*********************************************************************** SID MEIER'S PIRATES! (2004) The Dreaded Ship of the Line An In-Depth FAQ on the most elusive ship in the Caribbean By Headrock *********************************************************************** If you're an avid "Sid Meier's Pirates!" fan, and have either read Sashanan's FAQ, spent some time in the manual or pirateopedia, or have otherwise heard rumors about the Ship of the Line and have wondered about it, this would be a good read for you. This FAQ details, among other things, mostly everything you need to know about acquiring and sailing the fearsome Ship of the Line, from the basics to the most advanced concepts. BEFORE READING: --------------- I apologize beforehand, but throughout this FAQ, I am going to use several expressions to illustrate several concepts in the game. Some of these may be commonly accepted, some may be my own, so first I'll try to define most of them, to make your reading easier. * From here on, I will occasionally use the acronym "SOL" to signify a Ship of the Line. In forums and other FAQs it may sometimes be referred to as a "SotL", but I think "SOL" sounds much cooler. Not my idea, though. * Since SOLs (look, I used it right there) are basically big, nasty Frigates, most of what is written here about sailing and combat may also apply to Frigates and Large Frigates. Not everything, though, so pay attention. * When I say "Frigates", I mean either the specific ship type called "Frigate" in the game, or the whole family of ships consisting of the Frigate, Large Frigate, and Ship of the Line. Again, this can be discerned by context, but isn't always obvious. I'll try using the term "Frigate-class" if I'm talking about the whole family, but I'm not promising anything. * "Galleons", in the game, break into two families of three ship-types each. For ease of referance, the slower, "fatter" galleons are called "Merchant Galleons", and include the Trade Galleon, Treasure Galleon, and Royal Galleon used by the spanish to haul cargo and big fat money around. The other three Galleon types available are more battle-designed (Although badly), and so will be referred to as "Combat Galleons". This includes the Fast Galleon, War Galleon, and Flag Galleon. Confusing? Well, you know, this FAQ ain't about Galleons anyway. * Though I'll often use the common wind directions to describe sailing angles (the same listed in the manual and on quick referance sheets, like "Close Hauled" or "Beam Reach" and the likes), sometimes I'll be using other various ways to describe wind directions and aspects. Basically, upwind means "in the direction that wind is COMING from", and downwind means "The direction towards which the wind is blowing". If that's hard to follow, just remember that the "red arrow" wind indicator keeps pointing DOWNWIND. I'll sometimes say "Off to the side", meaning perpendicular (90 degrees) to this arrow's direction, but it really doesn't matter to which side. * For all you non-sailors out there (Oh wait, I'm not a sailor either, am I?), Port means "left" and Starboard means "right", when referring to things in regards to your ship's heading. The Bow is the front of the ship, and stern is the back. Something that's off the starboard and to the stern is somewhere behind and to the right of your ship. * I can't really guage distances in ship battles as exact values, sorry. The game doesn't help with that (and I don't really think it should!), but as an alternate way to measure how far two ships are from one another, is to use Round-shot, Chain-shot and Grape-shot ranges as indicators of distance. If you can fire roundshot at your enemy, you're within "Roundshot distance", and in you can fire Grape-shot, you're in "Grape-shot distance" of the enemy (Of course, you're also within HIS distance for that particular type of ammo, eh?). With experience you learn to be able to tell how far you are from the enemy in regard to different ammo ranges, even without actually switching to them to see if you're in range. However, a good point to be cleared now: Since there is a big difference between said ranges when you're using Fine- Grain powder and when you're not, I'll say right off that this FAQ presumes the distances discussed are FINE-GRAIN ranges, and not otherwise. Just to standardize things. * All battle maneuvers listed here do not actually mention the wind direction, because that can change. If you're playing Apprectice level, the wind is always going west. In harder difficulty levels, wind can even go South and North, and change radically throughout both sailing and combat - PAY ATTENTION TO THE WIND. If it shifts against you, failure to respond can leave you in a very tight spot. TABLE OF CONTENTS: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  Short Story  BASIC DEFINITION OF THE TERM "SHIP OF THE LINE" [1.1] SOME FACTS ABOUT THE SOL  WHY IS THE SHIP OF THE LINE CONSIDERED SUCH A HARD CATCH? [2.1] WHEN DO FRIGATE-CLASS SHIPS SPAWN? [2.2] HOW HARD IS IT TO SUBDUE A SOL ONCE I'VE CHASED IT DOWN? [2.3] HOW GOOD ARE MY CHANCES TO SPOT A SOL AT ALL?  HOW USEFUL IS THE SOL?  HOW DO I CATCH A SHIP OF THE LINE? [4.1] WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE A SOL COME OUT? [4.2] HOW DO I DEFEAT A SOL IN SEA-COMBAT? [4.2.1] HOW DO I USE A SLOOP, PINNACE, OR WAR CANOE AGAINST A SOL? [4.2.2] HOW DO I USE A BRIG AGAINST A SOL? [4.2.3] HOW DO I USE ANY KIND OF FRIGATE AGAINST A SOL? [4.2.4] HOW DO I USE A COMBAT-GALLEON AGAINST A SOL? [4.2.5] HOW DO I USE A MERCHANT SHIP AGAINST A SOL? [4.2.6] WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THE SOL IS ESCORTED? [4.2.7] FINAL WORDS ON SOL-CATCHING COMBAT TACTICS  I GOTS ME A SOL! NOW HOW DO I USE THIS THING? [5.1] HOW SHOULD I HANDLE MY OVERALL STRATEGY? [5.2] HOW DO I USE THE SHIP OF THE LINE IN COMBAT? [5.2.1] WHAT SHOULD I DO ONCE COMBAT STARTS? [5.2.2] OK, I'VE DAMAGED THE ENEMY AND CLOSED IN TO CHAIN-SHOT RANGE. NOW WHAT? [5.2.3] THE ENEMY'S IN BAD SHAPE, AND I'M CLOSING INTO GRAPE-SHOT RANGE. HOW DO I END IT? [5.2.4] WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN ATTACKING SMALL SHIPS THAT ARE FAST ENOUGH TO ESCAPE? [5.3] HOW DOES PLAYING WITH THE SAILS HELP ME USE MY SOL IN COMBAT? [5.4] SUMMARY ON SOL COMBAT  HOW DO I MAKE LOTS OF SOLS COME OUT? [6.1] WHAT IS A "KILLING FIELD"? [6.2] WHICH STARTING ERA AND NATION SHOULD I CHOOSE? [6.3] WHAT DO I DO ONCE I'VE STARTED THE GAME? [6.4] I'VE GOTTEN MEN, MONEY, AND A GOOD SHIP. WHAT DO I DO NEXT? [6.5] WHEN DO I GET TO HAVE FUN? [6.6] HOW DO I GET MORE THAN ONE SOL? ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- "It was a long week in port at St. Eustatius. Repairs on the Royal Sloop "Revenge" lasted for nearly 5 days, and now it was finally ready to go back out to sea. The governor reported much English activity has been spotted around the Island, and has requested of you to hunt down the foul enemy to its last man. You take this mission happily - the English have been a thorn in your side for almost a year now, their pirate hunters getting bolder and bolder by the month, and now sailing ever larger Brigs and Frigates to capture you for that lucrative 50,000 gold pieces on your head. But you'll be damned if you let them stop you, their fat Merchantmen and East Indiamen are ripe for the picking, and the Shipwright here at St. Eustatius has promised to buy any larger frigates you can catch off your hands at very tempting prices. So, with a cheery heart, your 100 men board the vessel and set sail out to the Big Blue Sea. As the Sloop weaves its way out of port, it passes a Dutch Brig sailing off towards San Juan on a raiding mission. The captain hollers towards you that he had just gotten news of two escorted English Merchantmen sailing south across the Lesser Antilles towards Barbados, and wishes you good hunting. Your ship breaks off to the south, quickly zipping out of the bay, heading south on its war patrol. After two days of fast sailing, with the winds helping with every bit, the watchman in the crow's nest reports having spotted the first merchantman escorted by a Sloop of War. With cheers and eager battlecries, your sloop quickly maneuvers to a better position, and charges at the Merchantman with complete surprise to board and overtake the ship before the escort even has time to figure out what is happening. The escort is next, with a fierce battle taking place on board, swords slashing and guns blazing. Finally, the battle is over. The merchantman is quickly sunk, its prize hauled first on board your vessel, the enemy Sloop captured and added to your fleet. Without further ado, you raise the sails and continue southwards, your mind set on capturing the other merchantman as well before it can reach Barbados. In the west, you can now see the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, enemy territory. As the night draws closer, you spot an enemy warship closing in on your position. A pirate-hunter, no doubt, a Brig of War, coming to claim the bounty on your head. Elusively, you steer the ships downwind and quickly evade the enemy vessel. By morning it has disappeared. Passing by Antigua, you decide to taunt the English further by sailing closer to their sea-side fort. The enemy men, quickly identifying your flag waving above your notorious sloop, they man their positions in a panicked bustle and begin firing their cannons your way. What fools, you think to yourself. Your ships, aided by the strong southwesterly winds, evade the shots easily, returning several volley as you pass. The English have been pursuing you ever since you sacked Eleuthera in the north, and you have returned to them in kind by plundering and sinking any ship of theirs that happens to cross paths with you. The people of Antigua are particularily annoyed - aside from your hobby of bombarding their forts whenever you sail across these islands, they remember clearly that you have sunk every merchant ship that came in from Barbados for the past year, depriving their city of much-needed luxuries and spices. As your ships finally clear Antigua, their fortress disappearing behind a mountain, your crew relaxes and begins readjusting the sails. Then, suddenly, the cry bellows from the crow's nest: "FRIGATE OFF THE BOW!" The crew scramble back to their positions as you whip out your spyglass and peer into the horizon. The square rigs on the enemy are hard to mistake, it is a Frigate, alright, flying the red cross of England atop its tallest mast. This battle will be hard to avoid, you decide, and declare that the enemy will not stop you from your task, and must be dealt with, promptly. However, as the two ships close, it dawns on you that this might be the largest Frigate you've ever seen in your long time in the Caribbean. The enemy, however, seems to be on some sort of a different agenda, sailing at a very slow speed in the general direction of Nevis. Once they spot your ship, however, their attitude seems to change. Their massive ship seems to pivot gracefully sideways, displaying its broadside to your eyes. It is then that you finally realize the extent of the encounter. This is no ordinary Large Frigate, but in fact the Dreaded Ship of the Line, and its 48 cannons are pointed directly at you. Before you can utter another command, the enemy ship suddenly opens fire with everything it has! You quickly shout your orders, your ship creaking as it turns to avoid the incoming fire. The wind is with you, as you turn your sails flutter and fight against it, but finally you manage to maneuver sideways to dodge the volley altogether. But those cannonballs seem so numerous. The first few splash down port-wise and off to the stern, the next fly over your top mast, one of them tearing a small hole in the sail. The last four cannonballs shriek right by your heads, and one smacks into your hull, smashing a hole the size of a grown man into the top deck. "FIRE!", you shout at once, and release a flaming broadside of 16 cannons at the enemy, so far away off to the south. 