Sid Meier's Pirates!: Live the Life
                                 Quick Reference FAQ
                                    Version 1.0
                                  By Jason Venter
                              jasonventer[at]yahoo.com

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Version History:

(1.1) January 18, 2007 - People kept e-mailing me about this guide, saying that
they liked it or asking how to save.  Therefore, I've added a section on how to
save.  As for liking it, that's your problem, not mine!

(1.0) July 24, 2005 - After an AIM conversation with an acquaintance of mine, I
decided that maybe people would find a mini-FAQ for this game useful.  I whipped
something up really quickly (who has time for an in-depth tome of knowledge) and
posted it the same night!

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Table of Contents:

001. Introduction
002. About Difficulty...
003. Choosing Your Country
004. Cargo Options
005. Upgrading Ships
006. Sea Battles
007. Dueling
008. Dancing
009. Treasure Hunts
010. Attacking Ports
011. Forever Young
012. Stealth Visits
013. Saving Your Game
014. In Conclusion...

Search Tip: You can hop around this guide easily by copying the line from the
contents above that corresponds to the area where you need help, then pressing
'CTRL+F' on your keyboard to bring up the box. Paste the line into that box,
then search to skip immediately to the desired portion of the guide.

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=================
001. INTRODUCTION
=================

I think maybe I should have been a pirate.  I know I was born in the wrong
century and all that, but there's something vastly entertaining about the
swashbuckling era and the adventures that went on in the Caribbean.  That's why
there have been so many pirate games.  With that said, few have come close to
matching Sid Meier's Pirates!: Live the Life in terms of sheer enjoyment.
There's so much to do, so much to see, and more than one way to get lost...

That's what this FAQ will address.  I'm not going to give you long lists of
information about each port, nor will I be describing the pros and cons of each
available ship.  There are others who like to do this sort of thing, and I
welcome them to keep right with it.  Think of this as a quick reference guide.
Is a general concept really hanging you up?  You'll (hopefully) find it covered
here.  That's all you need, anyway.  Half the fun is in exploring for yourself!

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========================
002. About Difficulty...
========================

The game lets you choose your difficulty right from the start.  What some people
might not realize (unless they've read the manual, and who has time for that?)
is that you can also select it whenever you choose to 'Divide the Plunder.'
This is both a blessing and a curse.

When you start the game, you'll default to the lowest difficulty level.  What
this means is that you'll find the game to be a cakewalk.  Duels are so simple
that unless you really blunder, you'll have no trouble winning against even the
'toughest' opponents the game throws your way.  About the only way to lose is if
you have a crew of 10 pirates or so and you go toe-to-toe with Blackbeard or
something equally ludicrous.

As you ratchet up the difficulty (by choosing to continue as a different rank),
various factors change in ways you won't immediately notice.  One or two levels
won't make much difference.  In fact, it's not until you hit the fourth or fifth
option that you'll start to really sweat it out when you find yourself in a sea
battle, or invading a port, or whatever.

Difficulty affects how much time you have to respond to a sword thrust during a
duel, how quickly you can parry a blow, how easily you can overcome guards when
you're sneaking into an enemy town, and even whether or not obvious directions
appear as you're dancing.  On lower levels, for example, you'll see a button
indicator at the bottom of the screen, telling you which button you should press
to please your dancing partner.  On higher difficulty levels, she'll just ask
you to let her gestures do the work.

But enough about that.  What you will want to know is this: what rewards are
there for playing at tougher levels?  Well, there's one.  You get a larger share
of the plunder.  For example, suppose you divide 10,000 gold.  At the lowest
level, you get 5% of the treasure.  Each step up the ladder increases that
amount by 5%.  In the case of our example, that amounts to an additional 500
gold for each juncture.  This makes it easier to get back into the swing of
things, but it's an advantage you'll need if duels suddenly rock your socks.

