Being a complete and comprehensive account of the Great Age of
Buccaneering in the West Indies between the years 1560 and 1700.
It was an era of new kings and empires, of new tests of strength and
power. It was a day when a man could rise from humble beginnings and
be knighted for brave and daring service to the Crown. Now you can be
such a man in PIRATES!, a game of hot-blooded swashbuckling across the
You are transported to the Caribbean as it was in the heyday of
smugglers, privateers, buccaneers and pirates. All the skills real men
needed for survival and success are present, in real-time action!
In PIRATES! you navigate the wide Caribbean by guess, compass, and
occasional sun sights with your astrolabe. In peace or battle, your
sailing skill can spell the difference between a profitable journey
and a watery grave. And if it comes to battle, you must do what real
buccaneer Captains did - lead your men from the front, sword in hand,
until you meet and defeat the enemy commander. This is a new type of
game, an action simulation. Your game activities are based on how men
actually did them, such as sailing ships and dueling with swords.
The Caribbean is a canvas of grand adventure, from the treasure-laden
ambushes of Sir Francis Drake to the piratical plunderings of the
notorious Henry Morgan (whose name still graces a brand of Jamaican
rum). Like these men, you can discuss politics with provincial
governors, sneak into towns for clandestine smuggling arrangements
with local merchants, cross swords with vicious noblemen of all
nationalities, rescue helpless waifs from vile slave plantations, even
find a beautiful wife! When you accumulate sufficient treasure, land,
honors, and satisfaction, you can take a pleasant retirement
appropriate to your gains.
PIRATES! brings alive the grand scope of a venturesome and bygone age.
As in every MicroProse simulation, extensive research into the details
of places and people, ships and battles brings you unparalleled
realism. PIRATES! goes beyond simple fantasy and touches the reality
of an exciting page in history.
If you prefer to learn PIRATES! while playing, consult your "Captain's
Broadsheet". If you like to understand the concepts before you begin
playing, turn to "In the Beginning" and read all of Book I.
Instructions to Captains
IN THE BEGINNING...
The stars of new Kings and Emperors are rising in Europe. New
opportunities abound for the ambitious man. There are reputations to
be made, fortunes to be won, beautiful women to wed, and with royal
favor you may even gain a patent of nobility. "Duke of the Realm" has
a fine sound to it, does it not? These are days when glorious careers
can come from a humble start.
To begin your adventure, load the game (see your "Captain's
Broadsheet" for specific instructions, including troubleshooting
instructions if you have trouble loading). To make a choice, move the
pointer on the screen (using your joystick, mouse, or keyboard cursor
keys, as appropriate) to highlight the option you prefer. To select
the highlighted option, press the joystick trigger. You need not wait
for the "Press to Continue" message.
A WORD ABOUT YOUR GOALS -
From a humble start, you are seeking to make your fortune in the West
Indies so that you can retire to a life of wealth, ease, and high
status. The quality of your retirement is a sum of your personal
fortune, your rank, your lands, your reputation, the wife you marry
(if any), and whatever especially pleasing events befall you during
the course of your adventures.
After any voyage, when you return to port and divide up the plunder,
you can then retire. If your health permits, you can leave retirement
and take up adventuring again, should you wish to try for more. As you
learn the game make a few "trial retirements" to understand this. See
"Your Career on the High Seas" for more information about your
retirement and future happiness.
You can save a retired character in a "Hall of Fame". You must have a
properly formatted save-game disk for this. Use the save-game routine
(available at any port under check information) to format a disk. See
your "Captain's Broadsheet" for more information on saving games.
INITIAL OPPORTUNITIES -
A new player should select START A NEW CAREER.
Start a New Career begins a complete adventure, from your first
arrival in the New World to your well-earned retirement. This is the
"standard" game, and can continue for quite some time.
Continue a Saved Game allows you to resume any game in progress. Do
not insert the save-game disk until instructed on screen. See the
"Captain's Broadsheet" for how to create and use a 'saved
Command a Famous Expedition is a "short game" where you command just
one expedition. These expeditions are usually large, but end whenever
you divide the plunder. Famous expeditions are not for a novice -
doing as well as the historical model can be a very challenging task.
FAMOUS EXPEDITIONS -
Battle of San Juan de Ulua (John Hawkins, 1569)
The Treasure Fleet (Piet Heym, 1628)
The King's Pirate (Henry Morgan, 1671)
The Silver Train Ambush (Francis Drake, 1573)
The Sack of Maracaibo (L'Ollonais, 1666)
The Last Expedition (Baron de Pointis, 1697)
A new player should try a career rather than a famous expedition. Each
expedition is a short, self-contained adventure that ends when you
divide up the loot. In reality these expeditions were commanded by an
experienced, skillful leader. To do well, you also should be an
John Hawkins, 1569:
This is a fairly difficult situation. You have a large, powerful
squadron, but are in a totally Spanish Caribbean. The only friendly
ports are tiny anchorages. In reality, Hawkins tried to be a peaceful
trader (sometimes at gunpoint - a most peculiar combination), and
failed. See Famous Expeditions for additional background information.
Francis Drake, 1573:
This is a very difficult situation. Like Hawkins, you are faced with a
completely Spanish Caribbean, but now you have a small force. In
reality, after a few false starts, Drake's boldness and bravery made
him successful. See Famous Expeditions for additional background
Piet Heyn, 1628:
This is a fairly easy situation. You have a balanced task force, and
are admirably positioned to intercept Spanish treasure galleons off
the Havana or in the Florida Channel. Equaling Heyn's feat of
ambushing the entire Treasure Fleet will take a combination of good
luck and persistence at the right place and time. See Famous
Expeditions for additional background information.
This is a fairly easy situation. You have many potentially friendly
bases and militarily weak Spaniards. However, duplicating L'Ollonais'
achievement of conquering and plundering the entire Maracaibo region
may prove taxing. See Famous Expeditions for additional background
Henry Morgan, 1671:
This is a very easy situation. You have overwhelming forces, various
friendly bases, and an enemy already weakened by earlier raids. Morgan
captured Puerto Bello and sacked Panama. With any luck, so can you.
See Famous Expeditions for additional background information.
Baron de Pointis, 1697:
This is another very easy situation. You have powerful forces, while
the Spanish are at their lowest militarily. Duplicating de Pointis'
capture and sack of Cartagena isn't too difficult. See Famous
Expeditions for additional background information.
SELECTING AN HISTORICAL TIME PERIOD -
The Silver Empire (1560)
The New Colonists (1620)
The Buccaneer Heroes (1660)
Merchants and Smugglers (1600)
War for Profit (1640)
Pirates' Sunset (1680)
A new player should answer No, Thanks. This automatically gives you
the most advantageous era for piracy: The Buccaneer Heroes (1660).
The Caribbean and the Spanish Main were a changing environment as
military and economic power waxed and waned, new colonies appeared and
old cities declined. The region gradually changed from total Spanish
dominion in the 1560s, to a wild frontier for European colonization,
and eventually to a cosmopolitan nexus in a new global economy.
The Silver Empire (1560):
In this era the Spanish Empire is at its peak. all the colonies (with
one lonesome exception) are Spanish, all the major ports and trade are
controlled by Spain. However, Spain's gains have been so great other
Europeans are attracted to steal and plunder whatever Spain cannot
protect. Because of Spains great power, this is an extremely
challenging era, and should not be attempted by novices. See THE
SILVER EMPIRE (1560 - 1600) for more information.
Merchants & Smugglers (1600):
This era is very similar to The Silver Empire, but Spain is slightly
weaker. A few abortive non-Spanish colonial ventures have begun, but
the Caribbean remains essentially Spanish. Another change is the
predominance of the Dutch smuggling trade. Like the 1560s, this era
should not be attempted by novices. See MERCHANTS & SMUGGLERS (1600 -
1620) for more information.
The New Colonists (1620):
This era sees the first successful colonies founded by the enemies of
Spain, while Spanish power continues to decline. With these colonies
prospects for piracy and privateering are improved. Life is fairly
challenging for would-be pirates and privateers. See THE NEW COLONISTS
(1620 - 1640) for more information.
War for Profit (1640):
This era is the heyday for small, independent buccaneers. The Spanish
military and economy are at their nadir, while new European colonies
are blooming throughout the Antillies. This period is a golden age
(literally!) for the independent and resourceful man. It is an
enjoyable era for players of al skill levels. See WAR FOR PROFIT (1640
- 1660) for more information.
The Buccaneer Heroes (1660):
These decades are the peak of swashbuckling adventure in the
Caribbean. Spanish wealth is reappearing, but Imperial military power
remains a joke. European colonies and ports abound, fortune-hunting
sailors crowd the taverns, searching for lucky Captains. This classic
age makes piracy a pleasure for players of every skill level. See THE
BUCCANEER HEROES (1660 - 1680) for more information.
Pirates' Sunset (1680):
This era is the last for Caribbean pirate adventuring. European
nations now take seriously events in the Caribbean. Navy warships are
on patrol, Letters of Marque are harder to find, governors are less
tolerant. Enjoy this era while you can, for it is the end of an age.
This period is somewhat tough for novices but interesting and
challenging for all others. See PIRATES' SUNSET (1680 - 1700) for more
SELECTING A NATIONALITY -
A new player should select English Buccaneer. Specific roles
available vary from period to period (no Dutch role is available in
1560). The role you choose determines where you start, what ship(s)
you have, the size of your crew, your initial wealth and reputation,
etc. Your initial nationality does not require you to support that
nation (many of France's admirals in the Caribbean during the 1680s
were Dutch buccaneers!). Your acts speak for you: if you deeds please
a nation, a governor may reward you. If you anger a nation, a governor
can order his harbor forts to fire on you!
English is often a useful nationality. This nation supports privateers
into the 16th Century, and just as generously supported private
colonization ventures in the next Century.
French is the second classic Nationality for pirates. Although this
nation provides less support to its sons overseas, it also gives them
more independence and more freedom of action. Furthermore, the growing
17th Century French colonies on Western Hispaniola and Tortuga are
ideal pirate bass.
Dutch is an exciting and different nationality. Except in the 1620s,
the Dutch sailed as traders to the Caribbean, not as warriors. Of
course, once in the Caribbean, more than a few supplemented their
trading with more violent and profitable pursuits. As a rule, Dutch
traders tried to stay on the good side of the French and English,
although this was not always possible.
Spanish is the most challenging nationality. As a Spanish renegade you
start in a weak position, although in 1680 you can play the
interesting role of Costa Guarda - the Spanish Caribbean coast guard
who often acted liked pirates themselves! In either event, Spanish
origin is a pleasant change and refreshing challenge.
Your Name -
Type in any name you wish, but you are limited to nine characters.
Press the 'Return' key to finish your entry.
DIFFICULTY LEVEL -
A new player should choose Apprentice. This gives you the easiest and
most helpful environment for learning.
Apprentice gives the player maximum "aid" from expert subordinate
officers on board the ship. This makes play easier, but whenever the
party's loot is divided, all these experts take rather large shares,
leaving little for you.
Journeyman is moderately easy. The player's subordinates are less
expert (although still quite good), but your share of the loot is
Adventurer is moderately difficult. Your subordinates are mediocre,
but your share of the loot is very good.
Swashbuckler is extremely difficult. Your subordinates are 'drunken
gutter swine' of precious little value. Of course, your share of the
loot is the largest possible.
SPECIAL ABILITIES -
Skill at Fencing
Skill at Gunnery
Skill at Medicine
Skill at Navigation
Wit and Charm
New players may select what they please. Apprentice difficulty level
insures that all activities are fairly easy.
Skill at Fencing gives you well-trained reflexes that make enemy
actions and reactions seem sluggish by comparison.
Skill at Navigation make travel on the high seas faster and easier.
Skill at Gunnery aids you during naval battles, making your broadsides
more likely to land on-target.
Wit and Charm is useful when dealing with governors and others of high
Skill at Medicine helps you preserve your good health longer, and to
suffer less from injuries. As a result, your career can last longer.
YOUR STARTING TALE: TREASURE FLEETS & SILVER TRAINS -
As your early life unfolds, you are asked for a crucial piece of
information: when the Spanish Treasure Fleet or Silver Train arrives
at a particular city. The itinerary varies from year to year. The
itineraries appear in chronological order later in this document. Be
sure you have the correct year, and don't mistake the Treasure Fleet
for the Silver Train, or vice versa. If you answer the question
correctly, then events will unfold to your advantage. If you answer
incorrectly, you are warned about an unpromising start. Heed the
advice and start over, otherwise you'll find your situation most
Spain & Peru:
At times the Treasure Fleet is not in the Caribbean, but in Seville,
Spain, preparing for another journey. similarly, at times the Silver
Train is not in the Caribbean, but in Peru, loading silver and gold
there. In both cases it is inaccessible to you. You'll have to wait
until it reappears in the Caribbean area.
HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES -
From the 1530s onward, Spanish ships suffered from privateers and
outright piracy, not only in the West Indies, but also in the
Atlantic. Spain's solution adopted informally in the 1560s, was to
"convoy" ships together in one powerful fleet.
Each year the fleet ("flota") sailed from Seville in Spain, carrying
passengers, troops, and European trade goods to the Spanish colonies
of the new world. However, its principal purpose was returning silver
from the mines in New Spain (Mexico) and Potosi (Peru) to the Spanish
government in Europe. This vast wealth made the returning fleet a
tempting target. Privateer and pirate ships frequently followed it,
hoping to pick off stragglers. This was a dangerous business, since a
well-handled war galleon could (and sometimes did) turn the tables and
capture a pirate!
Similarly, the mule train roads along the coast of Terra Firma (South
America) moved silver and other goods toward the major ports of
Cartagena, Nombre de Dios, and Puerto Bello. These trains carried
produce and specie destined to be loaded aboard the treasure fleet.
THE TREASURE FLEET THE SILVER TRAIN
Cumana - Early October Cumana - Early April
Puerto Cabello - Late October Borburata - Late April
Maricaibo - Early November Puerto Cabello - Early May
Rio de la Hacha - Late November Coro - Late May
Nombre de Dios - Early December Gibraltar - Early June
Cartagena - Late December Maracaibo - Late June
Campeche - Late January Rio de la Hacha - Early July
Vera Cruz - Early February Santa Marta - Late July
Havana - Early March Cartagena - Early August
Santiago - Late March Panama - Late August
Florida Channel - Late April Nombre de Dios - Early October
Cumana - Early October St. Thome - Early April
Caracas - Late October Cumana - Late April
Maracaibo - Early November Caracas - Early May
Rio de la Hacha - Late November Pureto Cabello - Late May
Santa Marta - Early December Coro - Early June
Puerto Bello - Late December Gibraltar - Late June
Cartagena - Early January Maracaibo - Early July
Campeche - Early February Rio de la Hacha - Late July
Vera Cruz - Late February Santa Marta - Early August
Havana - Late March Cartagena - Late August
Florida Channel - Late April Panama - Early September
Puerto Bello - Late October
Caracas - Early September St. Thome - Early March
Maracaibo - Late September Cumana - Late March
Rio de la Hacha - Early October Caracas - Early April
Santa Marta - Late October Puerto Cabello - Late April
Puerto Bello - Early November Gibraltar - Early May
Cartagena - Early December Maracaibo - Late May
Campeche - Early January Rio de la Hacha - Early June
Vera Cruz - Late January Santa Marta - Late June
Havana - Late February Cartagena - Early July
Florida Channel - Late March Panama - Late July
Puerto Bello - Early September
Caracas - Early October Cumana -Early April
Maracaibo - Late October Caracas - Late April
Rio de la Hacha - Early November Gibraltar - Early May
Santa Marta - Late November Maracaibo - Late May
Puerto Bello - Early December Rio de la Hacha - Early June
Cartagena - Early January Santa Marta - Early July
Campeche - Early February Cartagena - Late July
Vera Cruz - Late February Panama - Late August
Havana - Late March Puerto Bello - Early October
Florida Channel - Late April
Caracas - Early September Cumana - Early March
Maracaibo - late September Caracas - Late March
Rio de la Hacha - Early October Gibraltar - Early April
Santa Marta - Late October Maracaibo - Late April
Puerto Bello - Early November Rio de la Hacha - Early May
Cartagena - Early December Santa Marta - Early June
Campeche - Early January Cartagena - Late June
Vera Cruz - Late January Panama - Late July
Havana - Late February Puerto Bello - Early September
Florida Channel - Late March
Caracas - Early October Cumana - Early April
Rio de la Hacha - Late October Caracas - Late April
Santa Marta - Early November Maracaibo - Late May
Puerto Bello - Late November Rio de la Hacha - Late June
Cartagena - Late December Santa Marta - Early July
Campeche - Late January Cartagena - Late July
Vera Cruz - Early February Panama - Late August
Havana - Early March Puerto Bello - Early October
Florida Channel - Late April
FENCING & SWORDPLAY
Early Modern Europe was a willful and violent age. You discouraged
thieves, righted injustice, protected your family, and maintained your
honor with a sword. Whether challenged to a duel, or fighting your
way through a tavern brawl, skill with cold steel was simple survival.
BASICS OF CONTROL -
The descriptions here assume you are using a joystick (stick). If not,
see the "Captains Broadsheet" for your equivalent controls.
You are on the right side of the battle scene, your opponent is on the
To Attack, push the stick left, toward the enemy. Push high for a high
attack, horizontal for a mid-level attack, low for a low attack. Hold
the trigger before and during the attack for a slower but more
powerful slashing attack.
To Parry, do not push left or right. Just push up to parry high
attacks, leave centered to parry mid-level attacks, and push down to
parry low attacks.
To Retreat, push the stick right, away from the enemy. You parry while
retreating, and like normal parries, these can be high, mid-level, or
low, depending on stick position.
To Pause, press the pause key. To resume fencing, press it again.
Attack High Parry High Parry High
(slash w/trigger) and retreat
\ | /
\ | /
Attack mid-level \ | / Parry mid-level
(slash w/trigger) ------ Parry ------ and retreat
/ mid-level \
/ | \
/ | \
/ | \
Attack Low Parry Low Parry low
(slash w/trigger) and retreat
CHOOSING YOUR WEAPON -
Three types of swords are available: rapier, cutlass and longsword.
For all three weapons, a slash is twice as effective as a normal
attack, should it hit. Of course, slashes take longer to execute. Your
opponent also has different weapons. The color of your opponent's
shirt indicates the weapon he carries.
The rapier is a long, thin, flexible weapon with a sharp point. It can
be maneuvered easily and thrust into a target with accuracy. It has a
longer reach than any other weapon, but its strikes do the least
damage (that is, you must hit more often to defeat the enemy).
The cutlass is a short, heavy, curved cleaver with a mean edge but
short reach. Cutlass hits can be devastating (twice as damaging as a
rapier) making it a popular weapon among untutored fighters.
The longsword is a classic weapon of medium length (longer than a
cutlass, shorter than a rapier). Its attacks do more than a rapier,
but less than a cutlass.
THE PRINCIPLES OF FENCING -
Like all active men of your time, you are a trained swordsman.
