If you’ve just purchased Sid Meier’s Pirates! for the Wii, congratulations, you’ve just bought a great strategy game developed by one of the video game industries most reputable designers. However, upon inspection of the manual that comes with the game, you may have noticed that there is nothing provided to get you started other than a description of the Wii remote controls. This article is to help you get started and to explain all those important things the manual doesn’t tell you about.
The game begins with your ship at sea. In the bottom left corner is a round mini map and some icons with numbers next to them. The top icon, a piratey skull and crossbones, represents your fame/notoriety. Beneath that, the guy wearing a green bandanna, is how many pirates are in your crew. One down is the food icon, the number for which represents how many months you can sail with the food you have aboard before you run out. The face beneath that indicates the mood of your crew. It stays that yellowish-green and the smile changes to a frown as morale drops, and then turns red when your crew becomes mutinous.
Food can be obtained buy buying it at port, or of course by stealing it. You ARE a pirate after all. To go into a port, just sail into it. Don’t worry about crashing your boat into ports or beaches, but DO watch out for rocks and rocky shallow areas, which can damage your hull.
The first time I played it was easy to attack a ship but there’s nothing in the manual about how to board it. Simply put, you just crash into it. Don’t worry, it doesn’t damage your hull, and it usually triggers the sword fight mini game. If you have lots of notoriety, have severely damaged their ship, or have killed most of the crew with grape shot, the sword fight may be skipped because they just surrender. Be careful with your cannons though, because sinking a ship means you cant steal their gold, or much of it anyway. Sailing over cargo that falls into the sea during a fight or after a sinking gets you a very small amount of money.
During your pirating adventures you will acquire maps to treasure, lost relatives, and lost cities. In previous incarnations of this game one was able to disembark their ship and travel overland, however in this version, you don’t. This is where your spyglass comes in. Scan the area with your spyglass, and you will notice rocks, pyramids, and Indian statues are named after looking at them. These are the landmarks that appear on your map. Once you use the landmarks to figure out where the X ought to be, scan the area with your spyglass and it should show itself. Sometimes this may require changing your angle or changing your camera view. Once your target appears sail into the shore to trigger the cut scene.
Another common question is how to attack towns. The game will not allow you to attack towns until that country has put out a reward for you, which happens after you prey on their ships a lot. Once this has happened, fortified cities will shoot at you if you sail near them. At that point the “A” for attack will begin to appear. Note that small settlements will not attack you. Be aware that when bombarding a town, shooting at buildings (yellow cross hairs) makes you money, but shoot the defending canon first (red cross hairs) to defend yourself.
One of the main frustrations in the game is sailing in an easterly direction. The wind blows from East to West, so of course sailing into the wind is going to be slow going, but there a couple of things you can do to speed up the process. The first is to do what all sailing ships do in real life, and that is to tack. Sail at about a 45 degree angle and make a zig zag pattern. The other thing you can do is to make a very small boat, such as a pinnace or a war canoe, your flagship. Your whole fleet sails at whatever speed your flagship does, and generally the smaller the ship, the faster it sails into the wind. When you get to where you want to go, you can always change your flagship back to your preferred vessel.
Also, an important note on having a fleet of ships – having more than one ship is an insurance policy against losing a battle. If you are defeated, you are able to flee to another ship instead of getting marooned or going to jail. As a beginner pirate, I recommend always sailing with an escape ship in tow.
If you’re looking for more tips and strategies, I recommend visiting the Addicted to Pirates! fansite and searching their forums. Most of the conversation there is about the PC and Xbox versions of the game, but most of it still applies, and the things that don’t will be obvious to you. You may also find the official forum of 2K Games to be helpful.
I hope this helps. Happy pirating!