With all of that said, this FAQ is going to assume that you're playing on one of
the lower three difficulty levels.  If you're playing on tougher levels and
you're still having trouble, reading this FAQ won't hurt.  However, it won't be
quite as useful.  Just lower the freaking difficulty level!  Now that we've got
that out of the way, let's continue to the strategies...

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==========================
003. Choosing Your Country
==========================

When you first begin the game, you'll be able to choose from four nationalities:
English, French, Dutch and Spanish.  By the game's reckoning, this is roughly
equivalent to choosing your probable difficulty level, in ascending order.  The
game explains it all rather accurately.

If you go English, there will be a fair number of ports in the northern portion
of the world, while the southern half is almost exclusively Spain's domain.
It's easy to get promotions because there are plenty of enemies to attack, but
the sprinkling of English ports throughout the world means you also can rest up
following those daring raids.

Choosing the French is just a way of making things a bit harder on yourself.
There are fewer French ports and they aren't positioned in as many convenient
spots.  However, you can generally still head into English ports if the need
arises.  The Spanish remain the constant thorn in your side, if you decide to
play the game in a war-like fashion.

Then there are the Dutch.  If you pick them, you're going to have a time of it.
The reason is that they hardly have any ports at all, and they're not on
particularly good terms with anyone.  It's quite easy to find someone to attack
from an opposing nation, but much harder to find a safe haven if you pick on all
your opponents at once.

And finally, the Spanish selection can either be simple or brutal.  It's simple
if you don't care about earning constant promotions.  There's a Spanish port at
every peninsula, it seems.  However, this also means that most ships you
encounter are technically your allies, so plundering them for treasure is pretty
stupid.  And since most ports already belong to your friends back at home, well,
you get the idea.

Personally, I say just go with whatever country you like and play the game
however you want.  The country you choose only comes into play if you're
honorable.

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==================
004. Cargo Options
==================

Now that you know who you're sailing for, what are you carrying on your ship?
The way I play, it's mostly food.  There's a reason for this.

Let's say you've got a ton of spice on your ship, or maybe a lot of luxury
items.  That's all well and good, but you're going to run into any number of
problems.  The first is starving crew members.

Constantly as you play through the game, your sailors are thinking about how
long they've been at sea, how much money you've made, and how hungry they are.
If you run out of food, each minute you sail is going to increase the likelihood
of mutiny.  You don't want that, so the solution is obvious: carry plenty of
food.  Unless you want to stop at every port you see on a long voyage, at least
half your cargo should be food.

There's another thing to keep in mind, though: you should vary your cargo.  I
know it's tempting to load up on spice and then head for that port where you get
a bunch of money for the precious commodity.  But what I've found is this: if
you have too much of one particular item, the merchant you wish to sell it to
runs out of money before you can get rid of it all.  Therefore, a better
strategy is to buy various types of cargo cheaply, from several ports throughout
the world.  Then sell them at the ports where they have the most value, buy
something else, and repeat.

This is of course assuming that you care to trade at all.  There's another
(equally effective) method called 'piracy.'  You see, plundering ships often
gets you precious cargo and ships to haul your loot.  Not only that, but you can
gain sailors.  If you have the vicious tendency to dominate those weaker than
yourself, you can easily find yourself in a position where you only buy food at
ports, then gain your other merchandise through thievery.  This is an easy way
to build up a small fortune, as you can also sell any ships you happen to steal.

If you're like me, then, you'll do the following: start by filling up your ship
with food.  Leave the port, then zig-zag across the ocean, fighting enemy ships
as you go.  Keep each ship you find, and its cargo.  When you have the maximum
number of ships (I think 5), just head back to town.  Sell all your cargo, sell
off the four extraneous ships, then fill the flagship back up with food.  Now
repeat the process.

Do this before you take any long voyages and you'll never have to worry about
running out of money for food or repairs.  You'll also keep your crew happy
because you're making money, and you'll be able to trade in plenty of ill-gotten
goods.  Everybody wins, except for those ships you plunder.

