Maelstrom – Beginners Guide

A quick rundown on the ships in the game and some basic mechanics.


A very quick bit on strategy.

Strategy is an important part of the game: Playing smart will increase your odds of winning and overall loot gain. Hiding until only two ships remain is not a good way to play and neither is going blindly in to the fray.

  • Pick your fights: Going in head first against a heavier ship with a light ship will most likely end badly. Take your time and pick your fights. Be smart, not stupid. 
  • Use fogwalls: Hiding inside a fogwall is good, as it hides you from enemy ships that are outside and not close to you. Especially usefull when two large ships are going at it within vision range. Winning is as much strategic backstabbing as it is skill. The “Winner” takes it all, as a dead ship will drop all of it’s treasure and upgrades it has picked up when it sinks, and when it comes to lategame duels, the ship with the most upgrades will (most likely) win. 
  • Collect upgrades: These will win the game for you. These will drop when you kill AI Ships: Sloops, Goblin Raiders and Armor Galleons. Treasure Galleons will drop less upgrades but significantly more gold. Collecting upgrades gives you a marked advantage over other players. As stated above, a dead ship will drop all of the upgrades it has collected during that game session. 
  • Aiming: Keep looking for damaged or removed armor blocks. A ship with no “blocks” on a side means that damage inflicted there will go straight to the hull. Focus fire on them. At the same time, try to keep these away from enemy fire. 
  • Captain Abilities: Remember to use your captain abilities, they can significantly change the game and win skirmishes for you. 

Ammo Types

This should become obvious in the tutorial: There’s three different ammo types, use them!

  • Cannonballs: Cannonballs are the default ammo. They do armor damage, and when armor is reduced to zero, they deal hull damage. This is the only way you can sink your enemy at range, along with some captain abilities. 
  • Chainshot: This stuff works wonders against Human and Orc ships, and is meant to cut their biggest asset, mobility down to size. Especially recommended to be used by bigger ships, like the Fury’s Hold, Thunderhead, StormAnchor and Gorger. As a big ship, smaller ships can easily outmaneuver you. You have more firepower, so cutting their mobility down is key in dealing with small and fast ships like Cinder and Cleaver. Also fabulous for shutting down boarding focused Orc ships, as they lose almost all chances of boarding you when their sails are down 
  • Grapeshot: The bread and butter of Orc ships, the grapeshot is deadly as hell to all enemy crew. This is what you are meant to kill the big dwarf ships with, as they will beat you in a battle of hull and armor in every single case. Also works well against Cinder and Tidebreaker, as they have very few crewmembers. A short range grapeshot critical will be worth several cannonball volleys, as losing crewmembers inflicts penalties on cannon reload speed and other things. Use this against Dwarf ships in combination with boarding, as killing them with cannonballs takes a lot of time.


First and foremost: There is no “best” ship!

Some ships are meant to be played at certain ranges, and with a certain playstyle in mind. Not every ship is going to excel in all roles, but some are better at different playstyles than others.

In addition, in few good games you can quickly start racking up Gold for more ships. Don’t sweat it too much, you will find the ship that fits your personal playstyle in no time.

A forewarning as well. Due to the way the maps work at this moment, Dwarf ships have a clear advantage due to their armor and firepower. Their lack of mobility is not a problem, as they do not have to move at the late-game stage.

This will most likely change very soon. But as of the current version, they seem to be the “best” faction to play, simply because late-game the map size is significantly reduced and makes it easy for them to use their reverse and close-range firepower to their advantage. That doesn’t mean you are unable to win with other races, just that the dwarves have a situational advantage, especially in lower tier games (pretty much anything under 5).

