Who needs a crew? How to sail solo in Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves is meant to be played as part of a crew. You and a few friends loot and plunder the seas (and other players) as a team. That’s not the only way to sail the seven seas, however. If you’d prefer to sail alone, you can also take to the ocean on a smaller, more nimble ship. Taking on the pirate life without any help can be especially tough — you don’t have any backup in emergencies, and if you run up against a crew of other players, you’ll have to take them on at a disadvantage.

It’s possible to succeed on the high seas all by your lonesome, though, if you play to the strengths of working alone. You are smaller, quicker, and stealthier than other crews and the galleons you might have to face. If you’re smart about it, you can win battles, escape emergencies, sneak past enemies, and plunder a whole bunch of loot. Use these tips to maximize your effectiveness as a solo buccaneer.

Make short voyages

Every time you pick up gold, complete a voyage, or gather a bounty in Sea of Thieves, you run the risk of losing it. If someone attacks and kills you, they will take your stuff. If your ship sinks, you only have a limited window to grab whatever you had aboard before it joins your ship at the bottom of the sea. So every time you complete an objective, you become vulnerable.

When playing solo, try to complete each voyage as quickly as possible. Take the shortest route possible and spend as little time as possible on open water. Have a plan in place for what outpost you’ll head to after you complete your mission and how to get there quickly. If you wind up on the run, your best bet is to try to turn in whatever you’re carrying before you’re killed. Your ship and your life can be replaced, but your stuff will not be there when you return.

Run dark

sea of thieves single player run dark

When you’re all alone on a sloop, you need to avoid conflict. Other ships with larger crews might enjoy getting into battle on the high seas, but when you’re alone, stealth is the best option most of the time. The first step to going unnoticed is to douse all your lanterns so you’re less visible at night. (As we note in our ship combat guide, this is a good idea no matter what.) This doesn’t make you entirely invisible, but a larger Ship looking for other players to loot might miss spotting you from a distance.

There are other steps you can take to make yourself as invisible as possible. You can hide from other ships you spot by putting islands between you and them, and you can raise your sails when you disembark so that your ship is less conspicuous. Take whatever steps you can to make yourself tougher to spot in all circumstances — you’ll live longer.

Always be ready for a quick getaway

sea of thieves single player guide always be ready to go

Generally speaking, every crew is most exposed when its ship is stopped near an island. You’re visible to other crews while you’re busy on the island, making it a great time for them to set up an ambush. Most players know that when a crew is not aboard their ship, they’re probably off gathering valuable stuff worth stealing. That’s why it’s important to take precautions every time you leave your ship to keep it (and you) safe.

First, it’s good to practice approaching an island at a low speed so you can park close to it. Instead of zooming in and relying on dropping your anchor, try cutting your sails as you approach to glide to a stop in a desired location. Unless you’re facing storm conditions, your stopped boat won’t drift much once you’ve lifted the sails, so you don’t usually need your anchor to keep your empty boat from moving. In fact, you want to leave your boat with the anchor raised, rather than lowered, in most cases. It’s much quicker to board your boat and drop your sail to make a getaway than it is to stop and raise your anchor. Leaving your ship with your sails raised also makes it a great deal less visible, and you can amplify that effect by using the island, rocks, and other natural cover to hide from distant spyglasses.

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While on an island, hide anything you want to bring with you on the beach but in bushes where it can’t easily be spotted by anyone passing by, and avoid loading up until you’re preparing to leave, so no one can jump on your ship and steal your stuff while you’re not around to stop them. Finally, be sure to check the horizon both before you leave your boat and when you return to it before setting off, so you don’t get caught by any surprises when you’re not ready for them.

Agility is the best defense

sea of thieves single player guide agility

A single-sail sloop moves slower than a galleon running at full speed, but a solo sailor has one major advantage against groups of players: You are much more maneuverable than they are. To avoid pursuing ships, quickly cut your boat between rocks or around islands to put things between you and would-be attackers, which can make you difficult or impossible to chase, even though you’re in a slower ship. Your speedy turning is amplified even more at half-sail or quarter-sail, so practice getting good at adjusting your speed on the fly for peak maneuvering power.