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====================
005. Upgrading Ships
====================

The game makes a big deal out of upgrading ships.  There's an option to do so at
any regular city, and you'll hear bartenders telling you how you can get one
upgrade at one port, another at a different one.  Not only that, but you get
discounts on ship upgrades as you gain favor with various governors.

Ignore all of this.

There's little reason to buy more than the most minimal of upgrades.  Why's
that?  Because you can almost immediately steal something better through a
simple sea battle, all without spending a dime.

Most of the ship upgrades are tailored toward making you better at
confrontations with enemy ships... if you happen to like sinking them with
cannon fire.  However, doing so is a waste of a perfectly good ship.  Instead,
you should just board the enemy ship and then steal it.

The minute you realize this, you have your pick of any ship on the ocean.  As
the story arc proceeds, you'll find numerous pirates who sail the best ships
money can buy.  Just board one such ship, best the captain at a duel, and there
are your upgrades all wrapped up in a pretty package for you to enjoy.  There's
no need to sail from port to port seeking out the upgrades, no wringing your
hands over how you'll ever earn enough money to buy those cool cannons.  They
can all be yours for free.  End of story.

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================
006. Sea Battles
================

Because this is a game about pirates, and because it's so easy to succeed if
you're willing to pick on a few ships, you'll find that sea battles occupy a
large portion of your time.  At least, you will if you're successful.

The game tries to steer you toward thrilling battles that prove who is better at
aiming cannons.  In fact, battles often revolve around you circling your enemy
and firing cannonballs from your ship as the other guy does the exact same
thing.  Personally, I like to avoid this as much as possible and just move in
close, then board my enemy's ship.  This way, you don't have to head back to
port and repair your flagship, and you gain whatever loot you plunder when the
battle ends.  The only reason to sink lots of enemy ships is if you want to pass
that '100 ships sunk' mark that you see mentioned on the 'Status' screen.

Okay, so let's say you do.  What's the best way to sink an enemy ship?  Well,
first of all you should either have purchased (or stolen) a ship with lots of
cannons available.  This means a larger ship, and it means buying the expensive
upgrades.  Or, as I mentioned in the section above, stealing them (which is
recommended).

Once you have a ship that's up to the task, the rest is mostly easy.  When a
round begins, you'll see almost invariably that the wind is blowing from the
east.  The ship you face is usually located to the west, so all you have to do
is turn so that the wind is at your back.  Once you've turned, you generally
head in circles around the outer edge of the area, while your opponent does the
same.

The reason for this is that your ships can only fire from the side.  They can
also reach approximately 3/4 of the way across the screen, if you're using the
standard shots.  If you allow for the cannonballs to spend time traveling
through the air, you should aim for the very front tip of your enemy's ship,
anticipating that its center will pass into range just as your shots connect.

As you are doing all of this mental math and strategizing, so is your opponent.
If you have a small ship, you can render his carefully-aimed shots useless.
Just turn your ship sideways at a sharp angle, and most of his shots will splash
into the water on either side.  Charging him may also cause his shots to splash
into the water behind you.  Once that's happened, you can always zip back into
your regular path, fire a volley of your own shots, then repeat.

Honestly, these battles are not that difficult.  Later in the game, when you
have the best ship, they'll be downright simple.  But like I said, duels are
where the real money is at.  I'll cover those next.

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============
007. Dueling
============

You'll encounter duels at various stages in the game.  The only thing that
changes significantly from one to the next is the location.  However, even that
shouldn't alter your strategy.  Whether you're battling on the deck of a ship,
along the stairs in a tavern, in a garden or on the top of a stone tower, one
basic notion will serve you most efficiently: use the rapier.

There are three swords available to you at the start of any duel.  Apparently,
you have them all in your pocket and you pick the one most suited to a
particular encounter.  Like I said, though, it's always the rapier.  The reason
for this is the blade's speed.  It meshes nicely with the strategy of the day,
which is to let your opponent start to swing, then counter before he can finish.

You can easily tell when your enemy is about to slash, because he'll often draw
his arm to the side before thrusting.  As he starts to do so, tap the 'A' button
and you'll cut short his evil plans.  That's all there is to it.  Though the
game does allow differing strategies, thanks to other button combinations, all
you have to do is watch for the opening and thrust.

