain valuable information about the different
cities in the Lesser Antilles area, in regard to troop sizes and available
Ship Upgrades. If you've gotten yourself a good warship by now (depends on
your preferance, could be a War Canoe, Brig of War, Royal Sloop, or some kind
of Frigate), it would be wise to upgrade it as soon as possible. If you need
money, either hunt down Buried Treasures, or seek out Named-Pirates. You can
also raid the Spanish Main for a while to gain money by selling captured
ships at Curacao.
[6.4] I'VE GOTTEN MEN, MONEY, AND A GOOD SHIP. WHAT DO I DO NEXT?
Now it's time to do some serious work. Head back to Nevis a good portion of
men. Your first task would be to conquer EVERYTHING for the English, from St.
Martin in the north, to Martinique in the south (it can be useful to get both
Trinidad and Margarita too, or you could go all-out-berserk and get Cumana,
Caracas, Puerto Cabello and San Juan). If you're not good at land-battles,
haven't acquired enough men, or aren't looking to capture more than one SOL,
you can settle for most cities in the Antilles, it's be fine. At the very least,
you should have the original English cities as well as two or three more.
The English will be very pleased with you, granting you land and promotions.
By now you can probably repair ships free of cost at their ports, and possibly
also upgrade ships for free, if you've done enough damage. However, do not be
tempted to capture enemy ships at sea, since you'll be switching allegiance
pretty soon! Only attack if you see a ship you'd like to be using (nevermind
whose ship it is), so you can get it upgraded now before you start upsetting
Once this is done, you will need to decide where you're going to put your
homebase(s). There are several factors that come into play, determining
different approaches to the whole strategy.
- St. Eustatius and St. Martin, the Dutch colonies, are often wealthy
and easy to protect, so they'll pay good money for cargo you capture.
However sailing towards them makes you leave the Killing Fields for a
long period of time, so it may not be a good idea.
- St. Kitts is very close to Nevis, but sailing to the killing fields
takes time (Southeast...) even if it's very closeby. St. Kitts is harder
to protect against enemy attacks.
- Nevis and Montserrat are both GREAT homebases and GREAT targets for
blockade, as they are situated right in the center of the fields. The
decision to make either of them a homebase is a hard one, but whatever you
do DON'T make them both homebases! Also these two don't tend to be very
wealthy, so don't expect to be selling cargo at good rates.
- Capturing Antigua can be a prime choice, since the city gets most its
shipping from the eastern side, anyway, making it harder to blockade than
the others. However, Antigua is also great as a "support city", left
virtually untouched, that can Spawn SOLs.
- Guadeloupe is the easiest choice, because when you sail back
to it after a long period of English-Bashing, at maximum zoom-out you
can still see what's going on around Monserrat (if you've got a fine
telescope, it's even better). Sailing out of Guadeloupe to the Fields is
a north-western course, which is often your fastest approach. However,
Guadeloupe is the least defensible, and enemies will often be trying to
conquer it or otherwise hurt its economy, and you'd be too far to
protect it from anything coming out of the south.
A combination of two of these often works best - Guadeloupe in the south and
St. Eustatius in the north, or St. Martin and Montserrat, or other combinations
you can think of. You'll be wanting to spend the minimum time possible at sea
(without repairs), and get the maximum price for cargo captured, so balance
At first, your Homebase(s) should all be conquered to the Spanish. This
increases their defensibility and the amount of support they'll receive from
other spanish cities in the vicinity. It will also mean that Raymondo, Montalban
and Mendoza may come visit once in a while, so you can capture them without
leaving the area at all. There's nothing wrong with giving them to other
nations either, just make sure you don't give them to someone allied with
[6.5] WHEN DO I GET TO HAVE FUN?
The fun starts now. Sell every ship in your fleet except your main vessel. If
your crew isn't awfully happy, you might want to consider Dividing the
plunder to start fresh with your upgraded flagship. Then sail out, and begin
your first blockade.