Attacking and defensive movements, including wrist, arm, body, and
footwork are as automatic as throwing or kicking a ball. Put together,
these motions form "combinations" that allow you to attack, parry, or
retreat in various ways. Each combination takes one to two seconds to
In battle, victory depends on selecting the best combination. If you
recognize an attacking combination fast enough, you can block it with
a defensive combination, or counterattack with a combination that
exploits his attack.
A "hit" occurs whenever an attack connects. You'll see a flash
hint of blood when you hit. Each hit weakens your enemy and
demoralizes his followers.
Retreat from battle is easy. Just select retreat combinations until
you move off the screen. This ends the battle. Of course, you lose
whatever you were fighting over and your reputation suffers. On the
other hand, when facing a skillful enemy, retreat is often better than
Panic & Surrender occurs whenever a leader in "panic" is hit. It
occurs in large battles when a leader's forcer are reduced to just one
man, and then he is hit. Striking a man who surrendered is an
unchivalrous deed that may inspire him to rise and fight on.
Novices are advised to select a cutlass and just keep attacking, high,
low, and middle, relying on the large damage done with each hit.
However, if you'd like to defend yourself with some parry
combinations, a weapon with more reach, such as a longsword or rapier,
Each combination is different swordfighting maneuver in combat. As a
fencer, you select a combination and your body automatically makes the
All attacking combinations include forward-moving footwork. Therefore,
to advance against your opponent, select an attacking combination.
Similarly, all retreating combinations cause you to back away from
Slashing High takes the longest period of time to execute, but has an
extra- long reach. If it hits, this combination does twice the damage
of a normal attack.
Slashing Mid-Level is a faster slash, but slower than normal attacks
and parries. If it hits, this combination does double the damage of a
Slashing Low is the fastest slash, but has a slightly shorter reach.
If it hits, this combination does twice as much damage as a normal
Attacking High is a moderately fast attack that exploits the point
rather than the edge of a weapon. It has a longer reach than mid-level
or low attacks and slashes. If it hits, this combination does half as
much damage as a slash.
Attacking Mid-Level is the second-fastest attack. It also emphasizes
the point, rather than the edge. Therefore, if it hits this
combination only does half as much damage as a slash.
Attacking Low is the fastest attack, but has a slightly shorter reach
than normal. Like high and mid-level attacks, it uses the point.
Therefore, if it hits this combination only does half as much damage
as a slash.
Parrying High counters any high combination, attack or slash. As high
attacks are slower developing than mid-level or low, defensive
fighters rarely stand "on guard" in a high parry.
Parrying Mid-Level counters any mid-level combination, attack or
slash. This is a classic "on guard" position to which many swordsmen
return. A fencer can move from this position to any other position
Parrying Low counters any low combination, attack or slash.
Experienced swordsmen periodically stand "on guard" in a low parry,
since low attacks can develop very quickly.
High Parry & Retreat combines the standard high parry with backpedal
foot movements that move you away from your opponent.
Mid-Level Parry & Retreat combines the standard mid-level parry with
backpedal foot movements that move you away from your opponent.
Low Parry & Retreat combines the standard low parry with backpedal
foot movements that move you away from your opponent.
LEADERSHIP IN BATTLE -
Only a few of your battles are man-to-man duels. Most of the time you
are leading your stalwart crew against the enemy. As you duel the
enemy leader, your crewmen are also fighting.
Your hits against the enemy leader, and his against you, change the
morale of each side in battle. Morale levels run from WILD! (the best)
downward through STRONG, FIRM, ANGRY, SHAKEN and finally PANIC.
Number of Men:
As you fight, a battle rages around you. The rate each side suffers
casualties depends on their strength and their morale. If morale is
fairly equal, a force with superior numbers will inflict more
casualties. However, an inferior force that has high morale can avoid
casualties and inflict serious losses on a larger force with very low
morale. Therefore, morale can be more important than numerical
Retreat & Surrender:
You can lead your men into a retreat from battle by retreating
yourself. Surrender occurs when you inflict sufficient hits on an
enemy leader in "panic" or when you've reduced the enemy to just
remaining man and then hit the leader (regardless of morale). Of
course, the same could happen to you.
THE MEMOIRS OF CAPT'N SYDNEY -
Many a buccaneer captain is nothin' but a big bully. Unschooled in
fencing, he'd carry a sharp cutlass and swing away, knowing that a
spine-splittin slash do'd more than a half dozen rapier thrusts. I
hear Blackbeard himself, who always used a cutlass, was run through
several score times by a rapier before he fell. He'd not lasted so
long with a cutlass in his gizzard, mate!
Well, I'm no fencing master, but I had some schoolin' in the art of
cold steel. I'd use a cutlass to terrify poor, inept merchant
Captains, slashin 'em up and chopin' 'em down quick as a slipped
anchor. 'Gainst most opponents I preferred me longsword. Toledo steel
it was, with a fine balance and nice edge. In a serious fight I'd not
slash much, since it slowed me down and exposed me too long. Now I
know rapiers are all the rage now, and their extra reach is right
handy. But it takes too bless'd long to do in the opposition with an
Now if'n I 'twas leadin' my men 'gainst greater numbers, me
did change. I remember bein' boarded by a war galleon commanded by an
Admiral or Count or somethin'. Long fancy name, he had. sure to be a
good fencer, I thought, and he was. But outnumbered as we were, I had
ta' strike quick like, get the battle goin' our way, or me mates
would've been slaughtered up right quick.
So I's grabbed a cutlass and charged that Don, howlin' like a demon. I
shrugged off a couple rapier pricks and got right in eye-to-eye,
slashin' at 'is legs. That took some stuffin' out of him right
With them papists all shaken and panicy like, it didna' take long to
polish 'em off.
HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES -
The Common Man as Warrior:
In this turbulent time there were more clergymen than sheriffs! A man
protected his own property and person against thieves and banditry,
since the kingdom often could not. It was the rare man who went
without some weapon. Noblemen settled disputes "quietly" in duels,
rather than through open warfare (a medieval practice the Crown
frowned upon). Commoners used staves, clubs, crude spears, large
knives and such. Where available, the heavy cutlass was an ideal
weapon for a stout but untutored fighter.
The Colonial Frontier:
Life in the colonies was even more unruly than the homeland. This was
This was especially true of the English and French colonies, largely
populated with convicts, fortune hunters, deadbeats, religious
fanatics, and other people the homeland was happy to see off.
Furthermore, in the colonies the landholder might be absent or
nonexistent. In Europe every square inch of land was part of some
nobleman's demise, and he or his family usually lived just up the
road, ready to enforce ancient feudal custom and law.
Firearms existed in this era, but were still newfangled weapons of
slow speed and dubious reliability. Throughout the 1500s firearms were
fired with a slow-burning match. Reloading was a long, laborious
process that required two minutes or more, complicated by the need to
handle loose gunpowder while you held a lighted match! The flintlock
and trigger (invented in 1615 in France) was used by hunters,
sportsmen, and probably buccaneers by 1630. However, it was not
reliable enough for military use until 1670. In battle you might carry
a loaded pistol or three, but you relied upon your sword, not your
guns. Note that the musketeers of Dumas' Three Musketeers (based on
events in the 1620s) generally used their swords, despite being
members of the most elite firearms unit in the entire French army!
TRAVELLING THE CARIBBEAN
The Caribbean is a wide, warm, and pleasant sea. Idyllic tropical
islands and lush jungled shores contain in its steady currents.
Stretching over three thousand miles, the water is a broad highway
between mainland ports, island towns and hidden anchorages.
Take Sun Sight
You can see information about your situation by selecting CHECK
INFORMATION while in town, or by pressing the joystick trigger, mouse
button, or return key (depending on your computer) while travelling
around the Caribbean.
Continue Travels returns you to your previous activity.
Party Status shows what your group owns and the attitude of your men
(happy, pleased, unhappy, or angry). Beware of mutiny if the men
remain angry too long. Expect defections if you run out of food.
Personal Status shows your standing with each nation, and personal
details about your age, health, wealth and reputation. If your health
is poor, you will be forced to retire soon.
Ship's Log recaps your activities and travels, with notes about
special information you found. If you're confused about recent events,
consult your log.
Maps is a file of all your map fragments to buried treasures and other
hidden locations. Initially you have none. You'll find that all maps
have the objective (buried treasure, hidden plantation, etc.) in the
center. Unfortunately, it's a secret map, so parts may be missing.
Once you follow a map to the spot where you think the object is to be
found, you must spend time SEARCHING for the object (see SEARCH
Cities provide all available information about the various towns and
cities in the Caribbean. Just point to a name and press the joystick
trigger, mouse button or return key (as appropriate) to see more
information. If an important event (such as a pirate attack or a new
governor) radically changes information about a town you'll find "no
information available" until you either visit the town or purchase new
information from a traveler in a tavern.
Take a Sun Sight allows you to spend the day plotting your position
with the astrolabe. An explanation of this technique is found later on
in this document.
Search means you'll spend a day searching for treasure or other hidden
things at your present location. If you're in the right spot, and have
the appropriate map fragment, you'll find what's there. Without a map
fragment you always find nothing. This option is not available if you
are at sea or in a town.
Save Game allows you to save the game in progress. This option is
available only if you are in a town.
GETTING AROUND TOWN -
Visit the Governor
Visit a Tavern
Trade with a Merchant
Divide up the Plunder
Visit the Governor:
A visit to the governor's mansion may be useful. He can tell you with
whom his nation wars and allies. He may make special offers or awards.
With luck and sufficient prestige, you may meet his daughter. However,
the governor does not spend much time entertaining coarse sea dogs
like you. Once you have visited the governor of a town, don't expect
to gain admittance again soon.
Visit a Tavern:
Taverns are a place where you can recruit additional men for your
crew, hear the news, purchase detailed information from travelers, and
perhaps meet new and interesting people. You can visit a tavern again
and again, drowning your sorrows in drink while time passes. however,
you'll notice that new crewmen aren't interested in signing up with an
Trade with a Merchant:
This option is explained in more detail below.
Divide up the Plunder:
As Captain, you get a fixed percentage of the party's wealth (the
percentage varies with difficulty level). The remainder is divided
among the crew. Furthermore, not only is the plunder divided, but
also the ships, stores, goods and cannon on them. The crew always
disperses with their newfound wealth, leaving you with just your
flagship and its share of the provisions and armament. After refitting
your ship (which takes a few months) you'll have to rebuild your band
This shows information about you, your party, and the current
situation (see the preceding subsection for details).
Your party departs from the town, ready to either set sail or march
away overland, as you prefer.
TRADING WITH MERCHANTS -
The merchants in a town can buy and sell food, European goods, and the
current export crop (hides, tobacco, or sugar, depending on the era).
They can repair or buy ships and cannon, but almost never have any for
To buy or sell any item, move the pointer up or down to select the
line with the proper item. Then move the pointer left to move items
onto your ship (the appropriate amount of gold is automatically given
to the merchant). Move the pointer right to sell items to the merchant
(the appropriate amount of gold id automatically moved from the
merchant to you). When items are bought and sold, the amount of space
left in your hold is also adjusted automatically.
In addition, if you have more than one ship, you can sell the extras.
If you have any damaged ships, you can pay for their repair. I If you
sell too many ships, you may start trading with negative space in your
hold (more cargo than room). In this case you must sell at least
enough items to bring the space up to zero.
TRAVEL BY SEA -
When travelling your party moves over the land and seas of the
Caribbean. See your "Captain's Broadsheet" for a detailed
of the controls.
If you ship is on the coastline and your party of men is touching it,
you can set sail. Use the Set Sail control to select one of the eight
possible directions to set sail.
Once you have set sail,, controls change. You will remain on course if
you do not change the controls. In addition, you can turn right
(starboard) or turn left (port) as you desire, like a real ship.
The speed of a ship depends on how the wind blows against it.
Travelling directly into the wind is always slowest. Travelling with
wind coming diagonally from the rear is generally the fastest. Each
type of ship has a different "point of sailing" (the wind position at
which the ship develops maximum speed). What with shifting winds and
periodic storms, sailing requires more than a little judgement and
If you have a fleet of many ships, the entire fleet travels at the
speed of the single largest ship.
To pause your travels (to deal with the minor details of life outside
the Spanish Main) press the Pause key. To resume, press it again.
The clouds travelling overhead indicate the direction of the wind,
which varies significantly. Clouds are storm fronts that provide
strong, fast wind if you are near, but may trap our ship if you sail
Shoals & Reefs:
You can see where the sea breaks across shallow reefs and shoals. If
you pass over these, one of your ships could lose its bottom. Pinnaces
and sloops have a very shallow draft, allowing them to sail across the
hazards without risk.
You can only anchor in shallow, coastal water. Do this by sailing
directly up to the coast. The ship automatically stops and your crew
disembarks. If you anchor at a town, you have special choices (see
Arriving at a Town, below).
Press the Get Information key to temporarily pause your travels and
get information (see INFORMATION, earlier in this document).
It takes at least eight (8) men to sail a ship. If you have fewer than
eight men per ship, your men will abandon one.
OVERLAND TRAVEL -
When your party is on land, you can move in eight directions. See your
"Captain's Broadsheet" for details on controls. Of course, the
mostly trackless jungle, swamps and mountains, making overland
movement very slow.
When moving on land your party can carry only as much as you can fit
into your ships.
ARRIVING AT A TOWN -
Sail into Harbor
Sneak into Town
Sail into Harbor means that your ships sail peacefully up to the
quays. This option is available only if you arrive at the town by sea.
If the town is guarded by a fort, the fort may open fire on your ships
if that nation is hostile. If the nation is wary, the fort generally
will not fire unless the governor personally dislikes you.
March into Town means that your entire party walks into town openly
and peacefully. This option is available only if you arrive by
Attack Town has different effects, depending on whether you arrive by
land or by sea.
If by land, you will attack the town overland. If the town has a fort
with a large enough (and brave enough!) garrison, they may sally out
and meet you outside in a land battle outside of town (see PIKE &
SHOT, later in this document). Other times the troops may sit in the
fortress or town, forcing you to lead your men against them in
close-quarters hand to hand combat (see FENCING & SWORDPLAY).
If by Sea, you flagship will have to fight a naval battle against the
fort (see BROADSIDES, later in this document for details). Your goal
is to sail your ship to the shore near the fort, so you men can land
and storm the seaward side of the fortress (see FENCING & SWORDPLAY).
Naturally, this is rather dangerous, what with the fort's guns firing
Sneak into Town means that you hide your ships in a nearby cove and
creep into the back streets at night with a few trusted men. If you
are afraid of fire from the forts, this is an excellent way to get
inside and do some quiet business. However, if your reputation is
large, you may be recognized and attacked. If that happens, you must
fight your way out of town, or be captured and imprisoned.
When you sneak into town, the need to keep your identity secret
prevents you from recruiting men in a tavern. In addition, the party's
loot is left behind in the ship, preventing you from dividing the
Leave Town returns you to travelling about the Caribbean.
TAKE A SUN SIGHT & FIND YOUR POSITION -
"Shooting the sun" with an astrolabe is a technique for finding your
latitude. A latitude scale appears on the side of your map of the
Caribbean for easy reference.
Controlling the Astrolabe:
See the "Captain's Broadsheet" for information on how to control
Astrolabe. It can be moved left or right, and it's platform can be
moved up or down.
Using the Astrolabe:
your goal is to move the astrolabe beneath the sun and raise the
platform so it just touches the bottom of the sun. To get an accurate
reading, you must do this at noon (when the sun reaches its highest
point). Many Captains take multiple sunsights during a day, to insure
they get a good noon sighting.
Note that cloudy weather makes sun sightings difficult.
Dead Reckoning Longitude:
Longitude (east-west position) can be found only through dead
reckoning. If you're an apprentice captain, your expert sailing master
provides a dead- reckoning estimate. Otherwise, you must make your own
guess, based on how fast you've been travelling east or west.
THE MEMOIRS OF CAPT'N SYDNEY -
On me first voyage, sailing as a 'prentice, al seemd easy. I'd just
order the course and we'd sail there. If'n I was uncertain about our
position, we'd take a sun sight, d'ye see, and the sailing
reckon out Longitude nice as you please. But come time to divide the
plunder, and I found my officers were getting three pieces o' eight to
my one. No profit in that, thinks I, and go 'venturing next time with
Well, it took me a bit o' times to learn better those chores that'd
come so easy before. But 'twas all worth it, the time I sailed from
Port Royale to Curacao, sou' by sou'east, and made a dead perfect
landfall! But bi'god a long tack to windward, to the Caribbees say,
'twas always a tiresome bit. After we'd got Providence isle back from
the Dons,...oh, Santa Catalina they call it now?...anyway, that harbor
made a nice place to divide the loot and sell off those slow prizes.
I'd just hold onto me handy sloop. A quick refit we'd be off upwind to
Barbados, see, with not one square-rigger to slow us down!
And I got right sneaky about getting what I wanted at ports. As any
sailor knows, any ol' anchorage'd do for repairs; but to move
plundered sugar and goods, my favorite device 'twas sailing to some
big, wealth port, then sneak in to talk trade with the merchants.
Spaniards weren't much for this in the rich towns, but narry an
Englishman, Frenchman, or Dutchman lived who'd not do business wi'
honest Capt'n Sydney! Let 'em sense a profit, and they'd be at
rail and hand what the gov'ner thought!
And mate, I remember those times I'd visit the gov'ner hi'self.
the true lowdown on war and allies and the like, sometimes even a
dinner, or a nice rank if'n he liked me. Aye, and his ugly daughter,
all religious like...she'd all be fawnin' on me, happy to tell every
little secret in her blessed little heart. Well, I'd a more sense
than marryin' the dear, let me tell ye!
Ah, well, then I got famous, and had ta' stop al this sneakin' bout. I
was too well known. If the gov'ner took a dislike ta' me face, one
step into town and guards'd be swarming. Price of success, mate, took
half the pleasure out of life.
GEOGRAPHICAL FOOTNOTES -
The Caribbean is a warm ocean. The water surrounding the islands stays
a constant 77 degrees F. This steady sea temperature maintains a
pleasant climate on the surrounding land, although weather and
elevation cause notable variations. The most extended period of bad
weather occurs in the summer and fall, from June to November, with
hurricanes not uncommon in the later part of this season.
In all seasons, the prevailing winds are trade winds coming from the
east. Of course, local, temporary variations are not uncommon.
Channels & Passages:
The classic sailing pattern in the Caribbean was to enter through the
Caribbee Islands (Lesser Antilles), put into ports along the Spanish
Main (the coastline of Terra Firma), swing northward into the Yucatan
Channel northward to catch the North Atlantic prevailing westerlies
back to Europe. Along this route the Florida Channel was the point of
maximum danger. Unwary captains could be driven upon the Florida
coast, or tack too far upwind and become lost in the treacherous
BROADSIDES: THE TACTICS OF SEA BATTLE
ENCOUNTERS AT SEA -
Sail Ho! Your first sighting of an enemy ship is its sails and masts
coming over the horizon. Continuing your voyage is a nearly foolproof
way to evade any encounter. Investigating the sail means you
automatically close on the other ship.
