Pirates are an outlaw unit armed with a sword. While cheap in terms of coin, they require six population (four with the Dance Hall Home City Card). They are fast and have a high resistance to melee attacks, which, along with their 4x multipliers against cavalry and light infantry, makes them a cheap response to opposing cavalry.
Pirates are especially useful in the Colonial Age, when they outdamage both the standard Pikeman and the Qiang Pikeman. Indian players should never use the Pirate, as both Rajputs and melee-stance Sepoys can perform the same role while being both cheaper in terms of population, and more powerful in raw damage.
During the Spanish Treasure Fleet scenario, a lot of them can be trained very quickly due to the captured Spanish Galleons' coin production. They are an adequate replacement for the Inca that are freed in the beginning as they have better hitpoints. They are essentially fodder units used to keep the Spanish and Boneguard units from attacking more valuable targets such as the Scottish Highlanders, Falconets and Mortars.
Even though the history section of the game and its icon shows the Pirate with a pistol, he uses a sword in-game instead.
Pirates are the only outlaw or treasure guardian unit characterized by five different appearances: Caucasian with a solid-color shirt and a whole body, Caucasian with a solid-color shirt and a hook for one hand, Caucasian with a striped shirt and a whole body, Caucasian with a striped shirt and a peg leg, and African with a vest and an eye patch.
Pirates, or buccaneers, are sailors who prowl sea lanes, killing sailors, capturing ships, and looting cargo. The centuries following the Spanish plunder of the Aztec, Inca, and Maya was the golden age of piracy. Spanish galleons, wallowing low in the water from all the treasure taken onboard, were returning from the Carribean to Spain, where the gold would fund wars against the French, the Ottomans, and the Dutch. The treasure galleons were slow, fat targets, very well-defended and wholly irresistible to pirates. In 1628, five years after he had arrived in the West Indies, Piet Hien, a Dutch trader for the West India Company, could not resist taking on the treasure fleet. He managed to corner part of the fleet in the Bay of Matanzas and captured millions upon millions of guilders in gold, silver, and trade goods.
Some pirate bands were highly democratic, electing their captains and making important decisions by vote. Food, drink, and wealth were split between all crew members, with larger shares going to officers. Pirates disabled while crewing a ship were given a large lump sum as compensation. There were very harsh punishments for stealing from or striking crew members, and gambling was generally restricted.