Pirates! was a killer sim before there were killer sims. In it, you played a sailor in the Spanish Main, striving to earn your fortune by whatever means possible.

The game was incredibly detailed. Your character could take sail during different periods within a 140-year window, and as one of four nationalities: English, French, Dutch, or Spanish.

The basic idea of the game is simple: make money and keep your crew happy. You start out in a friendly port somewhere with a small crew, a small ship, and a little money. A visit with the governor of the city could give you information of the countries currently at war with each other. Talking to the merchants would give you an idea of the economic health of the area. You could expand your crew in a tavern. And then, you take to the high seas...

Sailing around, you will eventually come upon other cities, similiar to your own, some friendly, some hostile. And you will encounter other ships.

The game is intelligent enough to allow different kinds of play. You can act as a peaceful trader, carrying huge cargoes from city to city, trying to find the best price, and the towns will actually grow as a result of this economic stimulation. You can become a smuggler, sneaking into hostile towns to trade with the merchants therein. You could become a noble privateer, attacking the enemies of your country in return for titles and land. Or, you could become a filthy pirate, raiding any ship that passes near, and evading (or capturing) pirate hunters out to avenge their countrymen.

In an average game, you will often be doing all four, trading with poor cities to increase the value of your cargo, sacking ships and towns to increase your reputation, and fighting off the nobles that the countries you've wronged send to destroy you.

There were four basic modes of control: sailing around the Caribbean; ship-to-ship combat, where you would try to decimate the enemy crew with devastating broadsides or board the opponent's ship to face the captain personally; land combat, during which groups of your men would attempt to storm the fort while others waited in ambush for the counterattackers; and duelling, where your character was pit one on one against the enemy captain, and your skill at fencing influenced the mood of your crew.

This writeup doesn't begin to hint at the complexity of this game; you could seduce beautiful women, find buried treasure, rescue lost family members, take over cities, thwart mutinies.. all kinds of groovy things. Sid Meier showed his mastery early. Even the manual is a fascinating read, detailing not only the workings of the game but the history of the time, reasons for including certain options, and strategies offered by Cap'n Sydney in pirate speak.

It was released for several platforms, including the C64, Amiga, Apple II, and even the Nintendo and Sega Genesis. It's worth tracking down a copy. The graphics were amazing for the time (and still stand out now), and the gameplay is incredibly strong.

It's been rumored for years that a sequel is in the works THE RUMORS ARE TRUE!. While Marcel Stribak released a slightly updated freeware version in 2000, and Sea Legends and its sequel Pirates of the Carribeanhave been widely hailed as the spiritual sequel to Pirates!, Sid Meier came back and released an updated version in 2004 for modern computers, known by the original name of Sid Meier's Pirates!

Developed by Sid Meier for Microprose Software. Released in 1987 for the IBM PC, the Apple II, and the Commodore 64. Ported in 1989 to the Atari ST, the Amiga in 1990, and the NES in 1991. Rereleased as Pirates! Gold in 1993 for the IBM PC (DOS/Windows 3.1) and the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, as well as possibly also for the Macintosh and Amiga again.

Release information from http://www.the-underdogs.org/ and http://www.mobygames.com/

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