My most recent game was an experiment to see how far I could get if I focused on the romance plot and shunned naval combat. I played at Rogue, starting in 1660 as a Frenchman with Wit & Charm. I started the game by taking out Morgan and Kidd near Florida Keys, and I completed the trifecta by sailing down to the coast of Belize, where I found Blackbeard. I also captured some Indian war canoes in that phase, and I kept one of the canoes to use as a flagship.
After one has defeated the top three pirates, I reasoned, one need never pay for a drink again. Or fight risky battles at sea. I'll get by on my reputation and my stories, I told myself. So, thereafter, the only times I attacked vessels at sea were when the barmaid told me about Indian war canoes carrying 1000 gold, which happened three times over the course of the game. (If I had it to do over again, I think I would forgo that exception to my no-naval-combat rule.)
Taking out the three pirates and a few Indians got me enough favor points to earn two promotions from the Dutch and three from each of the other nations. (That missing Dutch promotion would later haunt me.) With Wit & Charm, those three promotions were sufficient to get me access to all the governors' daughters. I danced at least once with every daughter except those in Vera Cruz, Panama, and Gran Granada, and I rescued a bunch of them from Mendoza. I also captured a lot of criminals, accepting a bribe only once.
One effect of foregoing sea battles was that I had to catch the EVIL villains in port to defeat them. That was easy enough with Mendoza and Raymondo, who park their galleons near cities for a while, but I found it imossible with Montalban, whose galleon just bounces off of an invisible point an indeterminate distance from his city of destination. I replayed one saved game over and over for 30 minutes trying to catch him in port just once, and I eventually gave up. Whenever I was in his vicinity, he would change his route, speed, and "bounce point" to avoid being caught in port. I think I have seen a thread depicting a tavern fight with Monty, but I was never able to catch him. So I had to sacrifice those 10 points to stay within my strictures.
I lost out on all the gold I would have gotten from taking out Mendoza and Raymondo multiple times and selling their galleons. But, on the upside, I did not tick off the Spanish by capturing all those Spanish vessels. (OTOH, I wonder if the Spanish might have been docking me favor points for defeating Mendoza and Raymondo even without their vessels. The Spanish got really stingy with the land grants at one point.)
The other points I had to sacrifice were the 6 points for the other six named pirates. I often had to outrun Lafitte and L'Olonnais, who were both headquartered between Margarita and Trinidad. That wasn't too difficult in my war canoe, though their brig and brigantine could keep up with me sailing directly into the wind.
I was able to recruit two specialists from the crews of the three named pirates, but thereafter I never had a chance to get the other six specialists.
I quickly rose to duke with Spain. The sheer number of Spanish cities results in a lot of governors and immigrants, who give you favor points every time they safely reach their destination. It was a bit harder with England and France, which have fewer cities. I had to concentrate on cultivating the English governors and their daughters. I eventually married the beautiful French daughter in Martinique, who sent me on many a quest for Shawshank and Faulkes, the two most valuable criminals, often in nearby cities of the Lesser Antilles.
By the time I reached duke with England and France, I was still just a colonel with the Dutch. My best, concentrated efforts got me to admiral, but by that point I had rescued all three daughters from Mendoza, so there would be no more dancing or criminals. More favor points could come only from new governors and immigrants. But, as it turned out, the Dutch were very aggressive in this game. They captured Trinidad, and then Santa Marta, and finally Eleuthera. I got a promotion out of each new Dutch city, eventually topping out at marquis.
I finished the game by running down a bunch of criminals my wife told me about. That not only brought me 4,000 to 5,000 gold for each criminal, but also 200 acres for each from her father. I retired with 105 points, just over the 103 required for a governorship, in Guadeloupe.
If I ever try this gain, I will definitely start as a Dutchman and marry a Dutch daughter. You need that edge to get promoted all the way to duke by the smallest nation.
I would also not make the mistake of recruiting my crew back up to 50 sailors. It only takes a crew of 6 to sail a war canoe. The smaller crew would have been happier and not eaten so much. (Fortunately, one my two specialists was the cooper, who reduces food consumption by half.) But there was no opportunity to reduce my crew since I was not boarding enemy vessels.
I would also keep better track of what cities' daughters sent me after which criminals in order to ensure that I returned to those cities promptly to get the bonus favor points. I haven't figured out how it works, but those city-specific bonus points seem to expire eventually.
I have also decided that rescuing daughters from Mendoza gets you no favor points whatsoever, so it is just not worthwhile to trigger the Mendoza quest after you have all the lost city treasures.