There is a few ways to beat this:

  • Kiting: The Dwarf ships are slow, which means they are vulnerable to kiting. Keep outranging them, firing a broadside and running away from them. Especially recommended for Human ships, as their cannons usually have much longer range than the Dwarf ones. 
  • Powerups: When a ship gets several powerups, it becomes a force to be reckoned with. Killing AI ships: Windskifs, Armor Galleons, Treasure Galleons and Goblin Raiders will drop these. Once you have gathered a few of them, especially firepower upgrades, your ship can easily out-firepower or even outlast them. 
  • Play dirty: Ganking is a valid option. You will notice that in a game where you play as the StormAnchor, you will get focused by the enemies. Why? Because you will most likely come out on top if you survive the fight. Hiding and ambushing an enemy after they have killed another ship is also a splendid idea when it comes to killing Dwarf ships.
  • Boarding: The way the Dwarf ships are meant to be countered: Using grapeshot and boarding action. Due to the way the game works as of now, this practically feasible for Orc ships. A few volleys of grapeshot, a few lucky crits and a Dwarf crew is basically dead. When you manage to reduce their crew, they begin to lose cannon reload speed, which makes it even easier to finish them off.

Human Ships

The human faction is characterized by having the best pound to pound firepower, and will most likely win in fights that they can best use this strength in. To put it simply, long and protracted fights at medium-long range, means the Humans will win. They have a huge broadside of very low damage but very accurate cannons, which means you have to change your firing direction when shooting. Human guns typically have a slightly longer range than other races, in addition of having a significantly more accuracy. All of the human ships are rather mediocre in early tiers, but they really begin to shine in higher tiers (especially tier 10).


The quickest and also most fragile ship in the game, the Cinder packs a solid punch, with better than average accuracy and damage. The armor is pretty much paper, so you will most likely lose all fights you take part in. It can barely take one broadside from any ship, and has barely any crew to defend against boarding, so keep your distance and swoop in on easy kills when you can.

It is by far the quickest ship in the entire game, and get even faster when the unique ability kicks in. Use your speed to your advantage: gather loot from around the map while avoiding fights, flank and shoot from longer range than your enemies and hit their weak spots: in particular the Orc ships suffer form nearly nonexistent rear armor. You can literally spin in circles around enemy ships, due to the ludicrous speed the Cinder has.


The default ship for Humans, the Ashborne is meant to be the jack of all trades ship: good at everything, master at nothing. In reality, it is a glass cannon at it’s finest. It packs a mean punch at default, which gets increased even more when you factor in the innate ability, granting even more damage when all the cannons are reloaded. Keep in mind that this powerful broadside is made up of a large number of cannons, which means a lot of individual cannonballs gets shot towards the enemy. This means that a ship that is fast enough is able to dodge most of the broadside. Remember to turn your ship to account for this.

Mobility is alright across the board, but armor wise it leaves a LOT lacking. You can punch hard, but you will die very quickly, especially if boarded, owing to the pathetic number and quality of crewmen. One of the biggest weaknesses it has are its blind spots. In the front and at the back of the ship, there are no cannons. This makes you very vulnerable from those directions. All these weaknesses mean that the Ashborne plays similar to the Cinder: as a hit and runner.

The Ashborne will begin to shine even more when it reaches level 10, as the ability unlock allows you to oneshot most ships with your insane damage. Your cannonballs will hit through the enemy armor, also inflicting a damage over time effect. This means that all non-heavy ships are vulnerable to being instantly killed.

Fury’s Hold

My own personal favorite ship, the Fury’s Hold is answer when you need a lot more gun. It packs the most cannons and has the strongest broadside in the game with a huge range advantage over other ships. As with the Ashborne, the powerful broadside is made up of a huge number of cannons, which means a lot of individual but low damage cannonballs gets shot towards the enemy. This means that a ship that is fast enough is able to dodge most of the broadside. Remember to turn your ship to account for this. In addition to the powerful broadside, the Fury’s Hold is unique when it comes to Human ships that it has front and back cannons: Omnidirectional firing. This makes it harder for small ships to be close to you without getting hit.

It’s also surprisingly mobile for such a massive ship, and carries decent armor to help survive in fights. In addition, the innate ability means you deal even more damage at long range, which is a pretty big hint at how you should play this ship. The downside is, that Fury’s Hold is slow, comparable to the StormAnchor. In addition, it’s crew is bad and will most likely die in close range fights quickly.

