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East India Company is a challenging trade simulator in which your aim is to build maximum profits from your interests around the world. You can check out the East India Company Campaign Guide for tips and help on the trade portion of the game. This guide is concerned with the naval combat side. In order to protect your goods as you import and export around the world you will need to fight off rival companies and pirates. This is done via real time naval battles where you can take direct control of your ships.
(To the chagrin of some players, skipping real time battles in favour of Auto Resolving is not a good idea: captains don't get experience, you don't get to capture or loot ships, and your fleets tend to take an unrealistic pounding even when the enemy is completely outgunned -Ed.)
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There are various kinds of ships in the game. Some are best suited for trade and others are kitted out for warfare. You can create fast fleets, huge cargo transports and fearsome cannon laden warships. There are eleven ship types in total. You should aim to make up multiple fleets and remember that the fleet will be stuck travelling at the speed of the slowest member so be careful how you mix them up.
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The Sloop and the Schooner
The Sloop is a small, fast merchant ship suitable for special missions. It only carries 20 tons of cargo and has 10 cannons so it is of limited use for heavy goods or warfare. If you want a message delivered quickly or you are carrying gold or diamonds then the sloop is a good choice. It can outrun the majority of other ships and if you are faced down in a combat situation you should definitely try to run.
The Schooner is slightly more dangerous than the sloop but once again it has limited cargo space, though 40 tons is more respectable than 20. It is also a fast ship and a favourite choice of pirates. In numbers schooners can be a danger but individual schooners are weak.
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The Cutter, the Brig and the Flute
The Cutter is the smallest warship available and it is still relatively fast. Not a bad escort ship for speedy fleets because it won’t slow them down like a galleon will. The cutter is still not anywhere near tough enough to take on a large warship and they are useless in port attacks as well.
The Brig is a versatile ship with a reasonable capacity for cargo and some potential in battle. The stats for the brig are average across the board except for manoeuvrability which is definitely their strong point. Brigs are handy all purpose ships until something better comes along.
The Flute is medium trade ship with a good sized cargo capacity but it is weak in almost every other respect. It is slow, badly armed, not very manoeuvrable and without escort it will easily fall prey to pirates or competitors.
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The Xebec and the Galleon
The Xebec is an attractive prospect in the medium range. Reasonable cargo capacity, decent firepower and best of all they are fast and highly manoeuvrable. Another favourite of pirates these handy ships are a welcome addition to any fleet.
The Galleon is a big, slow lumbering beast. Decent cargo capacity and big firepower combined with real endurance make galleons a formidable opponent. They are slow and not manoeuvrable but a fleet of galleons will put up a good fight against anyone and they are great for taking ports.
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The Frigate, the East Indiaman and the Ship of the Line
The Frigate is excellent as pirate police. A patrolling fleet will easily see off any troublemakers. They are powerful, well armed and fast. They are great in battle with ships or against ports and their only downside is the fact they can't carry much cargo.
The East Indiaman is an ideal mixture of cargo carrier and warship. It is a strong design in every respect and historically these were the largest merchant ships on the seas. It will take you a while to unlock them during gameplay but once you do they are well worth investing in.
The Ship of the Line was the ultimate warship on the high seas. They had hundreds of cannons and were a devastating destructive force. You can get light or heavy varieties but both are slow with poor manoeuvrability. They are however tough enough to beat any opponent and a whole fleet of these ships will be more than a match for pirates or ports.
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During the real time combat you can give orders to all of your ships at once or you can take direct control of individual ships. The basic ideas and tactics are once again based on real naval history and you can get some ideas in my Empire: Total War Naval Combat Guide.
The ships are equipped with a choice of three types of ammunition. Make sure you keep an eye on the supply as it dwindles away and always restock when you are in port. The basic types are standard cannonballs designed for sinking ships by smashing holes in the hull, grapeshot cannonballs designed for killing enemy crew and chained cannonballs designed for smashing masts and sails and preventing escape. If you have a slow fleet against a fast one then start by targeting the masts and sails to prevent escape. The tactics are fairly straightforward. Each ship and ammo type has a different range and this is displayed by a cone at either side showing you the firing zone. Line it up so the enemy ship is in it and fire, rinse and repeat.
Boarding is not really advised but once you have a ship on the ropes use grapeshot to kill the crew and they will more than likely surrender.
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The direct command mode is not the easiest way to control the sway of a battle because you can only control one ship at a time, but it is the most immersive. You can open a small window called battle cam which gives an on deck view of your enemy and you can control movement and firing directly. If you continually flick back and forward along your line and control each ship in turn the direct control method can be successful and it is definitely more fun than watching the AI attempt to manoeuvre and auto fire. The problem is each ship is different and if you don’t have a homogenous fleet they will soon get out of sync and spoil your lovely formation. They have an automatic collision detection which means they will avoid one another even if it means ignoring your order to turn right...sorry starboard.
Something that you really have to bear in mind during battles is the wind direction. Never try to turn into the wind. If you are going to escape you need the wind behind you so keep your distance but try to manoeuvre into a position where you have the full power of the wind in your sails. You will always be faster and more manoeuvrable with the wind behind your sails and conversely you will be a sitting duck if you try to sail into it.
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Commander's Special Abilities
The most unique feature of the naval combat in East India Company is the commander’s special abilities. Each naval commander can earn or win special abilities which boost their usefulness. There are fixed skills which always work such as Unsinkable which gives you a 20% damage reduction across your fleet or Salesman which gives you a 5% boost to your sales prices. There are also active skills you can use during battles. They have a timed effect on the battle and then a cool down period before they can be used again. These abilities can give you things like increased range, morale boosts or sail repairs and they can have a big impact on the battle so use them. If your commander is rubbish remember you can always replace him by recruiting a new one from a port, you’ll likely find the best prospects in your home port. It is a better idea to train your commander up by trading plenty and then fighting pirates around Madagascar.
The naval combat in East India Company is challenging but rewarding when it goes right. Maintain your composure, stick to your plan and with luck you should emerge victorious. If you want an overview you can read our East India Company review.
- All references, cover art and screenshots from East India Company for PC.