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