'At least', you think, 'we shall repay him in kind'. But the Frigate suddenly lowers its sails, and veers off with good speed away to the south. Its sailors struggle and finally raise the sails again, and the ship seems to be whizzing away at a very good speed. As you watch, your cannonfire splashes short of the enemy, well off its stern, leaving no mark on the enemy juggernaught. Frustrated, you order the sails to be raised, turning to pursue. The enemy captain, encouraged by his successful dodge, lowers his sails once again, and turns his ship with surprising speed to bring its broadside your way again. It fires another deadly volley, but this time your ship has gained some good speed, and you decide to pass underneath the cannonballs, struggling to close the distance. If the enemy wishes to bombard you, they can now do so at leisure, but if only you can get close enough... The enemy ship shows no intention to run. It releases another volley, and this time, despite your speed, you are hit by several shots, some roundshot crashing through your decks, some chainshot ripping through the sail, and little pellets of Grapeshot rip through your crew, decimating your men left and right. But by now you are close enough. You tack to port, sliding out of the enemy's line of fire, and quickly pull starboard to sail next to the enemy warship, now looming above your tiny vessel, a huge menace of the seas. With a crash, your ships collide, and hooks are thrown high into the air to catch the top deck of the enemy ship. Pirates scramble up the ropes, some falling off into the sea, slain by bullets fired from enemy pistols - the enemy ship is literally packed with enemy soldiers, all intent on placing every last one of your crewmembers in Davy Jones' Locker. Swords flash as your remaining pirates scramble over their side, and quickly the sound of battle is everywhere. You hop over the side and into the fray, just as an English officer, an Admiral it seems, storms angrily out of his cabin towards you, a shiny Rapier in his hand..." -----------------------------------------------------------------------------  BASIC DEFINITION OF THE TERM "SHIP OF THE LINE" The Ship of the Line is in fact the largest kind of Frigate-class ship available in the game. As you would probably know if you've read the manual or have played the game a bit, there are several "Classes", sort of like "Families" of ships, from the tiny "Pinnace-class" to the hulking "Galleon-class". These classes differ from one another in all variables, from crew size to speed and maneuverability. Each family has a different model for its ships, and they are quite easily distinguished from one another also on the main sailing map. The different classes are also used for different purposes by different nations, and some nations will change the kind of ship they use when you select a different era of gameplay. Each "Class" of ships has three variants - a small, medium and large variant of the same ship-type, kinda like brothers who resemble one another in many aspects, but one's big, the other small, and the last one's somewhere in the middle. In the case of the Brig class, for example, you may encounter a Brigantine (The small variant), a Brig (medium variant) or a Brig of War (the Large variant). The difference between the three variants of any class lies is in these six factors. The bigger the variant, the higher these values grow: A) The Maximum number of Crewmmbers you can carry on the ship. B) The Minimum number of Crew needed to sail the ship at its normal speed. C) The Maximum number of Cannons that the ship can use in combat (not the limit of cannons you can have in the cargo hold). D) Amount of space in the Cargo Hold for storing food, commodities, and cannons. E) The actual size of the ship model (All ships of the same class have the same model, just bigger or smaller depending on the actual variant) F) And finally, the amount of damage the ship can take to its hull and sails (Bigger variants can survive more hits) Other variables, like the ship's speed and turn rate, stay constant across all three variants (except for the War Canoe, the "small" variant of the Pinnace family, which appears to be faster and more agile than its bigger siblings, although this is under debate). The Ship of the Line is the largest variant of the Frigate class, and therefore surpasses the other Frigates (known in game as the "Frigate" and "Large Frigate" types) in all the aforementioned categories. The Ship of the Line is a "Large" warship. Like the other Frigate-class variants, it is built both to be a powerful, gun-totting vessel, as well as being fast enough to do combat with most other kinds of ships without being seriously outmaneuvered. [1.1] SOME FACTS ABOUT THE SOL * The SOL carries aboard a maximum of 300 men. Once Triple-hammocks have been upgraded on a SOL, it can carry 450 men, a whopping big number. * The SOL carries 48 cannons on board, the same number a Flag Galleon possesses. However, the SOL is much much faster and more maneuverable than any Galleon. In fact, in the right winds, any Frigate type can sail faster than any other ship. Of course, wind conditions are variable, and you won't often encounter such situations where you have an overwhelming wind advantage, but Frigates are still faster than any of the merchants or the galleon class ships in any kind of wind. * A SOL's minimum crew requirement stands at 24 men (whew, so few!), and it can be sailed at maximum efficiency (fastest reloading and sail-management) with only 168 men, which is still less than a fully-packed Royal Sloop with Hammock upgrades. * SOLs can carry 100 tons of cargo on board, almost as much as a Small Merchantman. They sell for 1800 gold when they are fully upgraded, too. * The damage capacity of a SOL is incredible. It can take an awful lot of damage before sinking, although taking enough sail damage can easily hurt a SOL enough to render it virtually useless for most conflicts, just like any other ship. * As far as sailing itself goes, any Frigate seems to be fastest when going directly downwind or a bit off to one side. This is the Frigate's "Best Point of Sailing". When fighting inside a storm, with winds going at 20 knots, a SOL can easily clock 20 and above just by turning downwind, making it the ship with highest speed potential in the Caribbean. Still, like I've just said, this is only POTENTIAL, and not a guarantee. These supreme speeds can only be attained at low and average levels of difficulty. After that, speed penalties apply to your ship, while enemy ships become faster. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------  WHY IS THE SHIP OF THE LINE CONSIDERED SUCH A HARD CATCH? The SOL has often been called "Elusive", and this definitely has good reason. Some people have finished several games without seeing ONE, let alone capturing one. But why? Why is this single ship type so much rarer than others? Aside from the most obvious reasons (like, hey man that's a pretty powerful ship), the Ship of the Line also follows some technical rules that prevent it from appearing as often as any other ship. Let's take a brief overview on the various reasons why different ship types often appear in the open Caribbean: * Merchantmen, Large Merchantmen, Cargo Fluyts and Large cargo Fluyts, Barques and Coastal Barques, and of course Trade Galleons, are all "Merchant" ship types. You will very often see them sailing out of a port and headed to another city, with cargo on board and possibly a good amount of gold. They are generated frequently, much more frequently than any other ship, and most cities will send one or two of those in a single month, as well as receive about two or three! The largest variants of the various Merchant ship families, I.E. the West Indiaman, East Indiaman and Treasure Galleon are rarer, appearing mostly when a nation sends out a "Treasure ship". This still happens much more often than SOL spawning. In any case capturing one for the purpose of using it in combat is a silly practice since they can't sail to save their grandmothers. * Sloops and Brigs, of all size variants, occur mostly as escorts (sent automatically in a convoy with merchant ships to provide them escort in places where a lot of combat has recently occurred, or by nations with whom you are not on speaking terms). You'll often see them as Pirate-Hunters when you've upset a nation - this is a very common occurance - they come out of their cities, shouting at you to stand and fight. It is also very common to meet Brig or Sloop raiders, privateers, pirates and famous-pirates, so these are probably as common as the basic merchant ships in terms of general appearance ratios. The Royal Sloop is somewhat of an exception, because in some eras it will be much more rare. However one of the named-pirates (Roc Brasiliano) sails one, and I believe that Royal Sloops can be "persuaded" to enter the water in any era with some triggering event or another. Shouldn't be too hard to get one, although you can bet that it is quite a good ship. Try it sometime if you haven't already (I bet you already have). * Pinnaces are common in some eras and uncommon in others, sometimes used by the Spanish and sometimes by the non-Spaniards, they most often appear as smugglers. The smallest variant, the Infamous Indian "War Canoe", will often be sailing out of Indian Villages in a group of three canoes, headed to raid a port somewhere. You can also enter the village and convince the chieftain to send out his canoes to attack an enemy city, so War Canoes are in no way "rare". Mail Runners, the largest of this type, are probably the second most rare ship in the caribbean, and are often seen only when dispatching amnesty