Ship in View:
If you investigated the sail, you'll now see the whole ship. If you
sail away now, you may evade contact, but maybe not. Instead you can
continue investigating, which closes the range further, allowing you
to determine the ship's nationality.
See Her Colors:
After the other ship hoists its colors, you can try to sail away
peacefully, come alongside and talk over the latest news, or attack
her. If the ship is a pirate or pirate-hunter, it may recognize you
and attack, regardless of your choice.
Select Your Flagship:
if a battle occurs and you have more than one ship, you can select
which will be your flagship. The ship you select fights the battle. In
the example to the left, you have four ships in your fleet: a
merchantman, two sloops (one damaged), and a pinnace. Any one of these
can be your flagship. Consider your choice carefully, since the type
of ship you're sailing can be important in battle.
| "We have 44 men and 10 cannon ready for |
| battle. Winds are light. Which ship will |
| you command?" |
| Merchantman |
| Sloop |
| Sloop (damgd) |
| Pinnace |
The number of men and guns available for battle is a theoretical
figure. If your flagship is small, you'll find the number of men and
guns limited by the capacity of the ship. See "A GAZETTEER OF SHIPS"
for information about each type of ship. Furthermore, it takes four
(4) or your crewmen to man each gun. If your crew is too small, you
may have fewer than the maximum number of cannon available.
The ship you select remains your flagship until the next battle.
BATTLE AT SEA -
When an encounter leads to battle, the scene changes to a
ship-against-ship duel. The color of a ship's hull matches the color
of it's name below. See the "Captain's Broadsheet" for
Maneuvering in battle is similar to travel by sea. You can turn right,
turn left, or remain on course.
You can either Set Full Sails for maximum speed in battle, or Reduce
to Battle Sails for lower speeds with much less risk of rigging
damage. You begin battle with battle sails set.
Push the Fire Broadside key to shoot. Your gun captains automatically
fire the side of the ship nearest the enemy. Remember, your guns are
mounted along the left and right sides of the ship. Therefore, to aim
your guns, you must turn the ship so its side faces the enemy.
After a broadside is fired the gun crews reload as fast as possible.
Reloading speed depends on morale of your crew. A happy crew loads
faster than an unhappy one. Enemy reloading speed depends on the
quality of their crew (warships, pirate-hunters, and pirates have
better quality crews than peaceful merchantmen and cargo fluyts).
Reloading is temporarily halted if you change your sails - the gun
crews are needed to aloft to handle the sails.
The effect of gunfire varies with the number of guns firing, and the
size of ship hit. For example, an broadside from a 20-gun ship into a
galleon may have little effect while the same into a pinnace might
leave her a flaming wreck.
Press the Pause key to halt the action, and again to resume it.
Escape From Battle:
To escape from a naval battle, sail away from the enemy. Once the
distance between ships is large enough, the battle ends automatically.
In addition, in a long action, nightfall may end the fight.
If you escape from battle and the enemy ship is undamaged, you may
lose a ship to enemy pursuit. This is only a danger if you have two or
Grapple & Board:
If you sail your ship alongside or into the enemy, the ships
automatically grapple for a boarding battle. You must lead your men
into the fight. See FENCING & SWORDPLAY, for more information.
PRIZES & PLUNDER -
When you win a battle at sea, you can either take the enemy ship for
your own (send a prize crew), or you can just take its cargo, while
burning and sinking the ship itself. After the battle you'll get a
report about the enemy ship's armament and capacity, as well as the
empty space remaining in the holds of your fleet.
In general, taking a ship prize is useful, since you can sell the ship
as well as its cargo at a friendly port. This disadvantages are that a
slow- sailing prize will slow down your entire fleet (Spanish galleons
and badly damaged ships are especially slow sailors). Furthermore each
prize requires eight (8) men to handle it. This means eight fewer men
available for battle on your flagship.
For example, if you capture a 100-ton merchantman and you only have 80
tons of space available in your fleet now, and the merchantman is full
of cargo, you won't have enough space for everything. On the other
hand, it's unlikely the merchantman will be completely full, and she
may slow down your fleet considerable. If speed is important to you,
perhaps you should sink her.
Regardless of whether you take the ship prize or sink her, you must
decide what you wish to plunder and call your won, and what you wish
to leave behind (throw overboard). You'll automatically take all the
gold from the ship. Compared to its value, gold weighs virtually
nothing, and therefore doesn't affect your cargo capacity.
Transferring goods to your ship, or throwing things overboard, works
just like trading with merchants. To transfer items to your ship, move
the pointer up or down until it is on the correct line, then flick it
to the left to move things to your ship, or to the right to leave
AMPHIBIOUS ASSAULTS ON TOWNS -
If you sail into a town and select Attack Town, you begin an
amphibious assault on that town. In an assault, your flagship must
sail up to the fort guarding the town, touching land as close to the
fort as possible. If you land too far away, the men will refuse to
march and the assault ends in failure. If you land close enough, the
men jump ashore and storm into the fort, leading to a fight on he
battlements (see FENCING & SWORDPLAY). The number of men participating
in the assault is limited to the number that can fit on your flagship.
As in normal sea battles, you can retreat (end the battle) by sailing
THE MEMOIRS OF CAPT'N SYDNEY -
Captains today are all lily-livered cowards! In my time, 'twas was the
mark of a Captain that he could take a galleon with a pinnace. Aye, I
did it meself off Yucatan. 'Twas a laggardly galleon from the Treasure
Fleet, beating upwind to Havana. We took the weather guage, danced
around her broadsides, gave her a few cannonades into the stern, and
boarded 'em. Our firen' had the Dons half demoralized already - I
bloody'd 'em some, and the battle was done.
Tis my opinion that yer main choice is the flagship. 'Gainst a
fore'n'-aft rig ye need similar, sloop preferred. Otherwise
just escape upwind. Taking down fluyts and merchantmen 'tis oft a job
for a fore-'n'-aft rig, but it's right dangerous using such
frigate or galleon. A couple broadsides and yer swimmin' with wood
chips. Besides, in strong winds a square rigger on broad reach outruns
a fore-'n'-aft. Suchlike times, I oft take a square-rigger meself, so
the swabs don' take a powder and disappear over the horizon.
When I'm engagin', I always rig full sails and get a broadside into
'em quick t' slows 'em down. With all me sail set, I dance
smartly. 'Course, this is right dangerous work, wince I canna' afford
to take any fire, elsewise I'll lose plenty of sail and perhaps a
mast. I've seen other Capt's just run broadside to broadside under
battle sail, poundin' away. Then I'se knows fellows who hardly fire a
cannon. They sail up and board directly, trustin' t' cold steel. So
'tis really a matter of temperment, d'ya see?
Me most terrifyin' battle was the time we sailed into Caracas, lookin'
to storm fort from seaside. Those two forts mounted 24 cannon. I'd a
merchantman for the flag, givin' an even match in firepower. But we
was approachin' with the wind on the quarter or towards the bow some.
I had me choice of sailing bow in and taking it wi' no chance a'
reply, or turning a broadside but falling off downwind. We tride a
couple braodsides 'n' knocked out a few guns, but lost a mast. Soon we
was a' fallin' off seriously, the hull leakin', and no way back
upwind. Befor' we was sunk I put back out to sea, poorer but wiser.
'Twas for the better anyway - the bloomin' fort 'ad me
HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES -
In 1635, Pierre Le Grand and 28 men were lost somewhere off the west
coast of Hispaniola, rudder broken and their pinnace leaking. At dusk
they sighted a towering Spanish galleon. They crept up to her in the
twilight, keeping under her stern and away from the formidable
broadside power of the huge ship. Finally close enough, Le Grand and
his men bored holes in their unseaworthy craft and climbed up the
Spaniard's stern in a do-or-die assault. They captured the surprised
Spanish Captain in his cabin, playing cards. He was sure that a paltry
pinnace was no threat to him!
Different ships make their best speed in different directions.
Fore-and-aft rigged ships (Pinnace, Sloop, Barque) do best on a broad
beam reach, or a beam reach. Square-rigged ships (all others) do best
on a broad reach or running broad reach. In light winds smaller ships
are often faster, while in strong winds bigger, heavier ships sail
faster if the wind is in an advantageous position. See the GAZETTEER
OF SHIPS for more information.
The Weather Guage:
A ship upwind (closer to the wind source) than another has the
"weather guage". With this advantage a ship can run downwind and
rapidly attack its opponent, while the enemy must laboriously tack
upwind to reach it. The weather guage was especially valuable
protecting for smaller ships. Their for-and-aft sails allowed them to
sail into the wind faster. These ships often had oars to permit
movement directly into the wind. A small ship with the weather guage
can tack back and forth across the bow or stern of a much larger ship,
firing broadside after broadside with impunity.
PIKE & SHOT: THE TACTICS OF LAND BATTLE
The English, French and Dutch pirates were no fools. They knew that
the wealth carried by Spanish ships originally came from Spanish
towns. But gaining these riches meant they had to overpower small
armies of Spanish regular and militia troops, then storm powerful
BATTLE ON LAND -
When your party marches overland into a town and selects "Attack the
Town", the town's defenders may form a small army, march out, and meet
you in open battle. If the defenders are especially cowardly or weak,
no land battle occurs - your men storm into the fort or the town's
Controlling your forces on land is different from all other
activities. Pike & Shot warfare is quite unlike other fighting.
Please read the following instructions carefully and see the
"Captain's Broadsheet" for details.
In a land battle your party is divided into two or three groups. You
can give orders to each group separately, or give the same order
simultaneously to everyone.
The SELECT A GROUP key shifts your control from one group to another.
The currently selected group changes color on the map, and their
strength and morale appear below. Press again to select another group.
MOVE ALL GROUPS controls move all groups (not just the selected group)
in one of eight directions. This is the only way to move your force as
Press this key to pause the battle. Press it again to resume the
Your men fight automatically when in range. You do NOT have a "fire"
or "attack" control. After all, a band of pirates is hardly a
disciplined land army! Your men can fight in two ways. They fire
muskets a short distance, or they melee with the enemy in hand-to-hand
combat. In melee combat, everyone participates, not just those armed
Musket fire occurs when your men are stationary. Each group selects
the nearest enemy within range and fires. If no enemy is within range,
that group doesn't fire. Remember, your men cannot fire while moving!
Melee Combat occurs whenever your men move directly into an enemy
group, or vice versa. You can continue moving while the melee rages.
Although your party and most defenders are on foot, some larger
Spanish towns field cavalry forces that move fast and are excellent
melee fighters on open ground. Cavalry, however, lacks long-range
muskets and is hindered greatly in woods.
Men in woods and within a town are invisible to the opposition. You'll
notice that enemy troops disappear in such situations. When you are in
woods or a town, the enemy loses sight of you. Use this to your
advantage by hiding a group along the edge of a woods or town, then
luring the enemy in range by exposing another group.
Woods, town buildings, and marshlands slow down all troops. In
addition, woods and buildings provide cover from enemy fire. This
means the troops take fewer casualties and cannot be hit at long
range. Enemy forces have small coastal boats available, allowing them
to sail quickly over water. Your men, however, must wade through the
Each group has a separate morale level. Morale ranges from STRONG (the
best) to FIRM, ANGRY, SHAKEN, and finally panic (the worst). When a
group panics they run away from the enemy, regardless of orders.
Significant casualties will demoralize a group, while a respite from
combat restores morale. Troops out of battle recover their morale
faster than troops under enemy fire or attack.
The Final Assault:
Your goal is to move your men onto the enemy fort. When you do this
the open field fighting ends and a swordfight on the ramparts decides
whether the enemy surrenders the city, or your attack fails (see
FENCING & SWORDPLAY).
You can retreat from the battlefield by moving off the edge of the map
with all your groups. This ends the attack.
THE MEMOIRS OF CAPT'N SYDNEY -
Me best battle was gettin' revenge on Caracas for the beatin' their
fort gave me flagship. We went ashore a bit east and marched along the
coast. Some Spaniard, gov'ner or some such, rallied their troops and
marched to stop us. Well, we split into two groups. The quartermaster
and all our best musket-men took cover in the edge of a woods,
overlookin' a marsh. Then me with a smaller bunch danced around in a
field just beyond the marsh, howlin' and carryin' on.
Thinkin' us weak and stupid, the Spaniards charged toward us. Their
cavalry hit the marsh first and blam! They was droppin' like acorns in
a storm. In a minute we'd 'em decimated and panicking back to town.
Then we danced and yelled some more and their infantry came up. The
Dons stopped in the marsh and returned fire, brave like, but we had
the cover, and when me mates came up, we had more muskets too. They
tried to close to hand-to-hand, but it 'twas slow goin' in the marsh,
and they was droppin' fast.
Well, we keep tradin' lead with those Spaniards 'till they tired of it
and started home. With a yell we poured out of the trees in hot
pursuit. 'Twas a long chase, but we overran 'em in the town just below
their fort, cuttin 'em up somethin' fierce. Stormin' the for was
child's play then, as they'd hardly a man left for the garrison!
I don' pretend to be a great general. Me and my mates don' know a
refused flank from a countermarch. But those Don's fall for ambush
like bears to honey. Worked like a charm every time. "Cept the time
one of our parties lured them out into the wilderness while the other
sneaked to town and stormed the fort whilest they were away! But that,
matey, I did right rarely. I always preferred to bury them papists
outside the walls, rather than face them hand to hand within their
fort. After all, fort stormin' 'twas a right chancy business; belike
'cause the men insisted that I take my place at the head of the
HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES -
Pike & Shot Warfare:
Land warfare in the 16th and 17th Century saw the supremacy of
infantry restored after the long reign of the mounted knight. In
Europe the Spanish Tericio was the great military system of the 16th
Century, as formidable in its day as the Roman legions. The Tercio was
a solid block of pikemen, 16 or more ranks deep. It developed an
awesome power charging forward, as well as nearly invincible bristling
defense against cavalry. Men with firearms (arquebuses and the heavier
muskets) formed loose groups at the corners, giving supported fire and
softening the enemy for the pikemen's punch. Bayonets did not exist
and a firearm took over two minutes to reload. Therefore, when close
action threatened, the musketeers retired behind the pikemen. Spanish
Tercios were built of well-drilled, professional soldiers, ready to
instantly perform the complex drill evolutions that maneuvered the
cumbersome blocks of pike and their supporting musketeers. This
military system was widely copied in Europe throughout the 16th and
17th Centuries. As firearms improved, the proportion of musketeers
In the West Indies the slightly faster-firing flintlock musket was
popular among privateers and buccaneers decades before regular troops
were issued the weapon. The buccaneers had uncommon accuracy and skill
with their weapons because they relied on them for hunting ashore.
Buccaneer firepower was among the most accurate on earth at the time.
Furthermore a risk-all, gain-all attitude made buccaneers ferocious
opponents in melee. No wonder many Spaniards ran from the
crack-shooting, cutlass-wielding berserkers of Tortuga and Port
The great weakness of the buccaneers was cavalry. Their firepower was
insufficient to stop an organized, disciplined cavalry attack.
However, Spanish cavalry in America was an undisciplined militia force
of local notables more interested in preserving their wealth than
killing pirates. Even in the defense of Panama, where the Spanish had
100 to 200 horsemen, the mounted arm was timid and indecisive, with
many desertions before and during the battle.
Drakes Assault on Cartagena, 1586:
One late winter afternoon, Francis Drake in his 30-gun galleon
flagship Elizabeth Bonaventure led a fleet of ships to Cartagena,
fresh from the plundering of Santo Domingo. His ships anchored in the
roadstead, outside of the range of the forts. That night, while the
Spanish prepared for a naval attack into the harbor, Drake disembarked
over 1,000 men onto the harbor large outer peninsula and marched over
the sandpit connecting this to the city proper. There his men cut
through a fence of poisoned barbs, waded out to sea to avoid the
gunfire from Spanish ships anchored in the harbor, and finally charged
the 750 defending Spaniards. The hand-to-hand melee swirled back into
the city, where the Spanish finally broke and surrendered (or ran).
Victorious, Drake's men plundered it all. Eventually the Spanish
governor raised 110,000 ducats (a vast fortune) as ransom for Drake's
departure. Drake agreed, as he and his supporters preferred money to
ownership of a plundered city.
The Defense of Panama, 1671:
When Don Juan Perez de Guzman, President of Panama, organized the
city's defense against Henry Morgan's buccaneers, his "army"
of two companies of Spanish regular infantry (each about 100 men),
plus militia companies of Spaniards, mulattos, free blacks, mestizos,
and zamboos (various Spanish-African-Indian racial mixtures) which may
have totaled 800 or more. The pure-blooded Spanish militia was largely
mounted, carrying pistols and swords, theoretically capable of a
battle-winning charge over the open ground north of the city. The
remainder served as infantry, many with no weapon better than a crude
pike (12' or longer pointed pole). None of these had sufficient
military drill to move in the dense, formidable blocks of pikemen that
won battles in Europe. Indeed, few had sufficient discipline to
withstand more than one or two volleys of musket fire. Curiously, in
battle the native Spaniards were the first to flee (many of them
departed before the battle started) while the free Blacks were among
the most stalwart defenders of the city.
LIFE IN THE WEST INDIES
YOUR CAREER ON THE HIGH SEAS
A MERRY CREW "ON ACCOUNT" -
Buccaneers and pirates are unique: they were a democratic group,
governed by voting, in an age of absolute kings and imperious
aristocrats. Among pirates, spoils are divided fairly and equally. The
Captain gets extra shares, but only because he takes larger risks. His
crew is said to sail "on account" when they are paid by shares of the
loot, instead of by wages.
At the Start:
Each voyage means a new start for the Captain and crew. you will have
one ship, recently cleaned and outfitted, some initial funds from your
financial backers (about 10% of the last voyages' profit), and a core
of loyal crewmen.
Recruiting Crewmen is done in taverns, and sometimes from captured
ships. If you sneak into town you cannot recruit in taverns
(recruiting is a very public activity). Recruiting from captured ships
is easiest if the capture is a pirate, or a ship with a very large
Your crew is not paid wages. Instead, at the end of the voyage, the
party's profits are split. Each man will get his fair share. Until the
division of ;plunder, the Quartermaster is keeping an 'account' for
each man from which are deducted expenses for his clothing, penalties
for crimes and misdemeanors, gambling losses, etc. The term 'sailing
on account' refers to this complex process of bookkeeping. This
approach is also sometimes known as "No Purchase, No Pay"!
As Captain, be careful to distinguish between the entire party's
wealth (displayed in Party Status) and your personal wealth (displayed
in Personal Status). Certainly your crew knows the difference! During
the course of a voyage, the party's wealth is the combined profit of
the voyage. It is the property of all and strongly affects crew morale
(see below). At the end of the voyage, when you divide up the loot,
each man gets his fair share. Only then do you get your share, which
appears in your Personal Status money.
The attitude of the crew varies from HAPPY (the best) to PLEASED,
UNHAPPY, and ANGRY (the worst). The more money the party has, the
happier they are. The crew attaches little importance to captured
ships, goods, and other items. Their eyes are on gold! In addition,
the crew is impatient. As the months pass, they want to disband and
spend their loot, or (if you don't have much loot) they start thinking
about joining some other Captain. The only way to keep them happy is
to keep collecting more and more gold. It's difficult to keep the crew
pleased for more than a year, and almost impossible to keep them
pleased for two years or longer.