Your strategy is very simple. You will need to sink/capture ALL of the
outgoing merchants (Any merchant that spawns out of English cities is far
game). You might also want to sink/capture INCOMING merchants (from
Martinique, Barbados, ETC) to increase the chance that further-away cities
may also spawn SOLs. Note that attacking merchants not only upsets cities,
but also damages their economic level. For this reason, you must NEVER attack
any "Immigrant" and "New Governor" ships belonging to the English, as they
will help restore the English cities to Wealthy status.
English Pirate-Hunters are fair game, and I would heartily recommend sinking
any Indian War Canoes and Pirates sailing about in the region, since they can
easily hurt the English cities as well as your homebases. Also, "Invasion
Force" ships, of any nation, should be promptly sunk, as they endanger the
carefully constructed political situation. I'm not sure about Raiders, but I
would imagine that it's better to sink them to prevent them doing damage.
Smugglers are probably best left alone, unless you need to capture them for
money and cargo.
Your sailing should be a simple circle around Monserrat with excursions to
catch ships that move through the area. The various English forts around
the center of the Fields eventually WILL BEGIN FIRING AT YOU, so be wary.
The fluttering of English flags over their cities will provide you with a
good indication of how upset they are. The more vigorous the flutter - the
more upset the city. If a city is "Wealthy" and its flag is waving gentler
than other cities, you should place it under priority and perhaps even shift
your sailing somewhat to that direction. Don't miss any merchants going out.
Some latest developments have uncovered the importance of occasionally
sailing out to the "Support-Cities" in the more remote areas, like
San-Juan, Barbados and Margarita, whatever is English. The effect of this
on the Killing Fields strategy is unclear, but tests show that this approach
tends to make these remote support cities send out more merchants and more
With this strategy in effect, the English will despise you more and more with
each passing month. I actually hit 1,000,000 in gold bounty on my head once
just from the English. Your patrons, if they're at war with the English,
will give you enough acres of land to fully satisfy your "wealth" points
(24/24). If they happen to sign a peace-treaty, feel free to conquer all
your homebases for a different government that IS at war with the English.
Soon after you begin your mischief, the English will start sending out Large
Frigates to hunt you. Be sure you have a good enough ship to take those out,
otherwise they'll annoy you by firing at your fleet, possibly sinking your
Try staying out at sea as long as possible. If you have two or three ships
you can use for combat when the first ship gets too hurt to fight - so much
the better. The moment you leave the Killing Fields could be the moment a SOL
passes through. Even when sailing back to your home port, keep an eye out for
any SOL that may be slipping past. Also I'd warmly recommend getting the fine
telescope, as well as zooming out as far as possible.
[6.6] HOW DO I GET MORE THAN ONE SOL?
Once you've gotten one, you might want to just keep it, crew it, and go off
to complete the rest of your quests. However, you might feel up to the
challenge of catching 8 of them to make a whole fleet of SOLs. The trick here
is of course keeping your crew happy for ten or so years, because once you
have 2 SOLs or more, you can't divide plunder without losing all but your
So once you have one, you can follow my earlier instructions on how to get
the most gold in one pass to the west. This MAY take a year or so to perform,
but it's worth at least 300,000 gold, which is crucial for a crew of 450, and
in no way enough to keep them happy forever. And your crew will need to grow
by about 170 men to be able to sail all the other SOLs in your fleet without
losing fleet-speed. Don't forget that you can sail a SOL effectively on just
168 men, so including an extra 7 SOLs, at a minimum 24 men each, you'll need
336 men in total to hold the entire fleet and still be able to sail your main
ship at maximum efficiency. This means holding around 400,000 GOLD for an
unhappy crew, and over 1,000,000 GOLD for a Happy crew.
By now you're probably powerful enough to be able to turn all cities in the
Eastward Region to the English, except of course all the cities you find
neccesary to keep as homebases. This may reduce your negative attitude with
the English, but it will eventually increase the chance of seeing more SOLs
by a great amount. It will also provide you with more battle opportunities,
which in turn equals more money and more English agitation, etc. etc... If
you're still not satisfied with the SOL appearance rate, go conquer MORE
cities for the English. Conquering the whole caribbean takes lots of time, but
can easily bring SOL production up to staggering frequency. (See Strategy
#2 for more info).