missions or treaty missions, but may occur in different situations too. * The larger "Combat Class Galleons" (Not to be confused with the Merchant Galleons described earlier) are strictly Spanish, more often seen as "Military Payroll", "Troop Transport" and "Invasion Force" ships sailing off from Spanish ports, and sometimes released by the spaniards as "Pirate- Hunters" and "Escorts" once you've upset Spain enough. However, since the three Evil Spaniards used in the game's "quests" (namely Raymondo, Montalban and Mendoza) sail the three variants of the Combat Galleon class, all you need to be able to get one is to have one of these Spaniards "at large", I.E. sailing around in the Caribbean, waiting for you to ambush him. This sort of spawning easily triggered in many ways, including Dancing with Governors' Daughters and visiting Jesuit Missionaries. Tracking down the spaniards can be frustrating, it is far less frustrating than trying to find a SOL. This leaves us with the Frigate class. [2.1] WHEN DO FRIGATE-CLASS SHIPS SPAWN? Frigates and Large Frigates (the small and medium variants of the family, respectively) can sail only out of non-spanish cities, as Escorts to Merchant ships or as Pirate-Hunters sent out to capture you for the bounty on your head. You will also see them as Raiders and Invasion forces sent by non-spanish nations. In all cases, the Frigates will start popping up usually when the enemy is pretty upset, or if shipping in the area of a city has been hurt repeatedly. The Large Frigates seem to sail only out of "Prosperous" or "Wealthy" cities, while the "regular" frigates can sail out of any city if it has been annoyed enough. And if you don't want to upset anyone, you can try going after the #1 pirate of the Caribbean, Henry Morgan, who sails a Large Frigate, or #2, namely Blackbeard, who sails a "regular" frigate. However, the Ship of the Line does not fit into ANY of the above categories. In fact, the only kind of SOL you will see in the game will be categorized as a "New Warship" - you'll see this caption over the SOL when it appears on your main sailing view. New Warships are not limited to SOL class, they can be Royal Sloops, Brigs of War, sometimes Sloops of War, Frigates and Large Frigates, and for the Spanish they'll be any kind of Combat Galleon. But while the other ship types can be seen performing roles other than "New Warship", the SOL will ONLY ONLY ONLY appear as a New Warship. New Warships are released from cities in what at first may appear to be completely random chance. A common frequency to see one is about one per every 4-8 months, and even when one is released there is certainly no guarantee that it will be a Ship of the Line. You'll sometimes even see a Sloop of War "Escort" tugging a Sloop of War "New Warship" behind it. Rather silly. However, once you've tried the strategies and pointers suggested in this FAQ, you'll see how the chance of having a SOL spawn out can be increased. Don't expect the sea to be crawling with them though. While many affecting factors have been discovered, there is still a great mystery on the exact number and magnitude of factors make them come out. So far, even with special strategies used, frequency doesn't increase to staggering proportions, just maybe one SOL in a year or two. [2.2] HOW HARD IS IT TO SUBDUE A SOL, ONCE I'VE CAUGHT UP WITH IT? Battlewise, combating a ship with 48 cannons is always dangerous, but while a Flag Galleon can be a menace simply because it's so heavily armed, the SOL is both much faster and more agile and is therefore several fold more risky to attack. There are several ways to catch a SOL using different tactics designed for different ships. However, it is generally and strongly advised that you do not go after a SOL with any of the following: A) Merchant ships, like the Merchantman, Fluyt, Barque, etc. They're too slow and poorly armed. The SOL can outmaneuver any of them, and plant a 48-gun broadside on you, crippling you further. B) ANY kind of galleon Again, way too slow. You might be able to hit the SOL with a broadside of your own, but by then you've probably taken a hit as well, and the SOL can still maneuver better than you. C) A small combat vessel with sail or hull damage. With small ships, you'll often want to board as quickly as possible to avoid having to exchange cannonfire with a ship three times your gun capacity. If you're already wounded, that both reduces your ability to approach quickly, and increases the chance that at a very short range the SOL will land a good number of shots on you and either sink or horribly cripple you to a point where you can no longer close the distance without taking more and more volleys (Until such a point where you sink). [2.3] HOW GOOD ARE MY CHANCES TO SPOT A SOL AT ALL? When speaking about chance to locate one at sea in the first place, the chances are very very slim. Like I've mentioned earlier, you may not even encounter the SOL in an ENTIRE single game. It depends on a whole lot of factors, from the era you're playing in to the level of discontent you've caused a European power, to the economic prowess of cities belonging to said upset nation. Even in the "Sol Capture Walkthrough" described in a later chapter, where you spend most of your time "engineering" conditions for a SOL to appear, you may not see them more frequently than once per game year, and sometimes even if you see one you won't be able to catch it before it goes into port. Many people have seen one only to lose it. The SOLs is not a Pirate-Hunter ship, and so does not appear for the purpose of chasing you around. Its agenda is to leave one city and arrive at another, like merchant ships do, so you're going to have to chase it. Sometimes they'll be sailing from one port to another just outside your viewing range and your ships may never cross paths. Vigilance therefore is key, but more often than not it is no guarantee that you'll ever see a SOL at all. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------  HOW USEFUL IS THE SOL? Ahhh, now we're getting to the fun part. The Frigate class of ships were designed to serve as the answer to the ubiquitous Spanish Galleon. The Galleons are huge, heavy boats, totting a very large number of cannon, moseying along in the Caribbean with large sums of money or cargo on board. The foreign powers, especially the English, used Frigates to match the Galleon's firepower while maintaining far more maneuverability in combat. If you've ever sailed a Frigate, you probably know how powerful it can be. A single 32-cannon volley from a Frigate can do horrible things to the enemy from very long ranges, and a full hit with 32 chain-shot cannonballs will often be enough to break the mast on most enemy ships. The Large Frigate holds 40 guns on board, while the SOL carries a whopping 48 guns - that makes for some serious damage. On top of this, when used by a skilled captain, a Frigate-class can maintain long-range firing distance, blasting the enemy to surrender, while actually being able to avoid enemy cannonfire in a manner similar to the way the Brig-, Sloop- and Pinnace-class ships often do - and this even though the SOL is MUCH MUCH larger, and therefore a potentially easier target than a pinnace. When the frigate has good speed, it turns very well, rivaling even an upgraded sloop. And then some - even if the enemy managed to smack a cannonball or two on to your deck, the damages taken are often minimal - you can probably suffer upwards of 20 cannon hits before you need to consider running away. Frigate-class ships are probably the most powerful against Galleons and against any kind of Merchant ship. Their speed and maneuverability is supreme in such cases, and the best advantage is that you can often blast the enemy to a swift surrender from what is basically safe distance. With 48 cannons, this takes far less time than with 16, and since a larger volley is often "wider", it is more likely to hit partially than miss completely, so Frigates can afford bombarding from far away, able to dodge enemy blows and keep pounding until the enemy is docile or weak enough to approach for a boarding, a kill, or a de-mast. A risky downside to this is that hitting something with 48 roundshot cannonballs more than once will often sink it (... And that sometimes once is enough). While Frigates are not as useful against the smallest ships (Pinnace and Sloop class), careful consideration of the winds allows you to control a battle in such a way that the enemy cannot effectively escape - it either has to turn towards you (allowing you to board or at least to fire roundshot and chainshot to slow him down) or turn away into a direction where the Frigate can use its superior speed to catch up quickly with the enemy. This is explained further in the Combat section, below. Also, carrying 450 men aboard makes you into a portable invasion force, capable of assaulting well-protected cities instead of wasting your time chasing merchants and dragging their wounded hulls back to port to sell them and their cargo. A single raid on an enemy city can often produce as much as 4 to 6 (and more!) merchant ships would have yielded, costing you 7 days of game time, but saving you the time it takes to chase down enemy ships, seek a port that buys high, and sail in for 7 days to sell cargo and ship to the locals. Combined, the SOL's resistance to damage, low crew-minimums, and high cargo capacity, effectively cuts down the number of times you would have to visit a port to make repairs, replace crew, and sell cargo. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------  HOW DO I CATCH A SHIP OF THE LINE? // Note that this section deals with the actual process of capturing the SOL, as well as the basic conditions that are needed to spot one out at sea. To get detailed information on how to maximize your chances of locating a Ship of the Line, read the last section in this FAQ. [4.1] WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE A SOL COME OUT? While battle against a SOL can be difficult and highly dangerous if not handled properly, the most difficult part is actually getting one to show up. In order for this to happen, lets sum up the most known factors and conditions that must occur for an enemy SOL to be spawned. ** SOLs are only spawned by NON-SPANISH nations. In fact, the Spaniards will NEVER spawn a Frigate of any kind. ** SOLs spawn only when any one non-spanish nation has placed a bounty on your head, of what APPEARS to be no less than 30,000 gold pieces. You may see different SOLs belonging to more than one non-spanish nation in a single game. Also, the importance of Bounty has not been entirely proven. ** SOLs, like all other "New Warships", spawn to protect a certain shipping line that has been terrorized by enemies, including mostly yourself. ** SOLs spawn in this way from the city of origin for that particular trade route, so hitting merchants going from city A to city B will eventually spawn a New Warship going also from city A to city B (but there's no guarantee it'll be a SOL). This is not related to the Pirate-Hunters, which will spawn if you attack friendly shipping in the area regardless of destination or origin. ** SOLs will ONLY spawn from a "Wealthy" city, and no less. It seems like city population is also an important factor, as well as "national" prowess, I.E. a stronger nation seems to send out more SOLs, but since the game provides no hard data on this, there is no way to accurately confirm this. ** SOLs seem to come more frequently if you are playing in 1680, averagely in 1660, and much less often in 1640. So far, there have been no sightings of one in neither 1600 nor 1620, but it is unknown if they can actually spawn in those eras or not. ** SOLs are NOT sent out to meet you like Pirate-Hunters, they're simply sent out from one city to another, so they're not going to chase you down, and you have to be present in the area to spot them and chase them down instead. Studying these points can give us a fairly obvious set of guidelines we need to use to encourage SOL spawning. The simplest way seems to be just getting a non-spanish city angry, and simply placing it under naval siege, sinking every merchant that comes out of the city, while allowing "improvement" ships like "New Governor" and "Immigrant" transports to enter so that the city remains Wealthy. This is the most basic strategy you can employ, and reportedly it works best with cities like Barbados which tend to stay wealthy if not directly assaulted. Sinking merchants repeatedly (as well as the pirate-hunters that come out to play) raises the bounty on your head, increasing the level of discontent for that city. However, you need to stay out at sea for as long as possible, or set up a nearby friendly port (by conquest or politics) where you can stop for repairs and restock - otherwise you might spend one day too many away from the city you're besieging, and might actually miss a SOL sailing out of there. If you wish to MAXIMIZE potential, you can do this by rearranging the political map in a single area so you can ambush several cities at once in this way, increasing the chance of seeing a SOL. More on this is explained in the last chapter. [4.2] HOW DO I DEFEAT A SOL IN SEA-COMBAT? Sea combat against a SOL can be handled in different ways, depending mostly on both your stronger points in naval combat as well as the type of ship you're sailing. A smaller ship will generally want to dart in as fast as possible, using superior maneuverability to close the distance and board, while a larger vessel may actually carry out a contest of gunnery and navigation against the SOL to whittle down its cannon or otherwise prepare it for easier boarding. [4.2.1] HOW DO I USE A SLOOP, PINNACE, OR WAR CANOE AGAINST A SOL? When you fight a SOL with a very small vessel, like a Sloop, Pinnace or War Canoe, you are seriously, seriously, outgunned. Causing enough damage to the SOL to bring it to its knees from long-range can take a long time, and is often very ineffective as well as dangerous. Your most important factor in this battle would be the wind. You'll need to utilize it to your advantage so you can weave in between volleys and board the enemy as fast as possible. Start the battle upwind of the enemy, or otherwise align the ships so that the enemy is situated in your "best direction of sailing". For a Sloop that would be somewhere between beam reach and broad beam reach (about 45 degrees or less off the wind direction). For a War canoe, it will be exactly perpendicular (90 degrees off) to the wind direction. First, you'll need to dodge a volley or two of cannonfire before you can actually close the distance. Don't get hit! Any damage to your sails can slow your ship enough so that when you try to close in for a boarding you'll get hit by another volley and may either sink or be unable to sail faster than the SOL, in which case it will maneuver around and blast you to bits. You need to avoid, avoid, avoid. Close in to Chain-shot range if you can. A sloop, at this point, can attempt to fire a volley of Chain-shot to make the SOL a bit slower, but this doesn't always do enough damage to the enemy, so it is often best avoided. Once you're ready at a mediocre distance from the SOL, with it placed directly in your "best sailing" direction, wait for the last volley, and then dart in as quickly as possible. Trying to approach from a different direction may be very tough, since the SOL can turn quickly and fire at you, and you would be going at less than optimal speed. If you're at your best sailing direction, you'll be approaching the enemy as fast as possible, thus shortening the time the enemy has to reload and fire again. If the winds aren't strong enough, your ship may actually take one of those volleys, but by now it will probably still have enough sails to close the distance and board. For war canoes, however, getting hit by one broadside can mean death, so it would have to be a pretty damn good rush if you want to survive. Remember that facing a SOL with a ship that carries 40 men can be hazardous to your health. Your crew may get chopped to bits if you're not a good fencer, so take this into consideration before assaulting. [4.2.2] HOW DO I USE A BRIG AGAINST A SOL? Brigs, I believe, have more trouble assaulting a SOL without taking damage, since they are slower than Sloops and will therefore be more open to incoming fire when they try to dart in for a boarding. Also, since the Brig is physically bigger than a Sloop, it is a larger and easier target to hit, and therefore may suffer many more hits when fired upon by a SOL broadside. However, a Brig can take much more punishment than a Sloop, and so it might be worth the risk. The larger "Brig of War" can sometimes actually gunfight the SOL, but it would require some damn good maneuvering to avoid incoming fire, as the SOL is every bit as maneuverable as a Brig if it has copper plating and/or cotton sail upgrades. If the brig sustains some damage to the sails, it might not be able to close the distance fast enough before the SOL lands another volley on you, and by then you've probably lost the fight already. [4.2.3] HOW DO I USE ANY KIND OF FRIGATE AGAINST A SOL? Theoretically, this is the simplest vessel with which to take a SOL. Being equally maneuverable, and carrying similar amounts of crew and cannon, a Frigate can afford to gunfight the SOL at long firing range. Whittle its cannons down (DON'T SINK IT!!!) until they no longer pose a serious threat (16 cannons are not a serious threat to a frigate), then close in and either chain-shot them a few times or charge and board. With a frigate, you can probably afford to sustain several cannon hits (unless you get 48 cannon hits to your ship, in which case you'll probably be too slow to win). Another tactic, which is often my favourite when taking a SOL with another Frigate (or my own SOL!) would be to charge right in on them from upwind and board them as quickly as possible (like smaller ships do, just simpler). Start upwind from them, and sail directly with the wind right at them, you'll reach them soon enough). The difference between this tactic and the one explained above for smaller ships is that your frigate can take the damage and keep sailing. Since choosing not to gun-fight them from long range probably means you'd be taking damage anyway, it's obviously better to close the distance while you're taking it. An accomplished captain with a Large Frigate or SOL can possibly even make the SOL surrender by breaking its main mast. This requires either great skill or great planning, but it is very much possible. Don't expect to stay unscathed, though. The enemy is DANGEROUS whichever way you look at it. [4.2.4] HOW DO I USE A COMBAT-GALLEON AGAINST A SOL? Don't. It outmaneuvers you easily, and you can't avoid its gunfire effectively. [4.2.5] HOW DO I USE A MERCHANT SHIP AGAINST A SOL? Please, please don't. Just don't. If you really have to, try running circles around the SOL, blasting at it with your numerous guns, and taking it before you do too much damage to its sails. No, seriously, please don't attack a SOL with a merchant unless you're VERY, VERY, VERY good. VERY. [4.2.6] WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THE SOL IS ESCORTED? Although I've taken on a SOL escorted by a Large Frigate (You can imagine what that's like), it has only happened to me twice, and therefore considered VERY rare. Most of the ships escorting a SOL would be Sloops, sometimes Brigs, and sometimes the SOL isn't escorted at all. When attacking a SOL with an escort, you have to remember that the escort is at the same time both unimportant, and a serious liability. Your main goal would be to either avoid the escort altogether (possible only with a fast small ship, or with a very good starting position and wind conditions in a big ship) or to board and sink the escort as soon as possible (Best if you've got a Frigate-class). Don't let the escort stay alive or engage you in cannon-play, because the SOL will keep bombarding you as you fight, and your maneuvering will either be insane or impossible. [4.2.7] FINAL WORDS ON SOL-CATCHING COMBAT TACTICS All this said, you've probably got a good idea of what you're going up against. Picking the right flag-ship to do the job, as well as pre-battle maneuvering and correct wind assessment are every bit as important as your sailing skills. To me, SOL captures are among the most interesting battles you can attempt. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------  I GOTS ME A SOL! NOW HOW DO I USE THIS THING? //NOTE: While this chapter holds true with any kind of Frigate, the differences between having 32 and 48 cannons is immense, as well as having 450 vs. 300 men on board, and other distingishing factors between a SOL and its smaller siblings. A Large Frigate can often double as a second ship to a SOL, but you will notice the difference in gunnery performance very quickly, from the width of your volleys to the damage you can safely take. However, as far as handling and maneuverability goes, the SOL is much the same as a Frigate or Large Frigate, and the same tactics can be used for all three ship-types, as long as you allow for some adjustments to compensate for less cannons, men, and survivability. [5.1] HOW SHOULD I HANDLE MY OVERALL STRATEGY? The first thing you need to know about the SOL is that it is the fastest ship in the Caribbean when sailing from East to West, mainly because its top speed is achieved when sailing directly with the wind, and most of the time (especially in lower difficulty levels) the wind is going West. However, sailing against the wind, as with anything larger than a Sloop, can be slow and tedious. To balance this out, you will be constantly applying pressure to the political map of the caribbean to allow you to stay in the same area for a lengthy period, eliminating the need to sail east and west too often. This is one of the main reasons why siding with the Spaniards gives best results for SOL users - Besides the fact that in order to get a SOL you'll be fighting against someone non-spanish, the Spanish have cities everywhere on the map so returning to port never takes much more than a week or two. This strategy is further explained below. If you HAVE to sail directly east, either hope for the wind to change drastically north or south (Only possible in high difficulty levels) or instead zig-zag northeast-to-southeast across the caribbean in order to maintain "OK" speeds. It takes a while to master, but will seriously shorten the time it takes to sail from Vera Cruz to Barbados from 8 months (or more) to about 4 or 5. Also make use of storms, as they can really boost your speed. The SOL can chase down ships at leisure, especially if equipped with Cotton Sails. However, the best part about a SOL is that ship-to-ship combat quickly becomes redundant, and you will be much better off using the huge 450-man crew to storm cities and plunder them for all they've got. While this can be performed with a fleet of smaller ships, having a lone flag-ship often proves to give much faster sailing time across the open-sea map, whereas a fleet will constantly slow down to accomodate the varying speeds of its member ships. Because the SOL is so powerful, enemy ships are ALL considered easy prey, so Pirate-Hunters, Evil Spaniards, and the top Named Pirates (namely Henry Morgan and Blackbeard) cease to be dangerous conflicts. With 450 men on board, you'll find that fencing is also much less dangerous as you're very unlikely to run out of crew, and that large enemy crews that used to defend themselves against your boardings will now surrender to you without a fight simply because you vastly outnumber them in manpower. Your ship is a veritable terror on the seas, and it should be used accordingly. Sailing westwards is easy, but coming back takes a long time, so the best strategy is to stay in the same area for a long period of time. To this end, you will use the SOL's immense power to restructure regions of the Caribbean, placing friendly cities in the midst of enemy concentrations, or actually MAKING enemy concentrations near your friendly ports. Most "Buried Treasure" maps point to locations in close proximity to where you bought your first map piece of a set, so making excursions from the same city to find different treasures will make sure you don't stray too far when pursuing them. Pay attention to the locations of Evil Spaniards and try to ambush them when they come close to your current location, otherwise you might end up chasing them all the way to Puerto Bello, forcing you to spend months trying to get back to the Lesser Antilles in the east. In general, basing yourself around Santiago gives you the best options, but not the best yield. On the other hand, basing yourself in St. Kitts or Trinidad gives you the best yield, but any out-of-area sailing you need to do will probably be westwards, again a big problem. But since your ship is big and mighty, you'll find it rather easy to base yourself pretty much anywhere, changing friendly and enemy cities to maximize yield in a certain area that you find is easily accesible to you (Like making Maracaibo and Margarita into English cities so you can raid the spaniards on the Main more easily, etc.). Money is a serious matter of consideration, because you will need LOTS of it to keep such a large crew happy. This isn't very hard to do, because you'll be making lots of money from your plunderings and warmongering pretty soon. However, more often than not you will need some starting capital to prevent your crew morale from deteriorating. There are several things you can do to help yourself with this. First of all, when you're sailing a SOL (And in my opinion, in any game you play), do not fill it up with 450 men right away - this will make morale deteriorate badly if you can't get lots of gold fast enough. You can keep somewhere around 200 men (The minimum for best combat performance is 168), and increase crew size gradually when your capital grows to about 200,000. The easiest way to get all this money is to find all the Lost Cities, and possibly also Montalban's Hideout. To keep a crew of 450 men happy indefinitely, you need somewhere along the lines of 1,000,000 gold, which is almost an impossible amount. However, keeping crew and gold proportional during your career will often keep the crew content for at least 6-10 years. Keep in mind that marrying a girl in St. Eustatius or Nevis or Martinique is pretty damn silly. Your best reward for marrying a Beautiful Daughter is that she can provide you with all the Lost City maps you'll need, but after finding each city you will have to visit your wife again for more map pieces. Since all Lost Cities are in Mexico and Central America, having to sail all the way east after finding each treasure will make your time run out like a chicken on fire. Your first priority once you've acquired a SOL would probably be to sell all your other ships and make your way, as soon as possible, to Puerto Bello. You should enter, in this order or otherwise, Santa Marta, Cartagena, Nombre de Dios, Puerto Bello, Santa Catalina (if it exists), Port Royale (if exists), Havana, and Florida Keys. If you can't enter one, consider sneaking in, or even capturing it. What you're looking for is a potential marriage with a beautiful daughter. Since these cities are close to Central America, sailing between your wife and the lost cities will take much less time. Once you've located and begun courting your new wife, take the time to visit Campeche, Veracruz, and Villahermosa. You need to conquer all of them, and pass them from Spanish rule to another nation. This will prevent the Evil Spaniards from spawning so far to the west. If you're partial to the Spanish, you'll need to appease them later by sinking enemy ships or visiting a nearby monastery to get an Amnesty escort mission. It may also be advisable to take St. Augustine for the same reason. Sometimes you can't get them all, but getting a few helps alot. Also remember that while sailing up the coast of Central America you will probably run into several Named Pirates, and this would be a good chance to take them out. If you happen to know the location of Montalban's hideout - so much the better. Assault his hidden fortress as quickly as possible, as the 100,000 gold reward is very very important to you. If you're not much of a Land-Battles person (And most people aren't, mainly because land battles are so incredibly slow and tedious), you'll be wanting to make ship-capturing raids. In theory, SOL raids should be very ineffective because you'll probably be doing ALOT of damage to the enemy ships before capturing them, thus rendering them worthless. However, once you get the rank of Count with a foreign power, damage is no longer a factor in ship value as long as you sell the damaged ship at a port belonging to said foreign power. If you're going to go out for repeated capture-raids, make sure you first engineer friendly ports in the area that can provide this service for you - taking demasted ships to a far away port to sell them for full value can take a long time. Just make sure to sink small vessels and capture only the bigger ones (like combat galleons and frigates), which are worth much more in gold. There's an 8-ship limit, after all. [5.2] HOW DO I USE THE SHIP OF THE LINE IN COMBAT? With a ship so heavily armed and comparably so dangerously maneuverable, the SOL basically fears nothing out in the open seas. While it employs slightly different "starting" tactics against different kinds of ships, the basics will usually stay the same for most battles - Bombardment from afar. You're not quick enough to just dart in and board without taking damage, but you are quick enough to avoid cannonfire at long ranges, and pack enough guns yourself to cripple anything at said ranges with impunity. Most of your attacks should have you starting downwind from the enemy. During battles against formidable enemies, your first task would be to bombard them with roundshot to whittle down their cannon, while staying a good enough distance away that you will have time to avoid incoming fire. Because the enemy is upwind from you, turning AWAY from the enemy quickly gives you enough speed to regain good distance and resume firing. There are several downsides to this, as will be explained, but this general tactic is useful against MOST enemy ships, including Merchants and anything larger than a Sloop. In the case of smaller ships, however, they are far more likely to try and escape. If you really have to capture a small ship (there aren't many reasons, but it can happen), the conditions change. You will need to start UPWIND from them so that you can quickly gain speed and close the distance enough to smack them with either roundshot or chainshot, slowing them down enough to enable you to continue normally. If you start downwind like with other ships, the enemy can turn into the wind and sail away faster than you can follow. The first thing you'll need to know is how to gauge an enemy's hull strength. Enemy cannon numbers and crew size are displayed clearly on the battle screen, but determining exactly how much damage the enemy has sustained, and how much more it can take, is a matter of learning with experience, and will eventually prove a crucial point in SOL combat. In some careers, you'll find that you actually have no need to board and capture, so sinking the enemy is no issue, but there are plenty of cases where capturing the enemy is worth the time spent to carefully neutralize it instead of blowing it clear out of the water. With 48 cannons on board, your ship can sometimes sink a Sloop or a Brig with a single hit, so extra care must be taken against any of the smaller ships. Only time and practice will be able to teach you to tell how many more times you can hit the enemy without sinking it, but there are a few pointers you can take heed of: * Smaller enemy ships can obviously take less damage than large enemy ships. * Iron Scantling upgrades on enemy ships keeps them in the water longer, but is no guarantee that you won't sink them with the first volley. * Whether you cause damage to enemy hull, sail, or cannon (And exactly how much damage you will cause with each cannonball hit) is randomal, so don't count on the enemy's Remaining Guns number to tell you how close the enemy is to sinking. You can sink a ship without destroying 1/4 of its cannons, sometimes, and you can destroy all cannons without damaging the ship much at other times. * Hull