When the crew is unhappy or angry, they will start deserting whenever
you visit port. If they are angry too long, they mutiny. This means
you must fight to remain Captain.
Note that it is easier to keep a small crew happy than a large crew.
This is because with a small crew, each man's share is larger, making
him a happier fellow! Also note that converting plundered cargo to
gold helps keep morale high, especially if you sell at a town with
Dividing the Plunder:
When the cruise ends and you Divide up the Plunder, don't be surprised
when the men disperse to enjoy their wealth. Also remember that
everything is split fairly, including the ships, cannons and, cargo.
As Captain, you retain only your flagship. Therefore, it's advisable
to sell everything except your flagship before dividing the plunder.
A fixed percentage of the party's gains go to the officers. Each
officer's share is worth a bit over 2%. Therefore an apprentice
Captain with two shares gains 5%, a journeyman with four gains 10%, an
adventurer with six gains 15%, and a swashbuckler with eight gains
20%. Note that the size of the crew has no effect on the Captain's
share. This is to discourage Captains from leading their crews into
massacres! In addition, a flat 10% is returned to the patrons and
sponsors of the voyage as their profit. Generally, the Captain's
financiers will make this money available again as capital for the
Shares to the crew are an equal distribution of everything remaining.
The size of each crewman's share affects the Captain's reputation. If
the shares are large, the Captain's prestige is enhanced. If the
shares are small, the Captain's reputation suffers, making it harder
for him to recruit new crewmen.
GAINS & GOALS -
An Age of New Beginnings:
This is an era of privilege. A man of high rank or title lives under
different laws than the commoners. More importantly, this is an age of
social mobility. Old families with the wrong religious beliefs,
incorrect political views or insufficient wealth disappear from the
national scene. Even the royal houses change frequently. England's
royal family was the House of Tudor to 1603, the House of Stuart to
1649, the Cromwellian Commonwealth to 1660, the House of Stuart again
to 1688, and then the House of Orange!
Onto this stage of turmoil and change, a single man of energy and
boldness can grasp power and prestige for generations to come. A
common seafarer from an undistinguished family, such as Francis Drake,
could gain titles of nobility, rank, honors, and immense prestige.
What to Seek? Planning for a happy retirement means seeking as much of
everything as possible. Personal wealth is always valuable. Land is
also useful - among the nobility, for example, land is considered the
measure of a man. As a rule, the more you accomplish at a rink, the
more land you receive when you are promoted to the next higher rank.
In addition your reputation, your family (including a wife, if any),
and your health all contribute to your future happiness.
When to Retire? Roving the seas is an enjoyable and exciting life, but
a wise man keeps an eye toward retirement. Eventually wounds from
battle and the taxing demands of sea voyages affect your health. If
your health is poor, helpful friends will advise retirement. Heed
their advice - if you ignore them life becomes more and more
difficult, until one day you are unable to recruit a new crew for
another voyage. In general, your career is limited to five to ten
years of active endeavor. However, waiting until you're at death's
door is not a good way to start a happy retirement!
THE MEMOIRS OF CAPT'N SYDNEY -
Me voyages were always a fine balance between the men's temper and
their strength. It took time t' build up a fleet of three or four
ships and a sturdy band of a few hundreds. By the time all'd be
assembled, they'd be right and hungry for plunder. I had'a please
quick with some fine, large stoke. Like plunderin' a city or three.
If'n I didn't, they'd get so surly as t' be unreliable in
desertin' at every port. Eventually, ye must either accomplish some
grand design, as I did at Campeche, or just put in, divide the swag,
and hope the next cruise be better.
Me biggest disappointment always was settling accounts after a cruise.
I'll grant it 'twas all done democratic and fair-like, but 'tis
the less frustratin' to be already thinkin' pon the next expedition,
and here me fine fleet scatters!
Reputation was my most treasured possession. A few successful cruises
gave me much in others' estimations. Havin' the good word about helped
raise new crews, even if the last voyage 'twas a bit thin on the
pickin's. Of course, maintainin' a big reputation required ever bigger
exploits. In the fact, that a' why I retired. I just couldn't top me
own adventures! Still, a large reputation was a godsend in later life,
let'in' me escape mortification more than once.
HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES -
A Captain's Qualifications:
Among buccaneers the Captain was elected by the crew, not appointed by
government or owners (as is common on military or commercial vessels).
He was the man the crew agreed was best for the job. I If the crew
decided the Captain was inept, they would replace him with another of
their number. Often the new candidate dueled the old for the
In the crew's mind, the Captain's most important skill was leading
them in battle. For this they wanted bravery and ferocity more than
they wanted tactical genius. However, the best Captains, such as Henry
Morgan, had both.
Outside of battle, when dealing with governors and other officials,
the Captain acted as 'front man' to represent the group. Although
pirates professed disdain for the privilege and status of the
aristocracy, often their Captains were former military men, merchants
or aristocrats with a 'lordly manner'.
Finally a Captain needed a good reputation, with numerous past
successes to his credit. It was his name that brought new recruits
aboard. This experience was doubly valuable since most of the really
good plans for profitable expeditions were conceived by veteran
Henry Morgan was a Welsh adventurer. Although his origins are
uncertain, he probably came to the Antilles in 1655 as part of the
invasion force that captured Jamaica. He advanced both as a militia
officer (on land) and a privateering leader (at sea). In 1667 he was
commissioned as Admiral of Privateers by the English governor at Port
Royale. In the next few years he plundered numerous ships and cities,
including Puerto Bello. Then, in 1671, he took Panama, the richest
city in the New World.
Patrons who benefited financially from his Panama expedition included
Sir Thomas Modyford (Governor of Jamaica), George Monck (the Duke of
Albemarle, Modyford's aging but influential patron at Court), and
James Stewart (Lord High Admiral, the Duke of York, and incidentally,
the brother of Charles II, King of England since his restoration in
1660). Despite the Treaty of Madrid (in 1670) where England pledged to
stop attacks on Spain, none of these notables refused their share of
the expedition's reward! Morgan was officially "arrested"
mollify the Spanish ambassador) but not confined. He traveled in
aristocratic circles, was toasted everywhere, and consulted on West
Indian policy by the King's advisors. In 1674 King Charles II knighted
him Sir Henry Morgan. He was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica,
where he lived a pleasant life amid his large plantations.
THE GOVERNOR -
Towns with a population greater than six hundred citizens have a
governor. His residence is the seat of government, and the center of
news and intrigue for the colony. A governor's attitude toward you
begins with the "official" attitude of his nation toward your
activities. However, any particular favors you have done for him are
remembered, as well as any especially nasty things you have done to
his city (such as plundering it!)
You can curry favor with a governor by capturing pirates in waters
near his port and then returning that pirate to him. Conversely, a
governor is dismayed if you capture his nation's ships near his town,
and is especially unhappy if you've plundered his town.
When a governor is hostile to you, he will order any harbor forts to
fire upon your vessels as they sail in. In general, if the governor's
nation is hostile toward you the forts usually fire. If the nation is
wary, the governor's personal attitude and the size of your force are
deciding factors. The nation may not be wary, but the governor may
still remember past transgressions toward his area.
Therefore, consider your actions carefully, especially in the vicinity
of rich non-Spanish ports.
Ranks & Titles:
The governor of a town is responsible for protecting and guarding it
from attack. But all too often, he has no money, no naval forces, and
pitifully few land troops. So, he commissions loyal subjects to aid
him, giving them military ranks and authority. Naturally, a governor
favors men who have proved their bravery and worth by fighting then
enemy, while ignoring those who have done nothing for his cause.
The military ranks a governor bestows are, from lowest to highest:
ENSIGN of Privateers, a junior officer or aide
CAPTAIN of Privateers, commanding a ship
MAJOR of a Colonial Militia, commanding a company
COLONEL of a Colonial Militia, commanding a regiment
ADMIRAL of Privateers, commanding a fleet
After military ranks, a governor might use his influence at Court to
promote patents of nobility for valued associates. Naturally, you must
perform large and significant services to gain such bounty. From
lowest to highest, these title are:
BARON, a minor title, but a knighthood none the less
COUNT, a title of some prestige and power
MARQUIS, a title of significant prestige and power
DUKE, a title of great prestige and power
EUROPEAN POLITICS -
Whenever you attack a nation's ships or towns, that nation becomes
ill- disposed toward you. A few attacks may make it wary, while many
attacks make it hostile. Naturally, don't expect advancement from a
governor of a wary or hostile nation.
However, if your target is at war, the target's wartime opponent will
applaud your actions and those governors may reward you. For example,
if England and Spain are at war, attacks on the Spanish will make the
Spanish wary or hostile, but make the English very happy.
If nations are allied, attacks on a nation are remembered and disliked
by its ally. For example, England is allied with Holland but at war
with Spain. If you attack English towns or ships the Spanish governor
will be delighted and the English angry. In addition, England's ally
Holland will also be angry. This is because the Dutch are concerned
about attacks on their ally. However, if you attack Spanish towns and
ships, the English governor will be delighted, but the Dutch won't
care: The Dutch are still at peace with Spain, and thus unwilling to
reward military activities against her.
Although declarations of war, peace and alliance are public knowledge,
ends of alliances are not. Of course, when former allies declare war,
it's a safe assumption that the alliance is over! Otherwise, to learn
the "inside news" about a nation's politics, visit one of its
governors. Even if you sneak into town, the governor's mansion remains
the best source of news.
PIRATE AMNESTY -
When a nation offers a pirate amnesty, it is willing to forget its
former hostility toward pirates. Each governor of that nation is
empowered to offer former pirates a pardon for their activities,
although sometimes the pardon can be expensive. When seeking an
amnesty, be careful about sailing into harbor. Although the nation
may offer an amnesty, a local governor may still distrust you enough
to open fire. This is especially likely if your force is large, or you
have made attacks in the vicinity. If you sneak into town you usually
have a better chance of getting to the governor and convincing him to
provide the amnesty his nation promises.
THE TAVERN -
The first time you visit a tavern openly your reputation will precede
you. Men often approach you, hoping to join your crew. Subsequent
visits while in port will not yield additional recruits. Men are
attracted to heroes, not drunks!
You can purchase information from travelers who have recently visited
another town. They will know the state of the town's population,
economy, and defenses. If you are looking for somebody believed to be
at that town, they usually remember if he's been seen there recently.
Finally, the tavern is a center for public news of all sorts, and a
home for old pirates and other rumormongers.
LOCAL MERCHANTS -
The lifeblood of any colonial town is trade. The strength of the local
merchant community is proportional to the town's economic strength and
population. A strong merchant community has many goods for sale, and
plenty of money to buy yours. It also has higher prices. Small, poor
towns have the lowest prices, but their merchants are poor also, with
Economic experts find the 16th and 17th Century Caribbean a most
peculiar place, especially on the Spanish Main. Complex and
restrictive trade laws, combined with peculiar and unnatural
population patterns, produce unexpected situations. Most importantly,
individual towns often have special markets and needs, causing
especially high or low prices for certain items. All these effects are
transitory, but while some patterns only last days or weeks, others
can last for years.
Merchants are usually happy to trade with privateers, pirates and
smugglers. After all, a profit is a profit! Merchants in Spanish
towns are an exception.
SPANISH TRADE RESTRICTIONS -
Towns and cities on the Spanish Main have four levels of economic
vitality. This affects the affairs of their merchants. In Spanish
towns it is illegal to trade with anyone other than Spanish merchants
who sailed from Seville and are properly accredited by the Spanish
government. However, local governors and merchants often ignore this
tiresome legality, especially if the economy is suffering. As a
result, traders in towns may ignore what the national government says
and instead develop their own opinions, based on your deeds in that
Struggling towns are in economic difficulties. They will trade with
almost anyone, regardless of laws, excepting only pirates whose
reputation in that area is extremely evil. Of course, prices and
quantities of goods are usually quite low.
Surviving towns have either small or depressed economies. The Spanish
usually trade with foreigners whose local reputation is fairly decent.
Prices and quantities of goods are modest.
Prosperous towns have large, strong economies. Prosperous Spanish
towns only trade with Captains of high repute. Prices are fairly high
and goods are available in reasonable quantities.
Wealthy towns are at the peak of the economic spectrum. These Spanish
towns almost always follow the letter of the lay. Prices are high and
goods are plentiful.
THE RISE & FALL OF COLONIES -
All other things being equal, colonies slowly prosper and grow,
gaining economic strength, which attracts population, who in turn
hoard wealth, which obliges the government to install troops and forts
to protect this wealth. Traders and smugglers help this economic
growth with their buying, selling and carriage of goods. But pirates,
buccaneers and privateers taking ships from waters near the colony
will hurt its economic growth.
Indian attacks will deplete the soldiers guarding the town, but leave
the population and economy unaffected.
Pirate raids on a town take whatever gold the pirates can find. The
raid also damages the economy.
Malaria and other diseases reduce both the troop garrison and the
number of citizens. This tends to slow down or even stop economic
Gold mines cause a one-time upswing in the economy and add large
quantities of disposable gold. The gold mine is usually just a
short-lived alluvial wash in a nearby stream or river, but it
invariably generates a "gold rush" mentality boom town.
THE MEMOIRS OF CAPT'N SYDNEY
God's truth, I started honestly enough, carryin' good European
manufacture to the Indies. But the big, rich towns with nice prices
were all Spanish, and those thieven' Dons just wouldn't let me into
market. I found a few smaller towns that'd do business, privately, but
me profits suffered. But at the next city some papist blueblood, blind
'im, recognized me for English and I rotted for six months in a foul
dungeon, tortured by their damnable Inquisition, 'til me crew rescued
me. Betwixt times, the filthy Dons had taken my ship and cargo, every
last ounce of it. So I had to make my own justice. We took a handy
pinnace a' lyin' in the harbor, mounted a few guns, and taught those
Spaniards a lesson!
I've a Dutch friend who maintain the best route to fortune is friendly
trade. He buys low, transports it, and sells high. He keeps his crew
low and pays 'em off regularly, bankin' his profits. 'E even
the towns benefit from his trade 'n' such. Well, I tell ye, I'd
sail the Main with twenty men and four cannon, no siree! But then, I
trust to steel 'n' gunpowder, not to accounts ledgers.
Anyway, I've never forgotten that Spanish dungeon, and made 'em pay
dearly for it. I'd keep abreast of the news, matey. A couple Indian
attacks or plagues and they'd be ripe for the pluckin'. Attackin'
after a pirate raid wasn't so smart. They'd be cleaned out, but the
garrison'd be reinforced and smartin' for action.
The King, God bless 'em, is right obligen' in havin' convenient
Me Letters of Marque are all proper and legal, but I've a 'known
fellows who'd get some clerk for forge up any ol' thing. One
dunderhead had a Letter a' Marque alright - a Letter t' kill sheep!
Didn't stop him none from goin' after the Spanish a'course.
Most of me victories left me wi' more plunder in food, tobacco, sugar
and goods than it did shin' gold. I 'member one cruise where I chanced
upon Trinidad, lookin' to sell a bit a' loot. Had a right nice fleet,
then. We landed up the coast and marched into town. Some insolent
Spaniard said something that got me back up. Well, quick as a wink we
had the garrison locked in its own dungeon and the citizens cowering
behind their doors. We were enjoying ourselves in the mansion of the
gov'nor, who'd disappeared right sudden. Then a delegation of the
leading citizens visited us. They begged us to rein-in our men. I
confess some were gettin' a' tad enthused in their plunderin'.
We thought on it. One of the leading merchants was part English, so we
said that if they flew the Cross of Saint George, pledged themselves
to the English Crown, and appointed that part-English merchant their
governor, we'd settle down and respect their property, legal as you
Shortly after that I took a wound in a battle off Margarita, curse it,
and was laid up for a while. I never did find out how long Trinidad
remained "English". Pe'haps not so long. But I ne'er heard
friends having trouble there again. I'd like to emphasize, though,
that we had a powerful lot of men, and the populace 'twas right small.
With us fewer, or them more, it'd a' never happened.
HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES -
No Peace Beyond the Line:
In 1493 and 1494 the only two European powers exploring the world
(Spain and Portugal) agreed to a "fair" division of responsibility
along a north-south line 270 leagues west of the cape Verde Islands.
In the Treaty of Tordesillas, Portugal gained authority over the
eastern Atlantic, the African coast, and what became the African route
to India. Spain gained authority of the western Atlantic and the
entire New World except the tip of the Brazilian coast. Supported by
a Papal Bull, Spain claimed this gave her sole possession and control
over the Americas. Unfortunately for Spain, the English, Dutch and
French governments never recognized the legality of this line.
The result was that English, French and Dutch traders and colonists
constantly "invaded" Spanish regions where their presence was illegal
by Spanish law. However, Spain never installed sufficient military
strength in the region to consistently enforce her laws. So, even when
European nations were at peace, the constant smuggling and
colonization could cause small battles at any time. Worse, each time
European nations went to war, an orgy of privateering and piracy
exploded across the West Indies.
In the 16th and 17th Centuries royal governments were desperately
short on funds (useful taxation techniques, such as universal income
tax, had not been invented). Building warships, much less maintaining
and crewing them, was so expensive that even powerful battleships
doubled as cargo carriers in peacetime. What few did exist were needed
in home waters. Colonial governors got little or no military forces.
Most colonies relied on a local militia for their defense. Not until
the 1680s did a nation base a regular squadron of warships in the
Caribbean for use year-round.
Because nations had little or no fleet, in wartime the crown
'commissioned' private ships to become its navy. These
warriors were not paid wages. Instead, they kept a large percentage of
whatever they captured. The official authorization for this was the
"Letter of Marque". Ships operating with a Letter of Marque were
"privateers". The English fleet that defeated the Spanish invasion
Armada (in 1588) was almost completely composed of privateers.
In an age of poverty and limited wealth, privateering was one of the
few ways to make a quick fortune. Those men who sailed with Francis
Drake on his 1572-73 privateering voyage to Nombre de Dios (where he
captured the Silver Train) returned rich for life. A crewman's share
from the capture of just one merchantman was often more than a
sailor's yearly wage in peacetime. A privateer Captain known for skill
and success had little trouble recruiting.
Beyond the benefits to the crew, privateering was big business.
Wealthy merchants and noblemen put up the money for a voyage, and
earned a percentage of the "take" in return. The gains were also split
with the crown (the "price" of a Letter of Marque). The sale of prizes
and captured goods was a godsend to merchants, who resold it for a
profit. This created a prosperous colonial economy. In the 1660s and
1670s the prime industry of Jamaica was neither sugar nor tobacco, but
These men were a special breed who appeared in the West Indies during
the 1630s and 1640s, and remained a feature there throughout the
century. Most buccaneers were fugitives from English and French
colonial ventures. Many colonists came to the Americas expecting to
find a paradise full of easy wealth. Instead they were indentured
servants on harsh tobacco and sugar plantations. Some were violent
criminals sentenced to "transportation to the colonies". Whatever
their origin, they left the tiny colonies to live free and easy among
Buccaneers learned two vital skills to survive outside of an organized
colony. The first was seaman ship. They were experts at building small
canoes or pinnaces, and quite skilled at sailing them from island to
island. The second was marksmanship. Their livelihood was hinting wild
animals and cattle. In fact, the name "buccaneer" is derived from
their method of curing meat over an open fire.