The biggest problem with trying to get a full fleet of any kind of ship is
that you will constantly be reducing the room in your fleet, so capturing
enemy ships becomes less lucrative. However, eventually you'll find that
you're limiting your actual boardings to only merchants, sinking everything
else unless you know it to be carrying lots and lots of gold. Besides, you've
got a ship built for sinking enemies, so why the heck not? Just make sure
that by this time you have enough money to appease your crew that you don't
really need to catch a whole lot more too quickly.
[6.7] (NEW) STRATEGY #2: SOLs in 1600
This is a completely new strategy that I had executed successfully only
a month before writing this second version of the FAQ.
The common theory that prevailed during this time was that SOLs were
only available in-game during the Eras of 1640 through 1680, being more
common at a later era, and that they were absent entirely from both
1600 and 1620. I had set out to discover whether this was, in fact,
The main idea behind this strategy is to simply conquer ALL cities in
the caribbean for the English, and then turn on them and raid their
shipping in the same way as the Killing Fields strategy functions. If
the English, with 99% control of the Caribbean, would not spawn a SOL,
then the original observation was correct.
The strategy is very difficult to execute, of course, due to the
severe amount of time it takes to wrest control away from the Spanish,
whose cities are very well defended during this Era. A tactic had to
be formed up, and a very simple one prevailed: Simply hire the aid of
pirates and indian war parties whereever you're going, unleashing them
at the closest spanish city and then mopping up with your troops. As
easy as this may sound, it still took me exactly 15 years to complete
this takeover, including of course the gathering of lost city treasures
and Montalban's Hideout, the gold from which was neccesary to hold the
great number of men I needed to keep conquering and conquering.
Landlocked cities, namely Gran Granada, Panama, and Puerto Principe,
were left alone.
Be warned - the last existing city of any national power, if it
is at war with the English, will at some point begin to send out lots
and lots of invasion fleets to reconquer the English. This means that
getting rid of the non-English is top priority. This is not very hard
to do with the French and Dutch since they control very very few
cities and can be easily dispatched. However, when your conquest is
close to its end, the last Spanish cities will also be inclined to do
the same thing, and so momentum is crucial right at the end, to
eliminate the last Spanish bastions before they can reconquer anything
that you had already liberated.
Once the caribbean's English, the best course of action would be
to turn Coro to the hands of a nation that is _NOT_ at war with
England - otherwise they'll start spawning out Invasion Forces galore,
just like the last bastions in the above text did. From Coro, you have
a good vantage point over the Bay of Maracaibo, where shipping tends
to flow. However, there are various technical issues that will
prevent you from performing the same Killing Fields tactic used in
strategy #1 here in this area, namely the absence of any on-screen
cities besides Maracaibo and your base at Coro. For this reason, you
will have to start sailing east and west along the spanish main, to
Caracas and Santa Marta. Coupled with incessant sinking of any English
ships aside of Immigrants, Troops and Governors, the creation of
SOLs will begin at a staggering rate. This rate was so high for me,
that it only took me two years and a few months to get a full fleet
of Eight. However, don't forget that it took me 18 years on the
Unbeknownst to me, Kristian95, although inadvertantly, had already
captured SOLs in 1600 several months earlier. However, the amazing
rate of captures that I had achieved suggests that it is, in fact,
overall national prowess that is the greatest factor to SOL spawning.
The more cities they have - the more SOLs they'll spawn. Regardless
I hope this strategy is both useful, and sheds further light
on the spawning conditions for SOLs. The full recount of the
execution of the strategy for the first time can be viewed at
Thanks to all the people at Hooked on Pirates (www.hookedonpirates.com),
for a good number of important facts used to complete this FAQ - couldn't
have done this without you. Also a great thanks for the permission to post
this on the site.
Special thanks to WolfWood for the HTML work
If you have any questions, please PM me at the Forum site (Username is
Headrock). I can't promise I'll answer, but I'll do my best. You can also ask
others on the forum, as most people will know the answer to your question.
And thank you for reading!
P.S. all rights reserved and stuff. Whatever the heck that means.
Feel free to copy, pillage, pirate and distribute.