Bilge Pumping, or Bilging, is one of the skills o' piracy required to sail a vessel across the seas. Other skills you'll need on a ship are sailing, rigging, carpentry, patching, gunnery and navigation.
Bilge Pumping is a fine puzzle for young pirates to start their sailing lives on. It's easy to pick up and soothing to operate! To work the bilge pump, just swap the pieces left and right to align three or more of the same piece in a row or column. Those pieces are then cleared from your board, along with some water from your ship's bilge! It's all about efficiency while staving off the flood, so clearing many pieces in one swap is the key!
All ships take on water as they become damaged from the wear of ordinary sailing, and particularly after they've been hit by cannon fire in Sea Battle. The more bilge in the hold, the slower she goes. So man those pumps!
In Bilge Pumping, you can use the mouse or the arrow keys to move the target around the board. Click or press the Space Bar to swap two highlighted pieces. Note that you can only swap horizontally, not vertically. Form rows or columns of three or more watery pieces and they are pumped away!
Like all the duty puzzles, Bilging is scored based on your efficiency at clearing pieces from the board, as well as bonuses from successful combos and chains, as described below. The important thing to remember is that efficiency does take time into account, so a balance of speed and strategy best serves the bilger.
The Bilging indicator in the bottom right of the puzzle screen gives you an idea of how well you are pumping the bilge at any given moment.
The dark and sad bilge pump to the left is neglected, whereas the glowing golden bilge pump to the right is in the hands of a master bilger!
In addition, just like the other duty puzzles, the font size of the message displayed when you perform an action is a good indicator of how valuable that action was.
Excelling at Bilging requires the creation of combos that clear large numbers of pieces at once. Obviously, creating rows or columns of four or five pieces would be best, but you can also multiply your combos by simultaneously clearing more than one row or column in one swap. You will see different messages as you achieve greater combos - "Arrr! 3x4" or "Bingo!", for example. Combos are the most effective method of pumping bilge.
You will swiftly notice that it's possible to create chain reactions where clearing one set of pieces causes another row or column to fall into place. While these will accelerate the progress of your Bilging, chains are often serendipitous, and are therefore much less valuable than combos.
You may notice a waterline stretching across your puzzle board. Along with the ship's water level dial, this shows the bilger how much work she has to do to clear the hold. Swapped pieces move much more slowly below the waterline. Note that there is always a little water in a vessel's bilge, no matter how hard you pump!
Blockades & Maneuvers
In blockades and other areas where maneuvers are enabled, Bilging takes on an additional level of complexity. A bilger will still need to form and clear rows and columns of three or more like pieces, as usual. In addition to this, however, if you are bilging well, the bilge pieces may include the top or bottom half of a maneuver shape in addition to their normal piece type. These halves may be aligned to form a whole shape, allowing your ship to earn progress towards a maneuver.
Although progress may be earned towards any maneuver, the navigator may request a specific maneuver from the pirates plying the ship's stations. This requested maneuver is shown in the maneuver indicator along with the current progress of the bilgers, carpenters, and sailors on the ship towards that maneuver. The progress bar for Bilging is shown in blue and is displayed wider than the others while you are in the Bilging puzzle. Once each bar is filled to the top, that maneuver will be added to the navigator's tokens and the ship will perform its maneuver: moving with great speed or agility, firing powerful cannon shots, dropping flotsam behind the ship to slow and possibly damage opposing ships, or other amazing feats.
More than in any other puzzle, the key to effective Bilging is acquiring a good eye for the puzzle. The ability to quickly survey the pieces and plan out a strategy is invaluable to Bilging and can only be acquired through practice.
In an efficiency-scored puzzle like Bilge Pumping, your goal should be to maximize your score per move. You are best off trying to only make one or two swaps per clear. Only spend extra swaps getting to large combos (such as a "Bingo").
Note that as pieces are removed from the board, their replacements filter in from the bottom up. Thus, you should start your planning at the bottom of the board so as not to disturb potential combos farther up. If, however, you don't see many moves on your board, you should make your clears at the top: high clears shuffle much more of the board, breaking up any gridlock down below.