Ship Boarding Guide - Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag

Discover why Swivel Guns are your Friend! And sneaky tactics for boarding and recovering health!

What's the point of being a pirate if you can't go around boarding ships, then looting them like a proper rough seas vagabond?

But it is surprisingly easy to get killed off on the deck of the ship (probably because my Edward isn't too great in a one-on-one fight,) so here are a couple of tips and tricks for surviving the boarding process and making it out with your crew and cargo intact. 

Which Ships are Boardable? 

Most ships in Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag are boardable. The obvious exception are civilian ships. Hit a civilian ship, even on accident, and the game will panic. This historical figure, see, didn't hurt civilians (just guards..and random Templars). So since you can't attack those ships, that also means they're not boardable. 

The other ships that seem impossible to board, at least once you've become, effectively, a pirate king are low-level ships. This might be just because your shot is too powerful and takes them out too quickly, or there might just not be an ability, but I haven't been able to board a LVL 1 Ship in a very long time. 

When Do I Board? 

When in battle with ships, it's important to take ships pretty far down in "health," but not so far down that they sink. Think about it like Pokemon battles. You want the Pokemon weakened enough to get into the Pokeball, but you don't want them so weak that they faint, making them impossible to catch. (I haven't played since the first 150, so this analogy might no longer be accurate.)

When a ship is ready to board, the sails will disappear and the ship will appear on fire.

Now typically you want to avoid things that are on fire, but in this case that means the ship is in prime boarding shape. There will also be an onscreen prompt saying to "Press B to Board." As you might have noticed, the prompts in AC4 can be a bit finicky, but when that comes up, you can begin the boarding process and let go of the wheel. 

Now comes time to clear the deck of the ship.

The size and difficulty of the encounter will effect the amount of people you have to kill before the ship becomes "yours." A standard schooner will require 5 deaths, a hunter ship 10, a royal ship more, you get the idea.

Here is where the swivel guns come into play.

If you're like me, you knew that you had swivel guns (because you upgraded them) but you didn't actually know where they were located. Now, if you're standing at the wheel, look to the side of the ship that is being boarded. On that side, there should be a gun along the top deck, with a "Press B" prompt above it. 

This is your swivel gun. It is your best friend. 

As mentioned before, it is surprisingly easy to get killed during a boarding. Edward Kenway is built more for stealth and less for tanking. Attacking a ship of people who know you're coming sort of falls under tanking. 

This is where the swivel gun comes into play. 

Wait until the target that the swivel gun is looking at is red, and then fire.

This sounds extra obvious, but it's not necessarily targeting people, but fire barrels. Your shots are limited, so don't go off half-cocked, but really wait it out. 

If you successfully shoot the crew of the other ship dead, you can avoid boarding at all and save yourself and your cost of crew. The swivel gun is the best thing ever. 

I've Taken the Ship, Now What? 

This is a matter of opinion, so feel free to share your dissenting opinions in the comment section below. Once you've unlocked the Pirate Hangout, you'll have the ability to add ships to your fleet. However, initially you'll only be able to add one, all others will be scrapped for gemstones. 

A sneaky tactic you can use in ship battles is to engage in a single opponent, board them, and then choose "Repair the Jackdaw" while in the midst of battle. I've heard it equated to taking a health potion in the middle of battle, and it really is.

Want suddenly full health while facing wave after wave of brutish opponents? Board a smaller ship. Repair the Jackdaw. 

As for picking ships for your fleet, that is up to you. Personally I would avoid jumping on every pretty lady that asks you to dance and waiting for a good quality ship to join your fleet. Which is why I now have a Royal ship in my fleet and it is three times stronger than anything else I have. 

Do you have any boarding tips? Leave them in the comments below. 

Find More Tips In the Guide to Assassin's Creed 4 Guides Here

Former Staff Editor

Former rugby player, social media person, and occasional writer.

Published Nov. 4th 2013
  • Rising Eden
    Hm, that's very basic, let's see if I can add some helpful tactics for boarding Man'o'War's and bigger ships in general :)

    Cut the flag / kill the snipers

    Since it is almost impossible to disengage from battle once onboard the enemy ship take on these requirements first. Simply use the rope lift on the jackdaw into the riggings and pick the snipers off with your gun.
    The enemie's masts are close enough that you can switch ships without needing to climb back down, simply jump into the riggings and climb up to the flag.

    Destroy gunpowder / Kill the captain/ officers

    First off - if possible try to destroy the gunpowder with the swivel gun before boarding, because once your men are on the enemy ship the explosion will very often kill a few of them as well. However, unless boarding in heavy sea, Man'o'War's will often be too high to target the barrels, in that case just use your swivel shots to pick off the men standing in twos along the ship's rail.
    Again it's easiest to make your way from the Jackdaw's riggings onto the enemy ship's mast and pick your special targets off from there, then jump down to help your men to finish off the remaining crew.

    General fighting

    To be honest I've never died while boarding even though I'm definitely not a pro of any kind - the block button is your friend, if in doubt, mash it ^^
    But I also play on PC, maybe it's easier with a keyboard? *shrugs*
    Also railings. RAILINGS, BOXES, MASTS, RIGGINGS anything that gets you to slightly higher ground is awesome. Whenever you can, run onto these things and jump onto opponents that are busy fighting one of your crew and you'll automatically perform an air assassination of one or two people. Picking oponents that are not focused on you is crucial, otherwise they'll block your attack.
    I suppose smokebombs also work but to be honest I never tried.

    Alternatively you can also stay on your ship, hop on the railing and shoot people. The captain and brutes will require headshots or two hits, while normal crewmembers go down after being hit once anywhere on their body. Downside of this method is that even with your pouches upgraded to holding 30 bullets you'll run out of ammo after a few ships, since you can't loot the bodies after boarding.

    Swivel Gun

    First priority targets: Gun powder barrels surrounded by two or more enemies.
    2nd: Pairs of soldiers along the railing, a sure kill of two is worth more than trying to aim at the captain or an officer, those normally only go down when you score a direct hit with the canon ball and that's just a waste.

    Bonus tip

    The wrecks you sometimes find, holding only crates (for example at the Florida waypoint), always have a captain lying around somewhere, distinguishable by his clothes. Looting him will net you +200 R. He's usually either at the wheel, in the middle of the ship surrounded by a circle of dead enemies or up in the crow's nest. Since you're limited to 60-75 seconds it pays to climb into your own riggings and survey the wreck before boarding.
  • Jeremy_8104
    For your fleet you want 15 level 60 Man'o'War they are hunters that will find you when you have a wanted level of 4. I have 15 of them! They can carry the most cargo for the fleet missions, they can crush the opponents in the fleet wars (making the passages the ships will take on missions clear). They rock. Maybe hard for some to disable board and win. But if you can well worth it.
  • Leo Boi
    Is there any point in adding ships to your fleet if you do not have xbox live ? anyone no? :)
  • Rising Eden
    Yeah, it's easy money if you still need it and using the fleet unlocks decorative items for your mansion as well as design upgrades (sails, wheels) for the jackdaw, an attire for Edward and treasure maps.
  • epicsnakehips
    Before I board a ship after using the swivel gun I stand and use my pistols on the enemy crew. When it looks clearer I will then jump aboard. I am so sick of dying after boarding I prefer to use the gun method now and not go aboard until the very last moment :)
  • Bopjustice
    For easy boarding open the world map when near docking areas and find large ships near docking points or islands. Swim to the ships kill the crew and cut flag. Now board your ship and return to the enemy ship you cleared and fire one shot at the sails and your ready to board and take the supplies, return to fleet, or repair. Hope this helps enoy.

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