In didn't take long before buccaneers combined their skills of
seamanship and marksmanship, taking to the seas in search of treasure
and wealth. The Spanish colonies, militarily weak and economically
failing, were easy targets for buccaneer attacks. The old tradition of
"No Peach Beyond The Line" lent quasi-legality to their activities,
while their use of non-Spanish ports as trading bases helped the new
colonies grow. It wasn't difficult for a British, French or Dutch
governor to condone buccaneering on the principle that the best
defense against Spanish aggression was a good offense, especially an
offense by troops who provided their own pay, and profit to the colony
The buccaneers had a free-wheeling, democratic spirit. They were hard-
living, violent men, ideally suited to the hard and violent life on a
The End of Piracy:
By the 1690s and 1700s nations offered privateering commissions less
and less often. National navies were larger now. The financial
advantages of peaceful trade were recognized as more valuable than the
occasional profits from a privateer's plunder.
Buccaneers and old privateers, with legal and quasi-legal avenues
closed, continued anyway. they turned truly pirate and roamed the
seven seas, looking for rich ships with weak defenses. But it was
increasingly difficult to find men willing to finance new ventures,
while naval warships gradually chased down and destroyed the existing
pirates. By the 1700s pirates were disappearing from the Caribbean, by
the 1710s the North American and West African coasts were too hot for
them, and by the 1720s even distant Madagascar and the Indian Ocean
were closing. An age of adventure on the high seas was over.
A GAZETTEER OF SHIPS CIRCA 1690
Among the myriad types, sizes and rigs of ships sailing the Caribbean,
nine basic approaches to shipbuilding can be discerned. Although each
ship was individually designed and build, shipwrights learned by
copying one another, producing ships of remarkable similarity. These
general types are summarized below. However, expect to meet the
exception more often than the rule!
Burden, in tons, refers to available cargo space, after deduction for
food, water, crewmen, and other common materials and stores. This
should not be confused with tonnage that describes the entire
weight-carrying capacity of the ship when completely unloaded.
Speeds are given in leagues (about 2.5 miles) traveled during a watch
(about four hours). The first value is best speed in light wind, the
second is best speed in strong wind.
Best Point of Sailing refers to the wind direction in which the ship
makes its best speed. Each type of ship has a different point of
Broad Beam Reach | Close-Hauled Beam Reach
\ | /
\ | /
Broad Reach \ | / Close-Hauled
\ \ | / /
\ \ | / /
\ \ | / /
Running Broad \ \ | / / Close-Hauled
Reach \ \ | / / into the Eye
\ \ \ | / / /
\ \ \ | / / /
\ \ \ | / / /
Running \ \ \ | / / / Into the eye
Before the Wind \ \|/ / of the Wind
+------------------------- + -------------------------+
/ /|\ \
/ / / | \ \ \
/ / / | \ \ \
/ / / | \ \ \
/ / / | \ \ \
Running Broad / / | \ \ Close-Hauled
Reach / / | \ \ into the Eye
/ / | \ \
/ / | \ \
/ / | \ \
Broad Reach / | \ Close-Hauled
/ | \
/ | \
Broad Beam | Close-Hauled
Reach | Beam Reach
* SPANISH GALLEON *
7-15 Leagues..........Best Speed
Broad Reach...........Best Point of Sailing
36 Guns...............Maximum Number of Heavy Cannon
20-24 Guns............Typical Number of Heavy Cannon
288 Men...............Maximum Personnel
275 Men...............Typical Crew and Passengers
160 Tons..............Cargo Space
Galleons are the largest sailing vessels on the Spanish Main.
Originally they were created because one large ship was cheaper to
build than two smaller ones. However, large ships were much less
maneuverable, which increased the chance of shipwreck, not to mention
hindering them in battle. Galleons are slow to turn, and are
especially poor sailors close-hauled. Tacking into the wind is very
difficult with this type of ship. Still, the enormous carrying
capacity and powerful armament makes the galleon a formidable opponent
* SPANISH WAR GALLEON *
7-15 Leagues..........Best Speed
Broad Reach or........Best Point of Sailing
32 Guns...............Maximum Number of Heavy Cannon
28-32 Guns............Typical Number of Heavy Cannon
256 Men...............Maximum Personnel
250 Men...............Typical Crew and Passengers
140 Tons..............Cargo Space
War Galleons are similar to mercantile types. They have less cargo
capacity, but more guns and crewmen. The most important difference is
that war galleons are crewed by soldiers and commanded by noble
officers, making them brave and formidable opponents in battle. Due to
their better crew, war galleons are slightly faster than merchant
Galleons on a running broad reach, but otherwise just as ponderous and
unmaneuverable as their more peaceful cousins.
Only the most powerful warships can expect to engage a war galleon and
succeed. The preferred Spanish tactic with these ships was to run
alongside the opponent, fire one broadside at point-blank range, then
board for hand-to-hand combat.
* FAST GALLEON *
9-12 Leagues..........Best Speed
Broad Reach or........Best Point of Sailing
28 Guns...............Maximum Number of Heavy Cannon
24 Guns...............Typical Number of Heavy Cannon
224 Men...............Maximum Personnel
215 Men...............Typical Crew and Passengers
120 Tons..............Cargo Space
The northern European powers refined the basic Galleon Design,
revising the sail plan for more flexibility, then reducing the
upperworks and hull shape for better seakeeping. The resulting ship
was smaller than a Spanish galleon, but faster in light winds and
considerable more maneuverable. However, it suffers the universal
disadvantage of all galleons - poor speed when close-hauled. Still,
its superior maneuverability and seakeeping showed when the English
fast galleons and smaller craft defeated a Spanish fleet of
conventional galleons in 1588.
* FRIGATE *
9-12 Leagues..........Best Speed
Broad Reach or........Best Point of Sailing
28 Guns...............Maximum Number of Heavy Cannon
26-28 Guns............Typical Number of Heavy Cannon
224 Men...............Maximum Personnel
190 Men...............Typical Crew
120 Tons..............Cargo Space
Square-rigged frigates are fast sailors, fairly handy to maneuver, and
faster than most square-rigged ships when close-hauled. A frigate is
extraordinary useful for patrols and independent cruises. Almost all
frigates are built for the Crown as naval warships. With their
well-drilled and professional crews, frigates are dangerous opponents
at any time. Most pirates and buccaneers disappear over the horizon
whenever a frigate appears.
* MERCHANTMAN *
9-12 Leagues..........Best Speed
Broad Reach...........Best Point of Sailing
24 Guns...............Maximum Number of Heavy Cannon
6-12 Guns.............Typical Number of Heavy Cannon
198 Men...............Maximum Personnel
20-45 Men.............Typical Crew and Passengers
100 Tons..............Cargo Space
Square-rigged merchantmen are a trader's dream. They have large cargo
capacity, space for numerous guns for use in dangerous waters, and
plenty of room for crew and passengers. Furthermore, where appropriate
they can be sailed with a smallish crew to save money.
Most merchantmen are peaceful traders, disinclined to fight. They tend
to have large cargoes and sometimes a bit of wealth. Privateers and
pirates always look forward to capturing a "juicy" merchantman.
However, some merchantmen have been converted to pirate ships, with
stronger armament and a ferocious crew of cutthroats. These ships are
* CARGO FLUYT *
9-12 Leagues..........Best Speed
Running Reach.........Best Point of Sailing
20 Guns...............Maximum Number of Heavy Cannon
4-12 Guns.............Typical Number of Heavy Cannon
160 Men...............Maximum Personnel
12-24 Men.............Typical Crew and Passengers
80 Tons...............Cargo Space
Fluyts were invented by the Dutch around 1600, then widely copied
throughout northern Europe. Essentially a smaller but much more
economical merchantman, it can be sailed with a tiny crew (12 to 15
men is not uncommon). A fluyt has large cargo spaces, but a draft so
shallow it can enter rivers, coves and small harbors unsuitable to
large craft. It's sailing qualities are equivalent to a merchantman,
although the best point of sailing is slightly different.
The smallest of the square-rigged ships, fluyts make poor warships.
Almost always they are manned by peaceful traders who often surrender
after a broadside or two. They are unpopular as pirate ships.
* BARQUE *
9-12 Leagues..........Best Speed
Broad Beam Reach......Best Point of Sailing
16 Guns...............Maximum Number of Heavy Cannon
4-6 Guns..............Typical Number of Heavy Cannon
128 Men...............Maximum Personnel
12-36 Men.............Typical Crew and Passengers
60 Tons...............Cargo Space
The largest for-and-aft rigged ships, barques are a traditional design
similar to many Mediterranean merchant and war craft. Many barques are
built in the Caribbean, rather than in Europe. Barques are good
sailors for quiet seas, but all too easily come to grief in a rough
ocean crossing. This means that few Barques return from the Caribbean
to Europe, as the North Atlantic west-to-east route is often stormy.
Barques are the slowest close-hauled sailors among fore-and-aft rigs,
and the least maneuverable. However, the advantages of the rig are so
great that Barques still surpass all square-rigged ships in both
departments. Furthermore, barques carry oars, allowing them to row
straight into the eye of the wind. Due to its large size and good
handling, a pirate barque can be a formidable adversary.
* SLOOP *
9-10 Leagues..........Best Speed
Broad Reach or........Best Point of Sailing
Broad Beam Reach
12 Guns...............Maximum Number of Heavy Cannon
4-6 Guns..............Typical Number of Heavy Cannon
96 Men................Maximum Personnel
8-12 Men..............Typical Crew and Passengers
40 Tons...............Cargo Space
Another Dutch design that gradually appeared during the 1630s and
1640s, the sloop (or jacht, or schooner) became very popular in the
Caribbean. It is extremely fast and exceptionally maneuverable -
better than almost any other ship in light winds. Close-Hauled it
sails very fast, and under oars it can move directly into the wind.
Most importantly, sloops have a shallow draft, allowing them to sail
over shoals with no risk. The main weakness of a sloop is that in
strong winds it is considerable slower than a large square-rigged
ship. The only advantage is its maneuverability and its superior speed
close-hauled or into the wind.
Despite its modest size and cargo capacity, a sloop's maneuverability
is so great that many buccaneers prefer it to larger, more powerful
craft. Indeed, in recent years the English Royal Navy has built a
number of sloops for its own use as pirate-catchers.
* PINNACE *
9-10 Leagues..........Best Speed
Broad Beam Reach......Best Point of Sailing
or a Beam Reach
8 Guns................Maximum Number of Heavy Cannon
2-4 Guns..............Typical Number of Heavy Cannon
64 Men................Maximum Personnel
8-12 Men..............Typical Crew and Passengers
20 Tons...............Cargo Space
Until the advent of the sloop, pinnaces were the primary small craft
of the Caribbean. Like a sloop, a pinnace is very fast, very
maneuverable, and with a draft that permits sailing in shoal waters.
Sailing upwind (close-hauled) it is even faster than a sloop, and much
faster when rowing into the wind.
However, a pinnace is also much smaller than a sloop, with minuscule
capacity for cargo and guns. Still, many a pirate raid was conducted
in tiny pinnaces crammed with fighting men. Drake himself abandoned
his merchantmen in favor of pinnaces when raiding on the Spanish Main.
THE GOLDEN ANTILLES
JOHN HAWKINS AND THE BATTLE OF SAN JUAN DE ULUA (1569) -
One Slow Galleon: Jesus of Lubeck
One Merchantman: Minion
Four Pinnaces: William and John, Swallow, Angel, Judith
Political Situation: Spain is at war with France and England.
You have a formidable squadron, but the flagship is a cumbersome,
unmaneuverable galleon of the Spanish type. As you approach the
Spanish Main, your big decision must be: peaceful trade, or warlike
Peaceful trade means you can use the smaller Spanish ports to
reprovision and perhaps even recruit additional crew. However, it also
means that the rich larger ports are closed to you. Unfortunately, the
profits from peaceful trade are modest, especially so given your large
crew and the slowness of your flagship.
Warlike raids offer a better prospect for immediate gain, but your
fleet isn't strong enough to attack the truly great cities such as
Santiago, Santo Domingo, or Panama. For repairs you can use the
privateer anchorages at the tip of Florida and in the Bahamas. These
places have few provisions, but captured Spanish ships could provide
those. Your biggest problem will be selling captured goods and
replacing crewmen lost in battle.
Inheritor at age 21 of an English shipping firm, John Hawkins voyaged
twice to the West Indies (in 1562 and 1564), selling European goods
and African slaves to smaller Spanish towns. In 1567 he organized his
third and largest expedition (this one) around the galleon Jesus of
On the Main, Hawkins found the Spanish increasingly unwilling to trade
with him. The Spanish home government was aware of Hawkins' voyage,
and was putting pressure on the colonials to obey the letter of the
law. Hawkins resorted to forcing open the marketplace at gunpoint in a
few ports, and was chased out of others by gunfire from forts.
Disappointed by the Main, Hawkins set sail for Havana, but a storm
blew his ships far into the Gulf of Campeche. The only harbor where he
could repair his ships was San Juan de Ulua, the island anchorage for
Vera Cruz. Unfortunately for Hawkins, the day after he arrived the
Spanish treasure fleet appeared, armed to the teeth with war galleons
and troops. After a few days of organizing, the Spanish attacked
Hawkins in harbor, destroying most of his ships and scattering the
rest. These sad remnants, without food or water, struggled home to
England. Hawkins got home on the Minion with only fifteen men left in
After this voyage, Hawkins became a staunch enemy of Spain, serving
England as treasure and controller of the Navy, an admiral on the
Victory against the Spanish Armada, leader of raids against Spanish
South America, and finally as Member of Parliament. He died in 1595 at
FRANCIS DRAKE AND THE SILVER TRAIN AMBUSH (1573) -
One Merchantman: Pasha
One Pinnace: Swan
Political Situation: Spain is at war with England.
Only a man with foolhardy bravery would dare attack the Spanish Main
at the peak of its might and power with a paltry 73 men on board two
small ships. Making any profit from this venture will be most
difficult. A cautious man would adopt a trading strategy, calling at
smaller Spanish ports and building both his wealth and his crew before
beginning to raid and plunder. Only someone as bold as Drake himself
would immediately begin raiding and plundering, trusting to luck and
This is an extremely difficult expedition for a fighter. You must rely
on your superb and charismatic leadership to overwhelm enemies in
hand-to-hand combat before they wipe out your tiny forces. Exploit and
maintain the high morale of your small band. Always seek to meet the
enemy leaders sword to sword and defeat them quickly. Needless to say,
skill in fencing is advised.
Drake arrived on the Main in June, 1572 with two small ships. Within
five days he raided Nombre de Dios, carrying off a huge pile of silver
from the governor's house before a musket ball wound overcame him.
Next he captured a ship off Cartagena (the city itself was too strong
to attack). By September he was back in the Gulf of Darien, taking
Spanish ships to replenish his provisions and trying to ambush the
Silver Train between Panama and Nombre de Dios. But that the winter he
failed: the Spanish were alert to his threat.
Drake returned to his distant and secret base at the Isle of the Pines
(at the southwest end of Cuba) and reorganized. He gathered up
reinforcements from friendly French privateers and Cimaroon rebels.
(Cimaroons were African slaves who escaped the Spanish). In March 1573
he returned to Darien and finally ambushed the Silver Train at Nombre
de Dios, taking a fortune in gold. He had to leave behind another
fortune in silver because it was too heavy to carry! Drake sailed
swiftly for England and arrived at Plymouth on Sunday, August 9, 1573.
A mere thirty Englishmen returned with him, but each survivor was rich
In 1577-80 Drake raided the Pacific coast of Spain's American empire,
then returned via Asia, circumnavigating the globe. With Hawkins he
was an admiral of the fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada (1588),
but died of disease in 1596 (at age 56) after an attack on San Juan,
where some Spanish treasure galleons had sought shelter.
PIET HEYN AND THE TREASURE FLEET (1628) -
Four Fast Galleons: Vergulde Valk, Hollandia, Dolfijn, Haarlem
Two Sloops: Tijger, Postpaard
Political Situation: Holland is at war with Spain and allied with
England. France and England are also at war with Spain.
You command a powerful if cumbersome squadron, vanguard of the great
Dutch privateering fleet. The Spanish Treasure Fleet is an excellent
goal. However, it's late in the season. You must start hunting
immediately off Havana or in the Florida Channel. You'll undoubtedly
find a variety of smaller ships, but if you're lucky and persistent,
you may find the treasure galleons. If you miss the treasure fleet,
don't be shy about raiding a Spanish port or two. Your forces are not
especially maneuverable, buy they are quite powerful. This is a
situation where a good plan, patient execution, and more than a little
luck are the keys to success.
Piet Heyn was already a famous Captain when he sailed under Admiral
Willekens and led the 1624 attack that captured the Spanish colony of
Sao Salvador (Bahia) on the Brazilian coast. Although the conquest
only lasted one year, the Dutch gained invaluable expertise in
producing fine sugar from sugar cane, knowledge they spread around the
Caribbean in the succeeding decade. By 1626 Sao Salvador was producing
for Spain again, so Heyn raided it again!
In 1628 Heyn sailed for the West Indies with a powerful warfleet of
nine large warships and five yachts (sloops). He cruised along the
Main, then swung up to the north coast of Cuba. Off Havana he finally
sighted the Spanish treasure fleet of forty to fifty sail. He quickly
captured nine small stragglers while the rest escaped in all
directions, two running aground in the process. Four royal treasure
galleons fled in Matanzas Bay on the Cuban coast. Heyn pursued them
ran his ships onto the shoals alongside the Spanish, traded broadsides
and boarded. The battered and demoralized Spanish either surrendered
or fled ashore, leaving 46 tons of silver in Dutch hands. This loss
ruined the Spanish economy and gave the Dutch government much-needed
funds at a critical point in the Thirty Years War.
There was great rejoicing in Amsterdam when a fast yacht sailed into
that port carrying the news of Heyn's fabulous victory.
L'OLLONAIS AND THE SACK OF MARACAIBO (1666) -
Political Situation: France is at war with England and Spain, and
allied to Holland. In addition, England and Holland are at war.
Your force is strong in men but weak in naval power. Therefore, like
L'Ollonais, your best prospects are in attacks on ports rather than
captures at sea. All but the strongest Spanish cities are within your
grasp. Beware the fragile morale of your men. These Tortuga buccaneers
are impatient for riches. They will not tolerate long, fruitless
cruises. But still, a target must be selected with car. One
disappointment an mutiny is not far off.
This expedition is challenging but not extraordinarily difficult.
However, you must exercise good judgement at the start, and then
execute the plan quickly and confidently.