All in all, it is rather lackluster right now. The unique ability is nice, but most of the time you will not benefit from it. If you manage to hit a few solid broadsides BEFORE the enemy closes in on you, you are nearly certain to win. If not, you will most likely die, or barely survive.

Orc Ships

Orc ships have the best boarding stats and crewmembers, both in numbers and quality, in addition to good speed, but are average or worse in all of the other categories. Orc ships should be used in close range fights, in combination with as much boarding action as possible. Grapeshot works best when used with Orc ships, as it can help soften up the enemy ships before boarding. In addition, orc ships gain a bit more damage when ramming enemy ships. The Orcs have a bit less cannons compared to the Human ships, but they function differently: Very high damage, very high critical damage but extremely inaccurate. Scoring a critical hit with Grapeshot is enough to deal a significant amount of damage to an enemy crew. This facilitates close-ranged play with all Orc ships.

This close-ranged playstyle is also their biggest weakness: Cutting an Orc ships sails away means they are dead in the water. If you can kill their sails before they board you, you have most likely won against them, as their cannons and crews are unable to reach you.


On paper, statwise the cleaver looks bad. Really, really bad. Speedwise it’s good, but other stats are severely lacking. What people miss, is that the Cleaver has one of the strongest bonuses in the whole game: It’s innate ability. It grants you a massive boost in critical hit chance the closer you are to your target. It can also board the enemy ship from its Fore (Front) side. In addition to this, the Cleaver has a low profile, which makes it easier to fight in enemy blind spots (front and back for some ships without front or back cannons). The in game tooltip gives you pretty good info on how to play with this ship: Go close, keep shooting grapeshot to soften them up and board when ready for the kill.

When the Cleaver reaches tier 10, it gains a nice little upgrade, allowing you to repair armor and ship hull when collecting loot chests. This is not a massive gamechanger, but still nice.


The Orc default ship, the Bloodfin has in the words of the game “Good firepower, Crew and Ramming”. Do not be mistaken by the “Good Firepower”: It has good firepower, but only at closer range. In addition to a nifty little innate ability, giving a burst of speed when taking damage. Mobility wise, the Bloodfin is better than average. It’s fast, but not Cinder fast.

It’s weak in it’s aft (back) so never turn your back on your enemy with this ship. This means you need to use your ramming and boarding to effectively kill the enemy ships. Grapeshot also helps. This is probably the easiest ship to begin with, as it gives you a fairly good ship with a nice innate ability. Keep close to the enemy, blast them with Grapeshot and board when ready for the kill.

The tier 10 upgrade gives you a better chance at sinking an enemy when nearing low health, as you gain significant bonuses to reload speed as your hull armor goes down. I’ve seen this ability change several desperate late-game duels into a win for the Orc ship.


The Orc battleship, the Gorger is a monstrously big ship and a massive hitbox. It has a bit less firepower than the Bloodfin, but makes more than up for that with a MASSIVE increase in boarding range, owing to it’s unique ability. The unique ability also means it can board from the front of the ship, which gives you even more options. The cannons are the same as with all Orc ships, so being at close range is still a must.

In addition to this, it possesses (base) side, front and hull armor almost equal to a dwarf ship, which is a lot. However, it still suffers from a very weak rear armor, so never turn your back with this one either. Overall, the Gorger is a very survivable ship with good attributes, but it’s a not a battleship in the way the Fury’s Hold or the Dwarf ships are: You will lose in a cannon fight against them. Keeping close to an enemy, showering them with Grapeshot and finishing them off with Boarding works wonders.

The Gorger gets a massive boost in boarding power when tier 10 is reached, as the Rowdy Crew can deal a massive amount of damage, even when you are in the process of boarding a ship.

Dwarf Ships

My personal favorites, the Dwarves, or Dorfs as I refer to them embody the “Slower and Steadier” mindset of ship design. Their unique ability is that their ships can go in reverse at nearly maximum speed, which makes them much more versatile than Orc or Human ships. In addition, they have Omnidirectional fire on all of their ships: Cannons at the front and the back.