On the first three difficulty levels, that's all there is to it.  Seriously.
And if you want to tilt the scales even further in your favor, you can also find
various accessories throughout the world.  You gain these by purchasing them
from the mysterious stranger in taverns, or by dancing particularly well with a
given governor's daughter.  I'll talk about that next.

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============
008. Dancing
============

This is going to call my manhood into question, I'm sure, but I actually enjoy
the dancing mini-game.  Or rather, I do now.  At first, I thought it sucked.  I
wasn't sure why I couldn't seem to impress the lady, and I thought for a time
that even one mistake meant the dance was not a success.

You'll always know when you've danced well, because instead of whispering
useless information, the lady will give you a gift or (in some cases)
information that's absolutely critical to find the man who knows where your
family members are hidden.  You'll also know when you've done badly because your
dancing partner will look extremely disappointed and you won't get squat.  The
middle road--general information about things you don't care about--is the most
common reward of all.

To get the free goodies, including upgrades to your sailing ability, disguises
and clothes that make you better at duels, you'll want to master what the game's
instruction manual calls the 'flourish.'

Basically, a flourish is just an extra fancy movement in the middle of a
choreographed dance.  You get a flourish each time you press the appropriate
button in time with the music.  At least, that's what I read somewhere.
However, I found that trying to listen to the music and tap the button at the
right moment is pointless.  Instead, you should watch your dancing partner.

The trick to a flourish is to wait for your lady to nod, hesitate for just a
moment (I'm sure the exact time varies according to difficulty level), then
press the button a short time later.  Obviously, you don't want to wait until
you're stumbling over your boots, which you may do at first.  However, you'll
soon get the hang of it.

The reason flourishes rock is that even if you mess up early on in the dance, a
few flourishes not only erase such bad memories but also help to ensure that you
have a little extra padding, so to speak.  If you perform a flourish or three in
a dance (not difficult to do at all), you can rest assured that only some really
boneheaded footwork can get between you and the lady's affections.  That would
be a good thing.

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===================
009. Treasure Hunts
===================

As exciting as it can be to win the love of a governor's daughter, there's other
treasure in the world.  More specifically, each of the nine other famous pirates
has buried a stash of gold in some remote location, and you want it!  However,
finding treasure can be a tedious affair.

The first step is generally to talk to the mysterious stranger in the back of
your local tavern.  Early on, he'll charge 200 gold pieces for a treasure map.
You can carry only one treasure map at a time.  The minute you find that
treasure, you can return to the stranger and buy a new one, until you've found
each of the famous treasures.  That's the easy part.

Now for the hard part, reading the map.  The problem is that the maps are only
slightly useful.  They consist of a few inked in landmarks and some red text
referencing the relative location of a town.  Ignore any references to
landmarks.  They may or may not have any impact on your search at all.  Instead,
look at the red text that says something like "Northeast of Gibralter" or
whatever.

That text is your compass.  Based on what it says, imagine a straight line that
extends between one and three 'screens' of ocean.  The treasure is somewhere
within that line.  Ignore landmarks as you sail along the coast in that
approximate line of sight, checking each shallow bay or line of pale-colored
sand.  You'll find the treasure in no time.

Of course, there's the other option: study the map carefully, trying to make out
landmarks and then search to their side.  This may or may not work.  Sometimes
you'll find treasure right on top of a landmark.  Sometimes it won't even be
close.  That's why I say you should just follow my trick.  Trust me on this.  I
spent hours trying to find a treasure by consulting landmarks.  This happened
several times.  As soon as I used my 'straight line' trick, it never took me
more than 2 or 3 minutes to find a treasure again.  The same is true of missing
relatives and hidden cities.

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====================
010. Attacking Ports
====================

On a completely unrelated note, sometimes it can be fun to sack a port and claim
it for your beloved country.  There are actually a number of ways to accomplish
this, but always your strategy should start with some not-so-friendly shots from
your ship's cannon.