Arriving in the Indies as an indentured servant to the planter in
French Hispaniola, Jean-David Nau came from the Les Sables d'Ollone in
Brittany. When his indenture was up in 1660 he immediately went to
Tortuga; within a few years he was commanding his own buccaneer
voyages. Nicknamed L'Ollonais ("the man from d'Ollone"), he
was one of
the most ferocious and inhuman pirates who ever lived.
In 1666 the terror and prestige of his name was enough to collect a
fleet of small boats, crowded with men, bound for Maracaibo. he
surprised the forts and took the city by storm. Despite a bloody
plundering that lasted a fortnight, the town yielded only modest
amounts of gold and silver. His next stop was Gibraltar. The Spanish
there mustered a powerful militia, but after a difficult fight in
marshy ground, L'Ollonais' buccaneers prevailed again. The town was
thoroughly sacked, inhabitants tortured and killed, and ruins left in
the Frenchman's wake. Six months after departing, L'Ollonais arrived
at Tortuga with enough plunder to return to France a wealthy man. But
he had expected riches beyond imagination.
So L'Ollonais mounted a new expedition to the coast of Nicaragua and
Honduras. Despite escalating barbarity and cruelty, he found so little
that his companion ships sailed away, leaving his tiny band forlorn
and hungry. L'Ollonais and his men went inland, raiding Indian
villages for food. This final bit of nastiness was his undoing.
Jean-David Nau's muttering and mutinous crew deserted him when
vengeful Indians ambushed the party. Grievously wounded by poison
arrows, he was clubbed to death.
HENRY MORGAN, THE KING'S PIRATE (1671) -
One Frigate: Satisfaction
Two Merchantmen: Lilly, Dolphin
One Barque: Mayflower
Two Sloops: Fortune, William
One Pinnace: Prosperous
Political Situation: England and France are both at war with Spain.
You have a formidable force for either land or sea fighting. You could
seek additional recruits and food, or you can immediately venture
against almost any place in the Indies with good prospects of success.
Your greatest immediate difficulties are procuring enough food to keep
your men fed, and enough plunder to keep up morale. This is an
expedition that appears easy initially, but can become rather
Henry Morgan was a successful privateer and buccaneer leader. He had
sacked Puerto Principe, plundered Gran Granada on the far side of
Nicaragua, overwhelmed the fortifications of Puerto Bello, and
followed in L'Ollonais' footsteps at Maracaibo and Gibraltar, although
both places yielded little wealth and plenty of hot fighting with
aroused Spanish defenders.
On August 24, 1670, Morgan sailed as Admiral of Privateers under the
auspices of Governor Modyford of Jamaica. He rendezvoused with French
buccaneers from Tortuga and western Hispaniola, swelling his forces to
2,000 men or more, making him strong enough for any venture. His goal
was Panama, richest city of the Spanish overseas empire. Sailing
upriver and then marching overland, he arrived outside the city in
January, 1671. Here the governor of the province, Don Juan Perez de
Guzman, had collected his troops and militia.
On the plains outside the city the two forces fought a pitched battle.
The Spanish lost. The city was taken, plundered, and ultimately burned
to the ground. However, the loot was disappointing. Many of the
richest Spaniards had fled with their families and wealth, rather than
staying around to defend it.
The sack of Panama was Morgan's crowning achievement. He wisely
retired while still ahead. Although Modyford lost his governorship and
was imprisoned because of the affair, Morgan received a knighthood. He
retired on Jamaica an honored and wealthy man. He died of too much
drink in 1688, at age 53.
BARON DE PONTIS AND THE LAST EXPEDITION (1697) -
Political Situation: France is at war with England and Spain.
Your force is the most powerful ever on the Spanish Main. You are free
to select the target of your choice and strike. The real question is,
how much treasure can you carry off?
This expedition is a pleasant romp, suitable for commanders who enjoy
the 'sure thing'. To obtain a suitable challenge at all, select
Swashbuckler difficulty level. After all, in the real expedition both
de Pontis and du Casse were wounded in battle!
In March 1697 Baron de Pontis was in Saint Domingue (the French
colonies of Western Hispaniola) with thirteen warships of the royal
French navy under his command. Louis XIV's France was simultaneously
at war with England and Spain, and running short of men, ships and
money. The Baron's goal: Cartagena. His purpose? To strike a crippling
blow at Spain as well as securing a large treasure to support the
French war effort.
Jean Baptiste du Casse, the French colonial governor since 1691, was
ordered to support de Pointis. He collected hundred of local
buccaneers and privateers under the command of Jean Bernard Louis
Desjeans, who had sailed with the French privateering fleets of the
The French expedition arrived off Cartagena in April and began
reducing the Spanish defenses. Outlying forts were seized, often with
the buccaneers in the vanguard, while the fleet moved up behind in
support. Isolated and demoralized, the Spanish fell back on the city.
The French deployed and opened fire with powerful 24-pounder and
36-pounder siege mortars, demolishing the city's fortifications. On
May 6, 1697, governor Don Diego de los Rios y Quesada surrendered
Cartagena. Baron de Pointis carried off all the available wealth,
paying the buccaneers at the same rate as his own men (which was a
pittance compared to a privateer-style division of plunder). Worried
about a powerful English squadron known to be hunting him, de Pontis
sailed for home with a treasure worth 20 million Livres in his hold.
The buccaneers, upset and angry with their tiny share, returned to the
still prostrate city. There they sacked, pillaged, raped and tortured
until the residents coughed up another 5 million Livres worth of
plunder. Meanwhile de Pointis was intercepted by Neville's English
fleet south of Jamaica, but the French outmaneuvered the English at
night and escaped.
The sack of Cartagena in 1697 was the last great expedition involving
buccaneers. It wouldn't have occurred without de Pointis' powerful and
well- equipped invasion force. Nations were now fielding regular army
and navy units in the Caribbean. The pirate's freedom of the seas was
at an end.
Around 1500, when Spain discovered the Caribbean basin, Europe was
just emerging from the Middle Ages. Most people were peasants, farmers
scratching out a bare living form the soil, ruled by a small but
powerful class of aristocratic landlords. Some people lived in the
towns and cities founded in the Middle Ages, but townspeople remained
a small percentage of the population. Their trade and industry only
made a marginal impact on the lives of the vast majority. A rare few
made their living "on the road" as peddlers, beggars, sailors and
thieves. To the majority they were a source of tales, or warnings for
children ("Be nice or Black Bart the highwayman will eat you for
The period from 1550 to 1650 is sometimes termed "the Iron Century"
because ordinary people's lives became so harsh. Europe's population
had been growing rapidly since the early 1400s. Around 1500 the number
of people began to exceed the amount of available farmland. Trade and
manufacture had developed sufficiently so some peasants with little or
no land could do part-time weaving (the source of much clothes in
Europe), or move to towns and cities to seek employment in business
These enterprises could absorb only some of the surplus population.
So, some young men found employment in mercenary armies that served
competing causes in the growing Catholic-Protestant conflict.
Unfortunately this employment did more damage than good, for armies
then were not as polite as today. Soldiers lived off the land, ruining
the farms and livelihoods of the peasants. This destroyed the economic
substructure upon which all depended. The intense religious hatreds
added an extra measure of ferocity to the struggles, international or
civil, causing devastation and death wherever war occurred.
As the 16th Century came to an end, overpopulation, war, and the
growing taxes brought unprecedented poverty to most areas of Europe.
Villages were torn between the lucky few who had enough land to
support their families, and the insecure majority whose survival
depended on a fortunate growing season and sufficient extra work.
Swarms of paupers huddled in slum quarters of towns, while beggars and
brigands infested the countryside. Vagabonds, the rootless poor,
became an unmanageable problem, straining Europe's charitable
institutions and swamping its courts.
Brigands were beggars who stole instead of asking. They often fared
better as a result. They were just one group of many criminal elements
who found in lawlessness an escape from grinding poverty. In towns
they practiced burglary and larceny; in the countryside they worked as
highwaymen and thieves; and at sea they operated as pirates. Thieves
worked alone or in small bands, brigands in moderates sized bands,
while pirates operated in larger groups because they needed to crew a
sizable ship. Sometimes pirates even worked in fleets of several
The Mediterranean had long known pirates, who went so far as to
organize mini-kingdoms on the Barbary coast of North Africa. The New
World opened new opportunities for piracy. But whether they operated
as thieves, brigands, or pirates, all these men struggled to survive
in a harsh and unfeeling world by preying on others. They
redistributed wealth from those who had it but could not protect it,
to those who didn't have it but had the power to seize it.
A brigand or pirate might begin his career in order to survive, but he
often continued it to prosper. In a society torn by religious hatred
and war, with governments still weak and uncertain, success bred
success and power respected power. A brigand band could join an army
as a group of mercenaries. A pirate might well drift in and out of
service of a government. Governments found it expedient to use pirates
against their enemies, while pirates found it profitable to ply their
trade with a royal seal of approval, a privateer's Letter of Marque.
Perversely, a pirate might find himself fighting alongside a Count or
an Earl, championing the cause of a king about whose goals and needs
he knew little and cared less. However, notable service could bring
notable rewards: wealth, land, legitimacy, and perhaps a title of
nobility! A man who began as a poverty-stricken nobody might rise to
rub elbows with the old aristocratic families who had led the realm
The mounting cycles of war and poverty climaxed in 1618 with the
outbreak of the Thirty Years War. What began as a religious strive in
Germany became a constitutional struggle as the Habsburgs tried to
consolidate their hold on that land. Holland, Denmark, Sweden, and
ultimately France intervened to help the German Protestants frustrate
this plan. The international melee turned vast areas of Germany into
wasteland. Entrepreneurs stepped in where kings and emperors were
weak. They created huge mercenary armies that swarmed across the
countryside like a plague of locusts. This was the heyday of the
mercenary and the freebooter, as soldiers and captains sold their
services to the highest bidder and switched sides when the time seemed
But even the greatest of the mercenaries was defeated in battle by a
well- organized national army (that of King Gustavus Adolphus of
Sweden), recruited through national conscription and supported by
national taxes. The French also used a national army fashioned after
the Swedish, and the English Civil War, which raged separately on that
tormented isle, was won by Cromwell's "New Model Army" formed on
same principles. As the 17th Century approached its midpoint, the age
of the mercenary and pirate was waning in Europe. Within a few decades
this new national power and organization would extend into the
Caribbean, driving out the buccaneers and pirates.
The rise of national governments brought new taxes, oppressive new
central administrations, and government bureaucrats whose powers
rivaled that of the old nobility. A series of revolutions in Spain,
Portugal, Italy, and France, and near-revolutionary constitutional
conflicts elsewhere showed how the lower classes and local nobles
resisted the new order. But the powerful national governments emerged
victorious. No longer would the state tolerate independent agents
using the techniques of war. Armies were firmly under royal control,
disciplined and supplied from depots. Navies were directed to put down
piracy as well as to fight with other countries. The France of Louis
XIV, the Sun King, epitomized this new order.
Meanwhile, the colonies around the Caribbean were no longer serving as
silver mines for the Spanish Empire. Instead, the new English and
French colonies, the "Sugar Island", formed the cornerstone of a
triangular trade network involving Europe and Africa. This was the
most important of many economic developments that helped Europe
sustain its growing population in the later part of the 17 and 18th
Centuries. Conditions were still hard for many, but prosperity grew as
the economy found new forms and new energies.
This wealth was little endangered by pirates, for long before it
reached its peak the naval vessels and royal courts of the various
European kingdoms had all but eliminated piracy from the high seas.
The age of the freebooter was gone. The age of the bureaucrat had
- Edward Bever, PhD (History)
THE SILVER EMPIRE
The Spanish Empire reaches its peak in this era, both in Europe and in
the New World. The empire is built on mountains of silver bullion from
New Spain (Mexico) and Peru. This bullion finances Spain's imperial
glory, but also encourages misguided economic policies that will soon
ruin the country.
The secondary export from the Indies is hides of uncured leather.
Spanish colonial grandees prefer ranching large herds to managing
farms and plantations. Ranches are equivalent to the property noblemen
own in old Spain.
Holland, a province of this far-flung empire, begins its revolt
against Spanish rule into the 1560s. England, ruled by Elizabeth I
(1558-1603) develops an anti-Spanish policy as well. France had been
and will remain consistently anti-Spanish, surrounded as it is by
Habsburg territory (the Habsburg family controlled the Austria and
Spanish thrones, whose territory included a considerably amount of
Italy as well).
Spain in this era is the only European nation with large, populous
colonies in the New World. With the exception of one abortive venture
at St. Augustine, the other European powers have nothing more than
temporary anchorages and tent towns, casual bases for privateering and
smuggling that appear and disappear with the season.
CITIES & TRADE -
Cartagena, Panama, Santiago, and Santo Domingo are the great and
powerful cities of the Spanish Main. All except Panama have impressive
fortifications, and all have large military garrisons. Prices for
everything are high here; European goods are in especially high demand
but Spanish trade laws are firmly enforced. San Juan (on Puerto Rico)
is very nearly as large as the major cities.
Havana is a growing port that during this era becomes one of the new,
great cities of the region. The increasingly frequent stops by the
treasure fleet boost Havana's economy. Vera Cruz and Nombre de Dios
are unhealthy cities that are only populous and wealthy when the
annual fleet is in. At that time vast wealth fro Peru (to Panama) and
New Spain (to Vera Cruz) is being loaded onto the ships.
Larger, politically important cities with a craving for European goods
include Campeche, Cumana and Maracaibo.
The towns in economic difficulties, and therefore more likely to trade
with foreigners, include all ports on underdeveloped Jamaica and
Hispaniola (except the capital Santo Domingo), and the lesser ports of
the Main, such as Santa Marta, Gibraltar, Coro, Puerto Cabello and
Margarita, although the last is rich only from its declining pearl
fisheries. The inland capitals of Villa Hermosa and Gran Granada are
still economically weak. Both were in the front lines of Spanish
conquest just a few years previously.
Trinidad is tiny, but already beginning its unique role as a
transshipment point between Atlantic carriers and local Caribbean
trade, an activity illegal by Spanish law, but nonetheless profitable.
Smugglers find a ready supply of cheap European trade goods, and good
market for selling hides.
The only non-Spanish colony is the new French one at St Augustine (in
Florida). A few additional French and English privateering bases exist
in the Florida Keys and Bahamas. These have an erratic population and
uncertain wealth. No agriculture exists, so food supplies are
The only official colonial governor of either nation exists at St.
Augustine. Unless other colonies grow or change colors, be sure to
remain friendly with the French here. All non-Spanish promotions,
titles, and land must come from him.
PROSPECTS FOR SUCCESS -
A successful career in this period requires exceptional skill and
guile. All the major ports are Spanish controlled, forcing one to
either trade with them (as Hawkins tried), or to capture them by
assault (Drake's method). Trading eventually improves the economic
status of the towns, making them more likely to obey Spanish laws and
shut you out! Conquest is difficult, especially against well-populated
cities, and often is undone by a Spanish counterattack. Furthermore,
once you initiate warlike actions and the Spanish become hostile, you
must wait for a "Pirate Amnesty" before attempting a trading strategy
You must husband your crew carefully. Avoid dividing up the plunder
for as long as possible. Recruiting new crewmen can be extremely
The English Seahawk:
With solid backing from your monarch, you have a powerful and flexible
force. This is fortunate, since you'll need to find quick profits to
enlarge your tiny coffers.
The French Corsair:
Your small, fore-and-aft rigged craft is no match for a well-armed war
galleon. If you encounter men of good reputation or high rank,
discretion is definitely the better part of valor. Even if you survive
the encounter, your crew may be so depleted that recruiting
replacements may take months.
The Spanish Renegade:
You start in a regrettably weak position, and must take risks at
almost every turn to improve your fortunes. This is not the life for
MERCHANTS & SMUGGLERS 1600-1620
After the 1590s the Spanish Empire begins a slow slide into decay and
chaos, both militarily and economically. Misguided economic policies
combined with a shortsighted aristocracy, redoubled by a powerful and
restrictive church, will doom Spain for centuries to come.
In the Americas, expensive fortifications and garrisons have
increased, but silver shipments and Spanish-owned merchant ships are
fewer. Most astoundingly, the empire in America is literally an empty
one. Diseases brought by Europeans to the New World have inflicted a
century of horrifying plagues. The Caribbean basin has been
depopulated. In New Spain (Mexico) the Indian population plunges from
25 million in 1500 (before the conquest) to less than 2 million in
1600. Food supplies are short for lack of farmers, and mine output
falls for lack of workers. Spaniards in New Spain totaling more than
100,000 by 1600. Worse, virtually no Spaniards are productive members
of society - they expect to live a grandiose live, with slaves and
Indian peons serving them. The same pattern repeats throughout the
Caribbean and along the Spanish Main.
Conversely, England and France are growing, vital nations. In this era
both have new kings who seek peaceful relations with Spain. Although
this reduces the opportunity for privateering and piracy, neither
monarch discourages colonization. The reputation of riches, pleasant
climate, and emptiness of the Americas all beckon. A miscellaneous
assortment of Frenchmen and Englishmen start new colonial ventures.
The Netherlands, after decades of rebellion against Spain, are
virtually victorious. More amazing, Holland is an economic miracle.
Out of war, peaceful and profitable enterprises spring. With new ship
designs (the Fluyt), joint- stock companies, and the twelve years
truce, Dutch commercial interests are exploding world-wide. However,
at this time the big Dutch companies are mainly interested in
Indonesia and Asia, leaving the West Indies to smaller operators.
CITIES & TRADE -
The cities of Cartagena, Havana, Panama, Santo Domingo and Santiago
are the capital cities of the West Indies. Each is populous, rich,
well fortified, heavily garrisoned and intolerant of foreigners. Here
tobacco and European goods command premium prices.
Puerto Bello has replaced Nombre de Dios as Panama's Caribbean port
for the Silver Train and Treasure Fleet. Vera Cruz continues to serve
the vast inland areas of New Spain. Both cities are still unhealthy,
which limits their growth and economic success.
The majority of the Spanish Main and inland Central America is now
economically viable. The smaller towns of the Main frequently grow
tobacco and welcome smugglers. The hinterlands of Hispaniola are
another area where tobacco smugglers are welcome.
Trinidad is in its heyday as a wide-open smuggler's port. Local
Caribbean smugglers can sell their tobacco for decent prices, then buy
European goods from Atlantic traders in reasonable quantities. The
Spanish governor, without harbor forts and served by a laughably small
garrison, can do little but take lucrative bribes and look the other
Early colonies exist on St. Lucia and Grenada, although both are at
considerable risk from the cannibalistic Caribe Indians. Both need
regular imports of food. No large tobacco plantations or organized
defense exist yet.
No French colonies exist, but old privateering anchorages with small
"tent camp" towns can be found in the Bahamas. Here there is no local
agriculture. Food costs are dear, precious little is available to
supply a ship.
Although Dutch fluyts are common traders in these waters, no Dutch
ports ("factories") exist. This is because the moneyed interests in
the Netherlands are busy financing colonial ventures in the East
Indies (notably Indonesia). The Dutch spend most of their time
trading in smuggled goods with the smaller Spanish colonies. Trinidad
is their unofficial home port in the New World.
