Sea of Thieves

Various ship strategies, for beginners.

SOT E3 2016 Desktop 3 1920x1080 1024x576 - Various ship strategies, for beginners.

OK. This is going to be a little long, and a TL;DR would not be enough to explain what is going to be described here. But, I will try to be brief.

I will describe ship combat strategies per classification of ship. This assumes players are all within each other's skill range. Do not take this as concrete if you are heavily experienced. If you do believe you are experienced, take note of what I have to put here, and if it is of any help, use it. Otherwise, discuss below. This is taking into account nearly 600 hours of gameplay, about 100 of which is combat against players in various scenarios, at the very least. This is also considering current gameplay meta. Also, some strategies carry over to other classes of boats. I will try not to repeat myself. Let us get started!



  • Do not attempt combat if possible. Attempt to run into the wind, against any ship if you are being chased. 'Escape pod' loot if possible (set ship on a safe course and jump off and sell the most valuable loot first) if you think your pursuers will not break off.

  • If you are against any ship that is not a solo, your odds of prevailing in combat are incredibly slim. This does not matter if the ship is not moving. If the ship's crew is smart, it will raise sails and raise anchor, allowing it to freely aim cannons from whatever direction you approach. Galleons in particular are beyond deadly in this state. Unless they are incredibly poor shots or out in open water where the ship is bucking hard.

  • Be friendly if possible, some players do indeed feel guilt bullying a solo player. Use this to your advantage

  • If you can, set ship on a safe course and jump off the boat and drop the pursuing ship's anchor. Guard the capstan till you die and keep people off of it. IF it drops before you die, take a mermaid and sail away at top speed. If you take a few with you, even better. You get much farther away because the anchor takes longer to raise.

  • If you must fire your cannon, you need to be in smooth water to really really get good shots in, especially if the ship is another sloop. Sloop cannons buck like a motherfu*ker in open water.

  • Never, ever, board another boat solo, unless you are trying to drop anchor, or, you managed to sneak aboard without people seeing you.


  • Do note, some solo strategies apply here too, such as cannon aiming and escape podding. Or evading pursuers.

  • Keep one man on cannons in combat, and helmsman repair if possible. That way, you can shoot and repair without worry. Only adjust course if it is absolutely necessary. IE gonna hit a rock.

  • Do not board unless there are less players than you, OR if you are confident you can drop anchor or distract long enough to keep repairs from taking place. On a galleon or full brig, this will be incredibly difficult, and I do not advise this in the least. IF another sloop boards you, kill them and board asap. They are down one man and you can get away with catching them off guard. If anyone knows you are coming, you are toast. They will camp the ladder.

  • If you want to deal serious damage, use a 'bargain' barrel. Gunpowder. If they are smart, and you constantly have it lit, it would be dumb for them to try to shoot or stab you. And on the off chance they kill you and you drop it while lit, BOOM. SO, drop the barrel before it explodes, drop anchor, and watch the fireworks. Re-board and disrupt while your helmsman fires cannons or escapes. If you die they will be down quite a bit of men usually.



  • Always try to cap max crew in ANY boat. Brig is annoying to sail with two. So get a third or switch to a duo sloop. Do not attempt to intimidate by sailing with less men. God forbid, solo. The ship will be hard to manage, and while smaller ships may be turned away from seeing a bigger boat, if they are brave enough, or notice a lack of crew, you are boned. Especially solo.

  • Only one man board if possible. Do whatever it takes to stop or sink the enemy ship. Drop anchor, steal loot, gunpowder, disrupt repairs. Whatever works while one man repairs and the other cannons. Or do one repairman, two cannoneers. But be wary of your ladders.

  • Brigs are faster than sloops going with the wind, but slower than galleons. Going against the wind, sloops are faster, galleons are slower. Plan accordingly.

  • Do not use gunpowders to "Speed Boost" your boat. It takes one well placed shot to send you and some of your crew, or your boat, to the bottom of the water. They only have to be lucky once. If you need to boost multiple times, you have to be lucky multiple times. Do not roll that dice.


  • Do not stock a 3 man galleon. It is even worse to operate than a 2 man brig. It is a lot bigger and has a lot more surface area to cover and protect from combatants. Both other boarders and other ships. Do not make the same mistake as a solo galleon I absolutely peppered to death because he wanted to 'intimidate me'

  • Two cannoneers, one boarder, one repairman, or, two boarders, one repairman, one cannoneer. Take your pick. Either strategy is viable. But read the situation, and plan accordingly. Smaller boats you can get away with the second strategy. But not always against another galleon.

  • Galleons are the fastest boat by leaps and bounds if it has the wind at it's back, but slower than a damn rock in the headwind. I wouldn't waste my time chasing a sloop for more than 15 minutes unless you are sure you can eventually get it to stop. Do not be those morons that chase a sloop for an hour only to not get anything because it out-sailed you. Trust me, a lot of sloops will try to get away from you. And, a lot of those can outsail you by just going into the wind.

