Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pirates!: The Career of Captain Gatomalo, Part 1

Gatomalo after two years at sea.

If you are uninterested in an absurdly long and detailed description of the gameplay in Pirates!, best to skip this entry.

April 10, 1660: I escape from prison, signs up with some ne'er-do-wells in a tavern, and with absurd swiftness, become captain of a pinnace and 64 crewmembers. I find myself in the city of Puerto Bello (in modern day Panama) with a hold full of food and a heart full of revenge. The tavernkeeper tells me that Spain is at war with France, but the nearest French town is way up in Tortuga, so I'd better hold off on plundering Spanish ships until I'm closer to a friendly port. My current plan is to sail north to Port Royale and see if there's anything the English want before heading to Tortuga. I'll fight and capture any pirates along the way and attack the first Spanish ship I see within seven days' of Jamaica. Such a long trip is dangerous in the early days of an expedition, but I have to get out of Spanish waters.

On second thought, no reason not to start right now.

April 16, 1660: Only 6 days out of Puerto Bello, I encounter a Spanish barque. Although I'm still deep within Spanish waters, the idea of capturing such a useful ship is too much to resist, and I take it with only three shots fired. There are only 14 crewmembers (reduced from 20 by my cannons) on board, and they surrender the moment I approach. 500 gold pieces and several tons of sugar and tobacco, plus 4 cannons. Not a bad haul for my first plunder.

"A treasure chest in the hold is worth two in the ground" -- old pirate saying.

April 29, 1660: My memory of the Caribbean maps I saw as a child are flawless. Port Royale arrives on the horizon with barely a need to tack. As I approach the port, a pinnace sidles up along side me, his flag betraying him as the notorious Marquis Roberts. Although wary about engaging a skilled pirate, I know that if I can capture Roberts, the English governor will reward me. Navigating into his stern waters, I tack back and forth just aft of him, making sure he can never fully swing around to fire his cannons while I hit him with an occasional broadside. When he loses a mast, I approach and he immediately surrenders. Although he offers information about the Spanish treasure fleet and silver train, I feel he's more valuable as a hostage, and I stick him in my hold. His ship yields 1,370 gold and a few tons of food and goods. Two of his sailors join my crew.

My reputation grows.

April 30, 1660: Arriving at Port Royale and not sure how the defense force will feel about a fleet of three pirate ships in its harbor, I choose to sneak into town. I visit the governor and pay 800 gold pieces for an English letter of marque--they're not at war with anyone now, but who knows what the future will bring. With this credential, I return to my ships and sail back into the port, able to conduct my business in the open. In the tavern, I pick up 20 more crew members. At the merchant's, I sell the damaged pinace and my accumulated goods. As I leave the town, I realize that the governor didn't seem interested in my pirate hostage--probably because he was so busy with my letter of marque. I turn northeast to Tortuga, fighting headwinds.

June 6, 1660: I encounter a French pinnace and get some news, and shortly after I encounter another French pinnace flying the flag of Baron de Lavale, a well-known pirate. I try to engage him but he raises full sails and flees before I can hit him with a single volley. Coward.

June 13, 1660: Marquis Roberts gets a companion in my brig as I capture the sloop of Baron D'Clarion in a long ship and hand-to-hand combat. As our ships clash, I have about 10 more crewmembers than he does, so I take the conservative approach with a longsword.

June 15, 1660: Tortuga at last. I ransom Roberts for more than 10,000 gold pieces, which makes my crew very happy. The French governor makes me pay 1,000 gold pieces for a letter of marque.

July 8, 1660: In Port-de-Paix, the governor gives me a mission to take a letter to his brother, a spy in the Spanish-controlled town of Santiago. I accept it gladly, as it isn't very far away. I arrive in the city on July 19 and meet the spy in a tavern. Just for fun, I decide to visit the governor and I am appalled when he insists on taking Baron Alvado off my hands, noting that "the king will be very pleased at this news." I wasn't trying to please the Spanish! Now, suddenly I have a letter of marque from my enemies! (This means I have a letter of marque from everyone but the Dutch now.) On the way out of town, I capture another Spanish pirate, Captain Vergard, and his sloop. I resolve to keep this one for ransom or turn him over to a government I want to befriend.

August 12, 1660: Back in Port-de-Paix after capturing two more pirates. I got into this to kill Spanish, not capture pirates! But my hold is full of gold and my crew is ecstatic. The governor, pleased with my completion of his mission, promotes me to Ensign and awards me 150 acres of land. More important, he tells me that the evil Spaniard Admiral Porreno knows where my sister is! He was last seen in Campeche, a couple of months to the west, on the Yucatan Peninsula, deep in Spanish territory. Hmmm, perhaps it's not a bad thing that the Spanish are relatively pleased with me. The governor also introduces me to his lovely, red-haired daughter, but as I am just an ensign and she is being courted by an admiral, I make only light conversation. In the tavern, I pick up a couple dozen more pirates, sell off all but one sloop and one barque, and head out. My plan is to stop in Port Royale before making my way west to Campeche.

A good place to be.

September 6, 1660: In Port Royale, a mysterious figure sells me a treasure map for 500 gold pieces. It depicts a fairly obvious place on the north side of Cuba. I briefly consider going there before Campeche but ultimately decide against it. The treasure will be there later; Porreno may not be.

October 1, 1660: I arrive in Campeche after an utterly uneventful journey in which I do not encounter a single ship. I defeat Porreno in single combat, after which he tells me my sister is being held captive on a "remote plantation" and hands me a map with several pieces missing. The map seems to depict an archipelago with many reefs around it. I suspect it is in the Bahamas.

Meanwhile, the Spanish governor takes one of my pirates off my hands and promotes me to Ensign! This wasn't supposed to happen! I hate the Spanish!

