How to Board an Enemy Ship – Starfield

One of the biggest power fantasies surrounding space exploration and combat is boarding and commandeering an enemy vessel. The cultural comparisons between the final frontier and the open seas have naturally led to motifs and themes surrounding space pirates. In Starfield, you can be a spice pirate that takes over ships and adds them to your fleet or sells them. In this guide, we’ll go over all the key elements of being a space pirate, from the skills you need, to how to sell your ill-gotten gains.


It’s an addicting and fun gameplay loop, but you will need to know some things to be successful. Here’s the simple version of how to disable, board, and rob an enemy ship.

  1. Use the ‘Tech’ skill, Targeting Control Systems, to knock out enemy engines.
  2. Board only after engines are incapacitated, and there are no other enemy spacecraft.
  3. Eliminate all enemies on board, and use the cockpit to commandeer the vessel.
  4. Sell or dump the contraband on board.
  5. Enter a new star system and register the ship, then keep it or sell it.

We cover all of these steps in more detail below!

In order to attack specific parts of enemy ships, you will need a certain skill from the level-up menu. It can be found under the ‘Tech’ category of skills, and it is called Targeting Control Systems. Even if you are not trying to board vessels, this is a great tool to have for spaceship fights. It slows down time and allows you to lock onto specific areas / systems of enemy ships.

starfield boarding guide targeting skill
A great use of a skill point

When you first lock onto the enemy craft, you want to take out the shields (lasers are better suited for this). After they are disabled, you can use missiles and cannons to target the engines – lasers don’t do enough hull damage. However, there is one type of weapon that is better for taking out enemy ship’s systems, electromagnetic (EM) weapons. These do little damage to the enemy ship itself, leaving it more health for after you take it. You will know when an enemy ship’s system is disabled because your companion or crew mate will tell you. Another system that you might want to target is the grav drive; sometimes ships will flee to another system.

starfield boarding guide targeting engines
If there are friendly ships in the fight, they might blow up your prize

One small note is that there is a quest early on in the main story missions where you can take out a ship’s engines without the targeting skill. We were not able to replicate this outside of the story mission, and find that the only reliable way to disable engines is with the Targeting Control Systems skill.

As we mentioned in our list, you can only board a ship when there aren’t other enemy ships around and when its engines are disabled. This means you will have to be strategic if you want to board and commandeer the nicest ship in a group by targeting the other ships first. After you have blown their engines, you need to get reasonably close to the ship and select it with button xbox a v2/ computer key e t (default controls), then press button xbox x v2 / computer key r t to board it.

starfield boarding guide dock prompt
You can see the enemy systems’ health while targeting

On smaller sized ships, most of the enemies will typically be holed up in the cockpit. On larger vessels, you will want to search the whole thing for loot and enemies. After they’re all disposed of, go to the cockpit and take control of the ship by piloting it. If it is a different class of ship, you will need a specific skill to pilot it. When you fly it to a new system, it will become your home ship; don’t worry, you can change your home ship back by talking to the ship mechanic / trader at any spaceport and asking to modify your ships.

If you’re boarding and taking spacer / pirate vessels, then you will find contraband on board. You will want to make sure that you have either sold it or gotten rid of it before entering space where you will be scanned. You will know it’s contraband because it will have a yellow mark on the item’s description – and be worth a ton of credits.

starfield boarding guide contraband mark
That’s a lot of credits to just throw away”¦

The easiest way to get rid of it is to land on a random moon, and simply dump it. If you want the extra credits, however, you can keep jumping between orbits until you find a Trade Authority Ship that will buy it off you. These ships usually only have a couple of thousand credits, though.

starfield boarding guide trade authority ship
Trade Authority ships or offices will buy contraband

Alternatively, if you want to go full on smuggler, you can upgrade your ship’s hold with a shielded cargo bay that will avoid detection during scans. That way you can sell directly to the Trade Authority offices in cities, and they have more money. Unfortunately, you won’t find these cargo hold upgrades in the usual spaceports. You’ll have to get close to the Crimson Fleet to buy it, or find it on a different ship.

If you’re strapped for credits, you can sell your newly acquired craft — but you will have to register it first, which cuts down heavily on the gains. On the other hand, you can simply keep it. After all, the most notorious pirates often had a fleet of ships.

starfield boarding guide registering ship

Now that you scalawags are buccaneering throughout the settled systems, our work is done. What’s the nicest ship that you have “found” so far? Tell us in the comments!

Share this article:
Kelson H.
Kelson H.

Kelson is a spud head from out west. He is most happy when holding a milky tea with too much honey and playing a sprawling role playing game or reading a fantasy novel. His video game tastes vary but his main genres are looter shooters, RPGs, and real time strategy games.

Articles: 296
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

1 Comment
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mky5555
Mky5555
5 months ago

Can get rid of contraband at the Den in Wolf System. No scan just dock.