Your tighter turning radius also means enemy ships have a tougher time going on the defensive against you. If the opportunity arises, try using a quick turn to ram an enemy ship to cause them a lot of damage (and less to you — but be ready to do quick repairs). You might be able to hurt the enemy enough to slow them down while you make your retreat. Don’t forget that dropping your anchor with your wheel turned can also help you perform a hard, emergency brake-style turn if you need to quickly change direction. It’s also great for quickly stopping behind a rock or other cover.

If you’re ready for an all-out retreat, sail against the wind! While the Brigantine and Galleon pick up speed moving with the wind, the sloop is the fastest moving ship going against it. Head off in the wrong direction and watch your larger attacker slowly disappear behind you.


Sea Of Thieves Hands-on Preview | First person helm of ship

While steering the ship might seem like an important task without a crewmate to take the wheel, you don’t always have to be at the helm of your ship. If you’ve set out for an island and it’s far off, set your sails and wheel to steer the boat straight and take care of business elsewhere.

Take advantage of the crow’s nest to get a better view of the seas. From there, you can be on the lookout for enemy ships, shipwrecks to loot, abandoned supplies, and treasure chests on shorelines. It’s a beautiful view as well. Just be sure to keep an eye on where your ship is headed and watch out for uncharted rocks.

Aim low on offense

sea of theives single player guide battles

Just because you’re in a relatively fragile ship doesn’t mean you’re defenseless. The sloop is generally at a disadvantage in ship-to-ship combat, but under the right circumstances, your sea David can conquer a sea Goliath. On the sloop, cannonballs are stationed on the deck, making it possible to reload quickly. If you get in a good firing position, you can tear into an enemy ship very quickly, maybe even sink it if its crew isn’t on the ball. Remember when firing on enemy ships that you want to try to strike them below the waterline. Damage on the deck doesn’t do much to really impact a ship’s performance, although it’s possible to hit gunners with cannonballs and kill them outright. What you really want to do, though, is flood enemy ships. It’ll slow them down, take crew away from guns to force them to do repairs, and generally cause chaos.

If you’re on the offensive and not in a chase scenario, use your increased maneuverability to get behind the enemy ship, or try to circle it, depending on the situation. If you can get the positioning right, you can keep your broadside and guns pointed toward the enemy at all times, while taking away their ability to easily hit you. If you’re forced to face their broadside periodically, get off the deck and use that time to go below and repair incoming damage, then return to your guns when they can’t fire back.

Learn to board and anchor

Sea Of Thieves Hands-on Preview | Ship on the ocean with another ship behind it

No matter how swift and deadly of a sailor you are, you’ll occasionally run into a crew that just won’t quit. You can’t quite sink them, and they won’t leave you alone — they want to get their hands on your hard-earned treasure. If you’re being pursued by another ship constantly, you can try to stop their progress and put some distance between your hull and their cannons. When a boat is following directly behind you, take a leap off the side of your boat, watch as their boat approaches and try to jump on their ladder (this can take a bit of practice to consistently do). Once you’re aboard their ship, try to cause as much chaos as possible. Slice up your enemies, drop their anchor, and throw a few Firebombs for good measure. Even if they end up killing you and sending you back to your own boat, you’ve disrupted the chase. Do this a few times, and they might get tired of chasing you.

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Of course, if you get aboard an enemy ship and find yourself dominating them in combat, you can attempt to sink their ship. While this is harder without your own boat and cannons nearby (its safely sailing off in the distance), it’s possible. Send your enemies to the Ferry of the Damned, and while they’re waiting to respawn, try to damage their boat. If you didn’t lower the anchor, you can take the helm and steer their boat into an island or rock to put holes in their ship and have it take on water. Keeping taking out the enemy pirates as they respawn and slowly watch their boat sink.

Practice drive-by drop-offs

Again, it’s important to remember that if your ship is empty, it’s expendable. You can easily spawn a new ship if it gets sunk, losing only the time it takes you to sail back to wherever it is you want to go. With that in mind, if you need to cash in some loot while you’re being attacked or chased, don’t be afraid to abandon ship with the goods in tow as you approach an outpost island. To do this, get in close to the island, keeping the ship straight and at full sail, then hop off as you near a beach or a dock. Try to leave from the front of the ship if you’re being pursued, as you will decrease the chance of someone noticing that you’ve abandoned ship, and stay underwater as long as you can manage. It’s also good to pick outposts where you know the locations of the vendor you need to visit so you can make a beeline for your destination with the loot. The hope is that your pursuers won’t see you escape and continue shooting at your now-worthless ship, but it’s always possible that you may need to sprint to the finish line.