damage is displayed as smoke bellowing out of the enemy's hull. The smoke's color and consistency changes as the ship becomes more damaged, but it can sometimes be hard to guage exactly how bad the enemy is hurt just by looking at the smoke. Also, a lightly- smoldering ship can sometimes sink completely if you hit it with enough cannonballs in a single volley. Whenever you get the opportunity to fire Chain-shot instead of roundshot, DO SO. Trying to get the enemy's gun count to 0 is risky, since you can't always do this without first sinking the enemy ship. However a single 48-cannon volley of well-placed chain-shot will often get the enemy to raise its white flag, thus effectively making it harmless without risking sinking it altogether. This doesn't work with enemy Escort ships (or any ship that comes in at slot #2 when you enter ship-to-ship combat), as they will keep firing even when demasted. These are often better to sink anyway, if you're not risking hitting the #1 ship as well. Grape shot is often useless, since you've probably got a much larger crew than they do anyway. Besides, if you can demast the enemy with chain-shot, there's no reason not to do it! (They surrender, hence no more fighting). Unless of course you're trying to keep the enemy ship intact. Keep in mind that Grape-shot as well as Round-Shot has a certain chance of hitting enemy sails too, so you might damage enemy sails anyway. Grape-shot is useful against an enemy #2 ship, because it will never surrender, and sometimes you don't have enough time and maneuvering space in a battle to actually sink them - so it's better to kill some crew before they try to board you. Maneuvering in Ship-to-ship combat for the Frigate-class is of the utmost importance. In a Sloop this may seem trivial, especially since the ship remains greatly maneuverable even at slow speeds. With Frigates, the unexperienced user can often make the mistake of assuming that they are highly UNmaneuverable, and therefore attempt to perform as few tricks as possible, accepting the occasional hit from enemy gunfire. This is, in fact a mistake. A Frigate can become a very agile weapon in the hands of a skilled user, enabling the captain to minimize (or even eliminate) damage taken in combat. The key here is to know when and how to change sailing direction, and obviously to avoid sailing into the wind if there is nothing exceptional to be gained by doing so. [5.2.1] WHAT SHOULD I DO ONCE COMBAT STARTS? When a battle begins, the SOL's first priority is to gain speed (And maybe launch a broadside if the situation allows). All ships enter battle at 4 knots of speed. A War Canoe can put this up to 15 or 16 in a split second, while for a Frigate, especially if ill-aligned before combat, will take much more than this. However, once turning away from the wind, a Frigate can quickly reach high speeds, approximately 12 to 13 knots in a mild wind, which is basically enough to begin maneuvering. Smaller vessels lose speed much faster when they turn away from their best sailing point. A Frigate takes time to lose speed, and can therefore afford the larger turn radius because it maintains most of its original maneuverability even after a few seconds of off-wind sailing. ALWAYS REMEMBER: The stronger the winds, the more powerful your SOL becomes. At winds going 18-20 knots, a Frigate can turn very very fast, and lose very little speed while doing so. The use of sail-reefing (The "2", or "Down" key on your keypad) becomes unneccesary, as the ship is at its maximum possible maneuverability. You may find that you can sail a Frigate as though you'd have sailed a Sloop in such powerful winds. However, since such conditions are rare, some tactics below include detailed instructions on reefing and raising sails. This is a skill you would need to master if you wish to become truly innvincible at sea. If you have little experience with Frigates, your best option would be to continue on to a maneuver I call the "Snaking Chase", which at lower levels does not neccesarily require reefing and raising sails. You will need to start downwind of your enemy to do this. Once reaching good speeds going downwind, away from your enemy, you turn sideways (perpendicular to the wind), fire a volley (waiting until all cannons have fired), and pivot back downwind to regain speed. Alternate your turns to either side so you don't end up drifting too far off, or you'll quickly find that the wind is no longer aiding you. Make sure to spend some time regaining speed if the enemy is getting too close. Otherwise, they might be able to turn sideways and fire a broadside at you unexpectedly, and at short distances you may not be able to avoid all incoming fire effectively, especially if you don't know how to reef sails in the proper manner. As your shells smack into the enemy, he will slowly lose cannon and sails. If his sails are damaged enough, you can begin maneuvering more freely, taking time to aim correctly and readjust your position relative to the enemy. If his cannons drop below a certain "safe" level, you may begin a slow "turn-around" to facilitate closer combat. [5.2.2] OK, I'VE DAMAGED THE ENEMY AND CLOSED IN TO CHAIN-SHOT RANGE. NOW WHAT? Closer combat with an enemy ship is recommended only when you have crippled the enemy enough to be able to assault it without fear. An enemy with 10 cannons or less on board is considered DOCILE when you're sailing a SOL, perhaps 8 or less when you're sailing a Frigate. Basically, the enemy can't possibly make too much damage to your ship even with 16 guns, but when sailing a Frigate your main task is to remain unscathed out at sea for as long as possible, to keep you from going into port for repairs. An enemy is also considered DOCILE when its sails have been damaged considerably, since it loses a lot of maneuverability in this way. Careful weaving on your part can put you in a position where you can circle an enemy ship, not enabling it to fire back at all. The best way to close in to Chain-Shot range from the "Snaking Chase" position described above is to simply make a 3/4 circle off to one side. Start this when you're facing downwind. You will lose speed due to both the turning and the fact that at some point you'll be sailing into the wind, so make sure not to start closing until your ship is sailing with ample speed in the first place. After the first half-circle, you'd have lost about 4 or 5 knots, but will regain 1 or 2 as you turn sideways again (the last 1/4 of the turn). Do not switch the direction of the turn, always do the whole 3/4th circle in the same direction, otherwise it may leave you for too long facing the wind, in which case you'll lose more speed and may become highly unmaneuverable. Once the 3/4ths are complete, you are sailing perpendicular to the wind, with your broadside aimed at the enemy. Since you turned towards the enemy and still haven't sped away, you are also now closer to the enemy, possibly within Chain-shot Range. Be wary - the enemy may very well attempt to turn sideways to fire at you. If the enemy's sails are still in good condition, it may take you some pretty good aiming to actually hit him with Chain-Shot. [5.2.3] THE ENEMY'S IN BAD SHAPE, AND I'M CLOSING INTO GRAPE-SHOT RANGE. HOW DO I END IT? In a SOL, entering Grape-shot range is seriously risky. The only true reason to enter this range is either if you're in a bad spot and are trying to gain speed, or if you've already subdued the enemy (0 cannons, or white-flag raised) and have no fear of being shot. Otherwise, it is best to stay at a longer range so you can avoid incoming fire. To close in from Chain-shot Range to Grape-shot range, the best tactic involves changing the aspect of battle, I.E. your ship's position relative to the enemy and to the wind. So far, if you've followed the previous explanations, you have been trying to stay downwind of the enemy so he can't catch up with you. Now, however, you will be trying to maneuver your ship so that the ENEMY is relatively downwind of you, for that moment when you turn downwind and pounce. A skilled captain can dart at an enemy ship in this way similar to what War Canoe captains do when they're facing a powerful enemy (Which is basically any enemy. War Canoes are fragile). Bringing your ship around the enemy can be tricky, since it almost always involves sailing directly into the wind. The moves themselves are pretty simple - turn your ship perpendicular to the wind direction (90 degrees off), and then some. Keep an eye on the speed gauge, to make sure you're not dropping below 7 knots. The enemy will either turn to chase or turn to fire, in either case they will be aiding your maneuver by either playing along with it (sailing further downwind) or chasing you and losing speed. If your speed drops too far, turn slightly back downwind (no more than 30 degrees), then tack back. Eventually, you should reach a situation where a line drawn from your ship to the enemy ship is at about 60 degrees off the wind direction. Now would be a good time to glance back at your speed gauge. If you're doing less than 7-8 knots, tacking directly in the wind at this point will slow you down considerably. However, if your distance from the enemy is also long enough (about chain-shot distance), you can afford to slow down, as you will very soon pick up speed again. Tack into the wind (or AWAY from the wind, if that seems better at the present conditions) to finally bring your ship in a straight collision course with the enemy. This is pretty much where battle ends, because you're going to gain enough speed to be free to do whatever you want. Be wary of incoming fire, although mostly you should be able to evade it without doing anything spectacular. A note on Grapeshooting - With a SOL, grapeshooting the enemy is often futile. You would be better off chain-shooting them to take their sails down - this, at least, ensures surrender. When you're confident enough, you can just sail downwind and smack into the enemy. [5.2.4] WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN ATTACKING SMALL SHIPS THAT ARE FAST ENOUGH TO ESCAPE? The problem with SOLs attacking a smaller vessel is obvious - the enemy is far more maneuverable than you are, and can probably avoid cannonfire at long ranges with ease. Moreover, an enemy not bent on your destruction (Like a smuggler or a Treaty ship) is more likely to use wind to its advantage and just run away, instead of fighting. If your starting moves are not precise and quick, you'll quickly lose sight of the enemy. When attacking smaller vessels, pre-battle positioning is KEY. You will need to assess wind conditions first, and position your ship accordingly. The best position to start a SOL vs. SMALL battle is upwind of the enemy instead of downwind. There are several reasons for this: * The SOL sails fastest downwind, and loses speed very quickly