By (one ) popular demand: The guide to winning every battle and (if wanted) ending the game by 1550.
The key to success is speed, maneuverability and fear!
Essentially you only need to build one ship: A cutter!
You already have your starting fleet, with which you can transport colonists to and goods from your colonies. No other ships have to be built.
I usually use a fleet of 5 cutters to raid any enemy daring enough to cross my paths.
1.) Selecting the captain
You should chose a captain with the trait "Feared". It reduces the enemy moral by 20%, which is essential for the enemy ships fast surrender. You don't want to destroy the enemy ships, you want to take them as a prize (especially when they have valuable cargo). You can get the fitting captain for free by assign your cutter to a new fleet until you have the captain with the desired trait!
When your captain gets experience and can upgrade, the following traits should be picked (in this order):
- Rout: reduces the enemy morale by a further 25 points. With that and the "Feared" trait, the enemy surrenders faster.
- Navigator: +20 speed on the strategic level. This is important to overtake the enemy on the map and attack it with the wind in your back (read further down).
- Ride the Wind: +25% sailing speed. This let's you turn your ship around faster, which is invaluable to stay out of the larger warships cannon range.
That's all you really need. "Unsinkable" is a good trait to add, if you have added all of the above.
2.) Select upgrades for your ships
NEVER chose "Hull strength", it slows your ship down by 5%, and in a game, where speed is the key to winning, it is not a good idea to slow yourself down willingly.
Choose the following three upgrades:
- "Improved Rigging": It gives you +5% Speed (which is vital) as well as +5% HP on the rigging.
- "Better Handling": Gives you another +5% Speed PLUS +10 maneuverabilty, making you much faster and agile than the enemy.
The third upgrade is not that important, I normally chose "cannon accuracy" to extend the range of my weaponry.
Thanks to delra for the infos on ship upgrades!
You can hire Specialists in the population window of the port your fleet is in. I would recommend the following:
- Surgeon: Reduces casualtiesin battle. Useful for the small crew in the cutters.
- Navigator: Increases speed in strategic level.
- For colonial vessels "Cook" increases the range you can travel without resupplying; useful if you have no friendly ports in the vicinity, if you don't need that, chose "gunnery" specialist, increases cannon accuracy.
Also, stuff the empty cargo space full of soldiers, they pick off enemy crew when close enough to the enemy ship.
4.) Strategic map:
On the strategic map, make sure that you always approach your intended target from the front. If you attack them from the rear, they will be hard to catch if they decide to flee.
Also I noticed, that if you attack them frontal, you more often have the wind gage, meaning the wind is in your back, making you faster.
5.) Tactical map - the battle!
You might start with convoys consisting of 1 warship and 2 (or more) transports.
(When you gain experience and get used to this tactic, you can take on 5 warships with 5 cutters.)
In battle, the transports in the convoy will run, so you don't have to care about them.
The enemy warship will either run as well or attack you
If it runs, just follow it (you're faster) and rake it every now and then from the rear with chain shot, till the rigging is gone, finish them off with grape.
If it attacks you, sail directly towards it. Wait till it turns to show you its broadside, turn as well but make sure you stay out of cannon range. Also make sure you don't lose your wind advantage.
Repeat as often as necessary to get behind the enemys stern, then proceed as mentioned above.
When the warship has surrendered, you can go after the transports. I suggest you are patient, it can take some time to reach the transports (at 4x speed).
If the transport is armed, proceed as with the warship. When you run out of chain shot, use grape.
If it is unarmed, you can get as close to it and possible and use grape shot on it.
Enemy ships when fleeing run from you in a straight line, then at some time split up, some going to larboard, some to starboard. You can head them off there. Just let your AI ships pursue them straight line, and you sail in either direction; the gap will close "quickly".
My best result so far: Capturing 5 carracks with 5 cutters, losing none.
You can build up a huge navy this way. The captured enemy warships, mainly carracks, can be used to take enemy colonies.
If you want, by 1550 all of the new world is yours!
If you want to play on (I do), just change from cutters to the newer small warships that become available, like the Xebec!