How did pirates actually go about attacking an enemy vessel? When pirates commanded a superior vessel they could easily confront any victim with cannon fire, crippling the ship and stimulating a quick surrender. However, pirates rarely commanded superior vessels, in fact, most often pirates commanded small lightly armored but highly maneuverable ships. For this reason, pirates seldom relied on fire power. Instead, pirates generally preferred to quickly board the enemy ship, robbing of goods, and rapidly retreating. Often, pirates would be greatly outnumbered, but because pirates employed various scare tactics they paralyzed their victims with fear.