In Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004), the 27 different Ship Types are equally divided into 9 "Classes". This serves to group together Ship Types that have similar design characteristics, even appearing similar to each other. They differ from each other slightly in physical size, cargo and crew capacity, Durability, and sailing properties. The term "Ship Class" is then used to refer to all three grouped Types.

"Ship Class" is a non-canon term, invented by the fandom due to the game itself not providing its own term.

General InformationEdit

Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004) expanded the number of available Ship Types from 9 (in previous games) to 27. However, other than the three Brigs, the game did not actually introduce 18 new ship designs. Instead, each ship type was split into three "sub-models", one being "average-sized", another being smaller but faster, and another being more powerful but slower - while having the same visual appearance and similar general properties.

Each group of 3 similar Ship Types is called a "Class" of ships - 27 Ship Types divided into 9 Classes.


Within each Class, the three Ship Types can be considered "siblings" in a family. In other words, they are similar in many ways, despite the small differences between them.

The most striking similarity is their visual appearance: All three Types in a single Class appear exactly the same in terms of visual design, since they use the same exact 3D model. The only visual difference between them is their size, but they are otherwise exactly the same - sporting the same shape of the hull, the same number of masts and arrangement of sails.

In addition, all three Ship Types in the same class share the same Best Point Of Sailing. They are also sold for the same amount of Gold, and it costs the same amount of money to install Upgrades on each of them.


The three Ship Types in each Class differ from each other slightly in several ways. Again, using the family metaphore, we can say that there is a "little" brother, a "middle" brother and a "big" brother in each class. This reflects a difference not only in physical size, but in many other properties as well.

The smallest variant in the Class is physically smaller than the others. As a result, it has a smaller capacity for Crew and Cargo, and can carry fewer Cannons into combat. On the other hand, it can develop a slightly better speed and turning rate thanks to its smaller size. Another side-effect is that the smaller variant also presents a smaller target for enemy cannons.

Coversely, the largest variant is physically larger than the others, and can carry more Cargo, Crew and Cannons. However, it is slightly slower than the others, with a slightly lower turning rate. It also presents a larger target for the enemy cannons.

The mid-sized variant lies comfortably between the other two, providing "average" physical size, cargo capacity, etcetera. This gives a trade-off between speed, maneuverability and power.

There are also other, less obvious differences between variants in the same class. For one, it is assumed that the larger the variant, the more Durability it has - allowing it to take more damage during combat. Unfortunately this is hard to confirm.

Additionally, different variants are used for different Ship Roles by different factions. For example, the Sloop is used as a Smuggler by all nations, while the Royal Sloop is used almost exclusively as a New Warship by the Spanish. This has an important effect on rarity, because a Ship Type that's only used for a single purpose may be rarer than one used for many purposes. A good example for this is the Ship Of The Line, exceedingly rarer than its sibling, the Frigate, since it is only ever used as a non-Spanish New Warship (whereas the Frigate is used for a myriad of Roles by all Non-Spanish ship-types, and so appears very often).

Player PreferenceEdit

Despite being larger and more powerful, players do not always prefer to acquire/use the largest variant of each ship class. Again, since size is a trade-off for speed, there are occasions where players will want to get the smallest variant despite having to give up cannon/crew/cargo capacity as a result. This is especially true for the smaller classes.

For example, the favourite player ship in the Pinnace Class is, counter-intuitively, the smallest variant in that class - the War Canoe. It is considerably faster and more agile than any other ship in the game, including its larger siblings. Though some players prefer the extremely rare Mail Runner, most consider the War Canoe to be an exceptionally good ship, and much easier to use than the Mail Runner despite having virtually no room for crew or cannons on board. This is because the tactics often used for the Pinnace Class are more condusive for a smaller, faster ship, regardless of how many cannons it can carry (if any!).

Ship Classes and TypesEdit

The table below lists all the available Ship Types in the game, as split into their respective Classes. Note that, again, the same 3D model is used for each Ship Type in a single class, so only one image is needed.