The Dwarf ships are very strong in armor and hull, but they are SEVERELY lacking in crew. The key to cracking these massively armored behemoths is using Grapeshot to kill the crew and Boarding to finally finish them off. No need to waste Chainshot on Dwarf Ships, as Chainshot is useless due to them not using sails. The Dwarf ships have a very low number of cannons, which compensate with having the highest base damage of all guns in the game: When they hit, you will feel it. The Dwarf cannons are luckily fairly inaccurate, somewhere in between the other two races.

TLDR: Use grapeshot and boarding against dwarf ships (if orc ship) outrange and kite them (if human ship).


The Tidebreaker is the fastest ship of the Dwarf lineup. It has good armor and fairly good firepower, but is extremely weak to boarding and Grapeshot, like all dwarf ships. It’s unique ability gives it more acceleration and deceleration than other ships, and allows it to transition from moving forward to backwards much faster than other ships. In addition, it has the smallest profile (which is to say Hitbox) of all the ships in the game, which means that you will rarely – if ever – take a full broadside during a firefight.

It has great upgrades to cannon spread and firing delay, which means that the Tidebreaker functions much like a better armored Cinder with the ability to go in reverse. In addition to this, it is surprisingly good for ramming for such a small ship, dealing more damage than most ships in the game. Combined with how quick the Tidebreaker is, you can really lay the hurt on weak ships from closer range.

The tier 10 upgrade significantly reduces the cooldown of Captain abilities, which is how you should play the Tidebreaker: Using the Captain tricks as much as you can, be it mines or torpedos.


The default dwarf ship, the Thunderhead is cannonwise the strongest Dwarf ship and nearly on par with the Fury’s Hold when it comes total cannon damage. Like all dwarf ships, it has great armor and hull with 600 on both sides. This means when it comes to a fight of broadsides, you can most of the time win, thanks to your lower number of cannons (more damage per cannonball) and better armor. It’s unique ability gives all of its shots that hit a small knockback effect, which makes it very annoying for ships to close in. This makes the Thunderhead especially good against Orc ships, who rely on getting close. This knockback is applied when you hit the target, be it with Cannonballs, Chainshot or Grapeshot.

This helps migitate it’s biggest weaknesses: Boarding and ships that are faster than it. Like all dwarf ships, the Thunderhead will die quickly if Grapeshot and boarding is used against it. In addition, even with max tier cannons, the Thunderhead lacks range. The cannons are extremely powerful at close range, but they lack any range. Almost any ship in the game can outrange it.

The Thunderhead gets a massive powerspike with it’s unique upgrade at 10, as you will automatically return fire when shot at, increasing your already impressive damage output even further.


My personal favourite ship in the game, the StormAnchor is a floating fortress, like stated in the ingame tooltip. It has unrivalled armor on both sides, the front and the back. It get even more armor when the tier 3 upgrade is unlocked. In addition to the superior armor, it has very good firepower, even at range (with the tier 5 upgrade). It still suffers from the weakness of boarding, but don’t try to ram this ship. It will most likely hurt you more than you hurt it. In addition, it gains ramming damage resistance and damage when upgraded.

The only “real” option I would consider when fighting a StormAnchor is to run. Most ships will never win against one in a “fair” fight, so running away while kiting or out-ranging it are the only real options. It’s VERY slow for a ship, but due to the ability to go in reverse and cannons at the front and the back, hitting the rear is not an option. This also leaves it extremely weak to more mobile ships, and especially ships like the Ashbringer, which brings even more firepower to the fight.

The Stormanchor gains even more surivivability at Tier 10 due to it’s unique upgrade. When it takes damage, it gains a damage absorbing barrier for a few seconds.

Volodymyr Azimoff
About Volodymyr Azimoff 13566 Articles
I love games and I live games. Video games are my passion, my hobby and my job. My experience with games started back in 1994 with the Metal Mutant game on ZX Spectrum computer. And since then, I’ve been playing on anything from consoles, to mobile devices. My first official job in the game industry started back in 2005, and I'm still doing what I love to do.

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