While sailing about on the world map, get within range and press the 'A' button
to send shots at the city.  It only works on real cities, not settlements or
sanctuaries.  You'll know your attack was a success when the port decides to
return fire.

Now, just keep sailing nearby, firing cannon shots.  Over time, successful hits
will reduce the number of soldiers defending the area.  You can sail within
landing range from time to time, and you'll get a window that tells you how many
active guards are on duty.  Now, the number of soldiers determines the next
step.

If it won't take forever, whittle down your enemy's troops to 80.  As you do so,
you'll need to prevent reinforcements from arriving in other enemy ships.  If
you can quickly fire a few shots and drop the number of defenders to 80, though,
that's the way to do it.  Why?  Because then all it will take is a quick duel
and the city is yours.

However, many tempting cities are guarded by 100 or more soldiers, and often by
three or four hundred.  You don't have time to whittle down their numbers in
this fashion.  In such an event, attacking the fortress will bring about a
dangerous land battle.  Therefore, be sure of the enemy's numbers before you
attack.  You want (at worst) an equal number of pirates to soldiers.  If you can
manage superior numbers, do so!

Why is that?  Because land battles are actually a reasonable challenge.  In
fact, I'm not particularly good at them.  Therefore, I won't pretend otherwise.
What it comes down to is this, though: you have about five soldier types at your
disposal, broken into units.  Some are good at close combat while some can fire
shots from a distance.  Some are just morale boosters (don't put them in the
front lines).

The enemy has the same.  Numbers matter, too.  You and your foe might each have
6 units, just as an example, but one of you will likely have more men in each of
your units.  This is why I said that attacking with superior numbers is a swell
idea.  The game just divides however many men you have into appropriately-sized
groups.

So basically, put your distance attackers in the back and move forward with
those who are best at hand-to-hand combat.  Use the trees for shelter and to
improve your defense against gunfire and the like.  Try to gain elevation
advantages.  That's about all there is to it.  I'm sure someone else has better
strategies, but it's not me.

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==================
011. Forever Young
==================

Unfortunately, this game is realistic enough that you will age as you progress
through the game.  You start at about 20, and you have that many years again
before your body is so beat up that you have little choice but to retire.
Basically, it's a timer for the whole game.  It equates roughly to around 10 or
12 hours of play.  However, there are ways to cheat fate.

One way is to choose the 'Medicine' skill at the game's opening.  However, I
never care to do that.  The default skill, which improves your skill at fencing,
is much more practical.  Not only that, but it plays heavily in my strategy to
stay fit for longer.

Basically, what you want to do is stay wealthy.  As you sail around the world,
the men grow impatient of life at sea unless you're steadily building a larger
stack of gold.  This means that the healthy pirate is constantly raiding enemy
ships.  It also means that he's finding hidden treasures and family members and
missing cities.  The game rewards you handsomely for such actions.  For example,
having your revenge (which takes quite awhile) gets you a ship full of skilled
workers and a bag of 100,000 gold.

However, there's the time in between that you have to worry about.  If you spend
much time just wandering around, you'll not make the money you need to keep your
men happy.  Thus, one of the most important strategies is to loot most of the
ships you encounter along a given voyage.  This ensures that your time is spent
most efficiently.  For example, if you are asked to find someone that lies
across the map, you'll probably want to hit up around six ships along the way.
Sure, it takes longer.  However, it can also delay the moment you fear, when the
men ask for you to divide the plunder.

Dividing the plunder is bad because it robs you of a few months of your life,
immediately.  Every time you do, that's like giving up fifteen minutes of game
time, maybe more.  You can see why it's in your best interest to delay the
process for as long as possible.

Something else you should do is dance with the governors' daughters.  They
sometimes will give you items that slow down the aging process.  Likewise, such
boons can often be obtained from the mysterious strangers that reside in taverns
you may visit.

