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                            Sid Meier's Pirates!: Live the Life
                                     Quick Reference FAQ
                                        Version 1.0
                                      By Jason Venter
    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!
    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.
    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!
    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...
    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
    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.
    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.
    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
    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
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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
    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.
    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
    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
    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.
    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.
    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
    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!
    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...
    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!
    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
    any circumstances except for personal, private use.  It may not be placed on any
    web site or otherwise distributed publicly without advance written permission.
    Use of this guide on any other web site or as a part of any public display is
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    last updated, the following sites are permitted to post it:
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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
    your own, I would appreciate a tip of the hat in your closing comments, or
    wherever it seems appropriate.  I work hard to make my FAQs useful, and I'm
    pleased when you find them to be helpful.  Let others know about them, too!

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