when sailing upwind. * A small boat, on the contrary, sails fast in slightly-off-wind conditions, but has no trouble clocking a few good knots when sailing upwind. * Frigates are the fastest ships in the Caribbean, but ONLY when they are sailing at their "best point". Otherwise, they are no faster than any other ship. * Sloops, Pinnaces and War Canoes gain speed quickly, but their maximums, even at good wind conditions, are not as high as a Frigate's. A small enemy is, by definition, not powerful enough to pose any serious threat to you. Therefore your first interest is to close the distance as soon as possible to maximize the chance of landing cannonballs on the swift enemy, or at least convincing it to make the mistake of turning to fire at you. Therefore, when a battle starts, your first move should be pointing yourself downwind, straight at your enemy (or do this before combat!). You will steadily begin to gain speed. The enemy, at this point might turn to fire, but since you're gaining speed in this phase, the shots will probably pass over your ship and splash behind you. If the enemy turns downwind, you are sure to overtake it (though if you surpass its speed, the A.I. will probably decide it's better to turn and fire). If the enemy turns perpendicular to the wind (like War Canoes), you can adjust your heading slightly to that direction, but rememeber that your top priority is not to board, but to land a broadside on your enemy. You must fire that broadside only when you are sure that you've closed as much distance as you're going to do (if you're very close, you might not need to fire at all). If your firing angle and aiming skills are at their best, or if you're playing a lower level of difficulty, you can probably try to fire some chainshot along in the same volley, to increase the chance of sail- damage to the enemy. A good way to increase change of hit is to fire while turning with the sails reefed (see below). Since it takes a bit of time for the SOL to fire all its cannons, turning the ship while it's firing will send different cannonballs in different directions, creating a "spread". Start firing BEFORE your broadside is aimed directly at the enemy, then "sweep" across the enemy's path to fire your cannonballs all around his ship. Note that the enemy still has some chance to avoid all them, and that by using this technique, you're increasing the chance of a hit while reducing the damage given to the enemy, so more often than not, you will not do enough damage to slow him down. Once the enemy has been injured enough to prevent its escape, you may now attempt to board it. Make sure you don't sink the enemy if you're trying to board, and watch out - some of the bigger "small ships", like Royal Sloops, carry 20 guns on board. Not enough to cause you any major damage, but enough to hurt you and your men. Be wary even when you're winning. [5.3] HOW DOES PLAYING WITH THE SAILS HELP ME USE MY SOL IN COMBAT? Pressing the "2" key on your keypad, during both map sailing and combat sailing, will lower your sails. The term "Reef the sails" is more accurate, since they are actually pulled upwards. In this state, the ship will go slower, develop and lose speed slower, but will have increased turning speed. Pressing the "8" key will "raise" the sails back to full state, increasing speed and reducing turn rate. Handling a ship's sails can be awkward, especially if you haven't had much experience sailing in combat even without tinkering with sail states. However, once you can master the technique, you'll find that dodging cannonballs with a huge ship like the SOL becomes simple! The reefing/raising technique is best used in the "Snaking Chase" maneuver, where you lure the enemy into trying to chase you while maintaining long firing distance from it (see sections above). By reefing the sails, you will be able to suddenly change direction, fire at the enemy, and quickly turn back into the wind to gain speed, thus escaping incoming fire. The maneuver itself is rather simple, although getting the hang of it can be difficult. Once you've gained good speed in combat, going downwind as my earlier tactics instruct, hit the "Reef Sails" button (2). Immediately begin turning sideways to aim your broadside. As you align your guns and begin firing a volley, a good idea would be to raise the sails again (8) to start gaining back speed, however this is not always neccesary. Once firing has been all but completed, reef the sails again, and turn back downwind, raising the sails at the end of the turn to begin regaining speed and distance. You'll eventually also learn how to reef your sails at just the right moment to bring your broadside towards the enemy just as your cannons are fully loaded, thus minimizing the time you spend with your sails down (not gaining speed). When dodging cannonfire, you need to reef the sails as soon as the enemy releases its volley. Begin turning away from the volley (or if you were headed away from it in the first place - turn sideways from the incoming cannonball's heading). You will need to eventually make a 90 degree turn. Once you've turned about 60 degrees, raise the sails and continue turning until the 90 degrees are complete. When you make such a quick turn and hasty acceleration, much like a car "whipping its tail" in a tight curve, the cannonballs will land where you were supposed to be, however you have strayed from that position already, and shouldn't get hit at all. Note that you will need at least 168 men on board to reef/raise your sails at optimal speed. Also notice that reefing takes much less time than raising, and that while you're switching sail modes, cannon-reloading pauses until the sails are set. At closer ranges (Chain-shot range), whipping your ship around may not provide the best results, but it will often help you turn what would otherwise be a complete hit across the side of your ship to slight damage by only a few of the cannonballs. It will be best if you do the maneuver when the reefing will put you at best-sailing-point AFTER the 90-degree turn (You'll speed away from the cannonball impact zone much faster). At Grape-shot range, forget the reefing maneuver altogether. If you've come this close, it's better to board quickly rather than keep playing with an enemy that fires back. Remember that once you've smacked into the enemy (the game shows you a close-up of both ships right before boarding), no further damage is recorded, so if the enemy has fired a large broadside at you, this is a good way to minimize the effect of what would otherwise be a devastating hit. Another important thing to remember (And this is a VERY important strategy for SOL sailing) - fighting in the middle of a storm, or otherwise when the winds reach 19-20 knots, your ship becomes so fast you don't need to reef the sails at all. And last, but not least - if your turn is going to bring you "into the eye of the wind" (Sailing AGAINST the red arrow), do NOT reef the sails. You will lose so much speed that the turning rate is not increased at all. Better keep those sails up so you can quickly regain speed as you turn away from the wind's eye. [5.4] SUMMARY ON SOL COMBAT While the SOL seems like a big, ungainly tub in the water, it is in fact very fast and very maneuverable. It is clearly no match for the maneuverability of a Sloop, Pinnace, or War Canoe, but using it correctly can help you maintain an advantage over any other ship. Using reefed sails tactics you can do combat without injury to your ship at all, and as long as you maintain good distance, you can probably sink any other ship with ease. Wind direction is a very important factor, so both pre-battle positioning and constant attention to changes in wind direction can both make or break a triumph. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------  HOW DO I MAKE LOTS OF SOLS COME OUT? So far, I have played three games that were, from the get go, played only for the purpose of getting 8 Ships of the Line together in a single fleet. They were all successful, although the later two games performed the task much faster than the first, since I had learned alot in the meantime about the optimal conditions for SOL spawning and capture. This section details what would possibly be the best strategy for "enticing" SOLs to sail out with much more frequency. However, do not expect to catch them all in two years. My best game yet has provided only about one SOL per year, although I have no idea how many SOLs I had missed when sailing away from "Killing Fields" for repairs. This startegy can be used to get just one SOL, if you want, or to get a fleet of 8 (Which is obviously more of a CAREER than a STRATEGY). Fleets are much harder to build since you will need a whole lot of crewmembers, and once you've captured two SOLs or more, you'll need to avoid dividing the plunder because that means dropping all but one ship. The strategy seems a bit pointless for capturing just one, but it will definitely do the trick if you haven't seen a SOL before, or if you're trying to catch one to continue the game with it as your flag-ship as soon as possible. My Strategy is basically to set up a "Killing Field" centered around Montserrat, in the Lesser Antilles (the "Windward Islands"), which include (from north to south): St. Martin, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Martinque and Barbados. While the strategy written here is pretty specific, you will probably play it a bit differently than I do. There is no guarantee that my strategy is absolutely best, but it's the best one I've heard/used so far. Also note that while the strategy defines the "attacked" nation to be English, you can use any non-spanish nation instead, as long as you make sure to change the other nations mentioned accordingly. [6.1] WHAT IS A "KILLING FIELD"? The whole SOL capture strategy rests on building a specific area in the Caribbean, hereby referred to as a "Killing Field", which contains several cities belonging to the same non-Spanish nation. Shipping in this area will be constantly attacked for a period of several years. The object is to both upset that nation and its cities considerably, by sinking almost anything that belongs to them, and at the same time maintaining those cities at "Wealthy" status so they can spawn Ships of the Line. Additional cities belonging to the same nation will send in reinforcements and improvement ships, as well as their own merchant shipping (which can be attacked to make those further cities also likely to spawn SOLs). Let's have a quick overview on some of the political goals we'll be trying to achieve in the area: A) Nevis, Monserrat, and Antigua will all need to be English. These are the cities we shall be assaulting. B) Barbados and Martinique must also be English - these are "support cities" that may also participate in SOL spawning. C) Either St. Kitts, Guadeloupe, or St. Eustatius will serve as homebases. Each has its own pros and cons, as explained. You can also use all three as homebases, though results may vary. "Homebases" will be given to the Spanish, French, or Dutch, or if you're using more than one, you can give them to different nations. If one of these seems useless to you as a homebase for this strategy, give it to the English. [6.2] WHICH STARTING ERA AND NATION SHOULD I CHOOSE? The starting Era of the game will be a very important factor. In 1640, adjusting the political map is often simple because cities in the Lesser Antilles are weak, and easy to conquer. In 1680, SOL spawning is MUCH more frequent than 1640, but conquering cities in the area is hard since they are heavily protected. 