Always be stocking

sea of theives single player guide always be stocking

You never know when an emergency is going to strike on the seas when you’re alone — or with a crew, for that matter — so it’s a good idea to continually check every island you visit for barrels full of supplies. Keep your pockets fully stocked while on the seas so you can quickly heal, make repairs, or reload your guns. When preparing to disembark, drop off everything you have in your stores and replenish your personal supplies on the island. This way, you’ll always have a ton of supplies aboard your ship if you get attacked. A few extra planks or cannonballs in a bad situation can be the difference between escape and a watery grave.

When you’re headed to a far-off destination, don’t be afraid to abandon ship for a moment to gather supplies. Hop into a cannon and fire yourself off to an island as you pass by. Search the island for barrels to find food, planks, and cannonballs, then catch a mermaid back to your boat. Always be on the lookout for rowboats usually stocked with supplies and storage crates on shorelines as you sail by islands.

Use storms

Storms make it tough for any ship to go about its usual business, and if you’re facing a battle scenario, heading toward rough seas might actually save your life. Storms affect steering, screw up compasses, damage hulls, and create huge waves that make firing cannons accurately a tough proposition. They also dump rain on ships that floods their holds with water, albeit slowly. You can often deal with these problems more quickly on a solo run than the big guys. As such, know that a storm can be a useful tool to help you get away in a time of need. Taking some damage from big waves is preferable to getting blasted with cannons.

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Play dirty

sea of thieves single player guide play dirty

Lone pirates are natural assassins and/or burglars. As a single pirate with a small, maneuverable ship, you’re in an ideal position to sneak aboard other vessels and rob them blind if you’re quick and smart. Boarding an enemy ship can confuse an enemy crew that’s not expecting it, and once you’re in another ship’s hold, there are chances to do some damage. Many players will grab gunpowder barrels from islands, for instance, with the plan of using them as depth charges against anyone who chases them. If you find barrels in an enemy hold, they become bombs you can detonate to sink your adversaries and throw them into chaos. Even just getting aboard and stabbing a few people might be enough to mess up the enemy when you need (or want) to create some chaos.

You can also potentially mess with adversaries you don’t want to full-on tangle with. If you sneak up on an enemy ship in a location where you need to be, try setting their sails and letting their ship sail off without them. The distraction can be useful to help you get what you want, and against a single player, it might send them away from an outpost or an island you want to explore, lowering the chance that you’ll get killed along the way.

Make friends

While you may prefer sailing solo, you can still make friends with other pirates on the seas. By changing out the flag in your crow’s nest to an Alliance flag, you can approach other boats with Alliance flags and join together to form a friendly fleet. There are plenty of friendly sailors out there who would love to arrange a truce. Unfortunately, they may be difficult to find sometimes. And they remain on their own ships, leaving you to your own devices in most cases. Still, forming alliances isn’t impossible, though it could cost you.

Ships in an alliance can go their own ways, of course. But they always get a cut of the other’s loot. When you turn in treasure, you get full value for your booty, and your allied pirates get 50% (and vice versa). You can also see allied crews on your ship’s map table.

It always helps to have friends, even when you’re going it alone. Keep in mind that friendly boats often choose to create alliances on a server. By joining forces, you can both appear less vulnerable to larger boats looking to attack.

Be willing to lose

sea of thieves single player guide losing

The truth is you can do all the right things and still not be successful. A team could come out of the blue and overtake your ship, start a battle with you, or try to sink your ship from afar. The treasure you obtain throughout the game degenerates during crazy accidents and other unfortunate situations. You could view it as a disastrous and overwhelming occurrence, or you can choose to look at it as a slight disadvantage that only enhances your overall pirate story. 

The game developers of Sea of Thieves did not create it for solo players. Even if you have an entire crew on your side, you still may lose the game. Life on the sea is risky whether you have a team or not, but the chances of you surviving as a solo player are slim to none. 

Completing missions is great and all, but we think the most fun part of Sea of Thieves is the thrilling adventure of navigating the open waters and steering into the unknown. It really keeps you on your toes and adds to the excitement of the game. We promise if you keep an optimistic and eager attitude, you’ll enjoy the game much more (even if you lose all your precious treasure in the end).

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