  • Use your broadsides, do not expose your stern (back) or bow (front). Those are your weakest points, with the bow having the most surface area being able to be penetrated by enemy fire. By at least 5 holes, given my estimates. That will sink your boat in 30 seconds or less if you do not initiate repairs.

  • If you are low on resources, particularly planks, prioritize the lowest deck. Do not worry about the second deck if you are able to bucket. But take this time to flee if you are in this dire of straights. Its not smart fighting another galleon with only 20 planks. If they have at least 2 cannoneers, they can fire approximately 2 balls per second. At a 50% hit rate, you will lose your planks in 20 seconds. I typically hit at 75% in decent conditions, in optimal conditions, I shoot at about 85-90% or more. If I am close, nothing short of killing me keeps me from shooting you off of your own cannons. I thank OoS missions for that.

  • Turret your boat, if you have time and positional advantage. Raise sails and then anchor. You turn into a rotating, floating fortress. Making you a less than optimal target for anything less than brave, courageous, experienced, or foolish combatants. This is best to do parked at islands.

  • Do not pursue a boat if it has proven on more than one occasion of evading you with ease. IE they trick you into sailing into a rock, or, outmaneuver you in such a manner where it is hard to catch up. Leave with your dignity and leave the anger and rage at the bottom of the ocean. You getting angry only makes me laugh and feel good about myself. Do not give players like me the satisfaction.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS This applies to all boats!

  • Take heed, most of these are assumptions based on my crew's observations, be wary of these, but you do not have to take these to heart, as there are always exceptions.

  • Naked ships and pirates (new players or people who choose to not wear cosmetics for any reason on their boat or person) tend to be incredibly hostile. They believe that this game is all about piracy. In some cases, they are correct. However, they tend to believe that any other boat is an entity they can sink and they must do so, because pirates. They usually try this without regard of their own skill level or the other ship's skill level. This is especially evident when a ship meets this criteria and ALSO dons a reaper flag. These guys will try to come after you. 5/5 for the reaper flag + naked for me. Naked + Reaper is a no go and you should probably outright sink them unless they make motions to be friends.

  • Do not trust alliances, at all. They are 100% non-binding, and, according to Rare, are sometimes meant to be broken. If a ship has yours and their loot, they make about 25% more gold if they can sink you. Be wary of who you trust. Look for obvious signs of friendship or neutrality. Lots of communication between boats usually signifies non-hostile intent, in my experience.

  • Attempt to reach out, a quick "ARE YOU FRIEND OR FOE" from quick-chat tells you a lot about the other boat. If you do not hear anything back within a comfortable time frame, assume the worst and prepare for combat.

  • Be wary of game chat and how players talk. In some instances, some players will turn off game chat to make plans with their crew without your knowledge. A good indicator of this is abrupt non-contact, or if player A is speaking to another, player B, that was just in game chat, and you can hear A, but not hear B. Be wary of conversation context as well. Tone is a good thing to listen for.

  • Commit to combat. Do not cower out. If you pick on someone expect retaliation. Most boats will not parlay with you after you pissed them off. We had a solo galleon (Still not sure who thinks this is a good idea. Because it is not!) fire upon our duo sloop. We promptly sunk it. Even as they were throwing loot overboard and trying to bargain. They even tried to join our alliance. We promptly sunk them.

  • Take advantage of opportunity. If another boat is escaping or waiting for a volcano, take action if you wish. If they are waiting they are almost always anchored. If they are escaping, they are to worried about getting hit with big ass rocks to worry about you. Just be sure you are in an optimal position first. Do not be that moron that goes after a boat, only to sail into the volcanoes range, or in one poor sloops case, right into our broadsides.

  • Wary players will know when someone is trying to board, either jump off your boat farther out from them, or, stay below the waterline. Only come up at the ladder. In my case, however, I like to 'sound whore' and will hear you regardless. So be quick as possible. We really will notice if we see or hit a mermaid.

  • Do not keep people on the island to find/hide loot for any reason during combat. The other combatants might notice and figure out you have goodies. Just get back to the boat empty handed, unless the loot is worth getting the hell out of there with it. This could be skeleton keys, athena's, or the box of wondrous secrets. In the case of the chests, escape pod them, then turn to fight. Keep fleeing with the skeleton key and plan from there. Take measures to stop or deter the boat by any means. Have all three of you jump off the damn galleon to ruin their days. Whatever works.

All in all, this is not a complete list. Let your creativity and experience fill in the blanks. After all, that is what this makes this game good! Plus, pirates will not share all of their secrets or booty with you.

Good luck and see you on the high seas. Wave at me! Feel free to discuss below. But remember, if you got a good enough idea, keep it to yourself. You need every advantage you can get.

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