A final strategy is to never hold onto a large crew unless you absolutely must.
The more men you have, the less treasure there is to go around and the more
impatient they'll become.  This means that although you may often have brief
moments where five ships are at your command (as described a few pages up), you
should never do so for a prolonged period.  Only keep around a hundred men,
unless you're on your way to raid an enemy village and you have a lot of money
hiding in your vault.  Keep these strategies in mind and the requests to divide
the plunder will occur much less frequently.

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===================
012. Stealth Visits
===================

Before I forget, I should also tackle the matter of those stealth missions you
sometimes encounter as you progress through the game.  These take place when you
are wanted by another country's governors.  For example, let's say you've sunken
a few Spanish treasure ships and you took over a port or three.  You're not
going to rank high on their list of allies.  In fact, ports may fire on you as
you draw near.

In such cases, you can choose to sneak into the port.  Most of the time, this
won't be necessary.  However, there are times when you need to talk to the
barmaid in Santiago and for some reason, everyone there hates you.  This happens
frequently when you're trying to find missing family members.  What do you do?
Why, you sneak in at night!

This mode of the game isn't particularly fun, truth be told.  Fortunately, it
also happens to be quite simple until you try on higher levels.

You start at one side of the town, with your men watching.  Ahead, you'll see
the city at dusk.  Glowing patches of light move to show you where guards are
patrolling.  You never want to stumble across two of these in close proximity to
one another.  Instead, you want to stop near walls, wait until a guard turns his
back, then run up behind him and hit him over the head so that he is knocked
unconscious.

If you are seen, you'll have to mash the 'A' button until you fill up the meter
and overpower the scoundrel.  That's just how it works.  If you're in the middle
of such a struggle and another guard finds you, well, you've failed.  So don't
do that.

The game and instruction manual mention that you can hide in hay, and that you
can climb over walls.  This is true.  However, it's mostly just not necessary
until you choose to progress in rank.  Since only skilled players will encounter
these situations, and because those folks would never, ever consult a guide like
this one, I won't even waste your time.  Go forth and sneak!

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=====================
013. Saving Your Game
=====================

This may seem like a stupid section to include, but when I first played the game
I had trouble figuring out how to save my progress.  I eventually figured it out
and thought nothing more of it until I posted this guide.  Then people started
writing me, asking how to save.  Enough people wrote that I'm giving it a
special section now.

Basically, there are two places where you can save.  One place is the world map.
You can pause the game, which brings up a series of icons along a bar near the
bottom of the screen.  Just around halfway to the right is an icon you can
select when you want to save.  You'll save your progress right where you are at
that particularly point in time.

You can also save when you're visiting a port town.  It's there right on that
first menu, as I recall.  Saving there is easy.  Those are the only two options
I know of.  Hopefully, something I just said helps you and people will only e-
mail me when they're wanting to tell me how good this mini-guide is...

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=====================
014. In Conclusion...
=====================

Well, you're ready to spread your wings and fly.  While I've certainly not gone
into as depth as some of the more experienced players among you might like, I've
covered the game's main sticking points quite nicely.  If you've read through
this FAQ, you're now ready to tackle most anything the game will ever throw at
you, confident in your fencing and sneaking and romancing capabilities.

There are plenty of ways to play.  I could probably go on for another ten pages
about differing strategies, but I won't.  Half the fun of Pirates! is finding
your own techniques and then applying them to see how well they work.  Romance a
few daughters, plunder a few ships, and think of me the next time you dig up a
treasure chest full of gold.  I take tips!

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Closing Notes:

If you have any questions or comments about this FAQ (including corrections,
information about glaring omissions or just a few words of praise), please don't
hesitate to contact me by e-mail (jasonventer[at]yahoo.com).  Include the
relevant game's title in your 'subject' line to ensure that your e-mail is not
erroneously deleted.

On a more tedious note, remember that this FAQ may be not be reproduced under
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Use of this guide on any other web site or as a part of any public display is
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This list may change to reference new friends or to revoke permission if I
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Finally, if you frequently consult this FAQ as you write strategy content of
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