Ijos de perros!

I determine my next course of action: head to the Bahamas via the Florida Keys and search these islands for a match, plundering Spanish ships on the way. If I can't find my sister, I'll pick up the treasure on Cuba and return to Port-de-Paix to get my reward for my privateering. I'll teach them to make me an officer in their fleet.

October 4, 1660: I get the news from a Dutch trader that England is at war with Holland. Do I care enough about either country to try to gain favor by attacking the other? In other news, I hate sailing east; the trade winds are always against me.

October 12, 1660: Off the Florida Keys, I take a Spanish barque, then a merchantman. Lots of gold and goods in the latter. That's more like it.

December 1660: My attempt to find my sister in the Bahamas fails, so I return to Tortuga. There, the governor gives me a mission to find the pirate "One-Eye" off the coast of Barbados, way over in the lesser Antilles. At first I balk at this, but then I realize that there are many nations represented in the island chain, increasing my ability to plunder and get rewarded for it. Also, I need to stop at Santo Domingo on the way (on the south of Hispanola), where I have some intelligence that Duke Ramirez has some more information about my lost sister.

Where the heck is this?

January 1661: I sneak in to Santo Domingo. My battle with Ramirez lasts nearly 10 minutes, with a couple of tight moments, before I finally get the upper hand and defeat him. From him, I get another piece of the map, but it leaves me scarcely better than before. Off to the Lesser Antilles, capturing two Spanish barques near Puerto Rico.

March 1661: The Lesser Antilles come into sight, with all of their towns of various nationalities. In St. Martin, I buy a Dutch letter of marque; no telling how soon they might go to war with the Spanish. Off St. Eustatius, I capture a Spanish merchantman. In English St. Kitts, I make a killing on my cargo hold full of sugar, which is selling for 100 pieces of gold per ton. In French Guadelope, the governor promotes me to Captain for my deeds against the Spanish and tells me that Count Sanchez, in Havana, can tell me more about my sister.

May 1661: Off the coast of Barbados, I capture One-Eye in a battle that, along with the subsequent visit to Barbados, I recorded for posterity. Why the governor of a French colony 500 miles away should care what's going on in Barbados, I have no idea. I resolve to head south to the Spanish-controlled waters around Trinidad, plunder some more ships, and stop by Martinique for another promotion (if I earn it), and then return to Tortuga. I have business on the island of Cuba: hidden treasure and Count Sanchez.

June 1661: Arriving at Trinidad without having found any ships, I discover that the settlement has no fort and only a tiny garrison. In another moment recorded for the future, my crew assails the garrison, and I soon bring the commander to his knees and my crew sacks the town. The resulting treasure isn't much--my cargo hold won't accommodate much--but it's a nice moral victory. In Martinique, I get promoted to Major and get 250 acres of land.

October 1661: I find the treasure on Cuba. Then, the unthinkable: a French pinnace informs me that France and Spain have made peace. No one is at war with Spain! How will I make my fortune? Fighting English or Dutch? I have nothing against them!

Looks like a match!

November 1661: In Havana, I get another piece of the map and become more convinced than ever that it is in the Bahamas. After some searching, sure enough, I find it just a few days east of the Florida keys. I don't know how I missed it before. Unfortunately, in my haste to reach it, I sail over a reef and lose my barque. It doesn't matter: I found my sister! And more important, she has a map to a lost Inca treasure! Looking at it, it seems to me the most likely locations are south of Puerto Principe on Cuba or in the crook of Hispanola south of Port-de-Paix.

February 1662: It was on Cuba. 100,000 gold piece are mine!

Always leave your crew HAPPY!

I write this last entry from Santiago, where I have divided up the plunder and released my crew after two years at sea. I will enjoy the next few months with my sister, hoping for a reversal of fortune on the diplomatic front: Spain and England have become allies. I can now not risk attacking Spanish ships without making enemies of the English.

Spain, meanwhile, has not only given me amnesty for my past deeds, they were so delighted at the number of pirates I've captured that they promoted me to Major! My blood boils, but with no enemies and the English alliance, my vengeance against Spain will have to wait. In the meantime, I'll gladly take their land and titles and use them to my advantage--against them.

On better news, I have heard of my long lost father! A Captain Oropesa in Trinidad knows something about his location. I also have a treasure map for a location near Panama. My exploits have made me famous, and I remain in fine health. Shiver me timbers, but the future looks bright.


  1. Oh, how I loved me some Pirates! back in the day. The remake is nice, but either I was more easily impressed back then (likely) or it's just a tad bit more shallow than I remember.

    Pirates of the Burning Sea is pretty cool though, for an online version.

  2. Hah, captain Bad Cat? Excellent! Looking forward to part 2.

  3. I was trying to come up with a good Spanish name when I heard an unholy crashing in the kitchen that came from my cat jumping onto the sink and knocking over a bunch of pots and pans.

    Moonmonster, I spent a little time on the POTBS web site, and it looks incredible--and, for an addict like me, incredibly dangerous. I think I will continue staying away from ALL online games.

  4. This game reminds me a lot of Elite, a game where you play a small space trader/pirate/pirate hunter. Not a cRPG either, but I remember my Dad telling me about it when I was young and I've always been interested in that genre of game since.

  5. Have you tried the recent remake of Pirates? It is interesting, it seems to turn up the dial on the simulation aspects, but you can't ransom people anymore and there are other differences as well.

  6. I did, briefly, on my X-box. I didn't like it all that much, but I might have just been in a bad mood. It's on my list for 2004.

  7. Haha! I LOVED this game....still have it on 3.5 floppy with map and manual! Never did understand how these smallish taverns could have "rowdy" groups of 70+ wannabe pirates hanging around though...


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