Ah yes, Sid Meier’s Pirates! I played this game on the Amiga so often that I purchased nautical themed decorations to put around my computer desk for ambiance.
It is a game of sailing West to grand adventures, and then sailing East very, very, miserably slowly. Every expedition essentially has a time limit determined by the mood of your crew. If you are both successful, and have a small crew, your pirates are happy because they expect a large share of the booty. If you build a world-conquering fleet, everyone gets really unhappy very quickly as they realize that their share is tiny.
There is no “campaign,” as such. Each character you start has kidnapped family members to rescue, but it is not necessary to do so. The default mode of play is to be an English privateer who goes out and beats on the Spanish more than is strictly necessary. Alternatively, you can stay politically neutral and hunt pirates by listening to tavern gossip regarding the current locations of the 10(?) most famous pirates. Catching these scallywags gets you treasure maps to their buried hoards of plunder.
You can theoretically also play a peaceful merchant, but no sane person actually does this and I don’t know if the in-game economy is actually robust enough to support it. It doesn’t even really make sense, since all these colonies were founded to produce the same commodities by their European parent nations, and the game has no way to export goods back across the Atlantic. Random in game events affect prices (ST KITTS IS OUT OF RUM, WTF, HAX!- Signed, the Governor of St. Kitts).
For anyone looking to try it for the first time, here’s a few tips:
Land battles are usually a bad idea.
If you beat a town senseless, you can take it over and get big brownie points from the faction you give it to. To increase the chances of a takeover, pummel the garrison with your ship, then enter a duel with the fort’s commander. When your troop morale is highest, sit back and block attacks while the garrison’s troops are massacred. Get them down to one, then stab the commander.
You only need one combat ship. The rest can be merchant ships for carrying loot. The “Ship-of-the-Line” is the best combat ship.
Blowing up enemy ships with your cannons is amusing, but you don’t get any loot.
If you capture a nobleman, go to a friendly governor to collect a ransom. If you wait too long, the nobleman finds a way to escape.
When in doubt, choose the longsword and spam high attacks.