The following strategy exploits a unique situation encounter just after looting the goods from the French vessels sailing to Tampa as requested by Spain and before the attack on Tampa to rescue Helene. Rescuing Helena is the last quest before you move on to become a trader or a pirate and looting the French vessels heading to Tampa is a requirement before you can rescue Helena. You will have a letter of marque from Spain that will allow you to annex as many French cities as you like under your own flag without any repercussion from the other nations. The last two remaining cities of any nation can never be annex only looted. Make sure to comply with the looting request from Spain before you ravaged France. Shortly after you rescue Helene Spain will revoke your letter of marque. Any attacks you initiate, including defensive battles, without a letter of marquee will damage your prestige with all the nations and eventually will bring their wrath. There is no time limit to rescue Helena so take your time rebuilding and strengthening any cities you capture and your fleet. Once you consolidated your power go ahead and rescue Helena. With the mission accomplished Spain will revoke your letter of marque and France will attempt to retake Tampa. Anchored in the Tampa harbor a fleet with the best ships you can muster and choose the patrol option. Make sure your fleet is fully equipped with sailors and ammunition. The more unscathed you leave France the more relentless the counter attack will be. If you intend to marry Helena I recommend you build a palace before you rescue her. The best time to ask for her hand in marriage is immediately after you rescue her while your prestige with Spain is quite high. You will need to bring some goods to the church for the wedding celebration, but they are fairly easy to come by. More than likely you already have some or all the wedding goods in your possession. Trying to keep a high prestige with one nation can be a very expensive proposition and time consuming. Once I have achieved the goals as stated I prefer to play as a pirate without too much concern for my prestige. Enjoy!
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