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Naval Combat
SOT E3 2016 Screenshot 7

Naval combat in Sea of Thieves consists of one main goal; to sink your opponent's ship. Naval combat is fundamental to Player VS Player (PVP) combat in Sea of thieves, and relies heavily on ship maneuvering and correct use of cannons.

The naval combat system[]

  • The main goal to win naval combat is to sink an enemy's ship. This is achieved by breaching the hull of an enemy ship, causing it to take on water and eventually sink. The easiest way to do so is to use your Cannons by loading them with cannonballs and shooting at enemy ships. To maximize ship damage, you should aim at the hull, or at or below the waterline to cause damage that will let water in.
  • One of the most effective strategy against an enemy ship is to drop their anchor, either by boarding them or using an Anchorball. This will both make their ship an easy target and distract the crew into raising it again as fast as possible. If the pressure can be kept on the enemy Capstan to prevent the crew from raising it, this could make for a very swift victory for experienced crews.
  • Having your sails raised during cannon warfare makes it much easier to aim, but it will also make you an easy target.
  • Another way to sink an enemy ship is to carry explosive barrels and sneak onto the enemy ship, drop it, and shoot it so it explodes. Alternatively light the fuse, drop it, and run away before it explodes. This deals a large amount of damage to the enemy ship and may cause it to sink if you manage to slay the enemy pirates as well.
  • The final way to sink an enemy ship is to cause a collision. This can either be done by ramming your own ship into theirs, but this will cause damage to your own ship. You can also try to pinch it if you can get the enemy ship between your ship and rocks out in the sea. This way they will eventually have to collide with either if you position yourself correctly, thus damaging their hull.
  • Killing the occupants of a ship makes sinking their ship much easier, as it gives you free time to do whatever you want. You can also take control of their ship and crash it, or drop their anchor to make it an easy target.
  • If you successfully manage to sink a ship, all the treasures onboard will float to the water's surface and you can carry them onboard your own ship. These treasures can be sold to the respective faction just like any other treasure you gain from voyages.
  • You can gain an advantage by using Cursed Cannonballs. This will enable you to have special benefits like dropping your enemies anchor or making them dance.
  • Firebombs are useful in situations where the enemy ship is already disabled as the fire that they cause will deal damage to enemy players and ship including the masts, capstan, and wheel. They can be fired out of cannons or thrown by hand.
    • In most cases an experienced crew will be quick on putting out the fires and if you're fighting inside a storm then any fire will be immediately extinguished, reducing the effectiveness of firebombs.
    • In the long term, Firebombs are best used in locations where the crew won't notice, such as the Captain's Cabin of a Galleon, because fire will spread faster once it's already spread at least one time.
    • In the short term, Firebombs are best used on the Wheel or Capstan where the flames will discourage the enemy from interacting with them until the fire is extinguished and creating an opening where the enemy isn't steering or willing to raise their anchor right away.
  • Blunderbombs can also be used in naval combat, but not very effective as the enemy pirates can hide below deck and most often won’t take too much damage. However, they can knock ships off course if they hit the hull.
  • Chainshot is extremely useful in naval combat as they can take out a mast, capstan, or wheel in one shot. They will not deal too much damage to ships and players, however. Chainshot can be used in conjunction with Blunderbombs to break an enemy's mast and stop them from repairing it or Riggingballs to outright prevent them from raising the mast until the effect wears off.
  • When defending against pirate attacks, you should pay good attention to controlling your ship. If you sail alone you'll have to have quick reflexes as you have to pay attention both to the enemy ship and the cannonballs.
    • Always keep an eye out on the ladders for pirates attempting to board or sneak onto your ship with a Gunpowder Barrel. Additionally, climbing out the water on a ship's ladder will produce a distinct splash noise; learning to listen and recognize this noise might give you a crucial preemptive advantage over your enemies as they will also be the most vulnerable when climbing ladders.
    • Keep an eye out for Mermaids in the water near your ship; it may mean that an enemy player is swimming towards your ship or hiding in the water waiting the opportunity to board.
    • Tucking is a method consisting of sneaking on one's ship (usually when the Crew is away from their ship or busy) and hide on board, most commonly by laying on the ground using the Sleep Emote. Tuckers often hide and wait on an enemy's ship for an opportunity to strike onto the Crew while they are the most vulnerable or gather intel for the rest of their Crew. If you suspect a stowaway might be hiding on your ship, check every potential hiding spot (such as behind furnishings or the Crow's Nest) by swinging your Cutlass at them in order to force tuckers to reveal themselves).