1660 is an average on all parts, and is the era I usually play for this strategy. Your starting nation is not important per-se, but I like choosing the English for three reasons. First, you'll get a sloop, which is pretty much the easiest ship to start with. Second, it gives you the chance to start the game in St. Kitts (Especially in 1640), which puts you right near the fields. Third, and most importnat: It's just so highly ironic (since you'll be attacking them constantly for the next 10 years). [6.3] WHAT DO I DO ONCE I'VE STARTED THE GAME? Your first and foremost agenda will be to restructure the Lesser Antilles and set up a killing field as described above. This can be approached in several ways, but I'll describe a pretty straightforward one. Begin by capturing several warships, brigs, sloops, or the occasional Frigate if you see one. Try capturing warships from different nations, since you don't want to be upsetting anyone in particular at this point, not even the English. Go around and visit the different cities in the area (including the eastern Spanish Main) to gather enough troops to later be able to assault well-defended cities. During this time, you will gain valuable information about the different cities in the Lesser Antilles area, in regard to troop sizes and available Ship Upgrades. If you've gotten yourself a good warship by now (depends on your preferance, could be a War Canoe, Brig of War, Royal Sloop, or some kind of Frigate), it would be wise to upgrade it as soon as possible. If you need money, either hunt down Buried Treasures, or seek out Named-Pirates. You can also raid the Spanish Main for a while to gain money by selling captured ships at Curacao. [6.4] I'VE GOTTEN MEN, MONEY, AND A GOOD SHIP. WHAT DO I DO NEXT? Now it's time to do some serious work. Head back to Nevis with at least 350 men. Your first task would be to conquer EVERYTHING for the English, from St. Martin in the north, to Martinique in the south (it can be useful to get both Trinidad and Margarita too, or you could go all-out-berserk and get Cumana and Caracas). If you're not good at land-battles, haven't acquired enough men, or aren't looking to capture more than one SOL, you can settle for Monserrat and Martinique. These are the two most important for the strategy, as long as Nevis, St. Kitts, and Antigua are still English. The English will be very pleased with you, granting you rank and promotions. You can probably repair ships free of cost at ports, and possibly also upgrade ships for free. However, do not be tempted to capture enemy ships at sea, since you'll be switching allegiance pretty soon! Only attack if you see a ship you'd like to be using (nevermind whose ship it is), so you can get it upgraded now before you start upsetting the English. Once this is done, you will need to decide where you're going to put your homebase. There are several factors that come into play, signifying different approaches to the whole strategy. * St. Eustatius and St. Martin, the Dutch colonies, are often wealthy and easy to protect, so they'll pay good money for cargo you capture. However sailing towards them makes you leave the Killing Fields for a long period of time, so it may not be a good idea. * St. Kitts is very close to Nevis, but sailing to the killing fields takes time (Southeast...) even if it's very closeby. St. Kitts is harder to protect against enemy attacks. * Guadeloupe is probably the best choice, because when you sail back to it after a long period of English-Bashing, at maximum zoom-out you can still see what's going on around Monserrat (if you've got a fine telescope, it's even better). Sailing out of Guadeloupe to the Fields is a north-western course, which is often your fastest approach. However, Guadeloupe is the least defensible, and enemies will often be trying to conquer it or otherwise hurt its economy, and you'd be too far to protect it from anything coming out of the south. A combination of two of these often works best - Guadeloupe in the south and St. Eustatius in the north, or even putting all three northies (St. Martin, St. Eustatius and St. Kitts) as homebases, or other combinations you can think of. You'll be wanting to spend the minimum time possible at sea (without repairs), and get the maximum price for cargo captured, so balance the two. Your Homebase(s) should all be conquered to the Spanish. This increases their defensibility and the amount of support they'll receive from other spanish cities in the vicinity. It will also mean that Raymondo, Montalban and Mendoza may come visit once in a while, so you can capture them without leaving the area at all. [6.5] WHEN DO I GET TO HAVE FUN? The fun starts now. Sell every ship in your fleet except your main vessel. If your crew isn't awfully happy, you might want to consider Dividing the plunder to start fresh with your upgraded flagship. Then sail out, and head towards Monserrat. Your strategy is very simple. You will need to sink/capture ALL of the outgoing merchants (Any merchant that spawns out of English cities is far game). You might also want to sink/capture INCOMING merchants (from Martinique, Barbados, ETC) to increase the chance that further-away cities may also spawn SOLs. Note that attacking merchants not only upsets cities, but also damages their economic level. For this reason, you must NEVER attack any "Immigrant" and "New Governor" ships belonging to the English, as they will help restore the English cities to Wealthy status. English Pirate-Hunters are fair game, and I would heartily recommend sinking any Indian War Canoes and Pirates sailing about in the region, since they can easily hurt the English cities as well as your homebases. Also, "Invasion Force" ships, of any nation, should be promptly sunk, as they endanger the carefully constructed political situation. I'm not sure about Raiders, but I think these can be safely let out. Smugglers are probably best left alone, unless you need to capture them for money and cargo. Your sailing should be a simple circle around Monserrat with excursions to catch ships that move through the area. Monserrat's fort, and possibly also Nevis' WILL eventually begin firing at you, so be wary. The fluttering of English flags over their cities will provide you with a good indication of how upset they are. The more vigorous the flutter - the more upset the city. If a city is "Wealthy" and its flag is waving gentler than other cities, you should place it under priority and perhaps even shift your sailing somewhat to that direction. Don't miss any merchants going out. With this strategy in effect, the English will despise you more and more with each passing month. I actually hit 1,000,000 in gold bounty on my head once just from the English. The Spanish will give you enough acres of land to fully satisfy your "wealth" points (24/24), as long as they're at war with the English. If they happen to sign a peace-treaty, feel free to conquer all spanish cities you've installed for a different government that IS at war with the English. Soon after you begin your mischief, the English will start sending out Large Frigates to hunt you. Be sure you have a good enough ship to take those out, otherwise they'll annoy you by firing at your fleet. Try staying out at sea as long as possible. If you have two or three ships you can use for combat when the first ship gets too hurt to fight - so much the better. The moment you leave the Killing Fields could be the moment a SOL passes through. Even when sailing back to your home port, keep an eye out for any SOL that may be slipping past. Also I'd warmly recommend getting the fine telescope, as well as zooming out as far as possible. [6.6] HOW DO I GET MORE THAN ONE SOL? Once you've gotten one, you might want to just keep it, crew it, and go off to complete the rest of your quests. However, you might feel up to the challenge of catching 8 of them to make a whole fleet of SOLs. The trick here is of course keeping your crew happy for ten or so years, because once you have 2 SOLs or more, you can't divide plunder without losing all but your flagship. So once you have one, you can follow my earlier instructions on how to get the most gold in one pass to the west. This MAY take a year or so to perform, but it's worth at least 300,000 gold, which is crucial for a crew of 450, and in no way enough to keep them happy forever. And your crew will need to grow by about 200 men to be able to sail all the other SOLs in your fleet without losing fleet-speed. By now you're probably powerful enough to be able to turn all cities in the Eastward Region to the English, except of course all the cities you find neccesary to keep as homebases. This may reduce your negative attitude with the English, but it will eventually increase the chance of seeing more SOLs by a great amount. It will also provide you with more battle opportunities, which in turn equals more money and more English agitation, etc. etc... The biggest problem with trying to get a full fleet of any kind of ship is that you will constantly be reducing the room in your fleet, so capturing enemy ships becomes less lucrative. However, eventually you'll find that you're limiting your actual boardings to only merchants, sinking everything else unless you know it to be carrying lots and lots of gold. Besides, you've got a ship built for sinking enemies, so why the heck not? Just make sure that by this time you have enough money to appease your crew that you don't really need to catch a whole lot more too quickly. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- FINAL WORDS Thanks to GameFAQs for hosting this file. Thanks to all the people at Cutlass Isle Forums (http://www.cutlassisle.com) for a good number of important facts used to complete this FAQ. If you have any questions, please PM me at the Forum site (Username is Headrock). I can't promise I'll answer, but I'll do my best. You can also ask others on the forum, as most people will know the answer to your question. And thank you for reading! Headrock. P.S. all rights reserved and s***. Whatever the heck that means. Feel free to distribute.