PROSPECTS FOR SUCCESS -
Difficulties in this era are similar to the 1560 period. Furthermore,
Europe is tending toward peach, dimming the prospect for privateering
profits. With the dearth of friendly ports and peach in the offing,
you should seriously consider searching for friendly Spanish ports and
smuggling goods between them and Trinidad, with occasional trips to
the new English colonies or the old French privateering anchorages to
The English Explorer:
The situation and strategies for this era are not unlike those of the
previous decades. Do you settle into a life of peaceful trade and
smuggling, or do you seek out a war and go on privateering
expeditions? Your large crew suggests privateering, but the capacious
merchantman with its sluggish sailing qualities and weak armament
makes trading attractive too.
The French Adventurer:
Your ship and crew are will suited to privateering. However, the lack
of strong, friendly ports is a serious handicap when recruiting men or
selling captured goods. Conquering a few Spanish ports and installing
friendly administrations should be a high priority.
The Dutch Trader:
Your ship is admirably suited to mercantile endeavor, but sluggish and
underarmed for battle. While trading keep the crew under twenty (but
not below eight, as that's the minimum to operate a ship). Pay them
off and recruit new ones periodically to keep morale high. Use
Trinidad as a base and experiment at various Spanish cities. Discover
which governors are tolerant, and which will open fire. Privateering
against the Spanish is tricky business - and you will lose trading
privileges until Spain offers an Amnesty.
The Spanish Renegade:
The renegade's life, never easy, is quite difficult in this era. Only
the most courageous should undertake this course.
THE NEW COLONISTS 1620-1640
Europe is ablaze with a new and bloody war between Protestant and
Catholic (the Thirty Years War). The decay of Spain's American empire
continues. Towns and cities are financially weaker, with fewer troops
than ever. The economy and culture is stagnant. Spanish ranches,
plantations and mines are increasingly dependent on slave labor
imported from Africa.
Holland is now the world's leader in mercantile shipping. Dutch
companies finally turn their attention to the West Indies. The renewed
war with Spain offers many opportunities for the large join-stock
companies to finance military expeditions against the Spanish. The old
English and French privateering anchorages swarm with Dutch warships.
In England a new round of colonial ventures is fueled by declining
economic opportunity and growing intolerance for radical Protestants
(such as the Puritans). After the demise of St Lucia and Grenada
colonies, and the near death of Virginia, new and stronger colonies
are being founded. These colonies will persevere.
France, in the grip of Cardinal Richelieu, is slipping once more into
civil war between the Protestant Huguenots and the Catholic
government. Throughout the 1620s French Huguenots flee France and
found colonies in the New World. Then, in the 1630s, France enters
the cataclysm in Germany: The Thirty Years War.
CITIES & TRADE -
The cities of Cartagena, Havana, and Panama remain the capital cities
of the West Indies. Santiago and Santo Domingo, the old capitals, have
declined to a secondary position, though each is still rich by
Many cities on the Main are economically viable, but few are
prosperous. Tobacco is a cheap export crop at some towns. The more
backward towns in the hinterlands of Jamaica and Hispaniola are
primarily victualing and watering ports.
Trinidad remains a popular smuggling port where European goods are
plentiful and fairly cheap, having come across on Trans-Atlantic
traders, while good prices are paid for tobacco. However, this port is
being overshadowed by the new English colonies to the north.
Barbados, the first successful English colony in the West Indies, is
growing fast. Increasingly, English ships use it as their home port in
the Caribbean. As at Trinidad, merchants serving the Trans-Atlantic
trade will pay good prices for tobacco. The colony on Nevis is newer
and smaller. The new venture on Providence island off the Mosquito
Coast, deep in the heart of the Spanish Empire, is the premier base
for privateers and pirates raiding the Main.
On the shared island of St Christophe (St. Kitts to the English), the
French have the upper hand. This colony is largely Catholic, while the
unofficial but growing presence in northeast Hispaniola is largely
Protestant. These enterprising Huguenots have already claimed Tortuga
off the coast, as well as establishing Petit Groave.
Fully fledged Dutch colonies are sparse. Along with the traditional
Bahaman and Floridine privateering anchorages, the Dutch have begun a
"factory" (trading town) on an island positioned right in the center
of the Spanish Main: Curacao.
PROSPECTS FOR SUCCESS -
The new colonial ports are a godsend to privateers, who now have legal
employ thanks to renewed warfare in Europe. Pinnaces and Baraques with
piratical intent are everywhere in the Caribbean. Spanish strength
continues to wane, especially at sea. A well outfitted force can even
attempt to capture the Treasure Fleet on the high seas.
Still, one must watch political developments closely. Spain is quite
capable of mounting periodic counterattacks to wipe out intrusive
colonies or troublesome privateer bases.
The English Adventurer:
Don't be shy about privateering against the Spanish. After building
your reputation, fortune, and fleet you can venture ashore and try
your hand at plundering the smaller towns and cities. Opportunities
about for a man of boldness.
The French Huguenot:
Your Barque is a handy vessel for the Caribbean, and well suited to
privateering against Catholic Spain and its hated Inquisition. Tortuga
and Petit Goave are ideal bases, deep in Spanish territory and only a
short sail from the Florida Channel and its yearly treasure fleet.
The Dutch Privateer:
you have a very powerful force, but there is a lack of Dutch bases.
Therefore, cultivate friendship with the French and English
(regardless of your government's opinion, if possible). Can you
duplicate Piet Heyn' feat of 1628 and capture the Spanish treasure
The Spanish Renegade:
As in 1560 and 1600, the life of a renegade is unenviable, but
conditions are somewhat improved. The non-Spanish colonies are few, so
it's wise to remain friendly with England, France and Holland.
WAR FOR PROFIT 1640-1660
In Holland, Germany and France the last great religious war of Europe
(the Thirty Years War), begun in 1618, is degenerating into famine,
plague and starvation across a landscape of ruins. England, having
avoided European disasters, is on the brink of its own ruinous civil
war that will result in a short but brutal military dictatorship by
Oliver Cromwell and his Protestant armies. Of all the European
nations, Spain is the worst position. Economic and political
conditions in he homeland are so bad that provinces are revolting
against a bankrupt and ineffective government.
Disasters in Europe breed new opportunities in the West Indies. Spain
colonies are at their military and economic nadir. Freebooters and
privateers, experienced from the European conflicts, can pillage and
plunder the helpless Spanish with ease, and with precious little
interference from European governments. Non-Spanish colonies are
growing everywhere, fueled by boatloads of refugees. While some settle
into the plantation economy, others take to the buccaneering life.
Meanwhile, the crafty Dutch are making a fortune by carrying the trade
goods among these new colonies. Peaceful trading may not be as
profitable as privateering, but it's a safer business.
CITIES & TRADE -
The richest Spanish cities remain the great capitals of the region:
Panama, Cartagena, Havana, and Santiago. These continue to have
wealthy economies and high prices. San Juan and Santo Domingo are
prospering, but remain populated by old, aristocratic families with
expensive tastes. Both cities are will fortified and garrisoned. All
other Spanish cities are barely prospering, if that. Towns in the
hinterlands are on the verge of disappearing under the tidal wave of
immigration from England, France and Holland.
Barbados is the unofficial capital of the English West Indies. It is a
traders dream. European goods are freely available, sugar sells for
premium prices, and the local merchants are wealthy and well-stocked.
The colonies on St. Kitts and Nevis are economically strong and well
populated while Antigua, Montserrat, Bermuda, and Eleuthera are newer,
smaller colonies with little population, low prices, and tiny
Guadeloupe and Martinique are the major colonies in the Caribbee
Islands (Lesser Antilles). However, all eyes are drawn to that well
fortified haven of privateers, buccaneers and outright pirates:
Tortuga. Already this name inspires terror. Mainland Hispaniola French
colonies are developing slowly at Petit Goave. French privateers still
use anchorages in the Florida Keys to plunder Spaniards in the Florida
Channel, as well to descend upon the north coast of Cuba.
Curacao is the Dutch equivalent of Barbados. This large, rich,
well-defended free port offers good prices for sugar and sells
quantities of European goods in return. A second international free
port is developing at St Eustatius, while sleepy St. Martin is a
placid place for sugar planters and other peaceful fellows.
PROSPECTS FOR SUCCESS -
Opportunities abound and success awaits. Spain is almost always at war
with somebody, and not uncommonly with everybody! Since Spanish
military power is a joke, the opportunities for privateering and
outright plunder are legion. After a rich cruise against the hapless
Spanish, no voyage is complete without a wild party at Tortuga,
Barbados, or Curacao.
The English Adventure:
As a privateer, everything is in your favor. A plethora of friendly
English colonies are ready and willing to buy your plundered goods,
while the taverns are brimming with sailors seeking a berth with a
successful Captain. Smiling governors will shake your hand and bestow
land and honor for your efforts. Isn't life grand?
The French Privateer:
Privateering is a growth industry with great profits for the French,
as with the English. Tortuga is the ideal base for such activities,
sitting between Santo Domingo, the great cities of Cuba, and the rich
fleets passing outbound through the Florida Channel. Down a pleasant
beam reach to the south lies the heartland of the Spanish Main and the
usually friendly port of Curcao.
The Dutch Trader:
Tired of war, many Dutchmen prefer the peaceful role of trading. The
new and growing French and English colonies offer many opportunities
to a savvy merchant. Trade routes between the large, rich colonies and
the new, small ones yield easy profits. One can also trade with the
poorer Spanish cities, who have cheap sugar and food that sells for
premier prices on Curaca or Barbados. Of course, the lure of
privateering for the English or French remains strong!
The Spanish Renegade:
This is one of the two eras (the other is 1660) where the life of a
renegade can be fairly pleasant. Raiding the Spanish is a rewarding
occupation, war or no war.
THE BUCCANEER HEROES 1660-1680
The military decline of the Spanish Empire continues when senile King
Phillip IV is succeeded by the lax and inept regency for Charles
(Carlos) II, who in 1665 becomes King at age four. Although Spanish
America is left without military protection, bureaucratic interference
in its economic affairs diminishes also. This, combined with renewed
output form the silver mines, starts an upswing in the
England, France and Holland are now strong colonial powers. Jealous of
Holland's commercial success, England begins economic war against
Holland with the Navigation Act (1651) and the Staple Act (1663),
legislating trade limits that would ruin the free-trade Dutch
merchants. This causes three shooting wars within twenty years.
Meanwhile, Louis XIV has finally taken control of France with the
death of Cardinal Mazarin in 1661. The "Sun King's" aggressive
policy sparks almost constant warfare with England, Holland, and Spain
as frequent opponents. In short, Europe is a dogfight of international
intrigue and warfare, with enemies and allies changing as frequently
as partners in a court dance.
In the Caribbean, governors face new threats from all directions. St.
Eustatius changes hands ten times between 1664 and 1674. The home
governments provide virtually no military forces, so the governors ask
buccaneers, privateers and pirates to guard their colony and carry the
fight to the enemy. These sensible, profit-oriented warriors are
often difficult to control.
CITIES AND TRADE -
Panama, Havana, and Cartagena endure as the three greatest Spanish
cities, rich, well fortified, and well garrisoned. Still sizeable but
of declining importance are Santiago, Santo Domingo, and San Juan. The
remaining Spanish towns are beginning to prosper again, but are so
weak militarily that all are prey to buccaneers and pirates.
Barbados remains the great English colony, with St. Kitts close
behind. Captured from Spain in 1655, Jamaica is the home of Port
Royale, the new English buccaneer haven in the midst of the Spanish
empire, only a short voyage downwind from the French colonies on
In the Caribbee Islands (Lesser Antilles) Guadeloupe and Martinique
are the main bastions of French power, while around western Hispaniola
Tortuga, Port- de-Paix, Petit Goave, and Leogane are buccaneering
strongholds amid the growing wealth of French sugar plantations.
Curacao remains the premier Dutch colony and one of the greatest free
ports in the world. St. Eustatius almost surpasses it, but conquest
and reconquest by numerous expeditions has damaged its economy.
PROSPECTS FOR SUCCESS -
This era is sometimes called the "Golden Age of Buccaneering".
plenty of warfare to legalize your actions, and a plethora of rich
Spanish and non-Spanish ports to either raid or use as bases, as you
prefer. Because of her military weakness, Spain's ships and towns are
the popular target for buccaneers and pirates of all nationalities.
The English Buccaneer:
Port Royale makes an excellent base of operations, while Barbados is
still the best place to dispose of large amounts of loot at a very
good price. The main disadvantage of Port Royale is that recruiting a
good crew often requires side-trips to the French buccaneer towns on
Hispaniola, while a base in the Caribbees give you access to many
English ports for quick, easy recruiting.
The French Buccaneer:
Privateer or pirate, it is wise to leave one or two nations alone, so
you have potential trading partners in case an unexpected peace breaks
out. You'll find recruiting especially easy in the vicinity of
Hispaniola, with four separate French buccaneer ports within a short
The Dutch Adventurer:
Dutchmen of this period weren't shy about offering their services to
other nations, and were always looking for the main chance - a venture
with profit, be it peaceful or warlike. Don't ignore the excellent
prospects for peaceful trade. Above all, remember that Barbados and
Curaca are two richest ports in non-Spanish America, good fore either
trading or selling a looted cargo.
The Spanish Renegade:
Although a renegade's life is never easy, this era is a bright spot on
a dark sea of danger. Privateering or piracy against Spain is, of
course, the recommended course.
PIRATES' SUNSET 1680-1700
Europe is as full as ever of tumult and warfare, rapidly shifting
alliances and strange political bedfellows. But the depredations of
the buccaneers in the Americas have taught politicians and military
men a lesson. Warriors who fight for profit can ruin the local
economy. Meanwhile, nations have bigger and more powerful fleets and
armies, big enough so troops can be spared for important colonies in
the West Indies.
All this spells the doom of privateering and the buccaneers. Spain may
be ruled by a deformed idiot (the unhappy product of excessive
intermarriage by the Habsburgs), but despite this the pirates
disappear, chased from the seas by an English naval squadron based in
Port Royale. Letters of Marque are harder and harder to get.
Buccaneers of all nationalities flock to the French flag in 1684 when
it offers Letters of Marque again.
Economically, this is an era of rising wealth and trade for all
nations in the Caribbean. Although some piracy remain, the road to the
future is one of peaceful trade and smuggling.
CITIES & TRADE -
Havana, Panama, Cartagena, and Santiago are still important cities,
despite the raids and misfortunes of the last century. Caracas has
risen to prominence as the main harbor serving inland Terra Firma
(South America), while Santo Domingo and San Juan have slipped to a
second rank, isolated among the growing French and English island
Port Royale, Barbados, and St. Kitts are the great English ports, with
the other English Caribbees sound and healthy trading posts. The
Bahamas are the new colonial frontier. Nassau, for example, is a
wide-open pirate haven. A small English colony has even sprung up at
Belize in Honduras!
The French colonial empire has not changed its shape greatly in two
decades. Guadeloupe and Martinique remain the twin economic capitals,
now equal to the largest English ports. Tortuga is declining but the
Hispaniolan towns of Port-d-Paix, Petit Goave, and Leogane are all
As with France, the shape of the Dutch dominions also is constant:
Curacao is the great free port, St. Eustatius is recovering from
wartime disasters and trying to live on trade with the recalcitrant
English nearby. St. Martin, the northerly satellite, continues to
expand quietly its plantation economy.
PROSPECTS FOR SUCCESS -
Prospects in this era appear as good as the 1660s and 1670s. However
pirate- hunting warships appear more frequently, while the non-Spanish
ports are larger and better fortified. Indeed, the fairly equal
distribution of strong and weak ports throughout the Caribbean means
the prospects for trading are the best in fifty years. If you do
pursue a bellicose path, take advantage of pirate amnesties when
offered, so you are prepared for a sudden outbreak of peace.
The English Pirate:
Well, mate ye always wanted a life of piracy. Try it on for size now!
Novices are encouraged to try a voyage or two in the 1660s first, to
get the feel of privateering, before embarking on a career of high
seas crime. Beware the navy pirate hunters!
The French Buccaneer:
Privateering commissions are legally available still. Take advantage
of them to raid the Spanish. Of course, it pays to beware of the Costa
Guarda pirate hunters.
The Dutch Adventurer:
As a peace-loving free-trade Dutchman, you should think long on the
advantages of trading and smuggling. Dutch ports are few, and although
England and France have laws prohibiting trade with you, in reality
the laws are ignored. Even the Spanish can be coaxed into trading more
often than not. Of course, some of your compatriots made their
reputation by sailing as privateers for France. In fact, two admirals
of the French privateers in 1685 are Dutchmen!
The Spanish Costa Guarda:
Now that the English and French colonies are as rich as the Spanish,
it's only appropriate that they taste some of their own medicine! The
only difficulty is evading those French, English and Dutch warships
that so inconveniently clutter up the seascape.
The Latitudes and Longitudes given in this index are consistent with
the B&H map, included in this package. While quite good for the era,
the measurements on this map are very inexact by modern standards. All
founding dates are approximate.
21 degrees N, 62 degrees W. Colonized in the 1640s, this island is a
small pleasant backwater with a classic plantation economy. In the
18th Century it will become one of the two great navel base for the
British Royal Navy in the Caribbean.
18 degrees N, 59 degrees W. The first major English colony in the
Caribbean (in the 1620s), Barbados is the economic capital of the
Caribbee Islands (Lesser Antilles) throughout the middle and later
parts of the 17th Century. Caribbean traders will find European goods
numerous and the selling price of tobacco and sugar quite good.
21 degrees N, 88 degrees W. This small but hardy settlement of logwood
cutters appears in the 1680's in a region conceded to be Spanish, but
as yet uncolonized. Its stubborn presence will cause diplomatic
problems for decades to come.
30 degrees N, 65 degrees W. Settled in the 1640s, Bermuda built its
early economy on shipwrecks, thanks to the many treacherous reefs that
surround the tiny island.
16 degrees N, 67 degrees W. This modes city on the Spanish Main is
noteworthy only in the late 16th Century. Thereafter it is sublimated
in the growing power and importance of Caracas.
23 degrees N, 90 degrees W. A well-established "old" Spanish city with
aristocratic tastes, Campeche is an important port serving the inland
provinces of southern New Spain and Yucatan. European goods fetch good
16 degrees N, 66 degrees W. This city rises to prominence at the end
of the 16th Century. It is the main port for inland farms and
plantations, and home of many important Spanish families, who have
expensive tastes in European goods.
16 degrees N, 75 degrees W. This is the largest port city of the
Spanish Main, and after the 1590s a supposedly impregnable fortress.
Here the treasure fleet winters before its return voyage via Havana
and the Florida Channel. It has a powerful garrison of troops and a
thriving economy with little need for illegal trade and smuggling.
17 degrees N, 70 degrees W. This small city on the east side of the
Gulf of Venezuela thrives in the 16th Century, but after the 1600s it
is overshadowed by the new ports to the east. During its brief heyday
Coro is a good source of hides and tobacco.
16 degrees N, 64 degrees W. The main port city of New Andalusia, it
forms the eastern anchor of the Spanish Main, the last major harbor
and fortress. It is a good market for European goods. This does not
prevent it from indulging in smuggling and other nefarious pursuits
from time to time.