  • The most important element is to make sure you don't take on water. If your ship is hit, you'll get a hole in your hull which has to be closed with wooden planks which can be found in your ship's storage. You can also use your bucket to pick up the water inside your ship and throw it overboard to avoid it filling up your ship. When doing so, be careful you make sure enemy pirates don't get aboard your ship.
  • Make sure to keep a close eye on your Capstan, boarders will usually make it their top priority to drop your anchor an immobilize your ship. This situation must be actively avoided as once the anchor is dropped; as mentionned earlier, the distraction and vulnerable position for both your crew and your ship will give the enemy a considerable advantage.
    • "Capstan Stacking" was an efficient, although heavily discouraged method consisting of stacking a large amount of low-value Chests or empty Crates onto the ships' Capstan in order to prevent boarders from dropping the anchor. This strategy can no longer be performed since 2.8.0, as this update made it impossible to place chests directly on top of the Capstan.
  • If you choose to flee from an enemy ship, you can try to throw them off by taking an explosive barrel; igniting the fuse and dropping it over the side of the ship near the ladders in either the port (left) or starboard (right) side. If the enemy ship is close enough, and you timed it properly, the barrel may explode near their ship causing a decent amount of damage. You can also throw an unlit explosive barrel in the water and if the enemy ship strikes it it will exploded, causing damage to the enemy ship. Either of these things may be enough to make your escape or enough risk to your aggressor that you are not worth the trouble to them. It may help to have a few explosive barrels on your ship, but it is also extremely risky, as they can be easily exploited by other pirates. Store them on your ship at your own risk.
  • Always remember, Sloops are faster against the wind than the other ship types, so if you decide to flee from a Brigantine or a Galleon, head towards the wind, not with it.
  • Boarding is a typical endeavor for the seasoned pirate, but can be difficult for a novice sailor. Although not essential to winning a naval battle, boarding can help you seize the advantage and shorten the duration of a fight. If you fail the board you will be at quite a disadvantage though, with you not being at your ship.
  • Boarding can have several objectives: to prevent the enemy from using their cannons, to control their ship or to prevent them from repairing.
  • There are three common ways to board a ship:
    • The most common is to position yourself on the bow of your ship in order to hit the enemy ship and jump into it. In addition to allowing you to approach it, this technique also allows you to pierce the hull of the enemy ship. However you must be careful boarding this way as your boat will also take damage and could sink. If you have one your teammate can take care of the repairs.
    • The second technique is to drop into the water and catch the ladder of the enemy ship. However, this maneuver is visible to the enemy who will prevent you from boarding. Most often it is used if you are being pursued to drop the anchor of the enemy ship in order to escape.
    • The final technique is the cannon launch. Considered by some to be the most effective method of boarding because it provides the effect of surprise, it comes at the cost of being the most difficult to implement. Launching yourself from the cannon is difficult for two reasons: your boat and the enemy boat are both constantly moving, and once in the barrel of the cannon it is impossible to aim. However, it can be done easily from certain angles: from the back, aiming at the masts or the captains cabin on a Galleon (to land on the balcony) or from the front, aiming at the captain's cabin.
  • But what do you do on board? Whatever you prefer: dropping anchor will immobilize the ship, the pirates manning the cannons are easy targets, preventing your opponents from repairing can lead to their ship sinking more easily, etc.
  • For a successful boarding, you should focus on short-range weapons and knockback (cutlass and blunderbuss, which are also the easiest to use). These weapons will allow you to do big damage but also to propel your opponents away from you or out of the ship. Use the various elements of the boat (masts, brig, stairs etc) as cover to regenerate health or reload.
  • Experienced Pirates will recognize when you are attempting to board. Either by hearing the splashing of your swimming, or seeing a mermaid in the water. In the event you are noticed, the enemy will usually wait at ladders at gunpoint in an attempt to shoot you off. Stay near the bottom of the ladder. In the event they shoot and miss, climb aboard quick to take advantage of them reloading.
  • Coming aboard with a gunpowder keg is an ideal way to sink an enemy. This strategy is risky however due to the keg slowing you down, and if it is shot you will die. There are numerous strategies to doing this.
    • One strategy is to light the keg as you are climbing the ladder and simply stay on the ladder and allow it to explode. This will result in you dying, but the keg will explode.
    • It's possible to hop aboard and light the keg as you board the ship. Dropping it quickly will result in it detonating and you potentially surviving. Do be aware however that the enemy can grab the keg and snuff the fuse preventing it from exploding.
    • The keg you use will cause varying degrees of damage. A normal keg will poke 4 holes and knock down any masts nearby. A stronghold keg will poke 8 holes and will require a crew to act fast to prevent sinking. An Athena's keg will poke all holes and will most likely sink the ship regardless of the crew's reaction.