Note: variants are listed from Smallest to Largest.

Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004) Ship Classes
Ship Class & Image Ship Types Short Description
2004 Ship Pinnace
Pinnace Class
War Canoe The smallest ship class. These three ships are poor in cannons, crew and cargo capacity, but they are all exceptionally maneuverable and can sail at high speed in extremely odd angles to the wind. Experienced captains can learn to take advantage of this by bypassing combat and going straight for a Boarding, making them extremely favourable vessels.
Mail Runner
2004 Ship Sloop
Sloop Class
Sloop A selection of small combat vessels with great maneuverability and a small but useful array of cannons. Most Sloops are extremely common, and are used by every faction in the Caribbean. They are capable of outmaneuvering and Boarding larger vessels, and are fast enough to catch small vessels as well. Exceptionally easy to use, they are obviously favoured by many players.
Sloop Of War
Royal Sloop
2004 Ship Barque
Barque Class
Coastal Barque The smallest trading vessels in the game, though essentially mid-sized. Used primarily by the French and Spanish, these vessels display interesting sailing characteristics for their size, and can manage to escape combat with most larger ships. Largely unsuitable for player use, they can nonetheless serve as auxiliary craft for their cargo capacity and speed.
Ocean Barque
2004 Ship Fluyt
Fluyt Class
Fluyt A set of slow mid-sized trading vessels, used exclusively by the Dutch. Ungainly and relatively weak in firepower, these ships are often seen as easy prey to both pirates and raiders. They have no characteristics worth mentioning aside from their significant cargo capacity.
Large Fluyt
West Indiaman
2004 Ship Brig
Brig Class
Brigantine A family of mid-sized combat vessels, whose forte is their ability to take on any other ship, using either their good maneuverability or formidable firepower as required by circumstances. With ample cargo space and reasonable speed, they are favoured by players who like the mix between strength and speed these ships offer. Brig Class ships are used for many warlike tasks by all factions. Amongst all Ship Classes, the difference between the three Brigs is easily the most noticeable, with the smallest ship being significantly more maneuverable than the largest, but the largest being significantly better armed.
Brig Of War
2004 Ship Merchantman
Merchantman Class
Merchantman A group of common mid-sized trading vessels with a good defensive array of cannons. Considered prey by most combat vessels, the Merchantmen can often put a dent in their assailants nonetheless, though they are unlikely to actually out-maneuver or escape any but the slowest opponents. Used most commonly by the English, they are sometimes seen in the hands of other non-Spanish nations, running various peaceful deliveries.
Large Merchantman
East Indiaman
2004 Ship MerchantGalleon
Merchant Galleon Class
Trade Galleon These three ships are the largest ships the game has to offer, easily dwarfing the tiny Pinnaces and Sloops. Used as general-purpose trade ships by the Spanish, their gigantic cargo holds often contain great riches. While their broadsides can sometimes be threatening, they are too slow to put these to good use in most situations due to extremely poor sailing properties.
Royal Galleon
Treasure Galleon
2004 Ship CombatGalleon
Combat Galleon Class
Fast Galleon This is a set of heavy combat vessels used by the Spanish to protect their trade routes and assault the other factions. Combat Galleons pack a lot of firepower, though their slow turning rate can make those cannons difficult to use properly. Easily out-maneuvered by smaller ships, these hulking beasts rely on their ability to hit the enemy at least once before being boarded. Combat Galleons are also the fastest ships in the game, but only heading towards their Best Sailing Point, Running Broad Reach.
War Galleon
Flag Galleon
2004 Ship Frigate
Frigate Class
Frigate These three vessels are classic warships, through and through. The most heavily armed ships in the game, Frigates are often used by non-Spanish nations to perform their most vital wartime operations. Frigate use is complicated due to their less-than-favourable sailing properties, but in the right hands they are practically invincible. The Ship Of The Line is both the rarest and most powerful ship available in this game.
Large Frigate
Ship Of The Line