17 degrees N, 69 degrees W. First used in the 1620s, this island
becomes a great free port under Dutch control. Spanish produce
smuggled from everywhere along the Main are bought here by Dutch
merchants, who happily exchange them for European products that can be
profitable smuggled to the Spanish.
26 degrees N, 76 degrees W. At first just an anchorage for privateers,
Eleuthera becomes and English colony eventually. In the 17th Century
it really never grows, remaining a backwater haven for pirates,
privateers, and the other riff-raff who hide among the Bahamas.
26 degrees N, 80 degrees W. The powerful Gulf Stream current has cut
this channel along the southeast coast of Florida, forming a safe path
past the Bahaman shoals. Each year in the spring or summer the Spanish
treasure fleet passes up this channel from Havana, bound for the North
Atlantic Westerlies and the trip home.
26 degrees N, 81 degrees W. Among this chain of tiny islands and reefs
are transitory anchorages for privateers of varying nationalities. No
permanent colonies are found here - it is too close to powerful
15 degrees N, 71 degrees W. This city is a modest-size port for the
inland farms and plantations of Caracos province. The horrifying rape
and pillage of the city by L'Ollonais and again by Morgan destroyed
its economic vitality, making it a nonentity by the 1680s.
17 degrees N, 86 degrees W. Situated on the shores of Lake Nicaragua,
this is the largest and wealthiest city of the Honduran provinces.
28 degrees N, 79 degrees W. This island in the northern Bahamas is
used periodically as a privateering anchorage. It does not become an
English colony until the very end of the era.
17 degrees N, 61 degrees W. A group of English colonists attempt
settlement here in the 1600s, but fail and the colony disappears by
20 degrees N, 61 degrees W. Colonized by the French, Guadeloupe
becomes economically viable in the 1640s. Along with Martinique it is
the cornerstone of French power in the eastern Caribbean. In the 1660s
its fortress and garrison are increased as part of France's new
interest in overseas colonization.
25 degrees N, 82 degrees W. One of the old cities of Cuba, during the
middle 16the Century it grew rapidly because the Treasure Fleet used
its harbor for a last provisioning before the dangerous journey back
to Spain. Havana is a rich town where all mercantile activity is done
strictly according to law. Prices are extremely high.
23 degrees N, 71 degrees W. This tiny port town was initially
established by Columbus himself, but fades in and out of existence as
disease takes its toll. At the start of the 17th Century it is
officially abandoned by the Spanish Government, its residents forced
to resettle around Santo Domingo.
22 degrees N, 71 degrees W. This smuggler's haven of the early and
middle 17th Century serves the inland ranches and farms of northern
Hispaniola. Prices are low and the law nonexistent, save the law you
make with the point of your sword.
22 degrees N, 73 degrees W. One of the new French buccaneer ports of
the 1660s, Leogane serves the unofficial but rapidly growing French
presence in western Hispaniola.
16 degrees N, 72 degrees W. This is the chief port on the Gulf of
Venezuela and guardian of the Maracaibo Lagoon (also known as Lake
Maracaibo). As such it has more than its share of aristocratic
families, with expensive tastes in European fashion.
17 degrees N, 63 degrees W. In the early 16th Century this island was
one of the richest pearl fisheries in the world. Unfortunately, the
pearl beads are now fished out. Margarita is a shadow of its former
wealth, with ports abandoned and many families moving to bigger and
richer mainland cities, such as Cumana an Caracas.
19 degrees N, 61 degrees W. Colonized by the French, Martinique
becomes economically viable in the 1640s. With Guadeloupe it is the
cornerstone of French power in the eastern Caribbean. In the 1660s its
fortress and garrison are increased as part of France's new interest
in overseas colonization.
21 degrees N, 62 degrees W. This English colony, founded around 1640,
remains one of small plantations and gentleman farming, a pleasant
port of call with no especially important characteristics save low
26 degrees N, 77 degrees W. Since the mid 16th Century this Bahaman
island has been a pirate anchorage. An English colony, officially
begun in the 1680s, soon degenerates into a loud, squalid pirate haven
full of verminous and evil men. The port is named "New Providence", to
distinguish it from Providence Island ("Old Providence").
21 degrees N, 63 degrees W. This pleasant island, separated from St.
Kitts by a narrow channel, was populated by the English at about the
same time - the 1620s. While St. Kitts becomes a port of some
importance, Nevis remains more agricultural, with pleasant plantations
rolling across sun-drenched mountainsides.
15 degrees N, 79 degrees W. This town is the Caribbean port for Panama
and Peru throughout the 16th Century. However, it is sited in an
unhealthy swamp, is almost impossible to fortify, and is plundered
mercilessly by English sea hawks. At the end of the 16th Century it is
abandoned and a new port (Puerto Bello) established nearby.
15 degrees N, 80 degrees W. This large city links the wealth Spanish
realms of Peru with the Caribbean. All trade with Peru is by ship on
the Pacific coast, with Panama the terminus. Panama is linked to a
Caribbean port (Nombre de Dios in the 16th Century, Puerto Bello in
the 17th) by a mule train over the mountains of the Darien Isthmus.
22 degrees N, 73 degrees W. Among the many small and informal French
Huguenot settlements on the Western Hispaniola, this is the first (in
the 1620s) to gain repute as an important port. but as the 17th
Century continues, planters and plantation lords push out the rude
buccaneers, gradually civilizing the raw colonial frontier.
23 degrees N, 73 degrees W. This later French Huguenot settlement
becomes a significant port in the 1660s, and by the 1680s is the
informal capital of the French colonies in the Western Hispaniola
21 degrees N, 77 degrees W. In a natural harbor on southeast Jamaica
lies a curving spit and sandbar. By 1660, just five years after the
English conquest of Jamaica, the spit is covered by Port Royale, a
booming, rollicking, buccaneer town. Its reputation was so evil that
when an earthquake destroyed it at the end of the Century, colonials
and Europeans alike considered it an act of divine justice.
16 degree N, 68 degrees W. This secondary port along the Spanish Main
is a city of note through the 1620s. Ultimately, however, Caracas
takes most of its business, while the new Dutch free port at Curacao
destroys the rest.
24 degrees N, 78 degrees W. This was one of the first cities on Cuba.
It represents the strengths of Spanish America: a wealthy city
surrounded by ranches and a cattle economy.
18 degrees N, 82 degrees W. Also known as "Old Providence", it is
first settled by an English colonial venture in 1620. The tiny island
quickly becomes a base for privateers and pirates operating deep in
the Spanish Main. The island is such a danger to Spain that a major
expedition is mounted in 1640 to recapture it. This is successful, and
to this day the island remains known by what the Spanish renamed it:
15 degrees N, 80 degrees W. By 1600 this city replaces abandoned
Nombre de Dios as the Caribbean port for Panama and the Viceroyalty of
Peru. Each year, when the Treasure Fleet arrives to pick up the
Peruvian silver, Puerto Bello becomes a rich boom town. Weeks later,
when the fleet departs for Cartagena, it lapses into malarial
somnolence once more.
Rio de la Hacha:
17 degrees N, 73 degrees W. This is one of the two major ports for the
Colombian highlands (Santa Marta is the other). It does a thriving
trade in export goods: first hides, then tobacco.
22 degrees N, 66 degrees W. This is the great port city of Puerto
Rico, and one of the most powerfully fortified of all cities in
Spanish America. San Juan was settled early and remains a bastion of
old Spanish aristocracy. Prices for all goods except food are high,
and most times Spanish law is vigorously enforced. Ultimately it
becomes a base for Costa Guarda raids on the Caribees.
18 degree N, 82 degrees W. When Spaniards take Providence Island from
the English in the 1640s, they rename it Santa Catalina. Although the
island is valueless to Spain, a garrison is maintained to prevent it
from falling into English hands once more.
22 degrees N, 70 degrees W. This is the great capital city of
Hispaniola, one of the largest and oldest in the entire American
Empire of Spain. In the 17th Century its power and importance are
fading, but the Spanish aristocrats and ranchers remain vigorous
enough to defeat an English invasion in 1655 (disappointed, the
English invade and conquer Jamaica instead).
17 degrees N, 74 degrees W. Along with Rio de la Hacha, this is the
other principal port serving the Colombian highlands. Large farmsteads
nearby mean this city has low food prices, as well as reasonably
priced hides and tobacco.
23 degrees N, 76 degrees W. This is the original capital city of Cuba,
and remains a large, strong city until very late in the era. Like all
the great Spanish cities, prices are high while Spanish trade law is
Santiago de la Vega:
21 degrees N, 77 degrees W. This is the main Spanish town on Jamaica
before the English conquest. Spanish Jamaica was a tiny backwater, of
little economic or military importance.
30 degrees N, 81 degrees W. Originally a French colony in 1560, Spain
attacks and captures it, massacring the Frenchmen and establishing
their own fortress and garrison to discourage other Europeans. St.
Augustine is of such small importance that nobody bothers to dispute
21 degrees N, 63 degrees W. First colonized in the 1620s by a
combination of Frenchmen and Englishmen, the Frenchmen are ascendant
on the island in the early days. Later the English predominate and
their spelling of the name is commonly used: St. Kitts.
21 degrees N, 63 degrees W. Settled in the 1640s by the Dutch, this
island becomes one of the great free trade ports in the heyday of
Dutch mercantilism. Unfortunately, its poor defenses and powerful
English and French neighbors make it one of the most fought-over
islands. The political and military turmoil badly damage the economy.
21 degrees N, 63 degrees W. By the 1640s the English gain the upper
hand on St. Christophe. When the English are predominant, this English
name for the island is commonly used. The island develops a
significant port that does a thriving trade with all nationalities.
19 degrees N, 61 degrees W. English colonists settled here in
preference to South America in the 1600s, but were quickly wiped out
by their own ineptitude and the ferocious Carib Indians.
22 degrees N, 63 degrees W. This island is colonized by the Dutch in
the 1640s. It remains a quiet, peaceful plantation isle for the
remainder of the 17th Century.
15 degrees N, 61 degrees W. This tiny town, deep inland along the
Orinoco River, acquires a small Spanish garrison about 1600. This is
in response to Sir Walter Raleigh's abortive expeditions up-river.
23 degrees N, 73 degrees W. First settled by French buccaneers and
Huguenots in the 1620s, it is built up and fortified into a great
pirate base of the 1640s and '60s. Despite Spanish attacks, it
survives as long as the buccaneers and pirates remained strong, but
disappears as their power wanes.
16 degrees N, 61 degrees W. Theoretically a Spanish colony, this
island never has a large population, nor much of a Spanish government
and garrison. Its heyday as a smuggler's paradise is in the first
years of the 1600s.
Vera Cruz and San Juan de Ulua Harbor:
23 degrees N, 96 degrees W. This city with its island anchorage is the
main port for the great inland Viceroyalty of New Spain (also known as
Mexico). Once a year, when the treasure fleet arrives, this otherwise
unhealthy city becomes a rich boom town.
22 degrees N, 93 degrees W. This inland city is the capital of Tobasco
province, a southerly but nonetheless rich region of New Spain.
22 degrees N, 72 degrees W. In the 16th Century this town is a small
port serving the Spanish west coast of Hispaniola. It is officially
abandoned and its population deported at the end of the century as a
punishment for excessive smuggling.
A QUICK START -
For your first game, the following "Quick Start" is recommended.
Begin your first game with the following selections (starting
selections are described in detail early in this document).
1. Welcome: Start a New Career.
2. Special Historical Period?: No.
3. What nationality are you?: English
4. Type Your Name (No more than 9 characters) and press 'Return'.
You are an: Apprentice.
Special Ability: Skill at Fencing.
TREASURE FLEET OR SILVER TRAIN:
You must know when the Treasure Fleet or Silver Train arrives. Refer
to the chart listed at the end of Pirates.Dox.1A
LEARN BY DOING -
Some Players prefer to learn by experimentation. To do so, just read
the notes below and refer to the Controls summary in this Broadsheet.
If you are confused, refer to the indicated sections of the manual for
The space bar pauses the action. This is handy while learning.
Your First Duel:
The joystick controls your fencing tactics. You see these tactics
acted out on screen. You don not control each specific wrist, arm,
body, and leg motion.
Explore the port and the options available before leaving for your
first cruise. However, do not divide up the plunder yet.
Cruising the Seas:
Push your joystick in the direction you wish to set sail. Once
sailing, leave the stick centered to remain on course, pull it left or
right to turn in that direction (just like the rudder of a real ship).
For information while sailing, press the trigger. If you're lost, one
of the information options is a "sun sight" with your astrolabe.
If you encounter and fight an enemy ship, read the section that
describes your options. If you pull alongside, a boarding battle with
swordfighting may occur.
Finishing Your Voyage:
Return to port, sell your gains to the merchant, visit the governor
for any rewards, then Divide The Plunder. After that, select
retirement. This ends the game and shows your score. Don't worry! You
can come out of retirement again (health permitting).
SAVING GAMES & HALL OF FAME -
You need an extra, blank disk to save PIRATES! during play. You cannot
save any information on the game disk.
Saving the Game:
To save the game, enter any town and Check Information. The option
list includes Save Game. Select this option and follow the
instructions. PIRATES! save-game disks use a special format. You must
use the format option offered in Save Game, a normally formatted disk
will not suffice. Note that formatting a disk prepares it for saving
games, but does not actually save anything.
The Hall of Fame:
Having a formatted disk is necessary to record your final score on the
Hall of Fame. The same disk can hold both your saved games and the
Hall of Fame.
THE ART OF COMMAND
Joystick........................Move pointer (changes highlighted option)
Trigger on Joystick.............Select highlighted option.
Space Bar.......................Stop music.
Trading & Moving Goods
Joystick up-down.................Selects item to be traded or moved.
Flick Joystick Left..............Buy or take item for your party.
Flick Joystick Right.............Sell or abandon items held by your party.
Trigger on Joystick..............Exit.
Fencing & Swordplay
Joystick Left.....................Fast attack high, mid-level or low
Joystick Left & Trigger Down......Slashing attack high, mid-level or low
Joystick in Center................Parry (blocks attacks) high, middle or low
Joystick Right....................Retreat and parry high, mid-level or low
Space Bar.........................Pause and resume
Note: Joystick height (upward, horizontal, or downward) controls
height of attack or parry (high, mid-level or low). For example, the
joystick left and upward is a fast attack high, while the joystick
left and downward is a fast attack low.
Joystick (any direction)..........Party marches in that direction.
Joystick Trigger..................Get information.
Space Bar.........................Pause and resume.
Sailing the Caribbean
Flick Joystick (any direction)....Set sail (joystick controls direction)
Joystick left.....................Turn left (port) while sailing.
Joystick right....................Turn right (starboard) while sailing.
Joystick Trigger..................Get information
Space Bar.........................Pause and resume.
Note: You can anchor safely anywhere on the coast and disembark
automatically. However, any travel over shoals (reefs) may be fatal.
Joystick Left.....................Turn left (port)
Joystick Right....................Turn right (starboard)
Joystick Up.......................Full sails (raises all sails for max
Joystick Down.....................Battle sails (reduces risk of gunfire
Joystick Trigger..................Fire cannon broadside
Space Bar.........................Pause and resume
Joystick Trigger..................Change highlighted group
Joystick..........................Move the highlighted group only
Joystick & Trigger Down...........Move all groups simultaneously
(Automatic When Stationary).......Group fires
(Automatic When Stationary).......Group fights hand-to-hand with enemy
Space Bar.........................Pause and resume
Taking a Sun-Sight with the Astrolabe
Joystick left-right................Move Astrolabe under sun
Joystick up-down...................Raise-lower astrolabe platform
Space Bar..........................Pause and resume
THE POWER OF OBSERVATION
Cyan (Light Blue)...................Spain
Fencing & Swordplay
The color of the shirt indicates who and what is fighting.
White Shirt.........................You, with whatever weapon you selected
Yellow Shirt........................Enemy with a cutlass
Purple Shirt........................Enemy with a longsword
Green Shirt.........................Enemy with a rapier
You can distinguish friendly from hostile ships by color.
Black Hull, White Sails.............Your Ship
Brown Hull, Yellow Sails............Enemy Ship
You can distinguish one group from another by color.
Black...............................Your highlighted (selected) group
Gray................................Your other group(s)
NOTES & MEMORANDA
PIRATES! began as a glimmer in an historian's eye. Here at MicroProse
we knew that the buccaneering era in the Caribbean would make a
fabulous game. However, to do the era justice, we had to invent a new
type of action/adventure simulation.
Superficially, PIRATES! appears to be an arcade-style game. The
sailing, ship battles, and swordfights all run in real-time where your
actions and reactions must be quick, decisive, and correct. But upon
closer examination, each aspect of the game is based around the actual
principles of that activity.
Sailing controls work like a real ship's rudder, and sailing speeds
depend on the ship's hull, rigging, and the strength of the wind. When
playing at "Swashbuckler" reality level, there is no game assistance
for sailing into the wind (as there is at lower levels). The
difficulties of tacking into the wind and the importance of catching
each wind change is quite evident. You'll also see the grave flaws in
the galleon ship design (bigger is not always better). Try sailing a
galleon from Vera Cruz to Havana, and then up the Florida Channel to
St. Augustine. You'll soon see why so many Spanish Captains came to
grief in those waters!
Similarly, swordfighting is deceptive. You do not control motions per
se, but instead select "combinations" for attack and defense. This
approach to fencing is based on the sports of Epee, Foil and Saber -
modern equivalents to dueling. If you're familiar with those, you'll
soon see the similarities between those modern competitions and what
happens in PIRATES! Fighters close for a quick flurry, then spring
Strange as it may seem to us in the 20th Century, the buccaneers
really did insist that their Captain fight at the forefront. They
didn't want a leader who'd stand back and give orders, they wanted
somebody who'd risk his neck alongside them! Surviving commentary show
that personal leadership and duels between commanders were not
infrequent in boarding and storming battles.
The game does simplify the options and possibilities inherent in West
Indian colonial life, in order to streamline game-play. Even so,
colonial port society actually centered around three main elements:
recreation (the "taverns"), trading (the "merchant"), and
(the "governor"). Recent excavations and mappings of Port Royale
(destroyed by earthquake in 1692) demonstrate the truth of this.
We must confess to adding a few minor elements of romance and
adventure. After all, no voyage would be complete without buried
treasure maps, evil Spaniards, and beautiful women! Actually, even the
governor's daughter represents a feature of the period: inside
political information. In real life, as in the game, confidential
information gained through personal connections can be an invaluable
To some our choice of period may seem strange. The most famous
pirates, such as Edward Teach (Blackbeard) were in the 1700s through
1720s. However, those men were psychotic remnants of a great age,
criminals who wouldn't give up. They were killed in battle or hung for
evils no European nation condoned. There was no political intrigue or
golden future to their lives, just a bullet or a short rope. We found
them unattractive and uninteresting compared to the famous sea hawks
and buccaneers that preceded them.
PIRATES! was a fascinating and challenging game to create. We're
confident you'll find it enjoyable. We also hope you'll find it an
enlightening window to life in another age.